Wednesday, December 30, 2009

BTW we renamed our new cat: Benjamin Franklin.....Frank for short, it just fits him better

Monday, December 28, 2009

Manifest Destiny

So we would like to introduce the newest furry addition to the family: Meriwether Lewis. Our new Norwegian Forest Cat (yes, finally we have gone into the realm of pure bred pets) is starting to acclimate to his slightly less wealthy home. With an original staggering price tag and higher ranking owners, Lewis, as we call him, has condescended to agree to live in our humble abode. At five months of age, and already tipping the scales at 14 lbs. we expect that he may soon eat us out of house and home! He is just a sweetheart, that has very large feet (another harbinger of monstrous size).

On an entirely different note, Ma and Pa (Miller's rentals) are over from the 'States to spend some time over the holidays with us. We have enjoyed eating, hiking, and spending time with the cats (I love being able to say "cats" instead of "cat" again!). We hiked in Pottenstein yesterday, seeing the great geology of the area, and to a slippery walk up the extinct volcano in Neustadt am Kulm today. We enjoyed the crisp, yet lovely weather on both days. Ma and Pa came over the day after Christmas, leaving us to spend Christmas day liesuely getting lost while wearing the best pants in the world (thanks, Mum). We also greatly enjoyed speaking to the family and seeing the fabulous photos from Christmas Eve.

Work has been going fine, with the occasional delay due to snow. We really enjoy getting a delay, as it is reminiscent of snow days in grade school. This week should be fun, as we are taking a day trip to Prague tomorrow and will be heading to the Alps later this week. As always, please feel free to check out our photos on .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Around the Next Bend. . .

One of the character building experiences of growing up in our houses was hiking. Once Jak and I had been dating for a while, we discovered that both of our parental units (or more properly, our Mothers) have a strange disability when it comes to hiking. While our mothers are normally experts on directions and distances, when hiking all destinations were strangely "just around the next bend."
Now in Ma's defense, while hiking in the Grand Canyon this is strictly true, however, it doesn't really count if you can see the campsite a half mile away. . .across the canyon. Only hours later would one actually reach that fabled "around the next bend." There is no defending Mum, there is no mythical bend that shows, well anything at all. Bends therefore have grown to symbolize that intangible feeling that comes from hiking in the woods. Or more accurately, that "Damn it I am tired and hungry and have no freaking clue what we are doing out here!!"
Now that we hike on our own, we have found that the disability is genetic, as both of us have inherited it to a greater or lesser extent. Jak to a slightly greater extent, as while she can without fail find a 1 square foot sign in the middle of a land navigation course, simple things like trails can on occasion defeat my fearless adventurer. Nathan has inherited Ma's almost perfect sense of direction, as well as her inability to be truthful about the trail ahead.
I cannot simply blame genetics, as the German's continue to make rather asinine decisions in cartography that do not help matters. Contour intervals are mere suggestions, trail markers a rarely seen oddity, and who in God's name makes grid squares that are 1400 meters wide?
Despite this all, we managed to have a wonderful time hiking down in Garmisch this week. We were down for a Marriage Retreat (what are we retreating from?) with my company, which in our chaplain's eyes is best served by having at most 2 hours of seminar in the evening and giving us the days to destress and relax. For most that involved relaxing in the pool or seeing the sites, perhaps with a bit of shopping. We strapped on crampons and mountaineering boots and climbed one of the smaller Alps on a path that can only generously be considered a trail. It was wonderful and relaxing, and exactly what we needed. Tom wasn't the most happy to be left at home, but considering he gets worn out after half an hour of "Throw the Catnip Mouse and watch Tom run into the wall trying to get it" with Dad, it was probably best he stayed at home.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So what, my cat is spoiled!

So Tom is a bit lonely. We have yet to find him the right friend, so we have been lavishing attention on him. The spoilage doesn't stop there though. Tonight, both Nate and I have been preparing for my company's Christmas party. I have been making my famous pulled pork, while he has been making his classic twice-baked potatoes. I have substituted the water that I would normally throw into the slow-cooker with the pork, for a Belgian Ale. We shall see how that goes. In the process of prepping the meat for cooking, I was removing any really large fatty pieces. Not wanting to waste anything, all fat scraps were thrown into my cast iron skillet, cooked, and then pureed for my feline child. I gave him a bit tonight, and he just went wild for it! It will be a welcome substitute for his special indoor cat wet food diet for the next couple of days (in addition to his dry food, of course). I know he is a bit fat, but I can't help in feeding him, as he is just so cute! Being a good boy, he never begs at the table, nor has he ever eaten "people food." I think he just likes to eat, which makes him a bit chubby. Hopefully we find a girlfriend for him soon, as he is just not meant to be in a one-cat home. I have been tempted by ads for pure-bred maine coons, but it would go against my belief that cats are not something that should be bought (especially at hefty 400 Euro price tags!). There are enough unwanted kitties out there, but none of them has yet to stumble their way into our lives.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

So the Holidays are everything must go is in the rules!

I am not sure who wrote these rules, but they should be a firing squad better yet, defenestrated! In short, this week was terrible, until today, that is. On a very somber note, we unfortunately lost our beloved Aaron Burr to a short illness. He passed away under anesthesia, so felt no pain. It was very tough for us and his brother, Tom. We have been lavishing Tom with attention, but he certainly misses his furry friend. As Pa told me, time heals all wounds, but right now, this one still hurts. Cats just are not meant to live alone, so when the time is right, Tom will be getting a sister. We are looking for an adult female cat in the Grafenwoehr area, so if anyone knows of a kitty needing a home, please let us know. Thank you all for all of your condolences, and thanks to our friend, Jen, who was a great help to us during this week.

So, after a tough week at work and the loss of our pet, what would feel better than a bike ride with friends? Yesterday, Nate, Chris, Joe and took out our bikes for some cyclocross practice. We decided to start the ride with a run up of our favorite dirt hill. I was the first to ride off towards the path with Chris, a ways behind me. No sooner had I passed a car parked off to the side of the road, when from out of nowhere came a large, black, vicious dog. It chased me for about 500 meters before I had to chose; either kick it in the face to stop it from following me into the road, or let it run into the road and let it get hit by a car. As much as this animal's demise seemed the best for it, as it was slowly taking chunks out of my ankle, I thought that that bitch of a woman who was half-heartedly yelling at it to come back, might miss it. So, I chose to kick it. Landing my size 8 cycling shoe right in its face, it quickly decided that I was not worth the effort. The rest of the ride was enjoyable and uneventful, for which I was quite thankful. After showering, we went to Obi to grab some Christmas decorations and went out to dinner with my commander, who rightfully thought that we needed to get out of the house.

Luckily, today was better. Nate put up with a cleaning frenzy this morning. He is used to this, as I do it at least once a day. When you own a cat that just won't stay off the counter (yes Tom, I am talking about you), you have no choice but to sterilize often! Our friend Chris, who owns a truck, came with us to pick out a Christmas tree. I chose both Chris's and our tree, while they cut them down and carried them to get wrapped. It was very manly to say the least. While waiting for the tree to dry, as it was a wet day, Nate helped Chris build a bike for his wife, while I put hooks on all the baubles for the tree. We took a break to ride down to the Advent Market in town and sample some Gluhwein (hot mulled wine), bratwurst, and roasted nuts. It was very festive. We put up our gigantic tree (about 8.5 feet tall!) and Miller is now bottling some home brew. Hopefully our life is uneventful for a while.

Oh, by the way, we both got promoted this week. No more butter-bar.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Victory is Mine!

