Saturday, May 31, 2014

Retro Saturday: The Blue Marlin Day 2- Hawaii 1

We've conquered Florida, and now we're off to the Hawaiian islands to finish The Blue Marlin. The next three tournament days will take place around this island chain. The big island, the one named Hawai'i, is where we'll head first. After the big island, we're off to Oahu and Maui for day 3 and Kuai for the fourth and final tournament.

I've sped up the gameplay here so as not to cut away large chunks of the video and make it a reasonable length for the viewer (and the video maker...). All sound has been added in post, with a sampling of Blue Marlin music on a playlist. Sound effects and in-game music won't be heard, so you'll just have to imagine the annoying clinking of the line as it strains under the weight of fish.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Holy Water!

Currently under the fermenting sink, a small batch of a recipe called Holy Water! I had a pretty good stock of oatmeal coffee stout and a batch of pipeline cider going, but I still wanted to get something fermenting. Taking a suggestion from the book Booze for Free by Andy Hamilton, a gift from my in-laws (thanks!) I threw down a batch of something very close to my first fermenting projects two years ago.

Sugar. Water. Yeast for Holy Water!
Sugar. Water. Yeast

This recipe is more of a proof of concept than a treasured standby recipe. For new brewers, it is an introduction to the very basics of mixing ingredients and adding yeast at the correct proportions and temperatures. It is basically sugar, water, and yeast with a few additions to assist in fermentation and flavor. No fruit juice, no malted cereal grains- just good old refined sugar.

I cut the recipe down to fit into my 3L vodka bottle fermenter as my 5L water bottle jug was full of the pipeline cider. I ended up with the following ingredient list.
  1. 1kg sugar (half white sugar, have unrefined cane sugar)
  2. 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  3. 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient
  4. Water to 3L
  5. Dry cider yeast

Mixing for Holy Water!

The process was about as simple as the ingredient list. Dissolve the sugar in hot water, top up with cold water to bring the temperature down to a safe yeast pitching level, add the lemon juice, yeast nutrient, and dry yeast. Shake vigorously to aerate, and place in my fermentation chamber- under the kitchen sink.

The original gravity was 1.048, giving this the potential to be 4-5% alcohol by volume if everything ferments correctly. The recipe called for a higher OG, but I decided to go with less sugar (and thus less alcohol).

Ready to Ferment Holy Water!
Ready to Ferment

My first fermentation experiment was much like this one. I fermented some sugar water with bread yeast for two weeks, then added two Kool-Aid drink mix packets to the finished product. It tasted about what one would expect that to taste like: fruity and bready.

This isn't made to be consumed by the glass by itself. The Booze for Free book also includes numerous recipes for herb and fruit cordials and naturally carbonated sodas. This mostly flavorless alcohol solution is meant to add just a bit of alcohol bite to a mint-and-berry cordial or a homemade ginger ale, perhaps.

Coming soon, elderflower wine and champagne as we get into elderflower season here in northern Europe!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Royal Hospital Kilmainham Gardens

Continuing the Parks Series...

Two miles due west of City Centre, just south of the River Liffey is the Kilmainham (kill-MAIN-um) neighborhood (NAY-ber-hood). It is one of Dublin's most historic, and not for all pleasant reasons. In fact, is there any neighborhood in Dublin famous because of something really pleasant and peaceful? Dublin really has a turbulent past, and a turbulent present depending on your location and time of day.

One of the fixtures of Kilmainham is the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham, formerly a British military veterans retirement home, now the Museum of Modern Art. On a recent visit to the neighborhood, I didn't have time for a walk through the museum, but I did want to visit the attached gardens, one of the nicest public parks in Dublin.

Looking North from the South Edge Royal Hospital Gardens Kilmainham Dublin Ireland
Looking North from the South Edge

The gardens were part of the original hospital grounds in the seventeenth century. The trendy style at the time was that of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles just outside Paris. This garden was and is laid out and maintained like a mini Versailles. The above photo is looking north across the whole park from the Royal Hospital building. In the distance, the white obelisk is the Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park, north of the River Liffey.

