Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Project two, Phase one

Just a quick post, showing that we do more than make wine in this household. We are in the very preliminary stages of starting to MAKE BEER too! As proof of such, I stopped by the Lincoln Center recycle bins yesterday and picked up 50 empty beer bottles. I just rinsed them out and here they are drying in our dishrack. And at our local supply store, called Hops and Berries, we found out they sell beer making kits for beginners like us. So, we will choose between an amber ale, or a pale ale, or a brown ale. Then when we have mastered that we will move on to making others such as ESBs or whatever we like! Hooray for new hobbies!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Storage shelves (aka: vacation is over!)

Well, as much as I want to keep recalling our wonderful trip, it was time to move on to something else. So, I decided to tackle the project of putting up some storage shelves in the shed. Last year we did a huge purge and got rid of a lot of stuff, but we were left with a few old small, odd-shaped and rickety shelves to hold things like our empty wine bottles. So, a lot of stuff was ending up on the floor, and it felt like soon we'd have the same old mess in there. So, Mom and I took a look and decided on shelf size and spacing and after just two trips to Home Depot, voilà:

I used 3/4" plywood for the shelves, because they will be holding a fair amount of weight, and also then I didn't need to put in extra horizontal supports under each shelf. So, now we have lots of room for our empty wine bottles and other things. And when we get into making a batch of beer, we can store those bottles out there too.

Next projects coming up - new kitchen counter tops and a new kitchen sink, one such as this with a built in drainboard. Some of the places we stayed in Scotland had these types of sinks and we really liked them. And for the countertops, we are thinking of something like the Corian material. And we'd like to refinish our wood floors soon too. And of course, we want to make a few more batches of wine, and maybe our first batch of beer sometime soon. So, more projects to come!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Post trip thoughts

We've been back for a week now, from our trip to Ghana and Scotland, and in many ways I am still recovering. Recovering in both a mental and physical sense. Physically, from the bug we had and from a bit of jet lag. Last night I slept a good 11 hours! So, hopefully, that will help.

Mentally, several things are going on. First, I really enjoyed the trip, the places we saw, being in Ghana, being with Nate, Karen, and Quentin. In fact, I think I enjoyed it so much that it is a bit hard to get back to my regular routine at work. Second, several of my close co-worker friends have decided to take an early-out retirement offer at work and I think that has me pondering work more and my own retirement. Lastly, the trip to two such different places, and the experiences in each has me thinking about the world, politics, the U.S., and what I might do to make things better. So, to say the least, my mind is full - of memories of the trip, of my work and future retirement, and of the world we live in.

The trip to Ghana was quite an incredible experience. Having Steve there made the trip so different than it would have been without him. Steve's house is right in the middle of a small community - surrounded by local people, termite mounds, chickens, and all the sounds of a small village. Staying there was a remarkable part of our trip. On several occasions I was reminded of our times in Nicaragua in Puerto Momotombo visiting Sierra. The chance to live in a small local community provides insights into a country and culture that a more normal tourist visit could never do. In both instances it is a bit of an odd experience. We are there, but yet we are strangers. We can get a sense of life there, but never really understand because we have a home and life elsewhere. But, nonetheless, the experience is rich and wonderful.

One of the best parts of our visit in Ghana was when we spent the day with Steve walking around the Buduburam refugee camp. This is something we never would have done without someone there to guide us around. It was great to meet so many people and to get the chance to talk with them about their lives and hopes. We learned a lot and hopefully can now help others to learn about the Liberians and their situation. Another great part of the trip was the day Steve invited several of his friends over for dinner. Again, we got to meet and talk to many Liberians about their lives and plans. And we just had fun too, laughing and eating and enjoying a nice meal together. It was a memorable evening.

Then we flew to Scotland - which was quite the contrast in many ways. It was colder, quieter, more modern, and Quentin was there! We had such a great time here too. We saw so many absolutely beautiful places. But I think the Isle of Skye was my favorite. The snow-capped peaks, the amazing cliffs along the coast, places like the"Fairy Glen", the sky and clouds and sun - it added up to a feeling of being in a magical place. And to be able to share that with Nate, Karen, and Quentin made it even more special. Add to that some incredible trips to distilleries and breweries, some outstanding bird watching (with several unfortunate misses of target birds.... but it's all part of the wonder of birdwatching), and ancient ruins and castles and you have the formula for a most amazing time.

So, I feel blessed to have had the chance to take these two trips. And to share time with Steve and then with Quentin. And to travel with Nate and Karen. These are times in my life that make the best memories and that make me glad to be alive!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Q&A from our trip to Ghana and Scotland

Whenever we travel we always seem to be asking a lot of questions - why is this like it is? what is that for? etc. So, I took a few notes on our trip and here are some of the things we wanted to learn about and web sites that talk about the answers. Enjoy!

While we were in Ghana the sky always appeared sort of dark/cloudy/dusty. As Steve pointed out, this was due to the Harmattan wind, which carries small dust from the Sahara desert to the coast at this time of year.

Besides the fact that you can't see the beauty of the coastline, for example, it also has negative health effects: http://www.springerlink.com/content/720572u375828w84/

We saw a lot of birds in Ghana that were black and white and were called "pied", such as pied crow, pied kingfisher, African pied wagtail, and African pied hornbill. We wondered about the definition of the word "pied" and it is: "Adj. 1. pied - having sections or patches colored differently and usually brightly; "a jester dressed in motley"; "the painted desert"; "a particolored dress"; "a piebald horse"; "pied daisies".

While in Scotland we wondered why gas prices are so much higher there than here. It is due to taxes as a way to reduce consumption: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/10/07/BUGPDLKLV01.DTL

In the UK, the bathroom is called the Loo – why? http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutwordorigins/loo?view=uk

Where else in the world do they drive on left side:

We saw this amazing tree - Monkey puzzle tree – where is it from?

What was the forest cover historically in Scotland? Click the Scotland Native Woodlands link on this site:

Why do we use 120 volts versus 240 volts in Scotland?