So, sometimes in the Army you have to make some sacrifices in your daily life. One such sacrifice is the occasional food item at the commissary. This week it was celery, which being the week prior to Thanksgiving, was a crisis! Well, let's start this story right....they do not have any rhubarb, fluff, soup bones, nor gravy master. So why would we shop at a place that cannot stock even these simple items? Well, in one word: CHEAP. When faced with paying a Euro to Dollar exchange that would make even the richest folks faint at the thought, our American tax free food shopping is really the best option despite a limited selection. I would expect our commissary to not have regional items that are very New England specific, but some things you would expect them to always have. Celery is one of them. I mean, how would I make my stuffing or turkey salad? Well, in the end, we had to go back to get some, late on a weekday night. We were victorious, but it was a close call! There is an unwritten rule at the commissary or PX, which is, if you find something that you want, buy as many as you can, as who knows when they will stock it again. This leads to buying bulk in items that most people do not stock up on, like bread (our freezer is full) and ground pork (once again, limited freezer space). Next time celery is in stock, I may have to stock up on that, but I am still not sure how I would keep it fresh! I will miss the families for Thanksgiving, but you are all in our hearts and minds.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Turn

I don't have pictures of a new bike (or newly painted bike) to show, in fact I have no pictures because where I have been working this week it is against regulations to take pictures. But I feel obligated to write a post, even though I have absolutely no idea what I am going to write about.
As a little background on the no pictures, this week I tagged along with some of my Soldiers to 1st CTC's Certification Exercise down in Miesau. Now for most folks, Miesau does nothing to excite, but for the ammunition world outside the states, the world revolves around Miesau, which is the home for the Ammunition Center Europe. I'll be quick, as this is rather boring to all but me. In short it is an area about 20 square miles filled with bunker after bunker of things that go BOOM!! When I was asked by Higher what my plan was for my Soldiers was if there was an explosive event, my answer was "ummmm, run away? If you're not vapor already." In reality the danger is fairly low, and the training was excellent.
So now that the boring part is past, I have to complain for a second. I enjoy the army, I like my job despite the occasional frustration but there are some things that drive me nuts. One is Power Point, the Army has decided at some point that life did not exist, things did not happen, and questions could not be answered before Power Point came along. Telling where the bathroom is? PowerPoint slide. Plan to eat lunch? PowerPoint Slide. Nap time? PowerPoint slide. You get the general idea. While I in no way shape or form tolerate or support Terrorism, if they managed to crash PowerPoint, I wouldn't complain too much.
The other complaint is what is called the Army Writing Style. Yes, we have a manual and standard for everything, including the number of multisyllabic words a sentence should contain and mandating the capitalization of such things as Soldier. It all conspires to create writing that is aimed at an 8th Grade education, which is about what we can honestly expect out of some Soldiers. Now most of you reading are from New England, and let me assure you that our 8th Grade must be very different from the rest of the country, because this writing style would have been beneath even the special education rooms in 8th Grade here.
I digress, by which I mean that I still have nothing to write about. Love to you all, I promise a better post sometime soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Some things are worth waiting for!

Almost a year after the movers wrecked the paint on my favorite bike, I finally have it back. Fresh from the paint shop at Marinoni in Canada, here he is. Words cannot explain.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just one more reason why riding in Germany is just more fun!

So yesterday, Miller and I built up a 29er frame that had been sitting in the bike dungeon for the last couple years. It is nothing special, just a Motobecane frame with a beefy Surly rigid steel fork and some other sturdy yet heavy parts on it. Nothing could make this bike light, so I didn't even really try. In absence of a chain tension-er (yes it is a single speed) we threw on an old Ultegra derailleur until we could make it a bit less ghetto fabulous. In short, this bike is a beast, but man, is it fun! When we finished it, we took the taxing walk across the lawn to show it to our fellow bike guru, Joe. This is dangerous, as when we show him some cool new bike part, it is usually just a matter of time before he gets some bike envy, and ends up with another bike, hence his new Cube 'cross bike! While showing him the new rig, we decided that although it may be dark, muddy, and rainy, a night ride was in order to take my steed through its paces. In short order, we ran across the lawn to go get into our bike gear, eat some of Carmen's (Joe's wife) awesome salsa, and grab the lights for a night-time adventure. After meeting back up, we started out on some of our usual trails. After a couple wet-root induced wipe-outs (I don't feel bad, Joe's son, Alex, wiped out in almost the same spot, he is five years old though!), we all were really enjoying ourselves. Riding at night is super fun, as it always feels like you are going so fast, simply because the range of your lights does not allow you to to look too far ahead on the trail, like you would during the day. We bombed around on the trails for a while until Joe and I switched bikes for a while so I could rock some full suspension glory while he tried out my fully rigid 29er. At this point, like a horse to water, we were taking the trail back home, when we decided we were far too parched to continue. We needed some refreshment before we could make it the last mile home. We stopped at Jalisco's, our favorite Mexican place for some Zoigl. Luckily Joe is good friends with the bar tender, as he allowed us to bring our bikes inside, as we didn't have any locks with us. Refreshed and happy, we made our way back home. A very good ride, with good company and good beer. What more could anyone ask for!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans' Day

Firstly, I just want to start this post by wishing all veterans who have served in all capacities a happy Veterans' Day. We should not forget though, that although we may use it as a day to thank and remember our veterans, it is also a day to mark the ending of the first World War. On this day, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in peace to lay wreaths to remember the many Soldiers and civilians that died in that horrible conflict. This action gives us all hope that currently waring peoples such as those who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, may someday remember this conflict in a more peaceful time. Please pray for all Veterans, both of the past that have made the ultimate sacrifice and for those around the world who currently take up arms so others do not have to.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


So there is not all that much to post about. Miller is gone right now to go welcome the forward part of his element home from their 12 month deployment. I on the other hand am very busy with a change of command inventory among many other things like ranges and Soldier issues. I came home from the field last week, but have had no to time to rest! Both Miller and I will be super busy these next couple weeks. We are looking forward to the Holidays coming up (even though we both have to work on Thanksgiving night!). Ma and Pa will be coming to Germany for Christmas, which will be very nice, yet it will be different not being home! We will really miss all of you back home though. We are so busy, but hopefully will have time experience some of the holiday markets and the such. Sorry for the short post, but I am so very tired, so I will be turning in early. P.S. The above photo is a silly picture of the company leadership. Yes, I am the one getting the "wet willy."

Friday, October 16, 2009

When Jaks' Away. . .

Well for first, the mouse definitely will play. By play I mean that Barbara escapes daily (I wish I knew how) and goes to live under the chair in the bedroom for a little. It is an annoying habit, but as of yet I still have not found the avenue of escape. We shall see. Winter has started to arrive, as it has been snowing on and off for the last several days, without any significant accumulation but a sure sign of things to come.
Jak is in the field for 9 days, so I am temporarily living the bachelor life style. Work is busy, so bachelor life style tends to consist of eating dinner, chasing the cats around for a little, and doing random things that need to be done around the house. Exciting to say the least.
Our brewing is going well, the Belgian Ale is bottle conditioning, and is probably ready for consumption, I am just waiting on Jaks' return to try it. We made a Irish Stout which I bottled last night, a Pumpkin Ale on Sunday that is now bubbling happily away in its' secondary fermenter, and an Apfelwein that I just made last night. The biggest problem not, other than not sounding like drunks, is the waiting.
This weekend promises to be pretty exciting, as the Cyclocross World Cup is coming virtually to our doorstep. Chris and Joe (our riding buddies) and I are heading to Plzen on Sunday to watch the races, which should be truly amazing.
I guess this isn't the most thilling report on our lives, but hey, boring can be good sometimes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

