Thursday, January 22, 2009

99 bottles of beer on the counter

i live with a beer brewer. he'd be the first person to say that he's not a "real" brewer (whatever that means), but then he'll break out the 'original gravity' and 'protein break'. if you're not a real brewer, you won't know what those things are. but i digress.

beer has been brewing in my house for the last 11 days. it's happened before and though i get the basics of yeast and grains from my bread-baking days, i don't get beer. it's a mystery to me.

so, for the uninitiated, i watched the process carefully and came up with these easy steps for making homebrew.

1. drink beer. (apparently, brewing begins with drinking. it seems like we're getting a little close to a chicken and egg dilemma, but this is what they did...oh! and you have to look reflective while you're doing this step. very important.)

2. next comes the malt. (I think some grains slipped into that pot while i wasn't looking, but no matter. malt provides the 'body of the beer' - still not sure what this means, but that's what they said...and food for the yeast to make alcohol. this is an important step.)

3. more malt. (because of the importance of this step, i got involved to make sure alcohol happened. you can't leave these things to chance, you know.)

4. drink more. (this actually happened a lot more than portrayed here, but i'm trying to keep these guys looking respectable.)

5. get hoppy. (hops are actually a flower that account for the aromatic bitterness of beer and help prevent it from spoiling. at one point, Cob exclaimed, '14.2% alpha acids, my ass!' which has something to do with the bitterness index of these particular hops. either way, i refer back to my point about not being a "real" brewer.)

6. fermentation in the carboy (notice the vodka bottle...brewing beer requires some obsessive sterilization procedures to avoid creating off-tastes in the beer. this is one that i think may just be to continue with the whole drinking theme. Here, Cob is "sterilizing" his mouth before creating a suction in the tube to the carboy.)

7. [10 days later] bottling. (this is the only part i really understand. beer goes in bottle. cap goes on bottle. clean up kitchen.)

8. naming the beer.

i give you Cold Snap Ale, an IPY IPA (for the non-Arctic types: International Polar Year India Pale Ale).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

triple word score

can you tell we're excited about Tuesday around here?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


knitters like to share their stuff. get a bunch of knitters in a room and people start pulling out their projects in various stages of completion, even projects that require a guided tour by the maker. knitters can take this leap of creative faith; they are used to things unfinished. imagining the finished product sometimes requires as much creativity of mind as nimbleness of fingers.

the frustration comes when you want to share widely and can't. you create a thing of cabled beauty, glorious even in its incompleteness, and it must remain hidden in the shadows lest its recipient see it.

this is my solution. just a glimpse, a brief and incomplete snap-shot, a fleeting tableau:

this is, by the way, a return to my cabled roots after a long hiatus in the crisp, precise land of scandinavian two-color knitting. let me just point out that it is reversible and the other side is just as pretty.

whew. i feel better now.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Day 11

cold snap.

warm soup.

Day 11 of this frigid, face-aching, square-tire misery, countered only by a good husband who fixes corn hominy chowder and serves it up with red wine.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dea rocks the lace

apparently, lace has nothing on Dea.

less than a year ago, Dea picked up knitting needles for the first time and hasn't looked back since. in all my time teaching, i've noticed that most knitters will fall into one of two camps: those who hesitate to knit a stitch without someone to help them looking over their shoulder and those who throw caution to the wind and knit with wild abandon, no matter the outcome. both paths will produce competent, independent knitters, but Dea definitely falls into the latter category.

it's a pattern in her life, i think:

during her last trip to the Mayo for her continued dialysis treatment, she picked up a lace scarf pattern at the local knitting shoppe. i like adventurous knitting choices and lace is nothing to sneeze at - especially if it's only your 3rd or 4th project.

there were a few bumps and fixes along the way, a few expletives, but Dea always picked the needles back up and climbed back on the proverbial horse.

she was rewarded with this:

dang! what couldn't you do in this world with a scarf like that wrapped around your neck?

Friday, January 2, 2009

new years, lost and found

New Year's has never been my favorite holiday to celebrate. the expectation, braving the roads full of crazy people, the need to stay up way past my bedtime. ugh. this year, we decided to go gently into that new year celebrating with a few friends, a nice potluck dinner, and some fireworks in our driveway.

it was cold on wednesday night, about -30F in the hills. we're in the middle of a cold snap and it had been cold all week with no end in sight yet.

that's why when a neighbor showed up at our door at 1 am looking for a relative visiting from the south that had been missing for an hour already, we were concerned. being outside for any length of time at those temps requires some preparation and lots of fur - things this woman surely did not have after a night of reveling.

the search continued until about 4 am and eventually involved the police and a canine unit, which was able to track her to the exact spot where she got into a car - an unknown car.

she is fine. some excellent police work revealed that she was disoriented and unable to direct the driver to where she lived, so s/he took her to a local hotel and paid for her room so that she would have a warm, safe place to be for the night.

so, on the first day of this brand new year, i was confronted with the best of humanity. people who care enough to stop and help someone, even if it's not convenient. people who mean no harm and only good. people who will make sure their neighbors are taken care of, even at cost to themselves.

someone i admire recently wrote that she always harbored a funny little belief that the way we transition into the new year sets the stage for how that year will go. i thought i was lucky to have spent a quiet, relaxing evening with a few friends, eating good food, which i was. but i was far luckier to witness real humanity from strangers, as one year passed into memory and a new one unfolded before us.

i will go into this new year remembering that there are far more good people in this world than bad people and that our capacity to care and to be human far exceeds the bad stuff going on around us, though that stuff is surely easier to focus on.

happy new year, all.