Multi-Purpose weekend

The first week of May we all gathered in Ediso/Charleston to celebrate/attend Lenore's birthday, Lynda's Dragon Boat Festival, Graeme's starring role in Hello Dolly and Mother's Day. Friday we hung out on the beach. Lyla almost went in the water but saw a jelly fish and that was that. It was T's shepard's pie for dinner which was delicious.

Saturday we went into Charleston to check out the farmers/craft Market at Marion Square and attend the Dragon Boat Festival. It was hot but at the river the breeze made it bearable. We ate chili at the George (my parent's in-town condo) and then went to see Graeme starring as Cornelius in Hello Dolly. Very enjoyable. Check out the videos on youtube.

Sunday we made potato pancakes for all the mothers - some with and without onions, some cooked in bacon grease, some in vegetable oil - all delicious. Sunday dinner was Lenore's birthday celebration with steak and poppy seed cake.

At some point we had a beer tasting with a selection from the local Piggly Wiggly. I think the New Castle Ale was the favorite

beer seleection

And we saw a squirrel resting in a tree and a chameleon.

chameleon resting squirrel

Check out more pics.

Lenore thinking of her wish

Goals and Threats

I have found another video game that I like called LittleBigPlanet. It is not easy for me to play but it is just so cute that I can deal with the failure and humiliation. It is like most games where there are goals (jump up on this ledge and pop all these little bubbles, or grab this star and swing over to the moon) as well as threats to your safety (fire, ghosts). You can even construct your own game courses. I probably won't get much better at playing but I will still enjoy it.

I have another video of the beer making process. It should be ready for tasting this weekend and if it is good it will be even better by Christmas.

Witch's brew

I made a batch of India Pale Ale last Sunday and tomorrow I will bottle it. The batch usually makes about 2 cases of beer so I have been trying to save bottles over the last couple of weeks, When I checked last Saturday I found that I was short so early Sunday morning I went recycling bin diving in the refuse rooms on my floor and the 6 below. My experience shows that residents in this building drink more wine than beer, many don't know the difference between trash and recycling and many do their laundry at 7:30 am in the morning. I managed to score a 12 pack of empty Harp bottles and at least six other miscellaneous brands. So I am probably OK.

Here's what was happening Monday night:

And I was so happy that the little girl on the 3rd floor is exhibiting some new seasonal artwork on her front door. It's been a while.

halloween door

The little post-it on the left says "Burning Ben" with a drawing of a witch. On the right we have "Cackley Bradley" and a spider.

Beer in Baltimore and Fish in DC

Thursday night I zipped up to Baltimore after work to see Atlanta friends David, Susan, Lane and Carson who were in town for a wedding. It was so nice to see them especially after I had not been able to join them this summer on our annual trip to the beach. After discussing all things technological and social networking with Lane and Carson, I took David and Susan to my favorite brew pub The Brewers Art where we talked up a storm. With all the beers they have to offer I still drank my old standard Uerige Alt. I promise I will get one of their house beers next time. David drank a nice Belgium beer which was also excellent. I think it was Saison DuPont. The evening ended too soon but I was happy that we were able to get together.


In other news I have been enjoying my aquatic themed birthday presents. Tracy gave me a beautiful Japanese print of two fish and joe gave me a waterproof headset for me to use when I swim laps and an iPod shuffle to go with it. I named my new iPod Shark.

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And here are some recent photos from around the house, some flowers from my balcony and a delicious vegetarian gumbo we made last weekend. Go okra!

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Monday and Tuesday in Riga

Monday Ilze offered to show us around and we were happy to take her up on it. We went to the Central Market housed in 4 old zeppelin hangers - one for milk products, one for vegetables, one for meat and one for fish. It seems a little less busy and varied as in previous years but it was still fun to visit. The flower market outside is still hoppin'. We also visited that jewelry shop that I like. They really have the most unique jewelry that I have seen in Riga - Galerija Tornis.

In the evening we took a long walk to Staburags, a traditional Latvian restaurant where Dad ordered a beer bigger than his head. I had two small beers, one flavored with honey. I had beet soup again and sausages. On the way home we saw a large sign with the latvian word apdrošināšana which means insurance, a word we have always found funny - it has almost a thousand syllables.

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(first 3 photos from Lenore)

Tuesday we went back to the crafts market to visit any booths we missed and then met Ilze and Sandra at the University of Latvia to listen to Janis, Ilze's father, sing in a competition. The singers were in traditional costume, of course. We then went to Melnais Kaķis (Black Cat) for a late lunch - more potato pancakes for me!

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Arts and Crafts fair

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Singers in the hall and arriving

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On the steps of the university. We also met Janina, Janis' wife, who is also a singer and dancer. Sandra and Lenore sat across from me at the Black Cat - I think Lenore was eyeing my pancakes.

