“I’ll take potpourri for $200, Alex”

It’s been over a week since I’ve posted! Where’ve I been?
Albrecht Dürer

  • Nuremberg visiting old buddy Albrecht Dürer
  • Ingolstadt
  • working like crazy

It’s been pretty darn busy over the last week or so. Over the next several months — maybe indefinitely, who knows? — I see this as my Theatre of Operations:
Größere Kartenansicht

There will be a lot of rental cars, carpooling, trains, and the occasional one-night stay in my future. Working in what used to be the HQ for our company, I could pretty much count on departments from other locations in Germany coming to visit me. Not necessarily so any more.

the BettySarah and I have been eyeing this beauty for quite some time now, waiting for the price to drop. €400 seems like a chunk-o-change to drop for a bike, espeically from a store I’ve declared my sworn enemy (at least for repairs or maintenance). But it sure is purrrty.

Christina and Oliver in MotionAnd here’s a shot of our pals Christina and Oliver that Sarah snapped with her new phone/PDA recently at a coffeeshop and bakery around the corner from us. Wish I could have been there — I find I’ve been hanging out in coffee shops far too infrequently lately. Especially this one.

Homemade Refried Beans

These are labor intensive, but once you get them right, it’s impossible to go back to canned.

1 lb dried pinto or pink beans
1/2 lb bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt to taste

Pick over beans for withered or broken beans and stones. Rinse beans VERY thoroughly with cold water in a colander (when you think you’ve rinsed them enough, rinse them a couple more times!). Place beans in a deep pot and cover with 6-8 cups cold water and allow to soak for 8 hours or over night.

Remove any floating beans and bring beans in soaking water to a boil, then reduce to medium simmer for at least 90 minutes. Add 1 tsp of salt to water and stir periodically. Add hot water as needed – you always want about 1 inch of water over the surface of the beans – along with 1 tsp of salt for every 2 c of added water. Occasionally skim foam from top of beans. When beans are tender, drain beans, reserving 2 cups of bean juice. DO NOT RINSE BEANS! Just set them aside.

In a deep skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy and remove from skillet, allowing drippings to remain in pan. After all bacon is cooked and set aside, cook onion and garlic in bacon drippings until tender and translucent (if there’s not enough drippings, add a little vegetable oil). While onion is cooking, coarsely chop or crumble bacon.

When onion and garlic are done, turn heat down to low and add half of the beans to onion mixture. Pour about 1/2 c of the bean juice into the skillet and, using a potato masher, begin coarsely mashing the beans. Once you reach the desired consistency, add the rest of the beans and keep mashing and adding bean juice until you get the texture you want.

Stir in the bacon, cumin and chili powder and taste the beans. You will probably need to add more salt, stir and taste a few times. Save the bean juice in the fridge for reheating. Using plain water to rehydrate the beans will kill the flavor.

*I know. This is unbelievably fatty and salty. I know. Dried beans prepared from scratch require quite a bit of salt for flavoring and the bacon drippings provide the great texture and keep them from being crumbly and chalky. We only have them a couple times a year.

Mark Ronson — Siriusly!

While Sarah and were I driving around in our rented Avenger in December, we appreciated the Sirius satellite radio it came with. I’d never played with that before. It’s pretty sweet. We tuned right in to “Left of Center Sirius 26” and pretty much left in there the whole time. Given my previous post, I’m sure that sounds like a talk show akin to AirAmerica.

Well, it’s not. It’s just a music station, but they play interesting new rock; kind of like The River used to in the mid-to-late-’90s before they sold out and fell back into snoozy listening. You know, stuff that it would be hard for me to find elsewhere (except maybe Narg and Carrie’s mix discs). And there was a really hot track attributed to Mark Ronson we heard in a Walgreen’s parking lot, where I was stocking up on a rainbow of deodorant flavors for the next year or so. We made a note to remember the name, and then forgot about it promptly.

Until Phil posted most recently on his blog, that is. Thanks a bunch for the reminder, Phil!

Went over to iTunes (where I had resolved to buy less music after buying this Mac mini, not more), found the song, and found the whole album was going for only €7. Reading up a little bit on him in his blurb on iTunes, we found out he’s behind two albums we really dug from last year – Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Lily Allen’s “Alright, Still.” Well, duh — no wonder we like him.