Rods and Cones plants at Royal Hospital Kilmainham gardens Dublin Ireland
Rods and Cones

Paths, Benches, and, Carefully Trimmed Hedges Royal Hospital Kilmainham gardens Dublin, Ireland
Paths, Benches, and, Carefully Trimmed Hedges

Fountain of the Clay People Royal Hospital Kilmainham gardens Dublin, Ireland
Fountain of the Clay People, Royal Hospital Kilmainham Behind

At the south edge of the garden is my favorite spot. I call it the Fountain of the Clay People. To the sci-fi/fantasy nerd in me, the fountain looks to show humanoid figures made of clay or mud rising from the fountain. In the fantasy genre, they would be Clay Golems. I'm sure it has some other significance and is probably dedicated to people who died horribly, but I didn't write down the title or the significance.

Clay Golem (D&D)

I feel like this should have a Dublin rhyming nickname, like The Hags with the Bags, The Tart with the Cart, The Stiletto in the Ghetto, The Floozie in the Jacuzzi, and many others not to be used on a family-friendly blog.

...Maybe The Golems at the Garden? nope- rhyming, not alliteration.

...The Horror at the Tor-er...? That's not a word. I'm not good at this. Better leave it to those cheeky Dubliners to devise sarcastic rhyming names for their monuments.

Totally Unsolicited Travel Tips

  1. The Royal Hospital is adjacent to Kilmainham Gaol. If you visit the gaol on a hop-on/hop-off bus tour and you have some extra time, give the gardens a look. Just cross South Circular Road and enter the very out-of-place-looking tower gate. A long, straight footpath leads right to the Hospital building. The gardens are just north (left) of the hospital entrance.
  2. For tourists, the cheapest trip to this neighborhood (not considering the 40-minute walk from City Centre) is the Luas Red Line. Take it going west from City Centre and exit at Heuston Station. Take St. John's Road west along the station, then Military Road south the the hospital entrance. In this case, the gardens will be to the right of the hospital entrance.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Birthday Menu

Last week, we celebrated another birthday in Dublin. No trip to Belgium this time, but I think we found a creative solution.

When celebrating traditional gifting events in our situation, the choice of gifts is narrowed down considerably. I have always been a fan of giving (and receiving) the practical gift- one that will actually be used. Nothing that will be looked at, fawned over, and set on a shelf or put in a box to be thrown away.

Unfortunately, the practical gifts are often not as fun, or are seen as not as thoughtful. A teddy bear is thoughtful, but the teddy bear is also practically useless. Flowers? Expensive, inedible, and are dead within a week. How did cut flowers ever symbolize long-lasting love? They are the opposite of long-lasting love. They are brilliant displays of hot, brief, meaningless plant sex- and soon wilt and die on the kitchen table. Flowers should be something you give to a casual fling partner, if the symbolism matches the reality.

A three pack of fresh new white undershirts? Now that's a gift someone can use. It will literally be on their person for hours every day, and will be used over and over again until it is worn thin and stained, at which point it can be cut up for rags or donated to a charity shop for further use elsewhere in the community.

Here in our small apartment, we suffer from even more limitations on practical gifting. We have very little space for new things. Our kitchen is small, so we don't have space for the new countertop labor-saver. My brewing operation is small by necessity. I don't know where I would put something like a grain mill, mash tun, or additional fermenting buckets.

Further complicating matters is our transient status here in Ireland. When Sara's placement is over, we don't know where we'll end up next. We might be somewhere in Ireland, somewhere in Europe, somewhere in the Americas, or Asia, Africa, or Oceania. When we move, we'll have to deal with all the stuff we've collected here in Ireland, so the less stuff we have, the easier that process will be.

The answer? Consumable gifts and gift experiences. Things we can do and experience without having some hard-copy space-eater to keep. For Sara's birthday, I decided to combine these into a consumable experience.

I wanted to make a special dinner for her, but couldn't think of any one dish to prepare. She enjoys almost any kind of food, so she just trusted me- dangerous. I was struggling to think of something when I stumbled upon the menu for our favorite Iowa City burger joint- Short's Burger and Shine. We loved visiting Short's on Clinton Street, an Iowa-themed gourmet burger bar and grill in a storefront originally built as a cobbler and shoe shine shop over one hundred years ago. Don't laugh, Europeans! 100 years is a long time in Midwest America.