Graeme and Ilze under Sandra's watchful eye.

Later my mother and Graeme went to a symphony concert with Ilze and Sandra that they said was excellent. My father, Lenore and I went to Dome Square just missing the Seniors Dance Performance. We then went for soup, salad and beer. We caught Lenore with beer foam on her lips. Sandra and Ilze dropped off the best strawberries and sweet cherries that I have ever eaten. They have a garden at Janis' mothers place just outside of Riga.

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A New Hill of Hell and Humiliation

Joe and I headed out for our 12 mile bike ride in Rock Creek Park this morning. The temperature was just right for my vintage baby blue wool jersey so I was lookin' good. About a mile in another cyclist pulled up next to us and started chatting. It turned out to be our neighbor that has ridden with us once before. He and Joe chatted some more while I just tried to keep up. He offered to show us the route he was going and a hill that was challenging. For some reason I said yes. I was ready for some extra miles but not that hill. I had to walk most of the way - how humiliating! It was a very pretty street with no traffic so I may try it again one day. We ended up doing just over 17 miles.

Here are some miscellaneous pictures I took recently:

More new balcony flowers
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A blouse I made in the sewing class I took. It turned out pretty well!

And here's a fun little scene in the local grocery store.

And Lynda had a pink flamingo friend join in on our video chat tonight.
And all of a sudden there was Tracy too!

More Beer reviews

Clipper City Red Sky at Night Saison Ale and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale are from a local Baltimore brewery. I really like the Red Sky at Night Saison Ale. It has a nice full taste, just slightly sweet. The web site lists the ingredients. I had no idea there are so many different types of hops but I do know there is a world-wide hops shortage. Oh no!

Hops: Magnum and Styrian Goldings
Malts: Pils, Carapils, and wheat malts, Belgian candi sugar

The Hop3 ale is OK.

Hops: Magnum, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo and Palisade
Malts: Crisp English Pale, Carapils, and Munich

I will definitely buy the Saison Ale again.

Spring Things

Paula asked me to take some pictures of the cherry blossoms and a movie of the petals falling off the trees. Now we could have gone downtown and risked falling into the tidal basin but we played it safe and just went across the street to the University of the District of Columbia.Now I realize there was no real onslaught of cherry blossoms there but there were some nice sightings.

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Quicktime movie (5.2 MB)
I should have added the sound of crickets chirping.

I come from a predominantly non-musical family (I was in the Virgin Islands when Graeme was born so how do I know he was not adopted?) so it may come as a surprise that I have been asked to create a musical score for a dance piece. Luckily it involves mostly computer work - using existing song samples, vocal recordings, special effects. Could be fun, could be the downfall of a highly-praised choreographic career. I'll keep you informed.

More Beer reviews
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Stone IPA is brewed in California and is mighty fine with lots of hops and a nice clean taste.

Stop Action Animation and Dress Forms

Usually when I hear of Eastern European animation or puppets I run screaming in the other direction but I have to say that the animated version of Peter and the Wolf they are showing on PBS is excellent. This version is dark with glimpses of humor and a different ending. It is a Polish-British-Norwegian model stop action animation production, took 5 years to make and won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film this year. Here's a taste:

We're watching the 3rd season of Project Runway on DVD. It is the best reality TV show ever. And in our neighborhood it looks like a fashion academy has opened up. Here's some items featured in their front window. It's hard to see but the man's suit is on a female dress form. It still looks snazzy though.

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And here's just some fashionable umbrellas seen a little further up the street:

More Beer reviews

anderson valley ipa anderson ipa beer bottle cap

I like wine from Anderson Valley in Sonoma County, CA so I was interested to see how they do with beer. Although this Hop Ottin' IPA is not my favorite Indian Pale Ale it is still quite good. The flavor is nice but the hops are a little too subtle. I would buy it again.


The Washington Post announced two Sundays ago that they were looking for panelist for their second Annual Beer Tasting and since my favorite beer Brooklyn Lager won last year's event I thought I might be qualified. Apparently I was not. I sent in the required one sentence application and the optional picture but I did not hear from them. The decision for panalists was to be made by this past Friday. Oh well. I probably would have had to taste some pretty bad beer.

But on the good beer front I tried two beers recently


Nugget Nectar made by Tröegs Brewing Company, Harrisonburg, PA is one of those highly hopped beers that I like. I thought from the name that it might be a fruity beer but the Sikh proprieter of the local liquor store recommended it so I read the label more closely and saw that hops, not fruit, was what the title refers to. I gave it a go and it was worth the trip. I also discussed my recent trip with said proprieter. We were buddies before but we are now BFFs (not really but since I have been to his country of birth he now knows that I know that Indians do not naturally say "Have a good one" when they give you your change.)