4 Day

One of the hidden gems of being stationed in Germany is that once a month we get a 4 day weekend. This gives an opportunity to relax a bit, travel some, and generally take a quick breath before going back to the deep end. In our case, we used this weekend to ride bikes, climb an Alp, brew beer, make cookies, fix furniture, clean the house, chase cats, and generally do a bit of everything.
Yesterday Jak and I hiked up the Hoher Fricken, mainly because the name is fun to say and half way up there is a cave called the Frickenhollen. It was a fricken good time and absolutely beautiful, if a shade too vertical for our joint's tastes. The trail starts out on a kid's path, with questions here and there about trees and the like. It was a nice easy way to start, but it got even better. The first kilometer of the trail is through a gorge with waterfall after beautiful waterfall. Fricken awesome! From there, the trail does the very normal thing that trails do in the Alps, namely went straight up. Via a series of switch backs in short order we were high above the valley floor with views one way to the Zugspitze which was getting the first snows for the season and the other way out on the plains leading towards Munchen. It was stunning, and the weather was perfect. For the first time this year we were able to hike in pants, which was a welcome change from our normal au-natural adventures. Just kidding, we normally hike in shorts, but there is something very nice and reminiscent of home about hiking in pants. We both were trying out some new gear, which was very successful. After much searching we had gotten Jak some mountianeering boots which she tried out with great success, and we both wore our new packs which did not destroy our bodies like the one's we climbed the Zugspitze with.
The only catch with the hike was that we were literally hiking between storm fronts, with the rain of the previous 3 days about to give way to another several days of rain, so we had to hike quickly to make sure we had time if the weather socked in. We managed to get most of the way up before the clouds started to roll in and as rain started to darken the horizon we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed back down. Many amusing slips and two pairs of burning quadriceps later, we made it back to the car with plenty of time to gas up, eat some Subway and head back home. I love living only 3 hours from the Alps, though we are definatley jealous of those stationed in Garmisch where we were hiking, that must be the best posting in Europe. The only disappointment of the day was that the Frickenhollen proved impossible to find.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We love days off!

These past couple weeks have been very busy for us at work, as I am planning a field exercise which starts on Tuesday, and Nate has been dealing with some rather interesting Soldier issues. I have also recently (meaning on Thursday) found out that I will be double hatting as XO (my current job) and taking Second Platoon as a PL. This is great news, although it means a ton more work. I will love having a platoon again. The rest of second platoon is down range at this time, but will reintegrate as soon as they come back in a couple months. This means I am next in the shoot for deployment, which I could not be happier about, as with being XO, I would have almost no change of deploying. My fellow PL, Ted will be leaving for Iraq in a couple months, but I am next to deploy hopefully when his platoon gets back. I am pretty excited to be faced with some new challenges of working with a new platoon. Not too much is new on Nate's end, but he continues to enjoy his job as a Rear Detachment commander. Although things have been busy, they are moving along just fine.
Last night, we had a great cyclocross ride in the dark. Around dusk, we set out to ride the trails with some lights. We saw some deer (which means that Nate saw some deer, while I saw dark jumping blobs). Other than that, the ride was uneventful. We are truly enjoying the rainy and cool fall weather. The colors are not nearly as good as at home, but the trees are pretty nonetheless. Although we have no racing planned for this weekend, last weekend we raced a time trial on a very hilly course. Nate raced on his fixed gear, suffering in style. I took my TT bike for a spin. We didn't win, yet didn't finish last, so things went well. We also got schooled by a guy with one arm....well, it didn't hurt that he was on a 5,000 Euro bike....Anyway, out to adventure! We will write soon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Jak and I ride rather regularly with our friends Chris and Joe, who in normal life are Captains Myers and Patterson of the MP Brigade. While we would not normally advertise hanging around MP's (Military Police), they are wicked cool and fun to hang around with. After many attempts, they finally got us to go to a race with them this weekend down at Hohenfels. This area is normally known in the military community as an area in which to conduct miserable training (MSG Surratt sank a tank there), but the terrain is perfect for Mountain Biking. Considering it was the USAREUR championships this weekend, we really could not pass up the invite to ride. Kind of like Jak cannot pass up the chance to criticize my grammar and spelling as I write this. Anyway, long story short, we went down and Jak, Joe and I raced. Chris was out with a pulled back, though we are sure this is just a symptom of him being old and a West Pointer (Sarcasm). The course was a 3.5 mile lap that went down some awesome single track, went up a God-awful climb, wend down an even more awesome single track featuring a giant hole (more on that later) than took a long fire road climb to the start area. In the women's race, Jak did 5 laps of that and managed to fall into the giant hole only once! Despite the short detour to the center of the Earth, Jak took home the win in the Open Women category by a comfortable margin. In the men's race, I started off with the leaders before realizing that the leader was a 19 year old German prodigy on a 16 pound bike who apparently does nothing but train and inject EPO. Soon after that realization, my legs exploded, spraying the surrounding area with shrapnel and killing many of my opponents. Not really, my legs did explode and propel me back to the middle of the pack. By lap 3 my legs had come back to me, and by lap 5 I was back up higher in the rankings, crossing the line just in time for the German Prodigy to lap me for a second time as he won. This lapping coincided with my finishing my water and Nutri Grain as a hard bonk set in, leaving me to complete the remaining two laps with visions of Coke and Sugar Plums dancing in my head. Don't ask me where the Sugar Plums came from, or even what a Sugar Plum is, I was just really hungry. Though my body was now against me, I managed to finish with a respectable 3rd Place in the Men's Open, though many of the Master's smoked me. It was a great time, and Joe rode an amazing race to get 5th in the Masters, smoking me as well in the process. Much fun was had by all, and we retired to Grafenwoehr to consume large quantities of Mexican Food.
On Sunday, Operation Home Brew reached its second critical phase as we racked the beer into the secondary fermenter. We sampled a little and it tastes good, even though it has another week until bottling, and another week after that until normal drinking. At the risk of courting disaster, I think we may have a pretty good beer on our hands.
Throughout all of this, Aaron Burr was having a rare attack of well-behavedness. We are required by law and his threats of continuing cuteness to add this picture.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm Finally Writing One!

So there are times (cough all the time cough) when a husband relies on their wife. Recently, if you can count a post a month as recent, I have been relying on Jak to keep you all in the loop as to our lives and adventures. Finally, I am taking the reigns for a little of the ride and writing myself!
Okay, so what things are new. . .I am now the rear-detachment commander for the 23rd Ordnance Company, so it is nice to finally be back to the fields I belong in, which is awesome. We are selling my car to make way for what will hopefully be a Land Rover Defender. It is not going far, our neighbor and MP riding buddy extraordinaire is buying it off of us. But the most important change is that Jak and I finally broke down and started brewing beer. When we were home we had gotten the kit and all necessary equipment and tonight we brewed! It was a lot of fun, really easy, and we didn't destroy the house, cause the fire department to show up, or cause any international incidents. On other sides of the fermenting yeast fronts, Jak has been baking up a storm to support the bread side of our bread and soup diet. I am considering checking the Kukla and Fifield lines for any mixing of Goldsteins to possibly explain how amazing her Challah bread is. Her beer breads are equally fantastic, and the cinnamon raisin bread is to die for. We have to limit ourselves on the bread intake for fear of totally defeating the diet part of this whole plan. It is awesome.
We are also finally taking a step or metaphorical pedal stroke back into the competitive arena with a mountain bike race this weekend and in a couple of weeks the beginning of our Cyclocross season. At this point, I really don't have much else to say than to send our love and to promise to write more.
Nathan and Jak

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bread and Catnip

No, I did not make a catnip bread, no matter how much the cats would have liked it! This weekend Nate and I had a relaxing time (we went to bed accidentally at 7:15 on Friday night) getting chores done and riding our bikes. After falling asleep reading very early on Friday evening, we awoke about 12 hours later to some rigorous house cleaning. After a busy week with very little time at home, it was some good stress relief! This allowed me to spend some much needed baking time as well, whipping together a beer bread with some home-made brew from our friend Ted, a co-worker of mine. Being exciting folks that we are, we moved on to raking leaves, and pulling out the plants in our garden that were either on their way out, or just plain not going to make it after the first frost. We had a relaxing dinner with Ted and Ashley at our favorite Chinese place (much cleaner than back home!). Our Saturday ended with watching some documentaries from the library (if you haven't seen it, see National Geographic's "Ambassador: inside the Embassy")
Sunday was a far more exciting day, complete with some catnip crazy cats. I recently purchased the pair a new litter box online, and decided to get a couple toys too while I was shopping. The litter box (Booda Cleanstep Dome) has been great for keeping out pet odors and has decreased litter tracking by a ton! It has a neat little stairway too, that looks like the cats are boarding a space shuttle and not going in to do their business! I digress... anyway, I gave the cats this little flashy lizard catnip toy, and holy moley, it was so funny. As soon as the hubby gets home (he was stuck in a 4 hour Stau today and is still trying to make it home from the K-Town area) I will post the video and pictures I took. While watching the cats be truly funny, I also had time to whip up a Challah bread. I was amazed how well it puffed up, yet remained surprisingly moist! I may be a loser, but I truly enjoy baking bread, and Nate truly enjoys eating them! Luckily for us, prior to gorging ourselves on bread, we had ridden a few hours with our friend, Chris. Anyway, I shall end this disjointed post. I love you all!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So it's been a while!

