Thursday, August 12, 2021

Jim Beam Repeal Batch & Le Carême Pairing

I've experimented with a lot of cigar and beverage pairings over the past few years. Be it whiskey, beer, coffee, soda, tea, etc., many work, some do not. Surprising as it may seem, I find coffee to be one of the hardest things to pair with cigars, especially black coffee. (Which, face it, is the only proper way to drink coffee.) Plain water is way down on my list when it comes to cigar accompaniment. To me it rarely enhances, and sometimes detracts from the cigar's flavor.

Most enjoyable are those times when a pairing works exceptionally well. That was the case recently when I poured some Jim Beam Repeal Batch bourbon with the Crowned Heads Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2021.


Jim Beam Repeal Batch is a bottle I picked up when it was first released in 2019. I enjoyed it, and emptied most of the bottle, before being distracted by other things. Repeal Batch is said to have been inspired by the Jim Beam bourbon of the 1930's. The bourbon is aged four years, is non-chill filtered, and bottled at 43%ABV. The flavor profile features oak, butter, and vanilla. It's a very smooth sipper with a clean finish. It sells locally (when you can find it) for $16.99 for a 750 ml bottle. It's a fine whiskey at a bargain price.

Recently I had to urge to dig out the Repeal Batch again. When I had the chance to do so on a recent Friday evening, I thought hard about what cigar to enjoy with it. I settled on the limited edition Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2021. Le Carême from Crowned Heads is one of my "keep on hand" cigars and the belicosos format is one I really enjoy in many cigars.


This turned out to be a great pairing, surpassing even my expectations. The cigar is medium bodied with creamy, sweet notes. There's a touch of cedar spice to add some complexity. The sweet oak and vanilla of the bourbon complimented it to perfection.

When I picked up this bourbon a couple years ago, the guy at the ABC store remarked, "At that price, you should buy more." In retrospect, he was right, and I'll probably grab more when I see it on the shelves. After a long period of unavailability, the regular production Le Carême is back in the stores. The limited release series is probably gone until another year, but I'll be watching for it too.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Lookout Brewery, Black Mountain, NC

A couple of weeks ago we escaped to western North Carolina to disconnect for a week of relaxation. We ensconced at a bed and breakfast for the week, which made for a nice base of operations. We would eat a hearty meal in the morning, then head out for a day of hiking, sight seeing, and brewery visits. 

We were treated to an appearance by the local bird feeder bandit one evening as we enjoyed dinner on the patio. The hungry bear stepped out of the woods, stared at us for a moment, then retreated back into the trees.


Naturally, I was looking forward to enjoying cigars at local breweries during the trip. Surprisingly, the NC breweries we visited were, with one exception, less than accommodating when it came to that pleasure. Of course, there are dozens of breweries in the Asheville area, so maybe we just hit the wrong ones. As so many of our local breweries allow cigars, many even having humidors onsite, I was shocked by the restrictions at breweries in our neighboring state.

One notable exception was Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain. We stayed right outside of the town, so it was just a short drive to the brewery. That was fortunate as this was the only brewery that we opted to pay a return visit to, as much for the beer and atmosphere as the chance to enjoy a cigar.


We ordered a couple of beers, and grabbed a table on the side patio in the shade. I quickly lit a Liga Privada Sun Grown Maduro to enjoy with the Toasted Hazelnut Dunkel. The Dunkel had notes of coffee and a pleasing nuttiness. It was a refreshing foil to the rather warm temperature and as expected paired well with the cigar. The resident food truck was not open so we grabbed two delicious wood fired pizzas from the shop right across the street. (We were enjoying the leftovers at the B&B when the bear paid a visit.)


We returned later in the week for more good beer, food, and a smoke. This time the food truck was open and we gorged ourselves on some tasty, and large, hot dogs. This time I opted for Curren's Cloudbreaker Hazy IPA. For my smoke I lit one of my favorites, the Powstanie Broadleaf, in the Belicoso format.


The Hazy IPA was very well done. There was a refreshing fruitiness, without being overly sweet, and balanced with just the right amount of hop bitterness. Mouthfeel was creamy with a clean finish and the moderate 5.7% ABV made it easy to go for a refill. 

