Saturday, May 30, 2020

Memories: Cigar Shopping in Dublin

The other day, while listening to a CD from a pub band we saw during our last trip to Ireland, I started looking through the photos I had taken in the Emerald Isle. Some of those photos brought back memories of the tobacconists we visited while in Dublin. I've previously shared some of our pub adventures from that trip.

The first stop we made was Peterson of Dublin. Peterson's is well-known as a pipe shop, but they do have some cigars in the downstairs part of the shop. 

At the base of the stairs, there were stacks of empty Cuban cigar boxes.

Also a display of cigar molds. 

The basement cigar area had no staff, and no one appeared to be coming down to offer any assistance, so our visit was short and we continued on with our walk of the city

Our next destination was the Irish Whiskey Museum, which just happened to be located right next door to the famous James Fox Cigar and Whiskey Store. Both stops were places I had been anticipating with much excitement.

All the cigar sellers we visited, had cabinet style humidors instead of the walk-in humidors frequently seen in the States. They also appeared to sell only Cuban cigars. I do know that regulations prohibit the selling of both Cuban and non-Cuban versions with the same name in the same place.

I enjoyed perusing the selection at James Fox, though it was a little frustrating due to Irish tobacco label laws. Regulations enacted in 2017 severely restrict the labeling on hand rolled cigars. Label designs are restricted to a specific gray scale color, as well as a single font selection. In essence, everything looks the same. Like most tobacco laws globally, the laws are simply "feel good" rules, in theory designed to prevent youth from spending their money on tobacco. In reality, few underage youth are buying expensive hand-rolled cigars — especially expensive Cubans. (Not surprisingly, tobacco laws typically have higher taxes associated with their passage.)

The staff at James Fox was friendly and helpful. I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with the clerk before choosing a small sampler pack for purchase.

All too soon, it was time to head off to other stops, even though my traveling companions were being most gracious and patient with my diversions from sight seeing.

The final stop was the interestingly named Decent Cigar Emporium

The shop was located up a narrow flight of stairs. This was the only shop I saw which appeared to have a lounge. However, in speaking with the staff, I learned the lounge is only for sipping coffee, as indoor smoking is banned in Ireland. I somehow neglected to take any photos inside at this stop. It was late in the day, and I suspect exhaustion was setting in. 

I enjoyed the visits to the cigar shops in Dublin, and had some pleasant conversations about cigar smoking in Ireland and the United States. My purchases were limited, mostly for fear of damage and packing issues while continuing our trip. The six purchased sticks, with their proper Irish labeling are below.

Fortunately, once the cloaks are removed, the wonderful labels are still attached.

Despite the visits to the cigar shops, I smoked just one cigar the entire trip. And that was the previously mentioned Fratello Bianco Boxer I had brought with me. That stick was enjoyed outside the magnificent Cahernane Manor House Hotel in Killarney.

I've only smoked a couple of the Cuban cigars I've acquired, but don't have any plans to store them long term. The others will be consumed in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Another Interesting Stout and Cigar Pairing

After a long-waited IDPA match on Saturday, I sought out another cigar and beer pairing with which to relax before dinner. Looking through the bottle reserves in a dark basement corner, I came across a bottle of Ommegang My Watch Has Ended Imperial Brown Ale. Reading the beer's description, it immediately struck me that a Micallef Grand Bold Maduro would make a fine accompaniment to the ale. 

The stout poured a rich dark brown, with a short beige head. The aroma was a pleasant sweet malt with a hint of chocolate. The flavor profile followed with semisweet cocoa and toffee notes. Mouthfeel was creamy with a short sweet, but not cloying, finish.

The Micallef Grand Bold Maduro is a 7x50 Churchill, featuring a dark Ecuadorian Broadleaf wrapper, over Nicaraguan binder and fillers. The full-flavored smoke offered nutty, wood, and espresso notes. There's a hint of sweetness that complimented the beer flavors quite well. A few salted cashews brought out to snack on were a fitting addition to both the beer and cigar.

