Friday, December 21, 2007

Dental care

I had to get 2 cavities filled (grrr) and i have been warned that here they are not so into comfort/pain management. So I ask about the Novocaine before the dentist begins. She tells me the first cavity is pretty shallow and we won't get anywhere near the nerves, and she thought I could easily get through it without Novocaine but if i felt uncomfortable at any time to just raise my hand and she'll stop immediately.

As we all know (med-free childbirth notwithstanding) I am a big baby when it comes to pain. But they had only booked me for getting one cavity filled and I wanted to move quickly so maybe we could fit both in. So the first goes without meds. Actually didn't feel anything at all. The dentist said the second one was a bit deeper, i could get numbed if I wanted but she thought we could make it through without meds. In the spirit of expediency i agreed to try. Yep, made it through also without Novocaine.

I feel tougher already - 2 cavities without pain meds. See, this living overseas thing really does let you find out what you're capable of.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not Slug Bait

So the beer is ready. I have tried it and shared it with some of the people in the Embassy. All in all I am really happy with it. It is not the best beer ever, but very respectable. The color is almost perfect for a porter. It is a little more bitter then Lynne would like but I find it pleasant. It is at least as good as anything else brewed on this island. So now we are starting to clear bottles for the next batch.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mythical lamb sausage

I think I wrote a while back that we finally found a butcher that Terry deems worthy enough to supply us with animal flesh. They happen to be the one closest to us, which is great. Well, this being a 98% catholic country nobody has really created a market for not-pig processed food items like sausage.

However, a decent portion of the 2% not-catholic is muslim and there is a small community in our area. Our butcher told me about 5 months ago that they did make lamb sausage but only in small batches and only once a week, and that only one butcher in the shop was authorized to make it (leading me to believe it is halal). Since then, I have asked about this lamb sausage no fewer than a dozen times. Either they sold out, or didn't make it that week, or forgot to make it, or something. I started to think it was just a big joke and there really was no lamb sausage. I even left my name and phone number one time so they could call me when there was sausage ready to buy.

My mom heard me talk about the lamb sausage and decided she was going to get some before she left Malta. She spoke with one of the butchers who told her it is only available by pre-order (not that anyone ever told me this!) so she went ahead and ordered a batch and ... miracle of miracles, when she went to pick it up on the designated day, they had it ready and waiting for her!

After all the anticipation, it was only OK. For sausage, it was not very seasoned.

When we go home in February, although Terry is fighting me on this point since he doesn't care either way, we ARE going to Bolton's for their turkey sausage and turkey bacon. I have never had better. If I also get a whole chicken to roast while there Terry may stop giving me grief about it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Brewing Part Two

Last Saturday was bottling day. I took the now fermented wort and added some more sugar and put it bottles. Cap the bottles wait a week or two then enjoy. Easy enough. I tasted the wort which is basically flat beer at that point and I am not sure what to make of it yet. It wasn’t terrible, but tough to tell for sure without carbonation. This coming weekend it should be ready for a test drive. Then we should determine if it is tasty or 2 plus case of slug food.

BTW – One gardening trick is if you have a slug problem leave container of beer in your garden. For some reason slug are attracted to the beer and they will drown themselves in the brew. This is a safe way to get rid of slug without chemicals. Also a get way to get rid or some bad beer that didn’t come out the way you hoped it would.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Quick update

My mom has Alex for a walk so I can actually type something. Alex has been the most wonderful and exhausting experience, and all the veteran parents keep telling me it never ends. I can believe it, but someday she will walk on her own and sleep more than a few hours at a time.

Part of the dearth of postings has been that there is little more to say about our house, and nothing really to say about our pediatrician, and those are the only 2 places I had been since Alex was born. Well, there was Alex's first social event, Halloween at the Ambassador's. She very kindly slept through the first couple of hours and when she woke and got cranky we beat a hasty goodbye. Tragically, we got no photos of her in her "first halloween" outfit.

Alex also experienced her first "Bunco" experience 2 weeks later. It was wonderful to be in a room full of moms who missed the newborn days - I only held her when she had to eat and reveled in the relatively rare experience of eating food with 2 hands. My meal plans these days generally include a mental list of what can and can not be eaten with one hand.