They serve all Iowa-grown and Iowa-processed beef and beers from Iowa-based microbrews. The burgers are all named after real towns and counties in Iowa (Defiance, Lytton, Larchwood, Germantown...) I couldn't really do anything about the Iowa-grown ingredients, as I couldn't justify importing black market Iowa beef just for a burger, but it gave me a start. I clicked through the menu and started writing down ideas.

I thought I could make a burger bar based upon the Short's menu. Most of the ingredients for Short's burgers could be found or made here, and I could just give Sara her choice of burger. I could even make a menu!

As if that wasn't enough, I thought to put some of her favorites from other Iowa City restaurants on the menu if I could swing it. I decided on her favorite Buffalo chicken wrap from Atlas and the sandwich Loretta from Quentin's.

Now that I had the menu sketched out, I had to worry about the practical execution of the meal. I couldn't in good conscience buy and prepare ingredients for everything just to waste the food she didn't order. I had to carefully plan my purchases for foods that we could use, save, or freeze- and I had to keep the budget down. I was able to find most of the ingredients at Tesco, but had to go to Aldi for dill pickles- called gherkins here, and often only available sweet. The classic dill pickle is sour and not at all sweet, but the tastes here are for the sweet gherkins. I also wasn't able to find sauerkraut in either market. I don't know if I'm looking in the wrong place in Irish supermarkets, or if I have to go to a Polish market to find it.

The only request Sara did have for the meal was the old American standby, chocolate chip cookies. I had to substitute chocolate chunks for chips, as a bag of semisweet chips is bafflingly expensive here in the baking aisle, when a 100g bar of semi sweet chocolate (called plain chocolate) is 60 cents in the candy aisle. I found the classic Toll House recipe on the internet, and went into action early that afternoon.

Butter, Sugar, and Chocolate for cookies
Butter, Sugar, and Chocolate

Finishing Dough for cookies
Finishing Dough

Cookies Just Out of the Oven
Just Out of the Oven

To add some buffer time to my serving, I made soup and salad in the afternoon. When she came home, I would have everything prepped and could serve her drinks, soup, and salad while I quickly cooked and assembled her sandwich order- just like a real restaurant!

About an hour before she came home, I heated up some oil for some real, crispy, bona fide double fried French fries. No disrespect meant to the Irish and English chips, but we really miss the thin-cut and fried crisp fries of home.

Double-Fried Fries
Double-Fried Fries

When she came home, I handed her the menu, printed in a fancy font on creamy, thick paper. She ordered half a Buffalo chicken wrap and half a Loretta sandwich. I wasn't prepared for half-portions of anything, so she got a full sandwich and wrap, whether she wanted them or not!

I served up the beef and barley soup with the salad and fresh vinaigrette dressing while I frantically fried onions and green peppers for the Loretta and microwaved some hot sauce with butter to mix in with cooked the chicken breast pieces I had for the wrap.

The main courses were finished before she was finished with soup and salad, but we were out of plates, so I stole her plate and threw on the whole wrap and sandwich while I threw on a burger for myself. I had the Thornton burger with chorizo, mozzarella cheese, and avocado mayonnaise.

Loretta Sandwich
Loretta Sandwich

Thornton Burger
Thornton Burger

After dinner, we still had to have the dessert- those cookies. I had stacked them up in a mound on a plate with a handy hole right in the middle. It looked like the perfect place for a birthday candle, but we don't have any candles. A rare burst of genius hit me earlier when I envisioned a food safe candle facsimile with a celery stalk base, a paper clip wire wick, and an orange carrot flame. I know it looks like something from a dedicated professional Pinterester- but it was all Cory.

Cookie Cake and Candle
Cookie Cake and Candle

We had a great time, for not much more than the cost of our usual weekly grocery budget. The best news? We get to enjoy leftovers made with all the ingredients we didn't use on the birthday night. It's like we're celebrating the birthday for a full week!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sandymount Beach and Poolbeg Lighthouse

It was the first really warm, rainless weekend in Dublin- and we were home and free. We made a plan to have a picnic lunch at Poolbeg Lighthouse- the red phantom at the end of a long pier on Dublin Bay. We have seen the lighthouse from Sandymount Strand, and had been on the mile-long pier before, but never all the way out to the lighthouse. We carved out a few hours for the walk to and from this Dublin Bay landmark.