I was struck by the friendliness of the patrons at the brewery. The crowd seemed be mostly "local" rather than "tourist" like us. In fact, Lookout Brewing reminded me a lot of my favorite local haunt for enjoying beer and cigars, 1781 Brewing, where so many of these Musings originate. The patrons and staff were friendly, the beers delicious, there was food onsite, and they had no objections to the enjoyment of cigars. In fact, small ash trays were placed on many of the tables.


I talked to the bartender for a bit to express my delight with finding them, and shared how much we enjoyed ourselves. "We are just a small business trying to be welcoming," she replied. I think they are succeeding. If you are in the area, and want a break from the larger, more well-known, and crowded, local breweries you won't go wrong with a visit to Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Cavalier IDPA Match

In a schedule almost reminiscent of the "old days," I squeezed in IDPA matches on two consecutive weekends in July. After the Rivanna match the prior weekend, last weekend I made it to the monthly match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol. It was an overcast morning, and we saw a brief rain shower early in the day, but the sun eventually shone and warmed things up. 

Our first stage of the morning saw us starting in a corner formed by two walls. Moving through the course fire, we engaged targets from several shooting positions. 


The next stage involved not one, but two movers, but contained a total of only three targets. The start position was standing behind a low barrier with our gun holstered. Using our strong hand, we were required to knock a tool bag off the wall, which activated the movers. The first target was an up and down mover, which meant we had to draw and put a minimum of two hits on it before it vanished. After that, we were left with a stationary partial target, and a swinger. It was a quick but interesting course of fire.


Our third stage, like the first, involved a maze of walls and targets. The design of the course offered options for the shooters, and fortunately for me, I was able to match my stage plan to the limited round count of the  Compact Carry Pistol division.


Approaching the fourth stage, I saw barrels. Just barrels, plus a lone open target at the end. However, walking along the row of barrels, five more hidden targets came into view. Per the stage briefing, when the open target was engaged depended on where one moved or was standing. It was a tad confusing, and perhaps not aligned with a strict interpretation of the rulebook, but was surely a fun stage to shoot. 



The last stage our squad shot had us starting with our magazines on a table, and the unloaded gun set on a shelf below the table top. I enjoy the "out of ordinary" starting positions. It breaks the autopilot mode and causes one to think just a little. After loading and retrieving the needed mags, you went on to engage various targets among the walls.


I shot several good stages, and a couple less so. I finished in the middle of the pack overall, at 24 of 51. However, I was the only person opting to shoot in CCP, so I was first in the division. (Take 'em where you get 'em.) 😁 I do find it interesting that when the Compact Carry Division was announced a few years back, it was quite popular. These days, less so. I still enjoy it though.

I thought the stages were more reminiscent of USPA-lite than what is typically seen at IDPA matches. They were all fun to shoot though. And as always, chatting with friends and fellow shooting enthusiasts are always highlight of the match. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Self Medicating with Bourbon and a Fratello Cigar

Our Sunday routine typically involves relaxing with coffee and one of Colleen's homemade pastries after morning Mass. Last weekend while pouring a tea kettle of water into the French Press, the lid shifted and I steamed my hand. Ouch! It wasn't enough to convince me to seek medical attention, but I was left with red skin and a couple small blisters. By the evening, I turned to bourbon and a cigar to "take the edge off."


The bourbon was the aforementioned Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon. We're really enjoying that one. For the accompanying smoke, I selected a Fratello Bianco in a 6x50 Toro. The Bianco uses fillers from Nicaragua, Peru, and the USA. The binder is Dominican with a shiny Mexican San Andres Maduro wrapper as the finish.


The medium to full bodied smoke is earthy, with a balanced blend of sweet and bitter cocoa notes. While the flavor "feel" is somewhat creamy, there's a bold aspect to the profile as well. It seemed to bring out the sweetness in bourbon.

I very much welcomed the smoke, and bourbon, although in last third of the cigar, I was awkwardly holding the cigar in my left hand as my cooked fingers were sensitive to even the mild heat coming off the cigar. However, that left the injured hand free and capable of managing the glass of whiskey.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Relaxing with Davidoff and Michter's

After that fun, but hot, morning of shooting, my Saturday evening involved a more relaxed, and cooler, activity. I had picked up a few "special" cigars a while back with which to celebrate our son's wedding. The schedule didn't work to enjoy a smoke the weekend of the wedding, so I brought one of them out the following weekend. Coincidently, I happened by an ABC store during the wedding travels, and picked up a bourbon I had been looking to grab for a while. So, by extension, this was a "wedding celebration." 


The Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour seems to be one of those quintessential "special occasion" cigars. A little pricey, but not extravagant, I've not smoked it before mainly because the expected flavor profile was less full or bold than where I typically gravitate. However, most descriptions call it full bodied.

The 6x50 Toro features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a Mexican San Andres binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Some of the tobacco used was aged in scotch whisky barrels for 6 months. The flavor profile is smooth, with notes of almond, milky coffee, and some cocoa. I'd consider it a medium to full bodied smoke. The flavors lingered without being overpowering. As expected, the burn was even and required no attention.


The bourbon in the pairing was also new to me, or at least not living in my recent memory. Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon is said to be bottled from no more than 2 dozen barrels in a bottling run. At 91.4 proof (45.7% ABV) the bourbon is easy to sip, with an extremely smooth profile. There's a pleasing balance of caramel, vanilla, oak, with just a touch of pepper to keep it interesting. 

I thought the flavors, and body, of both the cigar and the bourbon met in an ideal balance. Both were pleasing on their own, each greeted one another equally. I would not have wanted a more spicy cigar with the Michter's, nor a harsher whiskey with the Davidoff. Bottom line, I have more of both on hand, and will surely recreate the pairing soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A Hot Morning of Shooting

Although these Musings have been idle, life has not. Our son recently married, after a year of Wuhan Flu delays, and those preparations consumed more of our attention than I would have imagined, though that was given with much joy despite any stress. Over the last month or so, as the citizens of this country have gained "permission" to go about their lives once again as semi-free people, my "day job" has gotten busier. All that has meant more need for actual down time in my down time. And that, my friends, usually means good beer, bourbon, food, and cigars. Not laptop and blogging time. I did even manage to shoot an IDPA match a few weeks ago, and attend some cigar events, but never energized myself to put down any thoughts about those activities.

But this weekend featured a free Saturday, and the energy to join friends for a morning of shooting, once again at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club monthly IDPA match near Charlottesville, VA. It was a hot, sunny morning, but that didn't deter a small group of shooters, and a dedicated match staff, from having a good time in the sun.

The first stage we shot had us standing nose to nose with the "gang banger." Knocking him over we then engaged a total of 5 targets Mozambique-style, two to the body and one to the head. It was a quick stage to get the juices, and sweat, flowing. It was also my best stage of the day, with zero points down.


Next we moved on to a scenario that had a little more complexity to it. We began facing two "bandits" while holding a stack of money in our strong hand. Dropping the money, we engaged the two threats from retention; the gun in our strong hand, with our elbow held to our side.

Moving to a point of cover we engaged two falling poppers and two steel plates to be knock down. The last popper activated a double swinger on the other side of the barrier wall. Traversing to the next point of cover, we found an interesting array of four targets. There were two partial targets, an open sideways target, and a swinging target that had a non-threat also swinging behind it. Timing was critical so as to not hit the NTT as it swung in front of the moving target and behind the stationary one. I did complete the stage -2 points. 


The third stage was a "standards" stage that gave pause, and created a lot of vacillating over the best way to shoot it. The set up was simple; three targets on either side of a barrier, to be shot in tactical priority. The stage brief directed that each target required three hits, and two targets had to be engaged strong hand only, two weak hand only, and two freestyle. It was the shooter's choice as to the order of shooting style. As I was shooting in the Compact Carry Pistol (CCP) division, I would be making two reloads. That required thought as to which hand my gun would be in when it went to slide lock.


As I went through various options, it seemed I would need to ignore the desire to use WHO on  the closest targets. In fact, I would end up shooting either SHO or freestyle on the closest. That was fine, in theory, as I could engage them very quickly and be in a good position to complete the reloads. I ended up dropping a total of 10 points on the single hand shooting, and even one of the closest targets. I may have concentrated on what hand I should be using more than on the sights! This was one of those stages I would have enjoyed shooting multiple times to try different routines.