Alright, we appologize for the length of time since we have last posted. Not too much has happened. Nate got a new job working for 23rd Ordnance Company, where he is the rear detatchment commander. We spent some time hiking, most notably climbing the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany at about 10,000 feet. That was miserable, but not every hike can be a good one! We went home to NH and the other New England states for a bit where we hiked, ran, and generally enjoyed the North Country. We spent time visiting family and friends in the flatter regions of New England before heading back over to Deutschland. The cats enjoy having us home again and it has been nice to settle back into life here.
This weekend has been spent doing many things which include a ton of baking, walking, and cyclocross riding. We completed our first sourdough bread from a starter we made as soon as we returned home. Although I would count myself a bread specialist when it comes to baking, I had yet to delve into starter doughs. It was a success, as was the brown sugar raisin loaf, and the Sam Adams beer bread (surprisingly sweet and buttery!). We have also been spending time preparing our meals for the week, as we have taken a page from my mother's book and gone for a soup diet. Miller purchased a new cookbook with all different varieties of soup, and we have been enjoying experimenting with them. The only failing I could see in this plan, is the only way I can eat soup consistently is with a large amount of home-made bread as a side. We will see how it works. We have been enjoying the early fall weather to ride our cyclocross bikes on all of the dirt roads and farm paths in the area. We will try to keep everyone update more frequently!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Please. . .

Pilsner Urquell
Its been a bit since I have reviewed anything, especially a beer. But what was given a passing mention yesterday deserves a bit more comment. Pilsner Urquell, or Plzeňský Prazdroj as it is called in Czech is probably one of the best things to come out of Czech since, well, 1842. It is the original Pilsner style beer, and obviously all other Pilsners owe their lineage to this beer. Originally an attempt to have some sort of beer that could compete with the Germans, it has done just that (despite being brewed first by an imported German Brewmaster) and is one of the best beverages I have consumed in Europe. Forget all the other Pilsners you have quaffed, this is the real deal and has all the refreshment they do with a bit more bite which balances out perfectly. It is the Leatherman of beers, it drinks well when it is hot or cold out, goes with darn near anything, and the only complaint I can have against it is that it only comes in those annoying 1/2 liter bottles around here. Even Jak likes it, and for those of us who know her normal palate of dark and complex, it says wonders about that sharp bottom fermented taste to say that she likes it too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Czech Please

Okay, so any foray into the Czech Republic demands corny jokes, and it is only fair to pass them on. Considering that Czech is only 40 minutes from home, it is easy to czech out the sights. This last weekend Jak and I, along with several other officers from our battalion decided to spend a bit of time in Prague. It was a bit late for the Prague Spring, so our experiences may be lacking, but the Prague Early Summer is probably more enjoyable for all.
The first impression when you drive into Prague is, ummmm, did I really want to come here? Is that guy selling his kidneys? Or crack? Or is it two for one buy a kidney and get some crack Saturdays? It is probably all three, but once you lock your doors and hit the older part of the city it is much nicer. The Czechs do not share the German insanity for cleanliness, but it is slightly comforting to see some graffiti and see hobos peeing behind bushes in the park. Jak has an extended philosophical discussion about the post-Soviet impact on Czech, Miller is rather more concerned on where Slovakia went. In all honesty she is quite right, there are some of the telling signs that occur from a country that is continuing to emerge from the old days (read almost 30 years) of a command economy into the burgeoning arms of capitalism. At exactly the wrong time. Perhaps the global downturn is less reflected here, in the land of cheap everything, more in the quality rather than the quantity. Goods are abundant and abundantly bought and sold, but their quality in everything, from ladies of the night to glassware, is very different. It is the first place I have been where the juxtaposition between success and failure is so evident, with beggars prostrating themselves for change outside of Hermes and Gucci. The notable exceptions to this general trend seem, rather hopefully, to be Skoda, Pilsner Urquell, and education. The last is the rather important one, as education is the one that can change the qualities already mentioned. More people speak English here than anywhere since Ireland, and universities abound. The arts are celebrated, with multiple excellent classical concerts competing at any given night. Hopefully Czech will change from the industrialized doorstep to Germany into something impressive of its own right. Only time will tell.
Anyways, we went to Prague. It was fun, the food was fantastic and cheap, and the sights were awesome. Music was second to none, and no parts of our cars disappeared. One of our compatriots even was able to bribe the police to avoid a ticket. They were honest police though, and only took their fixed bribe for making a ticket go away. Compared to police in the 3rd world where I have been (Hi Honduras, please stop being so crotchety) they are models of law enforcement. For all of the dark humor, Prague was rather stunning in parts.
On the home front (possibly a source of the dark humor) work goes well but very busy. Miller has managed to crash several government computer systems simply by glaring at them, which makes work harder. Jak is saddled with several cadets at the moment, but they seem like they will be good and be less of a hindrance than expected.
Love to you all.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Alpine Adventures!

So how many cool things can happen in Austria in four days....well, about a million! I know we are a tad tardy in posting, but we have been a bit busy. I have been wearing a few hats at work, as I am training our newest LT to take over for me, as I am moving up to XO. Nate has been busy being UMO (Unit Movement Officer) extraordinaire. We have been putting in long days, but have been rewarded with some awesome weekends. Our most recent adventure to the Alps was just amazing.
On Friday, the first day of our four day weekend, we woke early and started moseying to the Austrian border via Munich on the the Autobahn. Our drive was uneventful, except for a tad bit of traffic. As we reached the border, the Alps just rose out of nowhere. They are just a stunningly large mountain chain, of whose size, I just cannot truly fathom. We reached the village of St. Anton, which was the location of the 2002 Alpine Skiing World Championships. Well, I can see why! The town pretty much dies in the summer, but it was quaint and picturesque. Due to our love of a ski town in the summer months, our room was half the price it was in winter, and we were the only guests in the guest house we stayed in. We wandered a bit, bought a good topo-map and turned in early in anticipation of our next day's hike.
Although we got up quite early Saturday morning, the hotel owner was awake and served us a delicious, yet simple breakfast of tea, rolls, jam, cured meats, and cheeses. Although it may not suffice for breakfast in the 'states, we have learned to truly appreciate this sort of breakfast too. Anyone who knows me knows I can never turn down good bread, regardless of the time of day. After setting off to find the trail head, we wandered through town admiring the flocks of sheep and herds of horses and cattle that sprinkle the countryside in this area. Austrians have superior looking sheep, I will say that much! We passed a series of gates up to the trail ( it goes through a series of higher altitude grazing areas for sheep) and started to climb steeply. We slowly made our way up to the first peak, Mount Gampen (6056 ft). From that modest peak, the views were splendid and the alpine wild flowers were in full bloom. I have never seen a more beautiful variety of flora in my life! Next we moved on to a neighboring peak, Mt. Kapall (7600 ft) where things started to get cooler, and snow patches more common. We even started to see glacial formations nearby mountains. The air was noticeably thinner and the wind much stronger. This was quite welcome, as the heat and humidity of the lower areas was really bothering Nate and I. Our final peak for the day was Weissenschrofenspitze (9028 ft). This peak was truly daunting. Its trail wound in switchbacks up the steep gradient, as a direct ascent would have been nearly impossible. We saw delicate varieties of wildflowers growing from the rocks and glimpsed two alpine marmots (thanks to their shrill calls, which sounded oddly like emergency whistles!). After reaching the summit (well, a point 100 meters from the real summit), we quickly descended due to some bad weather coming in. We showered and had a very disappointing dinner at an overpriced and very mediocre restaurant. After watching the Williams v. Williams Wimbledon Final, we turned in for the night.
The next day, we woke to rain. So we did what any sane people would do: we strapped our boots on and set out to find some waterfalls! After following a trail on our map and meeting some truly fantastic elderly Irish hikers, we found some of the most stunning waterfalls. We continued along the trail, reaching no peaks, but following a contour line at an elevation of roughly 6000 feet. From a clearing in the trees, we spotted what appeared to be the Rabobank Cycling Team bus. When we finally reached town after descending for a few miles, we discovered with delight, that it was the team bus! In addition, numerous other professional cycling teams were there as well. After talking to a Silence Lotto mechanic, we learned that the Tour of Austria was in the area. We vowed to find it to see the start the next day. We made it back to the chalet to shower and drove through some impressive mountain passes to find some better dinner in the next town over, Lech. Well, we found a great restaurant in the charming ski town, ate gourmet pizza, drank radler (it is known as "cyclists' beer" as it is a mix of beer and lemonade). We wrapped up the night by watching bits of the Tour de France and seeing the most impressive Wimbledon Men's Final I have ever seen. Poor Andy Roddick lost to Roger Federer, whom I still dislike more than most human beings on this planet...but that is another post for another day!
Our last day in Austria started out soggy. We finished breakfast, thanked our host (well, we tried, our German was very incompatible, as Austrians have such a strong accent, it is almost impossible to get even a bit of what they are saying) and set off to find the race. Luckily, as we were leaving, so were all the cycling teams, so we followed them to the start. I will not bore you all with cyclists and teams you neither know nor care about, but I will say that it was awesome. After seeing the start and a bit of the race, we started heading home and stopped briefly in Garmisch to check out the shops. It was a truly fantastic weekend in all! We love and miss you all very much.
-The Millers
PS: The cats say "Hi" too and also very much enjoyed the run of the house while we were gone!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thoughts From Staff Duty