Poolbeg Lighthouse from Sandymount Strand Dublin
Poolbeg Lighthouse from Sandymount Strand

It was near half-tide coming in when we started at Sandymount. Most of the strand was exposed sand and mud, but the waterline was visible, unlike at very low tide, when it is very difficult to actually see any water in these heavy tide zones.

As we made our way to Irishtown Nature Park, we could see the tide flowing in on the series of shallow channels in the sand. On our way back the tide would be full high, and the sand and channels invisible.

Incoming Tide Irishtown Nature Park Dublin
Incoming Tide

Poolbeg Power Station Smokestacks Dublin
Poolbeg Power Station Smokestacks

As we turned north along the park, we got a close look at one of Dublin's only skyline features: the now unused smokestacks of the old Poolbeg power station. According to some friendly astronomers, the powers-that-be considered tearing down the useless industrial smokestacks but were convinced to leave them standing as ships in the harbor used them for guidance. This despite the fact that there is a functional lighthouse a full mile closer to these ships on the bay...

It being a nice day and the tide rising, the kitesurfers were out, catching the strong breeze and going for a ride.

Kitesurfer on Dublin Bay

Now finally on the pier on our way out to the lighthouse, we watched the ferry come in to port from Great Britain across the bay. Ferries leave from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales (which is a country, not part of England, but part of Great Britain, and the UK, but they share a government with England, I mean, GB, I mean, UK, but they are a different country, but they are... the same Political identity? Something with commonwealths?) and the Isle of Man (a self-governing British crown dependency? Further confusion).

Ferry Coming In on Dublin Bay
Ferry Coming In

We finally made it all the way to the lighthouse, after a long walk on sidewalks, trails, and the rough building stones of the mile-long pier. The end of the pier was crowded with anglers casting out into the bay with heavy-duty saltwater fishing tackle. I think my six-foot rod and spinning reel would have been laughed at.

A bit like the guy in Dun Laoghaire who scoffed at me and said,
"Ye cahn't g'fishin' wit' da! Ye'll leoose all ye'r equepmunt!" 
Which I think was a very thick-accented way of telling me my tackle was ill-suited for the fishing task at hand.

Poolbeg Lighthouse Dublin Bay
Poolbeg Lighthouse

We had our picnic lunch on one of the convenient public benches around the lighthouse and began the long walk home. By now the tide was all the way in, and the coastline looked more like, well, a coastline.

High Tide Sandymount Strand Dublin
High Tide

All told, we walked more than nine miles over the course of a leisurely four hours. The skies were clear and the wind was warm all day- the best weather in Dublin this calendar year.

A Flock of Seabirds Dublin Bay
A Flock of Seabirds

Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Shot
Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Shot

Monday, May 26, 2014

Augustiner Beer Hall Munich

Oh yeah! Another beer hall.

That's right, after our English Garden adventure, we spend the evening at yet another beer hall. This one, less famous than Hofbrauhaus, was our far-and-away favorite. Augustiner is another of Munich's famous breweries, and their beer hall is just a bit outside the bustling, touristy old town. We had a bit of a walk from our hostel through the darkened city, but it was worth it.

Augustiner Dunkels at Augustiner Beer Hall Munich
Augustiner Dunkels

The atmosphere was much like Hofbrauhaus, with fewer international visitors like ourselves- and no polka band. German- not English- was the primary language spoken by the drinkers and the servers. The lack of touristy cache was also reflected in the prices of beers here, about 25% less than Hofbrauhaus. The dunkel (dark) lagers were an amazing start.

We were hungry for a sweet snack, so we shared an apple strudel.

Apple Strudel at Augustiner Beer Hall Munich, Germany
Apple Strudel

We also sampled the rest of the standard German brewery lineup: the wheat beer and the helles (light but not lite, right?). Both were our German favorites in their category, and did I mention cheap?

Augustiner Beer Hall Wheat Munich, Germany
Augustiner Wheat

Augustiner Helles at Augustiner Beer Hall Munich, Germany
Augustiner Helles

After sampling the full lineup, it was time to make our way back. Sadly, this would be the last beer hall we visited in Munich, but it gets our highest recommendation. Hofbrauhaus was good for a laugh, but Augustiner is a place that we could have settled down for a full night. When we make it back to Munich, this will be our first stop.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Retro Saturday: The Blue Marlin (NES) Day 1

After finishing Lolo, it's on to a game I played and enjoyed as a youngster, The Blue Marlin.