By the final stage, the sun was beating down in full force, and I struggled to keep the sweat out of my eyes. The start was facing up range with hands on head and gun holstered. We turned and shot a clay hanging in the center of a target. Once the clay was broken we move to either side of a barrier to engage four or three targets. 

Between the squinting from sweat, being tired, and simply shooting too fast, my hits were a little scattered. I ended up -5 points on this run. Still, an improvement over the previous stage.

The match was over around noon and the air conditioned car was a welcome respite for the 90 minute drive home. It was a fun morning with friends, one that I hope to repeat soon.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

A New Battle For Independence

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America 
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ...

Every American should read these words regularly, at least once a year on July 4. They are important to keep in mind this year especially as we grow ever closer to a need to fight for independence from another group of oppressive, power-hungry, elitists. For years, people who love God, love their country, expect equal opportunity, not handouts, for all, or respect the rule of law, have been labeled racist, and worse. We've spent over a year being told we had to stay indoors, close businesses, wear masks, get vaccinated, all under the warning banner of, "If you want your freedom back…" No one can give you your freedom back unless they took it from you in the first place. Sadly, many Americans willfully surrendered their freedoms for "safety" or succumbed to the new "wokism." 

Alarmingly, there is a growing, vocal group, led by politicians on the left, the major media outlets, and other "useful idiots," who seek to destroy what was created those centuries ago. Not only do they want to destroy that history, they actually seek to erase it from memory. Under their definition of freedom, they demand you speak only words they approve, read only the books they deem suitable, and worship only where and when they permit. Here in Virginia, the leftist governor plans to remove a 134 year old time capsule in Richmond and replace it with another to change what future Virginians learn about the state's past. Marxists throughout history have always preferred erasing history to teaching it.

Our forefathers were explicit. We maintain certain rights which are granted by our Creator. Today, groups of marxists, anarchists, socialists, and the assorted "woke" overtly, and often violently, attempt to restrict, redefine, and even remove basic God-given rights from the free citizens of these United States. The writers of this declaration stated, "all men are created equal…" Yet, those who seek to destroy this Nation from within bastardize that ideal to promote socialism, marxism, and just plain theft. They forcibly take from those who work for success and give to those who live as takers. That serves to create not only mediocrity, but compliance and dependance. 

The democrat party today, nationally and locally, is open and unabashed in their embrace of socialism. A society that has learned helplessness kneels in support because the cause seems nice. All the while, hundreds of thousands of people seeking to escape socialism flood our borders, both legally and illegally. The left welcomes them and often provides them more support than that offered to resident Americans. I imagine there is much snickering over cocktails by the leaders of the democrat party as they lure these immigrants into more of what they seek to escape.

But it's not all bad news. There are glimmers of hope. Patriotic Americans are speaking out, no longer remaining silent to avoid the wrath of social media mobs and "woke" corporations. There are signs of "buyer's remorse" among those who were seduced by the glitter of "social justice." More people see the truth behind the left's actions, instead of realizing the corruption and self-serving goals behind the rhetoric.  

July 4th, the day we celebrate our Founding Fathers' bravery in declaring independence from an oppressive government. It's a truly American holiday, made possible by a well-armed citizenry. This day shows us why those on the left have such a great fear of freedom-loving Americans. And indeed they should be afraid, and would do well to remember history. As noted in a recently seen meme, there's always room on the calendar for another holiday.

Happy Independence Day!

May God Bless These United States

Monday, June 21, 2021

Rivanna IDPA June Match

It has been many months since I last was able to get to one of the monthly IDPA matches at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol club outside of Charlottesville, VA. To my delight, everything aligned this month and I was excited to shoot and to see some old friends again. Given that I had missed the May match at the Cavalier club, I was looking forward to just getting in some range time. Even the weather cooperated; mostly overcast skies helped to moderate the warm temperatures. 

The first stage our squad shot was a "standards" stage. There were three groups of three overlapping targets shot from ever shrinking shooting boxes as we moved through the stage.

In an interesting twist, the center target in each array was declared "hard cover" for the targets behind it, meaning shoot throughs didn't count. That bit me on the last target array on the limited count stage. With that 5 second penalty, I was -6 on the stage.