The army is all about chain of command. We have a lot of chains. Some of them occasionally get cut and than someone steals Kevin's HMMWV and leaves it in a drop zone. But that is an entirely different story. One of the wonderful end results of the need to maintain that chain of command and responsibility is that every now and then some poor sucker (read me) gets stuck on Staff Duty. It pretty much entails sitting at headquarters all night transferring morale calls from downrange and occasionally making trips out to check the physical security at our motor pools. What it also does in this case is give me some time to write for our very neglected blog.

Thoughts Of Home
For the first time since 4 July 1986 I find myself more than about 4 hours of travel from some part of New England. While I truly love it here, there are some random moments when I get really homesick. Jak has the same thing happen, but it never ceases to amaze me what will actually spark thoughts of home. SSG Clement works in my company in the Maintenance section and despite him being a Mainer we share some thoughts of home from time to time. The weather today actually made us both homesick. Not because it was a particularly nice day, in fact it was rather a miserable one. What made us think of home was the rain. It was raining on one side of the motor pool and not the other. New Hampshire, Maine, New England in general, watch out, Germany's weather is just as retarded as yours.

Planet Earth
Jak and I don't have a TV over here. While some would miss it, I challenge anyone to watch a single show on Armed Forces Network and not want to commit violent acts on whoever thinks of their terrible commercials. What we do have is my computer (Jak's died last month, she blames Aaron Burr and she just may be right) with its DVD player. Our DVD collection is extensive and selections abound from such classics as "Beerfest" and "Hot Fuzz" to legitimate movies like "Gladiator" and "24 Solo." We really don't watch any of those, instead on the occasions that we do watch a DVD instead of read, we always watch "Planet Earth." Admittedly, we could save time and money just looking out our window to see some of planet Earth, but the cinematography isnt as good, and My Birds of Paradise is just as annoying. While we love to watch it, the cats love it more. Nothing amuses them more than trying to figure out how to get to the pint sized elephants and whales on the screen. Every day when we at work they pull out the pencils and papers to try to figure out how to break those delicious looking creatures out and snack on them. If the mice are any test of their hunting prowess I fear that the endangered creatures will, if anything be, more safe.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Electoral College Dropouts

Also known as the case of the cats who don't learn too well. I know it is a stretch for the title, but what is blogging without creative puns. Our cats are a source of constant amusement. As in the "hey we figured out how to get to the mouse cage and in our attempts to play with the mice we knocked the cage off and then got scared and neglected to actually try to get the mice and instead the people had to search until they found them behind the bookshelf and under the fridge" sort of amusement. While episodes like that can be frustrating, it is really nice to come home not only to each other but also to the pitter patter of scrambling feet. The cats have grown from their original handful sized selves into their current awkward teenager incarnations. Aaron Burr is still smaller, but has become the HTMIC (Head Trouble Maker In Charge) mainly by virtue of his "I did what wrong?" facial expression and trips into the recycling bin. We tell him that if he keeps playing in the recycling we will just recycle him and get a better cat, but he knows the real deal. Thomas Jefferson is more sedate, after all he still hasnt dueled anyone. He is most definatley a he, after his initial gender confused stage he has emerged as the more responsible big brother of the HTMIC. Tom's biggest asset is the fact that he understands when he is in trouble. If you yell "NO" or as Jak sometimes prefers "NO YOU STUPID F@#(*!N CAT!!" he will immediatley cease and desist. Aaron Burr is slightly more hard headed, or persistant depending on the side of the terrorist/freedom fighter debate you stand on. He greets shouting with the "Who Me? Cute little me?!?" look. Probably his biggest use of this face comes on his forrays onto the kitchen counter or into the empty bath tub (he has only had one trip to the full tub, and that was just funny). Miller has found what may be a solution, as both places have ample water supplies. Instead of bothering with the spray bottle it is more effective, and more fun, to simply lift said cat, yell "NO" and douse his head under the faucet. Being an army cat, he then attempts yet another training jump (read tossed kitty) and . . . well as yet nothing has happened after that, but we have high hopes that he will learn, or at least get his master jumper wings. We love the cats, and they add that spice of adventure that all houses need.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

So we are a bit behind on our blogging....

Repeated field exercises, trips to Ireland, rumors of deployments and crazy cats have been a bit of a hindrance to our regular blogging. With that said, we are now going to catch you all up on the goings on of the Millers. Firstly, Aaron Burr and Tom asked us to thank Helen for her great gift to them. They have been having a ball! Who knew that a remotely controlled mouse could entertain two cats for so long (For a super cute video, click here)! With that said, we should explain our forays into foreign lands, namely Ireland, and the Czech Republic. Both locations share great beer and a high unemployment rate, other than that , the two places have absolutely nothing in common!
Ireland: Well, it all starts with a four hour drive to the world's most ghetto airport to catch our Ryan Air flight. Keep in mind, Ryan Air is CHEAP, like 15 Euro tickets to Italy (our next adventure) cheap. Although it is no frills, and you all rush the plane, as there is no assigned seating, and the pilots fly in a manner that makes you believe that this is their first time in the cockpit, we had no complaints! We flew from a converted US Air Force base that the Germans now own, and use as a hub for Ryan Air. All in all, a bit sketchy, but it did the job. We arrived in Dublin with our friend, Katie, all in one piece. After meeting her Irish friend and conversing a bit, she volunteered to drive us to our hotel. She was undoubtedly the worst driver I have ever ridden with. In addition to almost dying under the wheels of numerous double decker buses we got a native Dubliner's (yes, like the James Joyce collection of stories) tour of the city before dropping us off near our hotel. We stumbled with our ruck sacks into our modest hotel to discover that it was merely a modest number of rooms (picture the Leaky Cauldron) above the most wonderful Irish Pub. Now I am not talking about an Irish pub in the sense of tourist ridden eatery, but a legit pub with live music and beautiful Irish beers and ciders on tap that you could have with breakfast if you wanted to (which the Irish apparently partake in quite regularly). We spent the remainder of the day exploring the lovely parks and eating fish and chips chased by pints of Guiness and Bulmer's. As much as we love Germany, you can only stand so much Schnitzel and purity law enforced bland beer varieties. We turned in early to the sounds of a great traditional irish band playing in the pub below. Waking early, we went to see the National Gallery of Ireland which houses one of my favorite Vermeer's. Miller enjoyed seeing some of the nativie Irish art, and we both detested every bit of Italian Renaissance painting that the gallery had to offer. Altogether, quite a nice place, thankfully devoid of hordes of people. Following the gallery, we walked around the city a bit more, and read in St. Stephen's Green. Following our taxing day, we went back to our home pub and had some lovely Irish cheeses with copious amounts of Guiness....what a day. Our third day, being country folk, we decided to escape the city to do a bit of hiking along the coast. After taking a half hour train ride out to Howth (pronounced like both) we found a great hiking trail around a peninsula and spent the better part of the day exploring some truly striking scenery. We walked along cliff faces and spotted seals in the Atlantic. After a truly disappointing lunch in the seaside town, we boarded a train back to Dublin to sample some of Dublin's own microbrews. Sadly, we were disappointed again in our meal selection, as the brewery we were at tried far too hard to try to distinguish themselves from commercialism, that their beers were quite lackluster, and the service poor. Oh we walked back to our own pub to read and sip irish coffee. Our last day was uneventful. We declined a ride from Katie's friend, fearing for our lives, and rode on the top of a double-decker bus to the airport where we meet up with Katie and caught our flight back to Germany. It took us far too long to get home thanks to construction and a truly confused GPS. And that was the end of our Irish adventure!