In my very humble opinion, it is the best fishing game (of the few) on NES. The level-up system and random events during fish fights give the game much more depth than Hot-B's other NES fishing effort, The Black Bass.

In this video, I spend a good amount of time describing the mechanics of the game, and I surprised myself with how much explaining was required. The game is deeper than I had previously imagined.

To make the video more watchable, I made some cuts before recording commentary to eliminate some repetitive boat trolling and one long and unsuccessful fight with a marlin.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Poule Au Pot Chicken

How to make a French person angry:

  1. Criticize French food (What!?)
  2. Profess your love for French food (You don't know what you are talking about!)
  3. Make French food (How dare you!?)
  4. Make a traditional French recipe with cheap, substituted ingredients. (...[speechless rage]...)
Joking aside, the French may have a snobby reputation when it comes to food, but they certainly do make some good stuff. The French have many old traditions about their food and drink, and different parts of the country are home to a wide variety of unique dishes.

I was trying my hand at a traditional French peasant dish, Poule Au Pot, or Chicken Au Pot, or Chicken in a Pot. It's simple food, whole chicken cooked in stock and served with vegetables. Like chicken soup without the soup part...

First, we make stock. Legit chefs would use parts from another whole chicken and whole vegetables. I used the bones and carcass from a cut-up chicken with (washed) carrot peelings, celery tops, cloves of garlic, and onions. The whole bunch was boiled and simmered until shiny and delicious.

Starting Stock for Poule Au Pot
Starting Stock

Stock Cooking for Poule Au Pot
Stock Cooking

I found a sauce recipe that goes with the dish, so I whipped it up with a lot of substituted ingredients. Don't tell the French! I used apple cider vinegar (made from my own hard apple cider), English mustard (not Dijon, as called for...), and a chopped hard boiled egg. The recipe also called for chopped pickles and capers, but if ya don't have 'em, ya can't use 'em.

Sauce Ingredients for Poule Au Pot
Sauce Ingredients

Whisking Sauce for Poule Au Pot
Whisking Sauce

Once the stock is ready, the vegetable peels and chicken carcass can come out, and the whole chicken pieces can go in with fresh vegetables. I had cabbage, potatoes, celery, carrots, and more onions.

Finishing the Poule Au Pot
Finishing the Pot

 To serve, fish out a big chunk of chicken, a healthy scoop of vegetables, and spoon on some stock. Spread on some of the mustard/egg sauce and you have an, ahem, French dish. With all apologies to real French people making real Poule Au Pot.

Poule Au Pot Au Plate
Poule Au Pot Au Plate

I think it turned out rather well. The chicken was great with the vegetables, and we were able to use the rest of the stock the next day for another batch of soup. Thanks, France!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

National Botanic Gardens: First Look

I finally had reason to visit Dublin's National Botanic Gardens. One of my many historical lectures was taking place in the education center of the Gardens, which are in Glasnevin, North Dublin.

Before the talk, I wanted to visit Chester Beatty Library for a demonstration on traditional Japanese printmaking. I carefully planned my day on my bicycle to catch the print demo at 1 p.m. and head up to the gardens before the lecture at 3. 

The first half of my plan was executed perfectly, I was at Chester Beatty in time for the printmaking, but time got away from me. The artist was still working on the print as I looked at my watch to see that I had less than an hour to get into the far north end of the city.

I got on the bike and puffed up the hill to Phibsboro. I took some crude notes about where to go, hoping against all hope that there would be a sign for the Gardens. It all looked so simple, until I got to one of those strange intersections in Dublin that veer right and left in a narrow Y-shape. My notes told me to stay "straight" until I hit Botanic Gardens road. I didn't see and didn't plan for this Y in my route map. I took the left fork, toward Glasnevin Cemetery (another post.)

I knew that the gardens were attached to the cemetery, so I felt good as I pedaled past the gates. I thought to myself, "It must be just up here!"

Yeah, right!

I continued for another mile, WAY past the cemetery, and knew I was lost. It was time to turn around and ask for directions.