Next up was a scenario called "Room Clearing 101." We began sitting at a table with our unloaded gun and the first loading device on the table, and our hands on the laptop keyboard. The course required us to load the gun, engage a steel popper activator and a drop turner target while seated. Next we moved forward down the "hallway" to engage a target around a corner, before moving down the next hall where we encountered five more threat targets through an opening in the wall.

After the miss on the previous stage, I was very pleased to shoot this stage clean, with zero points down. Seeing the -0 holes on the drop turner target was especially satisfying.

Moving onto to another range, we saw an elaborate setup featuring two vehicles that made up the next two stages, "Fender Bender" and "Fender Bender-er." The stage brief stated that we were involved in a rear end accident while driving through Southeast DC. 

In the first scenario of the duo, we were said to be the driver of the car that was hit. We began standing at the rear of the car, with a hand on each vehicle, as it we were leaning over inspecting the damage. We were then attacked by gang members. There was a target to be engaged over the trunk, and another further away to the left in the open. Leaving the start position, we rounded the vehicle, engaging two low targets on the move. Heading down range we found two more threats behind a wall. Next we moved across the stage to find more threats from cover.


At the final shooting position I felt at the time I had pulled a shot wide on the first target. After engaging the last target I swung back to do a make up and found my gun at slide lock. A too quick calculation had me deciding to end the run. Sadly the wide shot was not just a -1 or -3, it was a miss altogether. In retrospect, I should have taken the time to reload and fired another shot. I can certainly reload and reengage in much less than the 5 seconds the miss cost me.

In the next scenario, we played the role of the person driving the truck that caused the accident. For the start we placed our firearm, loaded with just three rounds, on the seat of the vehicle. We started by leaning in the driver side door, with our strong hand on the seat's headrest, while holding a cell phone to our ear with the other hand. Again, the idea was to defend from attackers taking advantage of the situation.

After engaging a partial target through the car with three rounds, we moved to the back of the vehicle to engage a target on the move before hitting a stomp place to activate a very fast clamshell. Moving down a hallway we then engaged a series of target arrays from cover on both sides of the aisle. I was just two points down on the disappearing clamshell target, which made me very happy. Unfortunately I had dropped on shot low into hard cover on that first target shot while leaning through the car, making me -8 for the stage. I also found out later I had been issued a -3 PE for a foot fault. Oh well, that's how the game goes sometimes.


It was a good size crowd that came out for the almost-summer match. The stages were all very interesting, each with it's own unique challenge. Overall, I was very pleased with my shooting, especially given the lack of range or match time recently. The misses on three stages hurt my overall standing of 23 out of 47 shooters. I was first of the just three CCP shooters in attendance. Despite the final scores, it was a great time with fun folks and interesting shooting opportunities. I'm already looking forward to next month's Rivanna match.

After a long cool shower at home, I headed over the the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing to relax. A delicious, and somewhat gluttonous burger, some refreshing draft beer, and a cigar culminated an exceptional Saturday.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Just Cigars

It's been a while since I added to these Musings. That's not because nothing's been happening. Or, truth be told, it's more like because nothing has been happening. When I'm not working, we've been doing just that — nothing.

Nothing, as in relaxing and enjoying the down time. Some of that has been necessitated by a long period of dull and wet weather. I skipped shooting last weekend for lack of desire to be running through water. Fortunately the screen porch is fit for other activities.

Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro, a humidor staple

Fratello DMV Maduro Selection (Maryland)

Fratello DMV Maduro Selection (Delaware)

Montecristo Open, a Cuban brought back
from Ireland a few years back

Liga Sun Grown Maduro

And that's the story.
There's more cigar content over at Instagram. I tend to be more active there. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Bluebirds at the Range

Last week I made a quick run to the outdoor range for a little stress release. While I enjoyed the time spent shooting, it wasn't the most interesting part of the outing. As I fired my first shots my electronic ear protection allowed me to hear the unmistakable chatter of a Bluebird behind me. I turned and saw this male Eastern Bluebird fluttering against the passenger side window of my vehicle. He seemed quite annoyed. 


As I watched, he would occasionally perch on the window ledge or the mirror. I could get pretty close to the car to watch before he flew off.


A few minutes later he was back. This time his interest focused on the driver side. His mate made an appearance as well. They both would fly around the car, before flying off together but returning again and again.


