Monday, September 28, 2009

Editors Coming To Prague

These guys are coming to Prague in late November. I'm a big fan. Looking forward to it, especially at such an intimate venue as the Lucerna Music Bar.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Černý Vůl Cat House

Luna asleep on a comfy chair.

No sooner had we miraculously found our missing cat Zhenya after she'd gone missing for 25 days (read more about that adventure here and here) than a snow-white kitten -- about 8 weeks old -- suddenly appeared, literally, on our doorstep.

It's almost like we have a VACANCY sign blinking on the front of our house, fashioned from special neon that's visible only to cats.

You may remember our memorable meetings with Flake and with Flukey.

There was also the tragedy of Oskar Junior.

And Oskar, our wild outdoor cat (Oscar Wild), for those who are following along, is doing just fine, after his scary bout with pneumonia earlier this year (when he lived in our bathroom for a month).

He's back outside now, comes every morning and every night for his packet of wet Whiskas and dry food, and even comes into our house a few steps and looks around before deciding that he likes it better outside. (We're hoping he decides to come inside permanently once winter sets in, but it's unlikely.)

But back to the kitten.

We suddenly found ourselves caring for the cutest white kitten you ever did see. And one with the most perfect personality -- affectionate, didn't scratch, and loved to play. And she wasn't deaf, unlike a lot of pure white kittens.

Don't know where she came from, but she decided she liked us, and got along with Oskar, so we found ourselves feeding her, too.

We took her to the vet and had her checked out. Aside from some sort of infection on the outside of her ears, she checked out fine, so we brought her inside and introduced her to Zhenya and our other cat, Chicho. Zhenya and Chicho tolerated the kitten, whom Emma named Luna.

We just couldn't see having four cats, however, and put the word out that we had a beautiful kitten for the taking.

Luna posing under a pine tree in our front yard.

She lived with us for a week or so before we found a very good home for her, much to our relief.

She did have a funny way of climbing into bed in the middle of the night and rubbing her face on my mouth and beard, over and over. Cute, at first. And then not so much.

Can someone please turn the VACANCY sign off now?

Oskar's getting so used to us that he now turns over almost automatically when he sees us so we can scratch his tummy.

Our regular cats Chicho and Zhenya sleep-surfing on the popular comfy chair.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Most Unwelcoming Grocery Store In Prague?

It takes a lot to win this award. There are some truly forbidding grocery stores in the city, especially out in the boondocks, where I live.

But this one, in the village of Přední Kopanina, takes the cake.

There's not even a sign to indicate that it is a grocery store. It's got bars on the windows.

And it's the type of grocery store, left over from communist times, where everything is behind a counter and you have to ask the attendant to let you see or touch a product.

But I'm sure they do it all with a smile.

Harvest Of Fame

I wrote about Daisy's tomato plants the other day.

She's on a reporting trip at the moment (in Mongolia!), so I had the distinct pleasure of harvesting 13 perfect tomatoes.

They are quite small, almost like cherry tomatoes, but very delicious.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reaping What She Sowed

One of Daisy's goals this year was to plant some flowers and vegetables from seed and, hopefully, see them mature.

A few weeks ago, she and Emma harvested the first ripe fruit from the 10 or so tomato plants she's been carefully nurturing.

While the tomato itself wasn't huge, the occasion itself was pretty significant.

It was the first time Daisy had ever planted something and then eaten what she'd grown.

As you can see, both Daisy and Emma were very excited.

More Product Names You Won't Find In The West

My good friend Rob sent this one in.

He saw this ad for ice cream in the Czech town of Neveklov. Pinko is the name of a Czech ice cream company. As far as I know, the company is not, and never has been, run by communists.

Speaking of ice cream, and ads you're not likely to see in the West, what about this Russian ice cream ad that aims to capitalize (sadly, in a racist manner) on the popularity of U.S. President Barack Obama?

It's called Duet, and advertises itself as "Black in White!"

The ad, as you can see, features a caricature intended to suggest Obama depicted in front of, oddly enough, not the White House, but the Capitol building.

The creator of the ad insisted it's a joke and is not racist.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Driving With The Grim Reaper

Is it just me, or is it unusual to have Death, the old Grim Reaper, depicted not once, but twice, on an official highway sign?

Like, where did they get this design? Is there some officially approved representation of Death in a manual somewhere in the bowels of the Transportation Ministry or something?

We passed this on a highway near the Czech city of Cesky Krumlov, near the Austrian border.

Basically, it says: Attention! Section For Fatal Accidents

We were joking that wouldn't it have been funny -- or ironic, at least -- if I'd been struck and killed after pulling over to the side of the road to take this photo?

Yes, so funny. Hilarious even.

OK, not so much.

Sunflower Surprise

We were surprised to find this beautiful sunflower growing beneath the bird feeder behind our house.

Obviously, some of the sunflowers from the bird feeder fell to the ground, and then nature took its course.

Obvious, yes, but also kind of wondrous.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Biker Chick

I'm just her driver.

Emma has been wanting a ride on my motorcycle, and who am I to say no?

We have a little road in front of our house that's basically more of a driveway than a road. I thought it wouldn't hurt to take her up and down the road a few times. There are no cars really, and I couldn't get out of first gear.

I made her wear her bicycle helmet, though, just in case.

I think she looks really cool.

Best Banana Bread In The World

I took a loaf of this banana bread into work today and snapped this photo with my iPhone. Not the greatest picture, but you get the idea.

I like to bake.

I like to cook real food every once in awhile (see my never-fail chili recipe here), but I really do enjoy baking.

Not that my repertoire is extensive.

I can make a mean apple pie from scratch, including the crust, and I also like to make cakes and breads.

The following recipe for banana bread has treated me right. It's rich and dense and moist. It's deceptively easy to make. And it's versatile. You can use three bananas or four, whatever you've got. Throw in some crushed walnuts or pecans. Or not.

Everyone raves about this bread. It always makes me look good, but I don't really do anything.

I got the recipe from my ex-wife, Deana. I'm not sure where she got it. It'd be nice to know, just to give credit where credit is due.

Anyway, here's the recipe, in English measurements.

I hope you like it.


1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 or 4 overripe bananas
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbl milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat oil and sugar together. Add eggs and mashed bananas. Mix well.

Mix dry ingredients together and add to banana mixture. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add nuts if you've got any.

Pour into greased and floured loaf pan. Bake 45-55 minutes or until it is brown on top and springs back to the touch. (I usually insert a knife into the middle of the loaf. It's done when the knife comes back out clean.)

Make some coffee. Eat the bread.