Back at the cemetery, I asked a few people about the gardens. They all knew the gardens were somewhere near the cemetery, but weren't sure how to get there by road. Some kindly folks tried to direct me to a gate at the far end of the cemetery going into the gardens, but I didn't want to ride or walk my bike through the national cemetery for Ireland's heroes. It just didn't seem right.

Finally, someone directed me around the cemetery, back to that Y shape that I took earlier. A quick turn and I was in business at the Botanic Gardens.

I had missed most of the talk, but was able to catch the last fifteen minutes in the impressive lecture theater before poking around the gardens properly. I had time only for a quick stroll through one end of the Gardens, but it was amazing.

The tulips were blooming in full that day, and the gardeners had artful arrangements of various tulips along many of the garden paths.  

Tiptoe Through the Tulips National Botanic Gardens Dublin
Tiptoe Through the Tulips

One Tulip (Onelip?) National Botanic Gardens Dublin
One Tulip (Onelip?)

There is a wide variety of plants and gardens from all over the world here. Indoor hothouses keep tropical plants going through the cold, dark Irish winters. Gardens of European, American, and Asian plants and design are scattered throughout the large campus.

A human-made pond sits at the bottom of a valley just to grow and display aquatic plants and flowers.

The Pond National Botanic Gardens Dublin
The Pond

Near the pond, the River Tolka flows through the Gardens on its way to the River Liffey and the sea. The Tolka is the little sibling to the Southside's River Dodder and one of Dublin's urban trout streams. I saw a handful of speckled brown trout in the river (we'd call it a stream in the States...).

River Tolka National Botanic Gardens Dublin
River Tolka

After a quick walk to the pond and the River Tolka, I had to turn around and make my long way home. I'll be back this Spring and Summer to check out the rest of the Gardens at my own pace.

...Now that I know how to find the place!

Path at National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Going Home

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

RDS Rising Stars Article

Yes, two articles in one week's paper means I get to indulge in two lazy easy blog posts.

In the same week, I helped out with the Sandymount Beach Cleanup and attended the Spring 2014 RDS Rising Stars Gala Concert. After the concert, I interviewed the performers and wrote a piece for local community newspaper Southside People.

The Rising Stars Programme gives promising young musicians a chance to perform in a professional venue to a large, cultured audience to showcase their talents and to give them valuable performance experience. The community benefits by having a chance to attend a free night of classical music, open to all.

If you care to, check out the online edition of the article or scan through the print edition PDF, article on page 7. Fantastic photos (taken by a professional photographer) available on both editions of the article.

...Also, you may have noticed that these links were already available on my new In Print page on the blog. I hope to be adding more and more non-blog pieces as my voluntary writing contributions continue.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sandymount Beach Cleanup Article

Working hard on my typecast reputation as an environmental volunteer writer, I had another article accepted to the free community newspaper Southside People. This time, instead of cleaning up the River Dodder, I helped out and reported on the achievements of local volunteer organization Sandymount Beach Cleanup.

The group meets each month for a friendly beach pickup, gathering the garbage that washes up on the shore from the tides and storms. This was my first beach cleanup, but returning members report that they have picked up less trash since the first big cleanup, but are wary of any strong storms or unusually high tides to bring in more litter.

An unpleasant but important-to-note fact: In addition to the expected cans and bottles, the group collects a lot of sanitary waste that presumably gets through filters from a nearby wastewater treatment plant. Most of these products are not biodegradable and end up circling the ocean currents to be deposited unpleasantly on a beach or shoreline. The group advocates the responsible disposal (don't flush!) of these products and the use of biodegradable products.

Anyway, check out the online article or scroll through the print edition PDF (page 11). If you are a real Southsider, pick up the print edition at a newsagent or supermarket near you!

Some great photos on the article by fellow volunteer Aidan Murphy, I did take one very matter-of-fact photo of a portion of the day's take.

Part of the Day's Take at Sandymount Beach Cleanup May 10, 2014
Part of the Day's Take

Note: I added a new page to the blog titled In Print on which to post links to my original writing that is published outside of the blog.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Munich's English Garden

After finishing our Rick Steves walk, we were as close as we would ever be to Munich's famous English Garden (Englischer Garten). We still had time and some daylight, so we continued north from the royal square on our way to the largest and most famous urban park on the Continent.