At times, their attention was focused on the windshield. Other visits they perched on the back window. I became fascinated by watching the antics of the pair.


I was at the range for a little over an hour. The curious, or upset (?) birds continued their visits the entire time. When it was time to leave, I was apprehensive about opening the back hatch to load my gear, not wanting the birds' curiosity to extend to inside the vehicle. I gathered all my belongings at the back the car and loaded quickly. As I packed up, I could see the male Bluebird watching from the windshield, perched on a wiper.


It was a very interesting encounter with these beautiful birds. However I did need to wash the car afterwards as the visitors had left a more than a few calling cards as a mementos.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Fratello Friday

And finally it was Friday, and I opted to make it a Fratello Friday by breaking into my box of Fratello DMV Maduro Selection cigars. I've been looking forward to trying them since I picked up the box last month. I selected a Virginia band for my first smoke from the box, then pouring some Angel's Envy bourbon I retired to the back porch.

The Fratello DMV series is a limited annual release from Fratello to honor the company's origins in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region. The December 2020 version features four different cigars; Delaware was added to the list a couple years ago. All the cigars for this release are 6 x 50 toros. The details of the blends are kept secret. While the binder and filler tobaccos are the same in all, four different maduro wrappers finish the cigars. In all, just 600 boxes were released.



I've long been a fan of Fratello, with a few of the original 2018 DMV Virginia and DC versions still holding a place of honor in my humidor. The torpedo shaped 2020 Virginia features a chocolate brown wrapper that is smooth and shiny. The initial draw was a little tighter than I prefer, but it soon loosened up. The cigar is medium bodied. The predominate flavors are wood, earth, with a touch of sweetness. A tiny bit of cedar crept in at the end. 




After the beautiful and warm spring weather last weekend, the past week was almost fall like, with cool air, and plenty of wind and rain. I eventually turned on the propane heaters just to take the edge off while I smoked. At one point the rain started and got heavy enough that I was getting some mist hitting me through the screen. However, I had the heaters situated just right, and opted to weather the storm, so to speak.

One aspect of the experience that stood out to me was the amazingly sharp burn line that held nearly the entire stick. I kept stopping to look at the cigar in wonder as the burn line was almost fake looking. Whether attributable to construction, happenstance, or a really lucky light, it was a sight to behold.




The previous years' "Virginia" vitolas featured a bolder flavor with more spice, while this version was more moderate, but certainly not mellow. I get bored quite quickly with really mild smokes, and this kept my interest. I enjoyed the stick down to the hot nub, finally risking one last puff that nearly burned lips and fingers.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the rest of the Maduro selections. I will pace my myself to not empty the box too soon, but I will certainly smoke rather than "collect" them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Saturday Pleasures

Last Saturday began with more purge-related chores, this time focusing on the garage. Even though I've stuck to my vow made years ago that our cars would be parked in the garage, the space for them as gotten ever tighter. After several hours of work, we had made significant progress. I am happy to say we can easily walk around the vehicles now, and the cars' proximity sensors complain just a bit less when entering the space. 

After a run to the local Goodwill shop (not all the unneeded items are being disposed of) we stopped for a much anticipated lunch. We were looking forward to the advertised "Burger of the Week" at Harry's Alehouse. The tasty burger was topped with creamy Parmesan-garlic sauce, crispy onion rings, and bacon, all served on a potato roll. But the most exciting part was that our Marxist-leaning governor has "granted" permission for his subjects to dine while seated at a bar for the first time in over a year. 

An appetizer of fried pickles, the burger, and refreshing beverages, enjoyed at our favorite seats, all combined for an extremely pleasant afternoon. I went back to an old favorite, Bell's Two Hearted IPA for my libation.



Arriving home, we headed to the porch to listen to music and relax, where I enjoyed one of my favorite smokes. I've written about the Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend a number of times in the past. I had smoked the last of my stash of the 2020 release, but I recently picked up the last of the remaining stock at my local shop, so I get to enjoy this one a few more times. And enjoy I did, right down to the still tasty nub.