We did get a turkey for Thanksgiving, and made it with mashed potatoes, green beans (aka wonder sticks and yes, when they are fresh/not canned they are tasty!) cranberry sauce, and apple pie. It turns out the French must have free range turkey b/c the bird was juicy - so obviously not overcooked - but surprisingly tough. It worked well in the soup Terry made later, though. Alex also had a "first thanksgiving" outfit and we did get photos this time.

Many of the cities in Malta have market days one day per week. The one in Valletta has more touristy fare and less produce, although it does have live animals for pets and for dinner (Sundays), the one in Marsaxlokk has fish and a somewhat better balance between produce and touristy t-shirts (Sundays), and a friend invited us to accompany her to the market in Birgu (Tuesdays). Birgu's market is for the Maltese - about 1/2 mile of the best looking fruits and veg I have seen on the island, lots of Christmas decorations, cards, and treats, breads (the Maltese do amazing things with flour, water and yeast) and cheap clothing. Although Alex decided mommy's arms were way better than the stroller, it was great to see what they had and make a mental note to go back when we needed more supplies. Next time I will take photos, I have just figured out how to use and send photos from my camera.

I completely screwed up when the first night of hannukkah was, and we never got around to finding candles anyway, but Alex did get her photo opp of her in her "first hannukkah" bib. Nope, not a whole outfit this time.

Whew, now we are caught up.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Ok. So I know it has been way too long since I wrote anything, so I am sorry. Suddenly being a father is quite overwhelming but I am starting to get the hang of it. Here is my first post in a while so enjoy.

Thanksgiving Day turned out to be a busy day here. A bunch of the Embassy people get together for a touch football game on Thanksgiving. As the week rolled along the people organizing the game were having trouble getting a pitch (field in the States) to play on. So on Wednesday the game was basically canceled due to no pitch to play on. So I thought I would have a nice relaxing day off. Do a little cooking, whole lot of eating and basically relax a bit. On Wednesday afternoon we got incoming pouch that had the brewing supplies I have been waiting on. There was a long ordeal in getting the supplies here in order to try brewing my first batch of beer. So once it finally came on Wednesday and the football game was canceled I decide I would try to brew my first batch of beer on Thanksgiving. So when I wake up today (thanksgiving day) I had some breakfast, and then started getting everything together to brew. So I am in the middle of the process of brewing and Lynne comes down to tell me that I got and SMS on my phone. So I go check in case it is important and here there is a message from the Ambassador's husband that the game is on for one o'clock at Golden Bay. Golden Bay is one of the few sandy beaches in Malta.

Now I am not sure that I will be able to make it because I am not sure how long it will take to finish brewing the wort and getting it sealed up in the fermenter. When brewing beer you boil all the ingredients and make this liquid called wort. When boiling is done you move the wort from the pot to the fermenter let the wort cool and add yeast. Over the next 6-14 days the yeast turns the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. One thing about brewing is sanitation is really important so you can’t stop midway or you might get some nasty bacteria or wild yeast that will make everything taste terrible. So I have to get everything properly sealed before leaving. I finish up the boiling and moving the wort to the fermenter around noon. I realize it is going to take hours to let the wort cool in order to pitch the yeast. So I seal up the frementer tight and do some clean up and I run off to the football game. I will pitch the yeast after the game. Hope this works.

The football game was played on a sandy beach. Sand is really not fun to play football on. On defense it is nearly impossible to cut and jump routes. This made it an offense heavy day. Fun all in all tho. Once home I finish clean up from the brewing. The wort was still pretty warm from feeling the sides of the bucket so I waited another hour before pitching the yeast. Then I went to shower. The turkey was running way ahead of schedule on being done so I had to start my portion of the dinner early then expected. So my relaxing day ended up being pretty busy till it was all said and done. I had fun doing everything today but did end up being pretty full.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alexandra Sophia has arrived!

We have been on hiatus lately to welcome our new addition ... Alexandra Sophia. She arrived on October 12 at 9:50am. She weighed in around 7lb even, and although she lost a bit too much weight in the first week she is back on track. Mommy and baby are doing well and are adjusting to sleep deprivation. More later ....

Friday, October 5, 2007

I'm waddling

So last night my mom (who arrived almost 2 weeks ago, you know, in case the baby came early) was on the phone with a friend of hers and made a comment about how I had just waddled into the kitchen and got ice cream for myself without even asking if she wanted anything. I protested that I don't waddle, and Terry was off giggling in the corner. "What, I waddle?" Apparently it started last week. He was relatively sweet about it, pointing out it took me 39 weeks to get there, but yes I do walk like a duck/pregnant woman.