Ever since we have arrived in Bavaria, it has been on our Czechlist to Czech out the Czech Republic. Sorry, I had to get that out of my system. We live not quite 45 minutes from the border with the Czech Republic and so a couple of weeks ago Jak and I decided to hop the fence and head to Plzen, home of the origional Pilsner beer. Crossing the border is a shock. We are used to New England, where it isn't so much a delineated border as a zone of confusion. The border with Czech is quite different. One moment you are in Bavaria, where everything is so neat and prosperous that I swear they sweap the forrests. With only a stop to pay a toll in the form of buying a bright reflective sticker for your window, you change from that ordered exsistance into a world where a black market liver is just around the corner. In reality it isnt nearly that bad, but it is quite a contrast nonetheless. Jak and I drove to Plzen, only 90 minutes away, to take the brewery tour we had heard so much about.
Reading this it may seem that we are alcholics, or more properly drunks as we do not go to meetings, but in reality it is a combination of our curiosity with only a little of our love of libations that drive us to tour brewerys the world over. The Pilsner Urquel brewery is reminiscent of Wonka's factory. In the midst of drab Plzen rise towering wrought iron gates that hold a massive cobbled court yard that is the home of Pilsner. We signed up for the English language tour, and paid our several hundred crowns to get that and a photo pass. (An aside, it is really cool to hold a 1000 crown bill in your hand, until you realize it is about 25 bucks) We were unsure what to expect, but the tour was awesome. An elderly gentleman who spoke perfect english with a Mensa vocabulary escourted our group through the new brewery and bottling line that have been recently built. It was really neat, but it was even cooler when we hopped on the largest elevator in the Czech Republic only to find it doesnt work. Following attempts to revive the elevator, we broke down and walked the 1 flight of stairs to the actual brewing room. From there we went down on the coolest (and coldest) part of the tour, part of the 19 kilometers of man made tunnels where the beer has been traditionally aged. They still brew it the old way to ensure that the modern batches match up, and we ended the tour with glasses of beer right from barrels the size of our Volkswagen.
The drive back to Deutschland was uneventful, and it ended up being an awesome forray into a totally different world that is right across our doorstep.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We Rode to a Castle!

Okay, mountain biking anywhere tends to be pretty awesome, and back home we have seen some amazing things. On the other hand, I have never ridden to the ruins of a castle. Jak and I went riding today with some fellow officers at an amazing nature park. We rode for a few hours, climbed to the top of a very high fire tower, stopped at a shrine, and even explored an ancient ruined castle. It was awesome! A less than awesome event was the impressive crash of one of our fellow riders. The only way the man could have flown through the air better, would have been with wings. Although Chris caught a stump with his face, he was fine....well, close to fine! After his near death experience, we finished our great ride with some really technical descents.
Yesterday wasn't as exciting, as we spent the day reading, with a short interruption of Jak's softball practice. Her team is tied for first place now in the league. Hopefully they will win their game on Wednesday. With that win, they will officially be hired by the Yankees as coaches....Just kidding.....kind of...we also took some time out of our reading day to play a bit of tennis. Just a good day all around. Although this weekend was a bit dull to the outside observer, we had quite a bit of fun. next weekend though will prove to be more interesting, as we are heading off to Ireland....Yay to Guinness! Yay to Leprechauns! Yay to Bono! But more on this next week!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Where to Start?

There is much to write about, and as such we may have more than one post here. I will start with the most recent. As with many impressive things like Nessie or Sasquatch (who will appear herein later), there is no true photographic records of today's adventures. After a morning that involved Nathan sitting around reading and Jak going to softball practice, we met up with one of Nathan's NCO's to go mountain biking. Deciding to go outside the immediate area we followed SGT Davis' directions to Pottenstein, where the three of us went on what can only be described as an epic ride. We should have known today would be something to write about when the trail that we selected to start the ride on had a picture of a soaring eagle on it. And in the future, lack of practical German knowledge or not, I am staying the hell away from things marked with soaring eagles, because they describe not the sights to be seen but instead the only practical method of going up said trail. Alternatley ropes, hammers and pitons would have worked, and may I take a moment to point out to my bride and her sister that this is in fact the proper use of the word piton, as an implement of scaling great heights, not as a descriptor of any small object whose name is not properly known. We finally did ascend the soaring heights, I am sure with SGT Davis cursing LT's under his breath, and were treated to the sight of, you guessed it, more climbing. Eventually we did summit the ridge and took the endless trails that wind through all of the hills and dales of Pottenstein. It was possibly the most amazing ride I have ever had. We found amazing stream crossings, hidden stations of the cross, and an entire field of stinging nettles. The last took some identification as they look different from their American cousins. They also appear to have something to prove, as their is no practical reason that anything needs to sting that bad. Once our legs stopped burning, (kinda. . .Jak's are still burning) we continued our trek and found what is undoubtedly the most epic singletrack to end all singletracks. Now epic can't really describe this trail. When a trail starts between stations 9 and 10 of the cross, you know if Jesus cant keep it rubber side down you may be up for a challenge. Admittidly I would have a hard time riding anything in a loincloth, sandals and a crown of thorns carrying a great honking piece of wood. I prefer styrafoam for my headgear. I digress, and risk smiteing, so back to the trail. It was barely the width of our handlebars, and followed the contour line. While following the contour line is a good thing in terms of vertical challenges, it exposes the rider to an entirely exciting new twist of vertical drop off to the side. I really cant describe it, and have no pictures of it, but I can say that it is something that any devotee of two knobby tires should ride before they die. Beacause riding it may cause dabbing, elevated heart rate, sweatyness, and death. SGT Davis and Miller almost got to expierence the latter, while Jak was only wondering how to rescue them with her spare tube while laughing. Because no pain is too great to not laugh at. Especially other peoples. It was amazing, and we only got a little lost on the way back. And we saw gnomes in the forrest, not cool "I can sell my story to National Enquirer" but the more, shall we say, garden variety. We also ran over what had to be Sasquatch poop. We would have seen him if the horses riding in front of us hadnt scared him away. We also managed to barely avoid killing a weiner dog, but that would have been okay, because the dog violated the German Cool Dog rule. It was amazing, and we will have to ride it again, with a camera and a bit more life insurance.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Column for Pigs and Cats