At the end of the day, we had a welcome sense of accomplishment, and relief, at the progress made in our purge project. That joy was magnified by the sense of normality of enjoying some tasty beer and food, all free from arbitrary restrictions and senseless rules.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Chores and Rewards

This past week we embarked on a long overdue "purge" of unneeded and unused items our house. After 21 years here, there was just too much "stuff' accumulated. We don't intend on moving anytime soon, but there are ongoing renovations to make room for. We rented a 20 yard dumpster and set about decluttering. 

Each afternoon or evening during the week, we spent time hauling items from the basement, the garage, and the storage area under the deck. It's a remarkably satisfying, if exhausting, process. Each day ended with aching muscles, and more than a few cuts and scrapes. The major lifting is complete, and the next few days will involve only tossing in some odds and ends before the container is hauled away. 



On Friday evening, after what seemed an extra long week, I headed over to 1781 Brewing for an Oliva Cigar event at the Olde Towne Tobacconist Lounge. There I took advantage of the promotion and picked up a box of one of my favorites, as evidenced here, the Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Torpedo



I'm excited to smoke these, even if I did have to change the shelf layout in my small humidor to squeeze in the box. Among the freebies with my purchase, was this Oliva Serie G box-pressed torpedo. I opted to smoke it right away while I enjoyed a pint of 1781 Brewing Washington's Hare Porter. The cigar features a Camaroon wrapper with Nicaraguan binder and filler. Despite the ever increasing winds churning up, the box-pressed cigar burned well. The medium bodied sweetness of the cigar worked well with the porter. 

Despite the evening starting out around 70°, the wind and sudden rain shower quickly dropped the temperature to the low 50° range. Too cold for my short sleeved short, so I called it an early evening.


The clean up work continued through the weekend and beyond. However, there was still time made for more fun treats before the work week begins again. More to come on that soon.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Friday, Cocktails, and a Fratello

By lunch on Friday afternoon, I had in my head already my desire for the evening wind down. I often look forward a cigar and drink to kick off the weekend, but for some reason on this day, I was hankering for something specific. After dinner, it came to be. 



There it is. One of my few remaining "vintage" Fratello DMV Virginia cigars from the 2018 debut and a classic Old Fashioned.

This evening's Old Fashioned was prepared with Maker's Mark Cask Strength Bourbon. I treated myself to two Luxardo cherries to go along with the slightly heavy-handed whiskey pour. Fortunately I remembered to make some "rocks" of ice during the week. 

The original Fratello DMV Virginia is one of my favorites. It has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder and a blend of filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and the USA. The 5 ½ x 52 stick is medium to full bodied with notes of roasted coffee, earth and some spice. After nearly 2 ½ years in the humidor, the wrapper still has a beautiful chocolate brown sheen. The flavors remain bold and stood up quite well to the strongly-flavored cocktail.



It's a little bitter sweet as a I watch my stock of the DMV Virginia dwindle. But, it sure is more enjoyable than just staring at them in the humidor.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

He is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Happy Easter!
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
-- John 20:1-9

It's Easter, the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise of eternal life. Today marks the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The Resurrection confirms that our daily struggles are not for nought, that our final reward is eternal. Easter is our reminder to be hopeful, and vigilant, never surrendering to evil.

The Prince of Darkness is hard at work in this world. His minions do his bidding willingly, if naively, deceiving with false promises, and twisting the truth until evil is mistaken for good. The newly "woke" invoke his aid to create false guilt. Acquiescence to immorality is falsely promoted as "love and acceptance." All the while, morality and true love are deemed "hateful." Indeed, Satan's greatest trick is convincing the world that he doesn't exist. Through never ceasing attacks on our faith, attacks on our freedoms, attacks on the sanctity of life, we witness the battle against evil that continues still. 

Yet today, the empty tomb reminds us that there is hope. The promise of Easter gives us the strength to persevere. On this most glorious of days, we are reminded that we must continue to face oppression and persecution head on. We must not acquiesce or even compromise. Diluted or relabeled, evil is still evil.

Here's wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Easter. May the joy of the Resurrection remain in your life all year long.

Mass at the tomb of Jesus
The Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
Photo by Colleen, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2021

Limbo

A 3:00 thought for Good Friday.
The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned like mist upon the moors before a wind.

An old, old prophet lifted a shining face and said:

“He will be coming soon. The Son of God is dead; He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls. They wondered if they dreamed

save one old man who seemed not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask if any had a welcome song prepared.