I enjoyed this pairing, or actually trio, very much. The Micallef is a smoke I've recently come across and have enjoyed several times lately. Each time I smoke it down to the very end, this time accidentally burning my finger tip as I let it drift too close to the nub. 

I had plans for an after-dinner cigar and beverage as well, but the evening passed with other mindless distractions, ice cream and a movie, to be specific. However other pleasures were still in store for the long holiday weekend.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Finally. Some Shooting. Finally.

It's been a while, for sure, but I finally got to enjoy some shooting activities this weekend when the monthly IDPA match at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club resumed after a break for the Wuhan virus. I hadn't shot for nearly three months, and my range bag literally had dust on the top. The weather, which has been all over the place of late, cooperated this morning with the temperature hitting the low 80's.

The first stage our squad shot consisted of six targets spread out across the bay and hidden by various walls and non-threats. The targets were visible as you moved across the stage along a railing. With proper planning, they could all be seen from two positions. It was a good shake off the dust stage.

The next shooting challenge was a line of seven targets all shot while standing behind a table. The starting position was with the unloaded gun on the belt, and the first magazine held in both hands. This was my best stage overall, despite fumbling the start by missing the slide with my racking hand.

An unloaded gun start was also featured on the next stage. This time, the all magazines were required to be stowed on our person. Since I only use two magazine pouches, that meant starting with the first mag stuffed in my waistband. This load went more smoothly than the previous start. After loading and engaging three close targets, we made a somewhat awkward transition around a barrel and wall to the next point of cover and engaged two more targets. At this point, the gun was emptied of the 10 starting rounds, but my brain was ready to fire the "extra" 11th round, as if it was a loaded gun start. That momentary confusion resulted in my doing a standing reload, instead of more efficiently reloading while moving to the last point of cover. There are still some cobwebs to be dusted off it seems. 

The next stage was rather interesting, and had us shooting from a semi-enclosed space. A triangle formed by stack of barrels and a fault line, restrained all shooting through narrow openings between the barrels. The targets were arrange in a "V" that came to a point centered down range. Shooting the targets in priority meant alternating sides as you shot targets at varying distances. The first two targets, mid-range, where the ones visible at the start. Those were shot, then the shooter moved slightly forward, making the closest targets visible, before moving focus to the threats further down range. Shooting among the barrels gave the added distractions of bouncing the sounds of gunfire and the flying brass back to the shooter. Once it was all said and done, it was a fun stage to shoot. 

Finally, we got to the stage we had been hearing about all morning. A two-string scenario stage, shot with the support hand only. String 1 started with the loaded gun in our support hand, with the barrel touching a mark on the wall. We then engaged two targets to our left, and a third around the left side of the wall. The second string was shot to the opposite of the stage, engaging one open target to the right of the wall, then moving forward to find two more target around another wall. 

Seeing friends at the range had been a long-missed pleasure. The idea of not shaking hands in greeting and being reminded to "stand six feet apart" puts a damper on the reunion, but it was still a fun morning. I really don't understand why it's called social distancing, there is nothing social about the restrictions being imposed upon society. Perhaps compliance conditioning is a better term. 

Shooting the five stages took only about two hours. I was pretty satisfied with how I shot, finishing 4th of 13 in SSP. I was a little slow in my movement, and certainly a little sloppy in shooting. However, I had no targets that scored lower than -2, had no hits on non-threats, or procedural penalties. All in all a very good morning and a welcome sign of more matches anticipated soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Fine Cigar and Ale Pairing

When the work week was done, and Friday dinner complete, it was finally time to kick off the holiday weekend with a cigar and a beer on the deck. I had recently come across some 2013 bottles of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale in the basement, and had already earmarked at least one of them for this weekend. Perusing the humidor for a suitable companion to the strong beer, I selected an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Torpedo. I retired to the porch for what I knew would be a pleasant flavor experience.

The Bigfoot Ale was a good as I remembered it to be. While savoring the flavor, I realized that it had been several years since I had enjoyed this annual Winter release from Sierra Nevada. The mouthfeel was full, and mildly carbonated. It sports a sweet malt backbone that finishes with the rich bitterness of hops. Even after nearly seven years of "cellaring," the full hop bitterness is still strong on the palate. The 9.6% ABV was barely detectable, the alcohol well masked by the strong bittersweet flavors.

The Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial is one of my favorite smokes. It sports a beautiful Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers, creating a full bodied smoke. Rich flavors of cocoa, coffee, roasted nuts, and cedar made for a fitting companion to the rich bitterness of the beer. The cigar gave a nearly two-hour smoke with a perfect burn from beginning to end.

All too soon the cigar neared its end, though outlasting the ale in my glass. I held on to the hot nub for as long as I could, the flavor never wavering. This was a thoroughly enjoyable combination, and one worth repeating. While my stock of 2013 Bigfoot is limited, I just happen to have bottles from other years stashed away. The Oliva stick was the last of my stock, but that shortfall is easily remedied by a trip to my local tobacconist. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Slew of Weekend Treats

The weekend was mostly more of the same, although there were a few niceties thrown in to the mix. Lord Northam has granted a few freedoms to his subjects in some areas of the state, so we saw a bit of normality. I had already squeezed in mowing the lawn on Friday, which left my Saturday morning a little more open, so I drove over to the local chain coffee franchise and treated Colleen and myself to a cup of frou-frou coffee. As I sat in the drive-thru line that wrapped twice around the building, I anticipated what I predicted to be a great cigar pairing.

I had first smoked the new Rocky Patel Number 6 last fall at a local lounge. I found the cigar to have an enjoyable flavor, but not the robust bold notes to which I typically gravitate. However, as a morning cigar with coffee, it held great promise.

Coffee, earth, and a touch of sweetness come through in this smoke. As predicted the pairing with the creamy coffee was delightful. The one cup of coffee was insufficient for the two hour smoke from this toro size cigar. I made my myself a mug of rich, french roast to enjoy. The cigar was just as pleasant with the coffee black as it was with the milk-rich version. Though one of the mildest cigars from Rocky Patel, the Number 6 has plenty of flavor to remain interesting to the very end.

Saturday's other treat, was the arrival of a summer fun care package from Tröegs Brewing. Samples of four of their summer ales were included. It's been a while since we were able to review some beers, so it's with much anticipation that I look forward to cracking those in the near future.

On Sunday, we shopped for, and then planted some new ornamentals around the house. The labor done, Colleen and I decided to take advantage of the government "permission" for restaurants to serve patrons at outdoor seating. We headed over a local ice cream stand and treated ourselves to some good ol' fashioned banana splits. These were the real deal; three flavors of ice cream, strawberry and pineapple toppings, whipped cream, cherries on top, and even some peanut sprinkles. We sat outside, at tables, and there were other people at nearby tables, and for a moment we could all forget about the plan-demic. And the splits were delicious!

Photo by Colleen

Coming home, we decided we weren't hungry for dinner. No surprise there. So I retired to the porch with a cigar. Going to the extreme flavor opposite of Saturday morning's cigar I opted for a La Flor Dominica Double Ligero Maduro. This LFD is a full-bodied, full-strength smoke, and one I enjoy regularly. Since I was still stuffed from the afternoon "dessert" I opted for only my bottle of water to accompany.

As is obvious from the above photo, my beverage choice soon changed. After smoking the cigar for a bit, I realized it really needed a pairing stronger than water. I grabbed a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oak and poured a wee dram. Perfect. In fact, I added a few more pours before the smoke was complete. The strong espresso, dark chocolate and cedar notes complimented the oaky richness of the Bourbon in a wholly satisfying manner.

Despite ongoing pandemic pandering, there are signs of a return to normalcy and commonsense appearing. Getting out and about, though to a limited extent, and enjoying a number of my guilty pleasures over the weekend was a welcome respite. The upcoming week looks to be cooler and wetter, which will be beneficial to the new plantings. I am stuck inside working anyway. Here's looking forward to next weekend, which happens to be a three day break. There might even be a return to shooting in store!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Old Fashioned

My favorite alcoholic accompaniment for a fine cigar is a good beer, or a good Bourbon. Colleen and I enjoying experimenting with various cocktails, but when it comes to mixed drinks, I truly enjoy the simple Old Fashioned. The classic drink is a an excellent mate to a fine cigar.