Fuel Cafe Coffee Flavored Stout made by Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee, WI is well made. Stout is not my favorite beer (although I certainly drank plenty of it in Ireland) but I felt this beer had a nice balance of beer and non-beer flavors. The coffee taste was very subtle.

Here is the one sentence I sent to the post:

Back in 1993 the old coot in the beer supply store could not believe a young woman was actually making beer and in 2008 I am still brewing and blogging about the new beers I try.

And the picture I sent:



Maja, Tati and I traveled on a different airline than the rest of the group and due to airline scheduling we had to spend a little more than a day in Delhi. On the day of the performance Tati and I called 10 hotels before we found one that had a room for the three of us. We had no idea where it was in the city but the person taking the reservations assured us we were in an interesting section of town. He was right. When we looked on the map we saw that it was near many historic sights and best of all- there were wide sidewalks.

Unfortunately by the time the cab dropped us off it was already after 4:00 and would be dark soon. Fortunately along the way we saw some of the sites that we had hoped to walk to if we had gotten there earlier. So instead of site-seeing we shopped at a great area just down the street from the hotel in the Sunder Nagar area. This is where I bought bronze, wood carvings and some beads.

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The Shops of Sunder Nagar

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The bead/wood carving store was run by a father and son who were quite nice.

We ate three meals in the hotel restaurant due to time constraints. The food was pretty good but the beer was not. The selection wherever we went was, like, one brand - either black label or Kingfisher. Kingfisher was the best we had.

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Thanksgiving 2007

I am not thankful for the cold/flu that I have. After 6 days you'd think I'd be feeling better but no, I am still whining.

Thanksgiving day was pretty good except for the death of my car's battery that prevented me from visiting Austin and his guests before they ate dinner. But my dinner was simple but delicious - Green bean casserole, Cheesy Monkey bread and Apple cake. I believe it met the minimum Thanksgiving requirement for starch that Sandy and I discussed in a conversation earlier this week.


Here' s picture of a funny little car that parks near my office. It is a government car but I am not sure of its exact purpose.


More Beer reviews
Lagunitas India Pale Ale: Now that I know that India Pale Ales have an extra hoppy taste I want to try them all. The Lagunitas web site says their IPA is a "special homicidally hoppy ale" and while I found it to be quite good with a nice smooth taste I did not find it to have a strong hoppy taste..


Some more movie/DVD reviews

3 Iron
A curious Korean movie about a young man who moves into people's homes when they are away. He eats their food but also does their laundry and other cleaning. He manages to leave before the occupants return. At one house that he thinks is empty he finds a woman who has been abused by her husband. She leaves with him and joins him in his little home invasions. They are eventually caught and she returns to her husband but they still remain together in a way that may not be real. There are some elements of horror towards the end that were kind of confusing to me. It is a nice looking film and I am glad I saw it but it is just odd. The director also directed Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring,

Animated kid's movie about a young robot who has dreams of being an inventor. He goes to the big city where he makes friends but his dreams look impossible to achieve. The animation is very inventive but the story is nothing special. The ending scene involving a robot dog singing like James Brown, a marching band and lots of robots dancing makes up for the overly long scene involving flatulence.

Luck of the Irish/German

I received an early Christmas gift today. Joe won an iPhone in a contest and he gave it to me!!! The contest was in one of the local newspapers that are handed out at at the Metro station. Joe gets this particular newspaper because of the Suduko and when he picked it up one day last week he noticed a little announcement about a free-iPhone-a day-for-a-week contest. He entered and was very surprised that he won it on the first day. He has to pay tax on it but other than that it is free.

I am truly excited. I played with it all last night and most of today. I did put it away during my yoga class (after showing it to the instructor who was also excited to play with it). I connected it to the wireless network at Schlotsky's while we were eating sandwiches and checked my email. I have added music, quicktime movies and photos, set different ringtones for everybody in my "Favorites" phone list, synced addresses, looked at the McDonald Family and Dana's homepage, and checked out some youtube videos. Life as we know it has changed.


More Beer reviews
Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA is in a tie with the Blanche de Chambly. It has a wonderfully refreshing hoppy taste that I really like. IPA stands for India Pale Ale and when Lynda asked if the beer was from India I went straight to wikipedia. There I found out that the Brits needed to better preserve the beer they were sending to India for civilians and military in the 1700s and they discovered that increasing the alcohol and hop content reduced spoilage. There you have it.


More Child Art

It's been a while since the little girl on the 3rd floor and Zoe the little girl along Joe's route to work have put any of their art work on display. But luckily they have been inspired recently. I was thrilled to see some Halloween art appear on the 3rd floor door that I pass on the way to the garage. And Joe took a picture of Zoe's sidewalk chalk work. It's been a good week.