If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared could not the three young children sing the Benedicite,

the canticle of praise they made when God kept them from perishing in the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them, stilling Moses’ words.

No one could speak, remembering the first fresh flowers, the little singing birds.

Still others thought of fields new ploughed or apple trees all blossom-boughed.

Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam on bright blue seas.

The one old man who had not stirred remembered home.

And there He was, splendid as the morning sun and fair as only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore

Seeing that He wore five crimson stars He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung. None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,

A silent man alone of all that throng found tongue — not any other.

Close to His heart when the embrace was done, old Joseph said,

“How is Your Mother, How is Your Mother, Son?”
-- Sister Mary Ada

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Spring Weather and an IDPA Match

Last weekend we enjoyed what is often referred to as "false spring" in Virginia. The weather was warm, the humidity low, and the pollen count high. It provided near perfect conditions for shooting. (This week we are back to cold, windy and wet, and with pollen.) A smaller contingent than usual gathered for the monthly IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. As usual, five interesting and fun stages awaited us. 

As I plan to do for all of 2021, I was shooting the Compact SIG P320. I'm getting used to the 8 round count in the magazines when planning my stage runs, and psychologically, the lower round count forces me to stop including possible makeup shots in my plan.

The first stage we shot was a quick stage with three paper and one steel target. We began with the gun loaded with just three rounds. The first target required two hits to the body and one to the head. After reloading we moved to engage the remaining targets from cover. I shot the stage clean with a -0 run.


Another out of the ordinary start position was used on the next stage. We began facing up range with our elbows on a table, the unloaded gun was placed on a barrel behind us, and all magazines were placed on another barrel further down range. Seven paper targets were engaged from four points of cover among the walls. My "no makeups" stage plan bit me a bit here as I had a -3 hit one target that I did not make up, and finished -4 on the run.


Again, our next stage again offered more variation from normal. We saw a field of eight targets arranged across the bay, some hidden by barrels, high and low, with half being head only targets. The stage was shot in two strings. The first string mandated a single shot on each target, while the second string was shot support hand only, with shots to the four full targets. The starting position was the loaded gun in hand, with the barrel tip resting on the top of a cone placed mid-stage. 


The target placement was such that some movement was required to see all targets. Since the start was in the center we had to traverse most of the shooting area. On the first string, stepping to the left allowed one to see six targets, before moving to the right for the last two. Given the close proximity of the targets, most of the shooting could be done on the move. For the second, WHO string, I moved left to get the far left target behind the barrel, before moving across the stage and engaging the required targets. I was -1 on the stage, for a head shot just outside the center circle.

Our next stage again required the gun to be downloaded to six rounds, and placed on a table with the rest of our magazines. We started facing the right berm, a few steps from the table. After retrieving the gun, three targets were engaged. Grabbing a magazine from the table, we needed to reload while at the same time retreating up range. At the final point of cover, there were two more targets to be engaged. I shot this one -2.


The last stage was the only one with a full gun "normal" start, but it still added a unique twist. Four of the targets in the course were partially blocked by non-threats. On those targets, the head area of the threat targets were painted as hard cover. Even though head shots would typically be the safest as they were furthest from the penalty targets, they were unavailable for scoring.


Despite that extra challenge, I shot the stage -0, and it was actually my best overall finish of the morning. It was a fun stage, with lots of movement. I was relieved to finish the day on a high note.


It was a beautiful morning for shooting. Despite a cool start to the day, it warmed up quickly. I was a little overdressed but still comfortable. I even managed to acquire my first sunburn, though mild, of the year. I was generally pleased with my shooting. Even with the -3 hit, I was -7 total for the match. Despite that, I finished mid-pack, 17th of 31 Overall. I think I still move fairly efficiently, but have slowed over the years in finding the sights and getting the shots off. Perhaps a little more dry fire, or actual practice might help in that area. 

After a pleasant drive on country roads home, there was plenty of time to enjoy the mild weather with a cocktail and cigar on the screen porch. Couldn't ask for much more on that almost-spring Saturday.


For those curious, that's an Old Fashioned made with Maker's Mark Cask Strength paired with a Rocky Patel LB1 in toro.