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March 27, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Summit, Conversation, Animals, and Wagon Wheels

It was my second visit to the CSS, though this time I was a solo guest. The occasion was a Cigital ARA summit. It is pretty remarkable what a good group of minds can accomplish in a short period of time when there is a change of scenery. The summit was an exchange of good ideas and ended with a new direction for the ARA practice. Post-summit was a break for apéritifs (I enjoyed a cocktail called The Liberal with a real marisca cherry… a house specialty).

Dinner followed with a subset of the ARA summit guests and our host’s progeny. The main course was an outstanding beef tenderloin (that put the steak I had the previous night at Wildfire to shame), paired with a malbec. A bonus during dinner was getting to watch a grown man eat his very first Brussels sprout. He immediately and amusingly decided he did not like Brussels sprouts. These examples of the cultivar happened to be roasted to perfection, so he really must not like Brussels sprouts.

After dinner, the last visiting Cigitalite other than myself left, and the party moved to the bar. As always, the drinks were exceptional and made from the finest ingredients. It is a rare opportunity to sample such high quality cocktails and I enjoyed every last drop. This strategy was not without its shortcomings, but those repercussions waited until the morning to show up. The drinks were accompanied by great conversation with the host. Many topics were discussed and some new ideas were formed for both work and non-work (a.k.a. “life”).

The night wound down at about 2 AM and I made my way up the hill to the CSS. What happened next is a bit hazy for me. I sat down on the couch to remove my shoes, blinked, and the sun was up. Apparently, I decided to (or felt compelled to) crash on the couch. My host found this amusing and I found it to be practical—no sheets to wash!

The plan was to have breakfast at 10 o’clock, so I had about an hour to (re-)explore the farm. I was immediately greeted by some energetic dogs and timid cats. It was my own personal run through “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” as I spent some time with the dogs, cats, chickens, horse, pony, and goats. I do realize this is quite routine for most, but for a Brooklynite (or Philadelphian) it was quite cathartic.





During my exploring I came across a familiar site.  There are two wagon wheels on the farm that once belonged to a relative. I had not seen them since they were FedExed to [undisclosed location] from New Hampshire (much to the amusement of the FedEx driver) and it was really moving to see them in such a perfect setting.


After a rejuvenating breakfast (bacon with nitrates) and a short driving tour of the local county seat, I headed home. Many thanks to my generous host. Already looking forward to another visit to the CSS in April!

March 24, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Scotching Bourbon at Coal Stove Sink

For the uninitiated, the Coal Stove Sink Guesthouse is an amazing experience.

Great location. Great people (especially the bar tender-disc jockey-sous chef).

Warning: be prepared to drink, talk, laugh, debate (pick any subject), drink, laugh, listen to great music (a truly eclectic mix), drink and laugh some more.  Did I mention the drink part?

The house specialty is called a “Liberal” an insane cocktail concoction that lives up to its name in numerous ways:  Liberal = liberal types and quantities of spirits, liberally served and consumed, causing liberation from many inhibitions.

[from noplasticshowers, The Liberal
.75 oz Bourbon (I like to use Pappy van Winkle 20 when I am feeling adventurous, but definitely something cask strength)
.75 oz Sweet vermouth
.3 oz Amer Picon (or Torani Amer if you live in the states and always run out of Amer Picon)
Add a dash of Orange Bitters but only if you are using Torani Amer in order to help it simulate the real thing (I use both Fee Brothers and Regans as the mood strikes me)
Stir over ice, serve up with a cherry.]

My evening included two or three Liberals (I don’t remember exactly), a shared bottle of wine over a wonderful meal talking about a wide range of subjects from the frivolous to the serious touching on everything from public policy to family.

The night was capped with an alchemist’s cocktail (something I am sure was stolen directly from Severus’ closet) and a final effort to turn a Scotch man to the Dark Side (Bourbon and its wiley ways).  This attempt failed, but the ordeal was wonderful.

Eagle Rare 17, as close to Scotch as you can get and remain pure.

Eagle Rare 17, as close to Scotch as you can get and remain pure.

March 18, 2013 / noplasticshowers

Paintings, Oiling the Pony, and Skulls

At this secret location, art is a critical piece in the whole experience and art has to hang at the right place, right? Our host was artistic for a couple minutes, and tried to hang the art right. He essentially showed off his calf muscles and nice slippers, but didn’t get anything done.Image

When you live on a far, you seem to have two choices, you wash goats (like me), or you oil ponies (like our host). It’s important that the engine of the (robot? who knows!) pony gets some oil once in a while. Mission accomplished, the pony ran fine after the oiling.


