Thursday, December 30, 2010

Somebody Was a VERY Good Boy This Year!!

I'm not sure who that was, but I'm sure somebody was.  There are 6 billion people in the world, 49% of them boys, so I'm using some basic statistical analysis, I figure three were good.  Therefore, my title is not misleading.  Oh, of course it is while referring to me.

Needless to are the goods...

Not the air hockey table.  That's for the other good boy in the family.  No, ladies and gentlepersons, the Beer Equipment Kit!!!  Five gallons of true bliss will be mine in four weeks following the day I gather the courage to actually brew something.  I give it until Saturday.  Damn the courage, this is beer people!!

Now, IG recommended How to Brew by John Palmer, which my lovely wife also obtained for me and I have since read nearly cover to cover.  Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona and back is a long drive, so I've had some time on my hands over the last few days.  This book is literally the bible he described.  That IG described, of course, for all I know John Palmer is a member of a satanic cult, so his bible would be completely different.  The books contains all sorts of charts and graphs and math and big, long words and other things I didn't understand.  It pretty much reads after chapter four as "blah, blah, blah, beer, blah, blah, blah, better beer" etc.  Not to knock the book, as I'm sure as I move along things will become more clear and I will refer to it consistently.  Thanks, IG.

I also got this:

Now, Big John Palmer (really, we're practically cousins now) doesn't recommend kits that say to add pounds of sugar, rather use a kit that contains multiple types of malt, or at least malt in place of sugar, which this does.  It contains both liquid and dry malt in addition to hops, which if you read my last post isn't going to be NEARLY enough, along with a bunch of bottle caps, dextrose (which has me concerned) and yeast.  Per Palmer's recommendation, I'm going to toss the yeast and go buy fresh yeast tomorrow.  Otherwise, I'm going to use everything else in the kit.

The other thing that shocked me was that a kit makes five gallons which is roughly 48 12 oz bottles.  That's a lot.  That's all of breakfast and part of lunch.  So, I decided to get started collecting bottles this morning.

Not bad for a light brunch, I say.  In the meantime I'll be sure to take lots and lots (read: 1) of pictures of our first batch this weekend.  IG can tell me everything I'm doing wrong.  Oh, and Kyna's Canadian so, she should know what to do simply through osmosis.

P.S.  I almost forgot, I haven't updated both of you on YOUR football team.  Tottenham has been spectacular recently.  Won our group in Champion's League and drew AC Milan in the knockout round starting February.  Also, we beat Aston Villa and Newcastle on Boxing Day and 48 hours later to be sitting fifth in the table, only two points behind the Evil Empire (aka Chelsea).  Now, if we can hold on to Bale and Modric through the January transfer window and find a central defender capable of playing more often then once a month we'll be in business!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bless His Heart

Our fence blew down during some Santa Ana winds several weeks back.  Our neighbor, God love him, went out there to repair it.  The other day, after six solid days of rain (unheard of in Southern California), I came home and it had fallen over again.  Apparently, this is how he repaired it:

Yes, that's a door latch nailed to the piece of wood that split off from the post.  I just had to stand and stare for a moment.  It's an inch and a half long.  To hold up 100 pounds of fence.  Yea, didn't work.

I took two pieces of 18 long walnut I had left over and propped it back up.  Looks like Turling Castle gets a new fence come spring.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I. Love. This. Beer.

Stone Double Bastard Ale.  Go buy some.  Now.  I'll wait.....

This is the most bitter, hoppiest beer I have ever had, and it's delicious.  Feel free to use it as a meal substitute.  Let me put it this way, when my wife took a sip she said, "holy shit, how do you drink that?!?" I consider that to be 9 out of 10 stars.

Stone Brewing is a San Diego, California based brewer.  I consider that local.  They are 83.4 miles from my house, so thank all that is good and holy should I ever do the 100 mile challenge (only eating things within 100 miles of our home), this would still qualify.  Whew!  Even if it didn't, I would ask for an exemption.  They have been around since 1996 and are still growing.  They are still considered a craft brewer, though.  Meaning, you may not be able to get their stuff in other parts of the US, and if that's the case let's go with other parts of the world being less likely.  I have read that they are planning on opening a European operation, so I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on that.

Now, some sites will go through this whole process of saying "it has citrus overtones with a little honey and some milkweed thrown in for good measure."  I smell it and smell beer.  So, you won't be getting smell from me.  I don't know who smells that type of stuff, but it's not me.