Here’s why: the man is not shy about horns. Trombones, saxophones, and especially big ole barry saxophones. And devoted readers know I dig well-done mashups and unusual cover versions. His covers of Trainwreck Spears’ “Toxic” and Radiohead’s “Just” are really, really, interesting.

If you’ve got iTunes, take a listen into “Toxic” or “Just”. The original one which piqued our interest was “Oh My God” (obviously) featuring Lily Allen on lead vocals.

I like it when the funk comes back around.

Holy crap, that’s supposed to win him some voters?

Read this on CNN.com this morning:

He has reiterated his support for constitutional amendments to ban abortion and same-sex marriage — which he told the Web site Beliefnet.com could open the door to polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality.

If that is a good way to entice voters in general, then I am really scared of my fellow countrymen. If that is just a message aimed precisely at a small minority who need to hear it in order to vote for him, then I am really scared for my fellow countrymen.

In this day and age, who honestly doesn’t know a gay person or someone who has at least considered an abortion? I am sure everyone has a friend from high school or a relative or neighbor or someone in their lives who is gay or faced the prospect of an unwanted pregnancy.

I want Huckabee and his supporters to look at their family members and neighbors and coworkers who are in committed homosexual relationships or need pregnancy counseling and show me how that leads to polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality. I want names. I want relationships. I want specifics. I know you have a slutty nephew who can’t stop knocking up college girls. I know you have a butch sister. Can you look those those people in your life in the eyes and say “yep — supporting you in legal matters makes it more likely for polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality to occur in our country.”

But wait, there’s more:

Huckabee also told a Michigan audience ahead of that state’s Tuesday primary that, “What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards, rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

Mr. Huckabee, you’re in the wrong country. What you need is a theocracy. Give my regards to the Ayatollah.

2 days to go

grey_pants_green_shirt_gold_tieI was going to surprise Sarah at the airport, but I blew it. Either way, I’m taking Thursday off, and it will be well-deserved.

The rosiness of in the face here is indicative of the windchill at…I dunno, 30km/h or so on my bike at home at night.

Dudswise: I’d say I’m coming into my own here. Went naturel on the hair today due to the helmet wearings. Probably won’t tomorrow as it’s kind of an important day with a pretty big presentation in front of a critical audience – I’ll need the extra hair goop again. Fortunately, I keep a stash at work right next to my emergency deodorant.

missed it by 20 minutes

Dang it! I missed my personal culinary deadline by 20 minutes. I wanted shawarma, a cake of some sort, and some soup (mostly for lunches next week). I just finished the soup. I’m probably not even going to eat it until Tuesday, which Tim and Heather (met them tonight along with a lot of other neat new people, and some friendly faces from past gatherings, at the Regensburg Ex-Pat Meetup) say will be good for the flavor meldings.

Cooking is not as easy as Sarah makes it look. I have to improvise a lot more than I think I should. I think I’ll stick to the baking. It’s more predictable (or it would be, if we had a reliable oven).

experimental culinary basics

Sarah predicted I’d have a Döner for dinner every night while she’s traveling to and from the States and I’m here in Regensburg. So far, she’s been right; but not because I can’t or don’t want to cook. It’s this 60+ hour work week that is getting in the way. I can only shop on the weekend when everything closes at 8 but I’m still at work or on the way home and when I did get home from work over the course of the week before 8 p.m., I’ve honestly been too tired to scrounge something together.

That changed this morning. I had a lovely breakfast of two fried eggs and some improvised Schmorkartoffeln*. These were based on a potato left over from one of the last meals Sarah and I made before her trip and half a stowaway onion. Instinct told me Bratkartoffeln need butter, pepper (I really dig the coursely ground stuff Sarah found) and a little sage. I had that all going when I spied the onions lurking, trying to blend in on the counter. Next time (provided I buy another potato), I’ll start by sauteeing the onion before adding the potato wedges.

See? I won’t starve. Nor will I get take out or hit a restaurant for every meal not at work. Today I’m working from home (OK, not this very second, but soon) waiting around the house for the DHL dude to arrive with a belated Christmas/birthday present for our apartment.