Sunday, August 23, 2009

We Got Affianced!

I took Nicci out to a fancy French restaurant Friday night - Brasserie Max and Julie - and I popped the Big Question! Of course, being a crafty nerd, I didn't just ask her in words. After dessert, the manager came out with a half bottle of special cuvee, two champagne flutes (you can see them in the picture above), and a purple box wrapped in purple ribbon (purple is one of Nicci's favorite colors):

I made the box earlier that day (who needs to go to work?) from cardboard and coated it with craft paper. Here is another picture of the "mystery box" in natural light (from the day after), without the ribbon:

When Nicci removed the ribbon, the box opened up to reveal a message (this picture is also from the next day, since we couldn't get a good picture in the restaurant):

Also inside the box was a special "placeholder" ring. (We are custom-making our rings through our jeweler in Houston.) The ring even has a hand-made "diamond" and it fits perfectly on Nicci's finger (I used one of her rings at home to get the right size):

She loved the box and the ring... and she said yes!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009


I don't usually go for multiple exclamation points, but it is appropriate for this post. We went to Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas this weekend. First, general admission actually gets you into three separate parks!

The first park is classic Schlitterbahn. It is now over 30 years old--and looks it! It was somewhat poorly designed so that walking anywhere requires weaving through hordes of tube and/or cooler carrying lemmings. It is also near-impossible to find the beginning of most of the rides. But the rides we did ride here were great. For those readers who are White Water in Branson, Missouri connoisseurs, the rapids rides were way longer and more windy.

Next, we hopped on a tram and rode to Surfenburg. This park contained my favorite--the current river. Unlike White Water, the current is actually quite fast. Additionally, rides actually empty into the river which creates a good deal of chaos and enticed Eddy to steer our rafts toward said exits in order to catch the fastest currents. In addition to your average double-tube slides, this park also had the Boogie Bahn Surfing Ride where you can body board on a huge water-jet powered wave. There were a few kids on this ride who would do crazy body board tricks. We just lamely floated off to the side.
Finally, there is Blastenhoff--the craziest of the three water parks. Blastenhoff has all of the major thrill rides including a "world famous" uphill waterslide. The wait for the bigger rides was >2 hours, so we only rode the Master Blaster which goes uphill in some places. It was great! There is also another current river in this park, but in addition to frothy jets of water, this river also has huge waves. Needless to say, this was basically a human hornets nest with people exhibiting all kinds of raw animal behaviors.

Towards the end of the day, we were more than beat, so we entertained ourselves by circulating on the current river at Surfenburg and repeatedly riding the big slide that fed into the river.

On the way home, we decided to stop at the famous Buc-ees to see what all the hype is about. Turns out, it is just a gas station, but they do have lots of slogans about Beavers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stackin' Paper

The paperwork went through... Eddy got a raise! Despite hiring and raise freezes, his boss wanted to thank him for working so hard this past year. Here he is celebrating (fresh from Yoga class) with a bottle of blue label Chimay with which I surprised him. Pay no attention to the enormous amount of head in the glass--it exploded unexpectedly. Congratulations, Eddy!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Baseball with the Billiken

"What exactly is a Billiken?" Click here to learn more. Anyway, it's my college alma mater mascot. We recently went to a Houston SLU alum baseball game Astros vs. Cards. It was hot as hell, but we did manage to get lots of free food, drink lots of beer and make a few strange SLU alum pals. In the middle of the game, we learned that the juice box (the Minute Maid stadium with retractable roof) leaks. Good fun had by all! The Cards lost.

Wanna Take a Road Trip to Montreal?

We have both been known to do flaky things at times.

Last weekend, we travelled to Montreal so that Eddy could give a talk at a nerd workshop. Packing for the trip seemed suspiciously easy--that is, until we realized at midnight the night before we were set to leave at 6:15 am the next morning that we failed to retrieve our passports from the safe deposit box. Needless to say, we were embarassed and flustered. After calling and calling and calling US Airways, we decided the best thing to do would be to just miss our early flight and present at the airport the next morning with passports in hand.

This strategy saved us $1000 in rebooking fees. We did have to wait from 9:30 am to 1:30pm for our flight to leave, but at this point, we thought we had won. Then our flight was delayed and delayed and delayed. We were finally airborn at 5:00pm. We got into Philly just in time to dash across the airport and learn that there was only one seat available on the last flight to Montreal that night. We declined and dashed to customer service to try to beat the other sorry souls who weren't able to get on that last Montreal flight. When we got there, we were informed that the airline would not be covering our hotel in Philly and that they couldn't get us into Montreal until early Sunday afternoon. It was Friday. So, we thanked them very much for their (lack of) help.

It was 11:00 pm when I turned to Eddy and asked, "Wanna take a road trip to Montral?" An hour later, we were outfitted with a Nissan Versa, Mapquest directions from Pittsburgh (not Philly) courtesy of my parents, and a tiny rental car map that would get us from the airport to NYC.

That first night we made great time and were out of control road trip style. We even saw the Empire State building from very far away! We finally stopped in Hartford, CT around 5:45am. You would be surprised how baffled hotel personnel are when you ask for a room from 6:00am to 12:00pm the next day. Anyway, we got a reduced rate from a very nice woman. The curtains did not close, but at this point we were not to be stopped. I jimmy'd them shut with a rubber band and we completly crashed.

5 hours later, we woke and hit the road. We decided to sightsee a little now that it was light outside. We stopped in the gorgeous little town of Montpelier, Vermont. A woman on the safety committee was kind enough to take our picture in front of the capital building. We visited a yarn store, took in the rustic small-town goodness and bought a giant coffee drink.

What is the reason for all of this rush to get to Montreal, you might ask? We were booked to stay at the Fairmont Queen Victoria! We hit the hotel around 7 that night and waited in a horendous line to check in and another horendous line only to find out that we had missed the opportunity to return our rental car a block from the hotel by mere minutes. So we drove out to the airport and deposited the Versa.

Once we were in Montreal, we had an amazing mini-vacation! We ate lots of good French food, got to practice our francais and experienced the most astoundingly delicous donuts of our lives. Nicci was lucky enough to visit the Jean-Talon market, Old Montreal and the Plateau. Our hotel and the city itself was totally worth an impromptu road trip to Montreal.

So We Tried to Make some Beer...

It was going to be a wheat beer. Specifically, a Belgian-style wheat beer, or "Wit" beer, if you will. (I will.) But it went all wrong...

First, we boiled it down too much and had to add a lot of extra water at the end to bring it up to 5 gallons. (Hence Nicci here with her delicate, lady-like pose filling up the fermenter, or "peeing in a bucket" if you will. I won't this time.) Next, the initial gravity reading suggested we would get maybe 3-4% alcohol, i.e., even if it worked, it would be watery. And then the fermentation got stuck (the yeastie-beasties stopped fermenting) for a few days.

The real kicker, though, was that when we woke up the morning after we stirred up the brew (which is apparently what you do for stuck fermentation) we found it had exploded in our laundry room! We didn't get any pictures, unfortunately, because we were too busy cleaning up dried beer scum. Luckily most of the beer liquid stayed in the bucket. Unfortunately, it must have gotten contaminated overnight (due to parachuting bacteria), because when we opened it up a few days later (to siphon it into the secondary fermenter) it smelled awful! Just to be sure, we tasted it and it tasted both sour and watery. Here is me pouring out our failed brew, trying to do it with a smile.