While the variations on this drink are innumerable, this is the recipe I've adapted for my taste.
2 ounces 4 Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
¼ ounce Simple Syrup
3 dashes Angostura Bitter
3 dashes Regans’ Orange Bitters
1 Orange Peel
1 Luxardo Cherry
1 Large Ice Rock 
In a rock's glass, combine Bourbon, Simple Syrup, and the Bitters. Give it quick stir. Add in one large ice cube. Garnish with the Orange Peel and a Luxardo Cherry. 
Enjoy. Repeat.
The single large ice cube is a must as far as I am concerned. I rarely add ice to my whiskey, but if I do, it must be a slow melting single rock. They're a pain to make, but we keep them on hand nonetheless. If a Luxardo Cherry is not available, skip it. Please, no Maraschinos. 

I rarely have just one.

With Fratello D.M.V. Virginia

With Fratello Navetta Inverso

Monday, May 4, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Beer and Cigar Pairing

On Sunday we finally got to a point where we needed to head out for a few supplies. Walking the aisles of the store I was reminded why I dislike crowds and shopping in mega-stores. That disdain made all the greater dealing with the dystopian drama of face masks and directional arrows herding people like sheep. On the bright side, I also stopped into another store and picked up a few more cigars to put in the humidor for another day.

The shopping chores done, I needed a strong beer and a strong cigar. The development of a sunny, warm afternoon made the deck all the more welcoming. I checked the beer fridge and found a Founders KBS Espresso. The bourbon barrel-aged stout gets the addition of espresso beans during the aging, and checks in at a respectable 12% ABV.

A hearty beer merits a hearty cigar. I grabbed a Blanco Nine JT Limitado that's been aging in my humidor for almost two years. The limited edition cigar actually has a warning on its website, "WARNING!! 100% LIGERO." I've seen reviews with folks counseling on the strength of the smoke. I've always been a fan of extremes, whether it's beer, whiskey, or cigars, so was looking forward to the adventure.

The stout features a flavorful mix of bourbon, caramel, and coffee notes. The alcohol content is well masked, with no harshness noticed. Definitely one you want to sip and savor.

The Blanco cigar did not disappoint and complimented the beer to perfection. Cocoa, leather, espresso, and cedar spice were present throughout the nearly two hour smoke.

I nursed my beer through about the halfway point of the smoke. The nicotine strength didn't make itself felt to any extreme. Maybe the effects were checked by the alcohol strength of the Founders stout. In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed both.

When the smoke was finally finished, it was time to fire up the grill and prepare some spicy barbecued chicken for our dinner. Sunday was certainly a full-flavored sort of day.

If you're interested more cigar and beer pairings, as well as other tidbits that don't make the Musings, check out my Instagram content.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Cigars and A Fire

And sometimes whiskey. It's one of the few things I enjoy about cold weather.

Okay, I cheated on that one.

But, now I'm ready for Spring to actually arrive, and stay.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Things I've Learned During the Pandemic

When trying to cut my own hair, I am not good at mirror movements.

I realized it was moot to wonder when I would have time to smoke all the cigars I bought over the winter.

I do not own sufficient bar tools. I also would appreciate a wider selection of cocktail glassware.

I still have no motivation to clean out the garage, no matter how bored I get.

The local liquor store keeps a case of Tito's Vodka right by the register.

I actually miss seeing people.

As someone who already worked from home, I am essentially locked down in my office.

Many self-proclaimed freedom loving "conservatives" quickly embrace socialism when life gets a little tough.

The 2018 Fratello D.M.V. Virginia and an Old Fashioned makes a perfect before dinner pairing.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Another Weekend and More of the Same

And here we go again still. Fortunately, my work week is as busy as ever, and actually more so. There is occasional time for a beer or a bourbon, and maybe a cigar. But it's the weekend when we seek out fun and relaxation. Sadly, the options are limited given the current lockdowns, and the oppressive decrees from our state government.