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, or at least that is what we are hoping will happen. While walking through the old part of Graf, we have often wondered at a really cool old pillar that is right near the town hall. Now, in a particularly ironic bit of timing, we have finally figured out what the column is there for. I know columns don't always need to have a purpose, I mean come on, who doesn't like a bit of random column action in their own town, but this one does. It was erected by the grateful villagers of Graf back in 1496 (shortly after Columbus didn't listen to his wife's advice to stop and ask for directions) in monument to their having survived the plague. Considering there are two plagues facing us, we can only hope it still works. Obviously the first plague is of the swine variety, which happens to have made its appearance not just in Germany but only 45 minutes drive away at that. We aren't that worried, but a bit of luck cant hurt anything. The second plague is much more fun, and only has two cases so far. The plague is one of kittens, and while that may not be the best description of our furry companions, it does tie in at only a slightly monumental stretch with the swine flu and column thing. The cats continue to amaze us, not only with their adorable antics and quick growth, but also with the amazingly foul array of odors that they can produce from their litter box. Tom has grown quite a bit and is beginning to show the promise of his adult characteritcs, while Aaron Burr has learned to vocalize his opinions as well as Tom does. Aaron Burr has also picked up some serious martial arts moves from his political compatriot, which should stand him in good stead (as we all know) should he encounter a feline Alexander Hamilton. It is wonderful to come home to the pounding of kitten paws as they charge us, hoping for some renewed excitement. We have continued our exploration, mountain biking and hiking the sorrounding hills and dales, and visited our first European Brewery, but that is something for another entry. Love to you all.
-The Millers

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It is raining gender confused cats, but no dogs. . .

Variety is the spice of life, and so when we saw an add for more kittens, naturally we had to call. Now Tom has a brother, Aaron Burr. Tom's full name is Thomas Jefferson, so our vice kitten has thus far proved to be an adorable and good influence on Tom. But as with any good story, there is a twist. Yes, readers of our blog, we can exclusively present a little know historical fact, Thomas Jefferson may have been a girl. Or perhaps he is just cold. After seeing our obviously boy kitten Aaron Burr, and watching Tom turn over to play with him, we noticed, shall we say, a difference. We are not experts, and according to online sources, it can be hard to tell at this age, but it is entirely possible that Thomas Jefferson is a girl. Interesting. . . At this point we are waiting until they are done doing battle with catnip mouses and string to see if further discoveries can be made. This does bring into question the name Tom, I am in favor of keeping Him/Her/It as Tom, Jak is undecided. And we have discovered that while Aaron Burr is a calm sort of individual, Tom is like a heroin junkie on a bad trip when he has cat nip. I am sure that more amusing updates will follow.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tom Cat

No, we have not succumbed to Scientology and have no fascination with Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes, or whatever weird thing either of them is doing at the moment. In all honesty we are rather cut off from the events of the US, we get our news from the BBC, and only catch the highlights. Or lowlights as the case may be. No, the Tom Cat we are referring to is our cat, Tom. And despite some reports, it is quite an origional name. We have given him the venerable name shared by such notables as Jefferson, Bombadil, Boonen and even Riddle. But the last, we really can't talk about his name. Writing these with my bride proofreading really shows my hatred of the apostrophe, what a damned foolish piece of punctuation. She also points out that I have 18 run on sentences so far, and my grammar is that of a 4 year old. Nonetheless, I have temporary control of the keyboard, and if I wish to maintain it, I should get back to the point. We have a cat, a kitten really, he is all black and promises to have a beautiful medium length coat. He is a postal cat, insomuch as we got him from a gentleman who works at the post office. And Tom is quite adorable, and has quite a loud voice with which he occasionally voices his displeasure at being seperated from his mother and siblings. Now I think our menagiere of pets is complete for the time being with the two mice and the cat. The only thing we need now is a boxer, probably a puppy so that the cat and boxer can get along famously. I have great faith that in due course fate will present us with the perfect puppy, and that Jak will then be the happy queen of a further expanded household.
PS: Ma and Pa can now visit in the safe knowledge that Pa's favorite animals will be present.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A return to reviews

So I originally intended this to be an outlet for our opinions on things, and have been decidedly lax on that front. Now considering I live in what could be considered the capital of beers, the very people who inspired Beer Fest, and who annually hold Octoberfest, it may be surprising that the beer I chose to review now is a bit closer to home. I bring you Samuel Adams Boston Lager! Oh and an aside, proof that they like their beer, the entire state still hasnt sobered up enough to realize that they hold Octoberfest in September.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
4.8% ABV and 35 IBU

This is as much a review of German Beers versus American Beers as much as it is a review of Sam Adams. My annalogy is to relate them to cars. I love German cars, VW, BMW, Mercedes, they are refined, generally flawless, and a joy to behold. But anyone who saw my first car knows that I like a bit of what would be generously described as roughness. Not 120 grit sand paper rough, I mean rough around the edges. My first car was also Aaron's first car, and Ethan's first car, and it was older than me. It was a 1983 Chevrolet Crew Cab with an extended bed. It was light blue, though it spent various times in its life with us with brown doors, a mismatched rust and blue paintjob, and its final baby blue courtesy of Pa and I and a June afternoon. I digress, but you may see the difference I am hinting at. German beers are wonderful, perfectly smooth, balanced as only hundreds of years of brewing the same recepie can be. But they lack that origionality, that tail pipe about to fall off edge that I really like. This difference led me to a proclaiment last Friday night, when I looked in the fridge and said to my bride, "I need some American Beer." Now while that could have meant Coors or Miller or Budweiser, I wanted an origional car, not a 1983 Honda that belches blue smoke. Sam Adams is a readily accesable representation of what makes American beer great. It has the right blend of hops, that hint of spice, and the rich warm color that make you feel like youre back in New England again. It goes perfectly well with steak or hotdogs, as a refresher after mowing the lawn or something to enjoy after dinner while my bride quafs a Guiness. It is like Otis, my stuffed dog from when I was 4, that reminder of warm days and happy memories. It can go anywhere and still be great, even if it is the young whippersnapper compared to its neighbors in my refrigerator. And when push comes to shove, it is easier to justify 12 ounces over 1/2 a liter.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Cows in Moos

Sorry for our extended absence from these pages, the last several weeks have been rather hectic, and a stressed Miller is one who does not really have a desire to write. So, to update on the last several weeks, Ethan and his girlfriend, Chris, and her kids came down our neck of the woods for Easter. It was a blast, we had dinner prepared by my lovely bride, and hiked up to the tower on a clear day this time and saw what there was to see. It was beautiful, the only hitch was that I am now apparently a pedophile, as Jak paid the kids rate going up the tower, while Ethan, Chris and I paid the adult rate. The gentleman collecting the money would not let Jak pay the adult rate. Funny and economical all in one!
We no longer have the dog, last week a call came from his old owners asking for him back, and while he was happy, we decided that although we were happy with him, it was unfair to pull, the "he's mine and too bad" act. There will be other dogs for us, and we will be in the market for a boxer. You can't really top Helen, but we will try to come close with our next dog. If anyone is looking to sell a preferably white boxer puppy, we have a dogless home that needs one!
Although work has been truly stressful for both of us, we are at least finding a bit of time to take some great bike rides! Jak made a crazy suggestion on Saturday, that had the full potential for disaster, but worked out gloriously....fixed gear cyclocross! If you have no idea what this entails, ask Alli and she can tell you how crazy we are. Well, needless to say, we loved it, and will be riding tons more cross, minus the free wheel. The only snafu to a great ride was our ending up in a cow farmer's yard. We had accidentally ridden down a cow path that lead to great big cow barns. When we had realized that we were in fact right in front of his house/ barn area, it was too late to escape as his jack russell terrier had already sounded the alarm. Both farmer and wife came out to check out why in heck two spandex clad bikers were in thier yard. At that point, Jak, being Jak thought it best to act as the silly girl she is. Instead of explaining that we were lost, she simply asked "Where is the road?" although it was in plain sight on the other side of an irrigation ditch. Both farmers looked at us like idiots, and simply pointed to the road. We thanked them and asked if we could traipse over thier lawn to the road. Thankfully they allowed us to do so, more to get rid of us than anything. Ironically enough, the cows were not in the Town of Moos that we often ride by, but in the neighboring town Grub. Go figute. I am sure they will be talking about us over thier Sunday dinner!
Anyway, we miss you all and love you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Two Towers