Last but not least, it is important to keep drinking while you’re at the hosts location. If not…


Thanks to the bartender on duty that day, we had great drinks. The new drink of the eve was the joint (girly?) cocktail we created (right?):

  • 2 ounces of Zacapa 23
  • 1 ounce of  Glogg
  • 2 ounces of fresh pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce of Coconut rum
  • 1 ounce of Simple syrup


I can highly recommend the Matusalem 15 for the bar! When you’ve enough Amer, I’ll bring you that one! (Or maybe the next guest at the guesthouse can bring that for you…)

Almost forgot, instead of going straight to the big city, we took a detour to Harpers Ferry where the Potomac river and the Shenandoah river come together. I can highly recommend this visit. On the one hand, it’s all about American history, on the other hand, it’s all about mother nature as two gigantic rivers collide; really impressive!


February 26, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

We came, we saw and we conquered (or got conquered in foosball)

We got our fill of liberals, Americana, and a dusting of crystalline precipitate from Ma nature. At some point we actually watched a good Super Bowl game and ate a lot of crazy food that will likely preserve many of our vital organs for years and years after we’ve already
kicked the bucket.

We even got some culture with an art show (pictures attached).

Xena being art.

Xena being art.



Ready to go to the show.

Ready to go to the show.

Discussing over liberals.

Discussing over liberals.

You wanted a lion's tale?

You wanted a lion’s tale?

February 24, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Abdicating Responsibility

For my most recent stay at Coal Stove Sink, I was greeted by this:


And though a Fisher Price toy xylophone looks harmless enough, I should have known that this would be no ordinary visit to [location deleted].

Intrigue grew to eleven once there was an Aubrey sighting:


And, even though Aubrey was in the house for the where’s aubrey performance, he was nowhere to be seen for the opening of the second set. Fortunately, he wasn’t lost. Maybe he was just chatting up a bartender?

The crowd was a joy—warm, enthusiastic, a true pleasure to play for. They can be heard but not seen at the end of this video:

A highlight of the evening was being joined by the rest of the Bitter Liberals. The first three tunes with these fine minstrels were a complete blast. Then, all !@#$%^%$ broke loose on the opening of the fourth song. In fact, the start of this tune has been described as a sonic version of some super-famous explosion on Battlestar Galactica. Either my bandmate can’t count very well, doesn’t know Spanish, or possibly both. Fortunately, the pulse somehow emerged from the rather chaotic opening, as you can hear if you stick with it:

The music and merriment continued late into the evening at the post-performance gathering back at Coal Stove Sink. Finally, when the festivities really had to come to an end, we abdicated all responsibility for the remainder of the night (or was it for the rest of all time?) with a Berryville Passage. At last I called it an end to a beautiful day-evening-night-morning and headed up to the guest house as Eno’s new ambient masterpiece Lux was playing.

Oddly enough, Eno was still playing in an infinite loop at 11am the next day. In fact, Eno continued as the soundtrack of our Sunday recovery until Aubrey left…

Hey, wait a minute, where is aubrey???

February 15, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Americana Extravaganza


Another fun filled visit to the Coal Stove Sink. What was best this time? My favorite fondue? Mixology? Snowflakes drifting down on pastoral scenes? An art show with a neat visit to the artist’s log cabin for drinks? Or even the game? Who won? Who played?

One highlight was the fiercely fought battle of foozeball. Look at the concentration of these two participants!

Love you guys, Moe and Laura

January 27, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Braving the arctic air

Sorry this post is shy of too many pictures.  When I was at the guesthouse, the temperature was so low that cameras (even those on phones) ceased to work.  The temperature was so low that even the animals needed to be brought inside against their wishes.  I witnessed firsthand just how hard a man will work to type the word “Yes” in an email to his bride.  My host’s wife was traveling and emailed back to make sure the goats and horses and chickens and dogs and cats and even the peacock were brought inside for the rare evening that temperatures were too cold for these seasoned animals.  My host braved the arctic freeze to gather the animals … and, pleased as could be with himself, gave his wife an affirmative.  What a man will do to please his woman!

These dogs don't think it is all that cold (but don't tell Laurie). [picture by Xena.]

These dogs don’t think it is all that cold (but don’t tell Laurie). [picture by Xena.]

After a day of intense discussions on empirical studies of software security and a brisk hike up and down the river, my host prepared delectable salmon pasta accompanied by a fine choice of wine.  Over our dinner discussion, I was inspired to actually learn about the local wines during my international travels!  I will join the others who have posted that they were “over served” at the bar in the main house.  My host takes mixology to a new level with almost no bottle at the bar available to the common folk who simply go to their local ABC store.  Dessert consisted of a family recipe of yummy chocolate with my own addition of blueberries, which I see were shared with the visitors who came after me that week.

The guesthouse was a warm haven in the arctic cold.  It was hard to pry myself out of the HOT shower in the morning.  The tile on the shower has inspired ideas for some future shower in some future home I will own at some future time.


Intellectual stimulation and debate, crisp clean air, nature, fine food, good drinks, amazing music (some recorded by my host) … I hope I join others and post some day about my fourth (or more) visit!


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