On a bright note, it was the Easter weekend! A time for reflection and hope of a new beginning. Sadly, the socialist-in-charge, Governor Northam, spent this time of celebration for Christians proudly touting on social media the new attacks on freedom and democracy which he had signed into law. In an exceptional show of arrogance, he chose Good Friday to brag that he had loosened restrictions on abortion even further, paving the way for even more children, historically those of minority background, to be slaughtered in the name of "convenience." Among his other gleeful pronouncements over the Easter weekend was the signing of various bills increasing the ease of committing voter fraud, and ones making it harder for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones, while at the same time making plans to release more criminals from prison.

All those attacks on freedom and democracy aside, I made every effort to keep it a joy-filled weekend. I did also resolve to skip any chores in the course of the Holy Feast, though I did replace a couple of defective smoke detectors in the house. Some chores must really be completed, no matter what.

Saturday afternoon I made a quick trip over to 1781 Brewing to pick up a growler of their delicious König Fruhling Doppelbock. While there, I ran into a good friend who was also picking up some tasty brew for his weekend celebrations. Despite being nearby neighbors we hadn't seem each other in a couple of months. A few minutes of catching up was one of the highlights of the day.

My beer in hand, I settled on the sunny deck and fired up a Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVII. This full bodied smoke was complimented quite well by the caramel and malty notes of the beer.

Near the end of the smoke, my beer glass long empty but not yet refilled, Colleen finished her preparation in the kitchen for the next day's Easter dinner, and joined me on the deck. "Would you pour me one of those?" she inquired. I also poured myself another glass and grabbed another stick from the humidor.

The next cigar selection was a NUb Maduro by Oliva Cigars. This 4x60 stick offers full flavors of espresso and chocolate. Again, a wonderful match for the Doppelbock and perhaps my favorite stick of the weekend.

That wrapped up the daylight part of Saturday, and we retired inside for dinner, followed by random shows on Netflix. (Another "normal" part of the day of late.)

And then it was Easter morning! Hallelujah! Reminded again that our governor has decreed public religious gatherings to be an illegal activity, we streamed the live Easter Mass into our living room. Though distant, it was still most comforting. A tasty brunch was soon being devoured, after which I realized, although it was cloudy and breezy outside, the temperature was rising into the 70's. That meant more deck time was in store.

Colleen and I went out to the screened porch for some fresh air and reading. I poured us both glasses of Bold Rock Cider. For myself, an Ave Maria Immaculata was procured from the humidor. This mild smoke features a Connecticut Shade wrapper, and Nicaraguan binder and fillers. Having been in my humidor for close to two years, it seemed even milder than I remembered. However, in combination with the cider, it was immensely enjoyable.

After that, we enjoyed a long video visit with our son and his fiancé. While we had planned on a  weekend visit from them, circumstances prevented that. After a long absence with no visits, even the virtual version was a welcome pleasure. The long chat left some dinner preparations behind schedule, so there was time for a before dinner beer and smoke.

The round two selection was another glass of the 1781 Brewing Dopplebock and a Liga Privada Undercrown Sungrown from Drew Estate. The medium bodied stick offered sweet and cedar notes, and a good long burn.

Finally we turned our attention to the roasted lamb dinner that Colleen had prepared. A newly found recipe featuring garlic, (100 cloves!) limes, and peanuts is definitely a keeper. Typically we grill our lamb outdoors, but the grill gave up the ghost a few weeks ago and has yet to be replaced. Dessert was an interesting and tasty Ricotta based cheesecake. As there was only two of us, we will get to enjoy leftovers for several days during this Octave of Easter.

So once again, that's all I know. The governor has decreed the lockdown will continue until at least June 10. (Not so coincidently, the day after our scheduled elections.) He seems to be doing his best to destroy small business and create a population dependent on government support. I will once again try to get in a trip to the outdoor range this week. It would be a welcome change of pace.

Monday, April 6, 2020

And the Beat Goes On

What day is it? I hardly know anymore. Yesterday was the same as the day before and tomorrow will be the same as today. I was greeted Saturday morning with this announcement regarding the MD State IDPA match.