We only visited a portion of the whole park in our hour-plus walking visit. The park is larger than New York's Central Park, with only a fraction of the drug addicts! 

The first and most noticeable feature (for me) was the network of streams flowing through the park. Fascinatingly, the streams are all artificial, supplied by underground pumps. I saw a number of what I assumed were the famed Bavarian Trout in these streams, but after finding out they weren't indigenous streams, decided they were probably farm-raised stocked brown trout. Several ponds and small lakes collect water at the termini of the streams, possibly for recollection and recirculation by the pumps? Those clever German engineers!

On a small island in one of the ponds sits a Japanese Teahouse, built in honor of the 1972 Munich Olympics. A traditional Japanese garden occupies the rest of the island around the teahouse.

Obligatory Cory-Looking-at-the-Water Shot English Garden, Munich
Obligatory Cory-Looking-at-the-Water Shot

More Water and the Japanese Teahouse English Garden, Munich
More Water and the Japanese Teahouse

We were looking for two things specifically, in no particular order.

  1. The Chinese Tower
  2. The beer garden near the Chinese Tower

In our search for the center of the park, we passed a Greek-inspired temple, the Monopteros. It was built on the site of an old wooden temple to Apollo that sat on the spot. If we had more time and daylight, we might have popped in. As it was, we were on another quest for beer, so onward we went.

The Monopteros

As we walked, we couldn't help but be enchanted by the beautiful, clear, cold, trout-filled water of the streams all over the park. It goes without saying the these human-made streams were crossed with artful bridges and waterfalls. Heck, if you have a chance to build a stream, wouldn't you take every advantage to make it attractive?

Small Waterfall English Garden Munich
Small Waterfall

More Water at English Garden Munich
More Water

The most striking sight on the streams is the surfers. Yes, surfers. Just downstream of the powerful pumps supplying the stream, a permanent wave is formed by the rushing water. Local surfers in insulating wetsuits catch the pipeline (is that the correct phrase?) and ride the wave as long as they can. When they inevitably wipe out (I'm pretty sure that's the scientific way to say it) they are washed downstream to a climb-out zone for another try. Emily got a good close up shot of the surfers waiting in line for a chance to dive into the chilly water.

Surfers at English Garden Munich

Now for that beer and food. We made it to the center of the park! Where's that beer garden? What!? Closed? NOOOO!

We arrived just as they were making final pours and closing up the service windows. We could see the last few stragglers finishing their food (cheap and delicious sausages) and big liters of beer at the tables, but alas, we couldn't avail ourselves of a single drop.

Dejected, we left the center of the park without even taking a picture of the Chinese Tower on our way to the exit. We were losing daylight and didn't want to be in even this inviting park when the sun went down. 

Back in town, we found a little pub/eatery called Jodlerwirt (Yodeling Innkeeper) and had a nice wheat beer and sausage. Yes sausage... beautiful sausage.

After finally getting our food and beer, we took another little night jaunt through town before visiting yet another beer hall. Don't worry, we let some time pass between the pub and the beer hall!

...A little bit...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Retro Saturday: Adventures of Lolo Floor 10 and Ending

We've made it! We take on THE GREAT DEVIL at the end of Floor 10. The floor has some very interesting puzzles and challenges, probably one of the more entertaining (and less bang-your-head-on-the-controller-frustrating) levels in the game.

The ending showdown with THE GREAT DEVIL (King Egger) is an anticlimactic mess. To avoid spoiling it here, I'll embed the video and spoil it below...

Watched it yet? Lolo is able to shoot one bullet/projectile/egg power/Bubble Bobble bubble/? at the huge Rhyhorn-looking guy and trap him in an egg. One more shot from Lolo fires him away off the screen, just like one of his harmless slugs. This huge master of the castle seems to be more vulnerable than so many of his lackeys in the floors below. Why couldn't a Don Medusa just walk upstairs and take him out?

Yeah, I finally looked up the names of all the wacky enemies in the game. After recording the audio for all ten floors using made-up names. These enemies are much more threatening than King Egger seems to be. They can't even be taken out with Lolo's shots. Enter their line of sight = instant death (or petrification.) Strange.

Oh well, I've already written too many words on this game, no use trying to make sense of it now.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spaghetti and Falafel Balls

What're Ye About, Then?