Okay, same tower, second visit. No Ents. No Dark Riders, in fact very little similarity with the above literary reference. But what are bad puns if not tenuous at best. Jak and I decided to return to the scene of our earlier adventure in Neustadt am Kulm and the really cool tower. This time we were dressed somewhat more appropriately for adventuring, namely there was no spandex, we were wearing practical shoes, and we had a huge black dog. I suppose if Jak didnt wear her glasses and it was really dark and misty out and she was in the mood to be imaginative, we could mistake him for a dark rider. Minus the rider, so more of the dark rider's horse. Now my reference is less tenative.
Anyway, the tower is even cooler than we could have hoped for. After using our phones to free translate the parking signs, we figured out where to leave the car and went for a hike up the hill to the tower. It reminds me so much of Connecticut it isn't even funny. It has the same rock scree slope as the ridge back home, which was really fun to negotiate while trying to keep up with Rocco. On our way up we saw numerous bronze age archeological sites, but we didn't manage to find any pieces for ourselves, which was dissapointing. All dissapointment was banished when we got to the top and found that the tower is open to the public all the time. 82 Stairs later (I think) we reached the top and despite the hazy day we were treated to quite a view. Rocco was unimpressed, he mainly wanted water, as we have discovered that we own the most hydration obsessed dog in the world. After a quick lunch and nap at home, we went to Obi (wan Kenobi), which is the cooler German brother of Home Depot. They even have the same orange clothes for the employees, but their logo is a Beaver. Which did spark a question for Jak and I as to whether or not they have Beavers over here. I am inclined to think they don't, as in "Buffalo Girls," they have beavers in a Zoo only, but they may have proliferated and become plentiful again. (Note: Pretty much that whole sentence will only be fully understood by the Weidner-Miller side of the family) And now the long awaited answer, thanks to wikipedia. . . . (drum roll) there are beavers here!! They were hunted nearly to extintion, but have been reintroduced in such awesome areas as Bavaria, Austria, and SERBIA!!!!! And I also discovered that there was a pre-historic Giant Beaver in North America that was the size of a Black Bear. I want one to go with a giant german rabbit. The Beaver will be named Tiny and the Rabbit will be named Gigantor. Jak says that the big dog is enough, but I firmly believe that Rocco should be the beginning of a menagere of giant animals. At Obi (wow that was a long side track) we got plants and gardening tools so that we can begin to make our yard look less like Peyton Place. Don't ask me what Peyton Place looks like exactly, but apparently we look like that. Which is a bad thing I think, as mention of it drives my wife into a cleaning and gardening frenzy. Pretty much, I don't want to go to this Peyton Place place. Apparently it is Guilmonton Iron Works, so sorry Guilmonton, I will not visit. All in all a successful day, and a tired Jak, Miller, and Hund. Goodnight and all our love!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Epic Poo

So Miller was right, big dogs take big poos. Yesterday we had to take the car to get a new spring-thingy put in. While the car was being fixed we decided to walk around the surrounding countryside. We had to cross through town to get to some walking trails, and while doing so, mother nature called on Rocco. Seeing what he was doing, I quickly pulled out a bag. He had to have chosen the narrowest cobbled sidewalk to conduct his business. One preface to this next part of the narrative: Germans will tell you if they don't like what your are doing, and expect others to do the same. So some guy in this crappy little Fiat decides to yell out his window while driving way too fast (as is the German way) something about how he hates poo.....whatever. So I attempt to pick up this cow plop sized mound....well, it was just too much for the bag. Admitting defeat, I tied up the bag with a good portion of poo in it, and we quickly made an exit to the farms on the outskirts of town....where Rocco could crap to his hearts delight, I mean, the cows do!
Following his pooing adventure, we walked for almost four hours, covering about twenty kilometers before the car was ready. During that time, we were able to solidify some old obedience training (sitz and platz) and teach him some new ones (fus and give paw). He is a very quick learner, so the rest won't be much of a problem, I just have to keep my supply of cut up hot-dogs and cheese on me until he gets the hang of them all. The poor boy does have an ear infection though, which we are treating with drops, but I don't think are doing very well, as it is tough to get him not to shake them out, so I think very little medicine is getting in. We will discuss this with the vet when he goes in next week for a check up and to schedule for him to be neutered. Just like Zack always did, even though Rocco is very much a boy, he still pees like a girl....oh, and did I mention he is afraid of the dark and small much for a big manly dog! Anyway, we are going to spend another day gallivanting around the Bavarian countryside, as is our habit!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Family- Rocco, Rocco- Family

Well, Jak and I have a new addition to our family. Rocco. He is beautiful, big, and every bit of the dog we wanted.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Tomorrow (Thursday) we are getting our dog!! We are adopting him from an Army family whose small son has developed a really bad allergy. His name is Rocket, though that is going to change. Possibly to Werner, but we will see what he thinks. Oh, one more thing.
As in bigger than Jak.
No Joke.
I'm getting a saddle.
Western, maybe English for Jak
Maybe a tandem Saddle
He is that Big.
I am not even joking.
He is big and beautiful. He is a Lab/German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, and I think his feet are the size of mine.

Positives: Huge Dog
Negatives: Epic Poops
More to follow
PS: Jak got the fire department called while cooking dinner. I have the pictures of the 2 firetrucks and 2 MP vehicles that showed up. German sirens sound really cool. And German firemen are nice. And dinner wasn't even burnt. I am now fully confident that we will not die in a fire. Or even get a nasty wax burn from an errant candle. Or even light a match in peace. Because they don't have those nice move the smoke away from it and it stops sounding the air-raid siren type alarms. Nope, none of this backing out or exit strategies. Once you're on fire here, you are committed. Screw stop, drop, and roll, they will be there in a minute at most to save you.

High on A Hill. . .

I will preface this by saying that we never did see the lonely goat herder. Perhaps societal expectations of a lonely goat herder demand that they shun outsiders, as otherwise they probably would not be all that lonely.
Okay, a bit of explanation is probably required. On Sunday, Jak and I drove to Pottenstein, which is better known to my troops as the place where steak-on-a-stone is. While we did not visit this gustatory Xanadu, I do have to put forth Jak and my opinion. At this particular restaurant, which fascinates all of our battalion, they bring out a really hot stone to you that you then cook your dinner on. It is reminiscent of taking out a pan, putting it on a stove, and cooking in it. Wait a moment, it is pretty much the same thing. Except you pay for it. I have to give the owner credit, that is a work of genius. Get the silly patrons to cook their own meals and sit back and watch the deutschmarks (now euros) roll in.
Moving on, Pottenstein is in fact a startlingly beautiful ancient resort town, complete with hot mineral springs, and cold ponds full of fish. Where there is no fishing allowed. Very German. The immediate surrounding area has more than 450 Kilometers of hiking and biking trails, so we decided to park and avail ourselves of some of that length, cameras in hand. Or bag. We hiked past an absolutley beautiful house that is perched on top of a pilar of dolomite. We didn't go inside, but from the looks of the place you can stand off an army. Even an army that would have to storm its heights in order to go to steak-on-a-stone. While the house was cool, Jak and I tend to run to more simple tastes, namely the goats we encountered further down the trail. Now you understand the Julie Andrews references above. As evidenced by the more than 100 pictures we took of them, they were quite cool. If you look at our flickr, you can see some of the more choice selections, with such gems as Goat Looking Angry, Goat Standing, Goat Doing Goat Things, and my favorite, Goat So Bored It Is Chewing One Leg. Did I mention we like goats? We were also able to see the locals enjoying the mountains, and a real live boar. . .Kinda. Fortunatley, we were able to escape the viscious local ducks, and bring these pictures back to you. It was a great day out, we cant wait to go back.
PS. We saw the Pope!!