We knew it was coming, but now it's real. No joy in Mudville.

Most of Saturday was spent pressure washing our deck and screened porch. As mentioned previously,  it's where we spend our time these days when I'm not working, and often when I am. After that chore was done, it was time to sit in the sun and dry out. My beer fridge is getting empty again, but there were still a few cans of Bell's Hopslam Ale to be found. The 10% ABV Double IPA was just the thing to ease my aching back after riding the pressure wash wand all day. To go with the strong beer I pulled out a CAO Flathead 554 Camshaft. The dark Maduro Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and the Nicaraguan filler create a rich coffee, leather, and pepper favor profile that grows in strength as the smoke progresses. I was quite pleased with the pairing.

My after dinner smoke was one I've been looking forward to since I picked a couple up on a trip to Northern Virginia last month. Fratello Cigars puts out some of my favorite blends, including their D.M.V series, and in 2019 they released the second round in the series. The "Virginia" blend features an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder, with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. The medium bodied smoke presented copious amounts of smoke, a great burn and produced mild roasted, sweet, and nutty notes. Fatigue was overcoming me and the accompanying beverage was a simple carbonated water.

The next morning, since attending religious services is still a crime in Virginia, a live feed of Palm Sunday Mass on TV had to suffice. That meager substitute for the real thing completed, attention again turned to chores around the house. The first of which was to clean the yard of the spring leaf fall in preparation for the first mowing of the year. The leaves tackled, I started looking at the list of chores to take on next. Colleen said, "Why don't you relax and have a cigar? You don't have to do chores all weekend." Well, I don't have to be told twice. (Actually, she did tell me a couple times before I relented.)

I enjoyed the Fratello DMV stick so much the day before that I lit another and sat in the sun, enjoying  my newly washed deck. The sunny temperatures in the 70's led to the first "t-shirt weather" of the season. I actually ended up with a little sunburn on my head and neck from sitting out.

After a foray into the apocalypse for supplies, I retired again to the screen porch to enjoy a book, a cigar, and a beer or two. I grabbed a Liga Privada T-52 from Drew Estate to enjoy with a Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA. The dark, full bodied cigar was tempered somewhat by the bitterness of the IPA. It was still a very enjoyable smoke.

That smoke and drink finished, the aroma Irish Beef and Guinness stew simmering inside began to reach my nose. Colleen soon joined me outside and confirmed dinner was at least an hour away. She also had a much deserved beer in her hand. Not wanting to leave her to drink alone, I grabbed another Northern Lights IPA and a Rocky Patel Tavicusa to accompanying it.

Soon we headed inside for a wonderful meal of the stew and fresh baked Irish Brown Bread. It was certainly a fine cap to the weekend.

That's all I know this week. For those waiting to hear tales of the range, believe me, I am anxious to tell them to you. Until then, it's chores, beer, whiskey, and cigars and more social distancing.

Monday, March 30, 2020

STILL No Range Time But Cigars Are Still A Go

The last time I was able to enjoy some range time was the Sanner's Lake IDPA match at the beginning of the month. Subsequent plans to shoot Cavalier IDPA and the next Sanner's Lake matches have been cancelled indefinitely. The upcoming MD State and VA State IDPA matches are in doubt as well. Despite the fact that the DHS has ruled that shooting ranges are "essential services," our leftist Governor has ordered them be closed, thus also quashing any practice indoor practice opportunity.

At least the government can't control the weather (yet) so the back deck was a fitting place for social distancing this weekend. Chores, cigars and a few good beverages, would once again provide a pleasant distraction. Spending so much time isolated on the deck led to me being tired of looking at the rusty fan housing, so I resolved to clean and repaint it. The first round of paint done Saturday morning, I settled in with a Camacho Connecticut, paired with a Bold Rock cider. Both the smoke and the drink are on the lighter side of my usual preferences. However, for mid-afternoon relaxation, they proved more than satisfactory. I may revisit both in the near future.