We are not vegetarians, let's make that clear. Our diet in Iowa was meat-friendly, and we had a nice rotation of meats we liked to buy and cook. Iowa being the wonderful agricultural state that it is, good quality meat is available for reasonable prices, especially at a nice local meat locker I passed on my way home from work. 

We were always well-stocked with smoky bacon, ground beef and pork, and the American classic boneless/skinless chicken breasts. 

Now, in Ireland, we are living in a big city and an island economy. People always ask us, "Aren't meats like lamb and beef cheap in Ireland? The whole country is practically sheep pasture, right?"

Well, we do see a number of sheep when we travel out of town, but the general cost of living in Ireland and Dublin specifically is much higher than in Iowa. Costs of everything go up, but the prices of local meat really jumped. Cheap meat is available, but it's usually in the form of flavorless sausages and little bloody sacks of clearance steaks.

...So, we've become less dependant on regular meals of meat and have looked to the vegetarian menus for protein inspiration. Dried beans here (as in Iowa) are cheap and plentiful, so we replace meat in many dishes with the beans for some extra belly-sticking goodness.

Today, spaghetti with falafel balls, inspired from this recipe at


Falafel is a Middle Eastern and North African dish made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) crushed into a batter, mixed with spices, and fried crisp. Many recipes call for a can of cooked chickpeas, but if using from dry (like we always do) an overnight soak and an hour simmer makes the beans nice and squishy.

Cooking Chickpeas for spaghetti with falafel balls
Cooking Chickpeas

After cooking, the beans are drained (with a little cooking liquid reserved for thinning if needed) and mixed with egg, parsley, cumin, salt, lemon juice, and fresh garlic. The whole thing is processed into a gooey paste, not easy with the stick blender, but whatcha gonna do?

Processing Falafel for spaghetti with falafel balls
Processing Falafel

Fresh Lemon Juice for spaghetti with falafel balls
Fresh Lemon Juice

Flour is added to the goo until the batter is thick and no longer sticky. The dough is then rested in the refrigerator for at least a few hours to hydrate the flour and to make the dough easier to work with come frying time.

Mixing Dough for spaghetti with falafel balls
Mixing Dough

When ready to fry, the balls can be deep-fried or pan-fried. Deep-frying makes a really satisfying and crispy falafel ball, but I chose to pan-fry them for easier setup and cleanup. Also, my deep-fryer (our only saucepan) was in use making bean-enriched tomato sauce for the pasta. This time, I replaced the regular adzuki beans with red lentils, just as cheap and faster to cook from dry if you didn't think ahead to soak beans.

The setup was well-organized before frying. I rolled the balls on the white plate, transferred to the hot oil, then onto the draining rack when brown on both sides. Working in small batches, I had the whole batch done in about 20 minutes. They went into the warm oven to drain and stay warm and crispy.

Frying Setup for spaghetti with falafel balls
Frying Setup

When the sauce was finished, I blended it up and cooked the pasta in the still-hot and still-saucy pot. Minimalist cooking requires careful container planning for raw, cooking, and cooked food. It's been a skill I've developed over the months cooking (and brewing!) in a small kitchen.

Onto the hot pasta went falafel balls and tomato sauce. It was an adventurous and inexpensive way to enjoy a new twist on an old classic. We do miss the old meat and home-canned garden tomato sauce made in the crock pot (slow cooker) by Mom, but this in some small way helps us celebrate our Midwest American food heritage in new and exciting ways.

Falafel Balls on Spaghetti
Before the Sauce

Finished Plate of spaghetti and falafel balls
Finished Plate

Final Thoughts

Great! We usually think of falafel with couscous and pita (spelled pitta here!) bread with vegetables and a cucumber/yogurt (spelled yoghurt here!) sauce. The tomato sauce, especially thickened with the lentils, really goes well with the cumin/parsley combo in the falafel.

Would this be on a restaurant menu? Maybe in Portland, Oregon or Brooklyn, New York. Not that this makes us hipsters, but I could see this being real Hipster Chow.*

...And it was way better than my first try at fish soup made from bullheads caught at the duck pond at S.T. Morrison Park in Coralville...

*Hipster Chow coming soon from the makers of Cat Chow.