Still no baby. I got to hear another story yesterday of a woman for whom, with both of her children, she went from nothing to delivery in about 3 hours. So I do have some hope. Maybe baby will come today.

On a side note, we recently discovered that the unique flower and fruit in our yard is passion fruit. Once you know what it is, it is really easy to look it up. Check it out, the flower looks like an alien. Unfortunately, ours doesn't seem to be very edible. Or at least tasty. Terry yelled at me when I wanted to taste it so I made him do it. Some of our trees are also filling up with what are clearly citrus fruits, it remains to be seen if any are edible.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Palazzo Falson

In the city of Mdina, in 1233, the building that is now known as Palazzo Falson was first built. The diplomatic spouses group had a tour of the building that focused mainly on the building's restoration and the amazing collections of the building's past private occupant, a Maltese guy named Falson who was an inveterate packrat.

Because of our house reconstruction project (back in Philly, before we joined the FS) i was particularly interested in the stories of the restoration of the building and of the artifacts. I felt some kinship when the curator explained that every time they opened up a wall they found new problems they hadn't expected, with the attendant time and expense added to the project for fixing said problems. When Falson died, he left the house and his possessions in trust and left it to the civil servants to execute the plan .... so the building remained untouched for 40 years. The artisans employed to restore what items they could were innumerable, from armorers, to textile experts, to architects, to university students (who had the exciting task of vacuuming every page of every book in the library, wearing gas masks all the while because the room had been loaded with DDT to preserve the books).

His collections are impressive, and the rooms are well appointed. The dining room is set up for a dinner party of six with the fine china, crystal and silver laid out, the kitchen made most of us envious even though it didn't have modern amenities like running water. All in all it was one of the highlights of my Malta touring experience.

We finished the tour at the cafe on the rooftop. Unfortunately, the cafe is only available to patrons of the museum. Our lunch was topped off with wonderful Fontanella chocolate cake (the cafe owner's mum is the proprietor of Fontanella so he gets desserts from her).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pointless 2:30 wake up call

In Malta if you get the middle cable package you get this station called NASN which stands for North American Sports Network. This is excellent for me because they cover a fair amount of the US games that I am interested in. The big concern for me ... American Football. I watch baseball when the Phillies are on but otherwise not so much. With Malta being 6 hours ahead of the East Coast catching the games can be tricky. Sunday 1:00pm games are nice because they start at 7:00pm here. The rough ones are the Sunday and Monday night games. These games start around 2:30 in the morning. Being the football starved person I am I get up early on Tuesdays or Mondays and try to watch the second half of some of the football games. Lynne thinks I am totally crazy considering how much I hate getting up early. I will get up early for hunting, fishing, and now it appears football (I have a feeling playoff hockey will get this honor as well).

Last week the New England game was shown live in Malta so I didn’t see the Eagles game. I knew they were going to rebroadcast the game on Monday at 4:30pm so for an entire day at work I would not talk about football, or go to a whole list of websites for fear I might find out the final score for when I watched it later. I made it the whole day and watched the game in agony like the rest of Philadelphia (excepted delayed 21 ½ hours). Last night it was the Eagles on Monday night football and I was very excited, because it meant I got to watch the game live since no other game will conflict with it. All I had to do was get up at 2:30am.

So this morning I rise in the early morning to watch the game. I make coffee, head into the living room, and turn on the television before I go grab something to eat. As I fire up the TV I notice the screen is oddly blank. The little bar along the bottom of the screen from the cable box says there is no signal. So I start playing with the television and sure enough all the channels are out. Next I check the cable modem and that is down. Nothing is coming in over the cable line at all. I checked all the connectors starting outside and working in to see if one of them is bad or loose. Nothing. So after all the playing around I give up and call the cable company knowing this is a lost cause because there is no way anyone is there at this hour. The Maltese don’t really believe you should need service 24/7 if your utilities are not working. So after the phone just rings and rings with no answer I give up. I got and up and went through all this only to be thwarted. So I go to sleep on the couch because I don’t want to wake Lynne up.

Off to work I go. Somewhere around 8:30 Lynne emails me everything is back to normal. She never even had to call the cable company, everything just came back up. Damn you football gods why do you mock me??