Saturday evening, while Colleen was enjoying a virtual gathering with a group of her friends, I again escaped outside. This time, my pairing choice was Basil Hayden's Dark Rye and a Rocky Patel Tavicusa. This hiatus from the worldly chaos offered more kick than the afternoon pairing. I hope my neighbors enjoyed the loud Joe Bonamassa music blaring from my speakers. Coincidently, the bottle of rye was picked up during our traditional beverage run after the last IDPA match I was able to shoot. The rich, full of flavor of the smoke was an exceptional match for the unique taste of the whiskey.

Our governor has also made it illegal for the faithful to attend religious services, so we started Sunday morning watching a live-stream of Holy Mass in our living room. (Like guns, religion has long topped the left's hit list.) The virtual substitute for the real thing absorbed, it was time to finish the fan painting project. That was followed by a bit of yard work, which was a welcome reminder that spring is upon us.

Once again, I shortly found myself on the deck for a relaxing and distracting afternoon smoke. The warm sun on my back, the first cigar of the day was Crowned Heads Four Kicks 2019 Limited Edition while sipping on some iced tea. The full bodied smoke was enjoyed while listening to a bevy of birds singing in the woods, including some very vocal Pileated Woodpeckers and a distant Bard Owl.

The restful interlude was followed by a few more quick chores around the yard. Later, after dinner I retired to my spot on the deck, basking in the warmth and admiring that newly refreshed fan. (Simple pleasures for simple people.) Colleen joined me in enjoying the sunshine, while we listened to the neighborhood owl who was still being quite vocal. Hopefully we'll enjoy the sight of him soon.

For a quick "dessert" I grabbed an Oliva Serie G Maduro to enjoy with my after dinner coffee. The small cigar was good for a quick 40 minute smoke.

And then the weekend was over. Good drink, cigars, and a few spring-cleaning chores were good distractions over the two days. I'd really like to share the news of a trip to the range or a brewery, but I suspect this will be the extent of our adventures for some time to come.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Happy "Chinese Virus" Birthday

On Saturday I marked another trip around the sun. I'd been looking forward to simply relaxing on Saturday, even more than any celebration. We've experienced several days of warm Spring-like weather with temps in the 70's and 80's this week, until Saturday when the thermometer barely cracked 50°. Disappointing but tolerable. The need for social distancing as our country deals with the Chinese virus pandemic would not be allowed to add more than a minor inconvenience to the day.

The morning started off as usual, with breakfast followed by some yard chores. After lunch, we made use of the local Starbuck's drive-thru to take advantage of my free birthday coffee, this time with extra espresso added. Retiring to the screen porch I enjoyed the coffee, some light reading, and a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992.

It got a little chilly in the shade of the porch, but the sun would intermittently pop through the clouds to take the edge off. Once the smoke was finished, I took some time to prep the fire pit for use later in the day. Time around the fire pit was on my short list of birthday plans, and would be unaffected by isolation.

Typically, we dine out for birthday celebrations, but that would not be possible this year. We did the next best thing, and placed a to go order at one of our favorite restaurants. We are making an effort to support them during this crisis, and I joked with the manager that we'll probably be eating their food more than we do during "normal" times!

A couple months ago I had picked up a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon. This is one of my favorite whiskeys, but one that's reserved for special occasions. I had also reserved a favorite cigar for this celebration, a Fratello Navetta Inverso. The cigar had been resting in my humidor since last fall, also for just the right time and whiskey pairing.

Soon, the trio of the fire, the bourbon, and the cigar was providing copious warmth, both externally and internally. Colleen joined me fireside and we enjoyed a few hours of relaxation, conversation, and simply forgetting the concerns of the rest of the world.

Eventually, I let the fire die down. It was a tough decision to call it quits, but another treat was in store for the evening. We had some Irish Whiskey Bread and Butter Pudding left from our combination St. Patrick and St. Joseph Feast Days celebrations earlier in the week. This is another one of my favorite celebratory pleasures.

World pandemics aside, it could not have been a more enjoyable celebration. Birthdays these days seem all the more treasured. In these times of "social media" and "social distancing" even those Facebook and text messages from friends were treasured. For one day at least, the demands of work and plummeting 401k's seem just a little more distant.

And it's officially Spring, so brighter days are coming soon!