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More Beer reviews

Redbach by Rodenbach brewery: I found this in the back of the fridge. It is a cherry flavored Belgium ale . The bottle says it's "kissed by cherries" but the cherry flavor is up front and not subtle. I bought it a while ago and wasn't thrilled with it so I am saving it for a rainy day. Or maybe I will cook with it. I just checked out their website and saw that there are recipes, including a Breast of duck with cherries and Redbach!


Beer blogging

Zita sent me a great article from the Baltimore Sun about beer. As I read it and made a mental note to try one of the heavy hopped beers recommended I also realized that I should record my beer tastings so I can remember which ones I like. The little liquor store around the corner has lots of indie brewery and foreign beers and I seem to have trouble keeping them straight. Last fall I tried three pumpkin beers and can't really remember which one I liked. And where better to record this information than my blog (at least until I get an iPhone).

First entry: Blanche de Chambly made by Unibroue Brewery (funny name) in Quebec, Canada. It is an excellent white beer (5% alc/vol).


Miss Red, White and Blue

Joe and I took a bike ride about 30 miles out in Virginia. As we rode into the town of Leesburg we ran into a parade and so we stopped, took a rest and watched the fife and drum group, the world war II vets, the fire trucks and Miss Red, White and Blue.
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And there were interesting sites along the trail. Nice flowers, a quarry, and Old Dominion Brewery (unfortunately they were closed).

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Bittersweet Reunion

My dear aunt Mary Anne passed away on February 1, 2006. Mary Anne helped me so much when I was setting up the McDonald family web site. She sent me tons of old pictures and typed up pages of family history. Mary Anne had such a great sense of humor. I was amazed at her interest in all new things and her mastery of the internet. She was one of my most faithful blog readers. My dad and brother Tommy saw her the weekend before she died and Lynda, Austin, Lenore, Paula and I attended her memorial service the following weekend. It was so sad but we still managed to have a nice time reconnecting with Mary Anne's daughter Dianne's family and meeting Mary Anne's friends. We also had fun romping around East and West Dundee where Paula and Lenore live and we spent a day with my second cousin once removed Susie and enjoyed meeting her fun husband Jeff.


  • Seeing Dianne, Brian, Kaitlin and Anna again and meeting cute little Emma Skye.
  • Meeting all of Mary Anne's friends
  • Meeting the family of Dale, Mary Anne's late husband
  • Minor celebrity elbow rubbings. Mary Anne's good friend Len is the brother of Cal who is the father of Michael Madsen (Kill Bill, Reservior Dogs) and Virginia Madsen (Sideways). We met Len and Cal, who are both very funny. Brian's friend John considered us celebrities because we went to school with his guitar hero Steve Morse.
  • Snow!
  • Friday night after dinner we passed a knitting store where some sort of after hours meeting/knitting circle was taking place. Austin had to meet the ladies and talk fabrics and quilts.
  • Having Hoops, the Wake-Up cat, visit me in my bedroom at Paula's
  • Good beer tastings at Emmett's and at Lenore's
  • Great breakfast at Benedict's in East Dundee with Susie and Jeff. Great potato pancakes!
  • Paula's mom's tour of her needlepoint. Amazing!
  • Shopping in Geneva - beads, housewares, chocolate.

Two little movies:

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Memorial Events
Quicktime, 2.6MB, 3 min
Romping Around East and West Dundee
Quicktime, 1.8MB, 1-1/2 min

Wedding of the Century

So some pictures are up of Lyla and Tracy's Wedding. Currently there are 3 sections but I will add at least 2 more as I have time and get pictures from others who were clicking away. Thanks Lenore, Lynda, Cheryl and Dad.

Some memories:

  • Helping to turn my parents' place into a mystical magical wedding place
  • Making, drinking and sharing my beer - a German Alt that turned out fairly well

  • Goofing around with the family especially in my mom's great kitchen which was made for big cooking.
  • Cooking while listening to Allison Krauss and other tunes on our iPods via William's cool portable speaker system
  • Getting to know Tracy's family especially his grandkids who are as cute as buttons.
  • Realizing that Lyla's wedding hairdo, which was lovely, was very much like her hairdo for her eigth grade graduation
  • Graeme telling me I look like a rock star. Thanks to Tina for the great hair styling!
  • Norm's many visits in his pajama pants to the house from two doors down to help out or just to see what was going on
  • A beautiful female belted kingfisher flew into my parents' living room window and died. The kingfisher is one of my favorite birds and I feel lucky whenever I see one. Her death may have been an omen or a cosmic sacrifice or maybe her time was just up. Dad gave her a respectful funeral in the marsh. We took pictures because she was just so beautiful even in death.