A friend of mine whom I, unfortunately, have not seen in quite a while because he moved back to Denmark is from, well, Denmark.  Now, I decided next to the English (this is a compliment so stick with me), the Danes are nearly as big a bunch of drunks.  In a good way.  I would consider Americans drunks, but we seem to get drunk on flavorless beer.  Anyway, I have no idea where that was going, so I'm coming back to my buddy L.  When he was here, we would head out to the local brewhouse after work and the man always insisted that the head of a beer needs to be two fingers high.  Of course, I started in with "Natalie Portman fingers or Andre' the Giant fingers", because, yes, I'm that prick.  Anyway, he usually responded with some Yankee comment which ended my portion of the discussion.  Now, I have had several of these and, honestly, they have given nearly two fingers of head if poured properly.  So, on the "L" scale, I give this 8 out of 10.  As I'm typing, I'm coming up with some type of scale which will hopefully all come together at the end.

Ok, so we have taste...sight...smell we disregard, because it's overrated...let's have an all encompassing type one.  Ready??  The "how many more would I drink RIGHT NOW scale".  We'll call that the HMMWIDRN scale.  Ok, we'll come up with a different name later.  I was hoping that would spell something.

This scale needs to be realistic, as the normal answer would be "until I pass out."  So, how about this?  When I'm at a restaurant and order a beer, I would normally order a second beer at some point.  I have kids.  In a restaurant.  Parents understand.  So, I think this scale should be if I'm in a restaurant would I order this again or would I switch to something different, which happens more often then not.  This scale will then be the likelihood I would order a second of the same beer.  10 out of 10.  Hands down, no "if's", "and's" or "but's", that's the answer.  Now, let's add this up.  Christ, this is fun, I may have to do more of these.

Wife scale:  9 out of 10
L Scale:  8 out of 10
HMMWIDRN scale:  10 out of 10

Now...math.  I think that's 9 out of 10 overall, which I think is fair.  We can't start this with a perfect score, that wouldn't be sporting.  And, no, I don't think ALL beer is fantastic...ok, yes I do, but I don't think ALL beer is a 9 out of 10.  Give me a fruit beer and you'll be lucky to get above a 2.

Alright, we're done here.  Now, go plant something.  Might I recommend some hops?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rodents are F-ing up My Day!!!

Damn rodents.  And, no, not the gopher this time.  Although, it's still a son of a bitch.  However, it seems to have vacated as we threatened it with the new contraption and then said we'd throw good ol' medieval at it for shits and giggles!  And eat it!!  That seems to have done the trick.

No.  These are cousins, I believe, although I'm not sure what rodents they are.  Rats, is what I'm guessing.  Maybe opossums, but I think those are too big.  Anyway, came home from work today and was planning on enjoying (and reviewing!) a proper beverage.  When I got home, I decided to first fire up the old Scout, as she hasn't been driven in a while and the last time I started her she, well, didn't start.  It was pouring down rain at the time, and she doesn't like being soggy, so I chalked it up to that.  Today, she fired right up.  Atta girl!  Went for a drive around the block, please all take note I did this BEFORE embarking on the proper beverage.  That's called planning.  Make a note.

So, we come on back home and she's making a slight knocking sound that she normally makes when the oil gets a little low.  She leaks oil like it was going out of style.  So, I popped the hood and Sweet Jesus to Betsy the engine's smoking!!!!!  So, I of course froze, because I find sometimes procrastinating for a moment works out for you.  And, it did.  Rather then have some sort of breakdown and run for a fire extinguisher and all the mess it causes I stared at it...and said...that smells like shit.  The old Scout doesn't normally smell like shit.  Exhaust...yes.  Gasoline...yes.  Oil...yes.  so I took a closer look and found this:

And this:

My engine is covered in feces!!!  Sons of..............blahhhhh!!!!!!  Obviously, some vermin decided to use the warm engine as a home.  As I'm typing, I don't think it was rats.  I did a pretty thorough examination of everything and none of the rubber has been chewed on.  Also, you can see the white fur in there, which is quite fine, so I'm thinking something was trying to nest.  I also found some partially eaten olives on top of the starter.  I think opossums are too big to fit in there, as there really isn't much space.  Maybe I should set a rat trap in there and see what I get.  In the meantime, I cut into my planned beer drinking to clean up rat shit.  So, you'll have to wait for the beverage review.  Try and contain your disappointment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

There are 24 Hours in a Day

This, I believe, is a universal truth.  Well, maybe an earthly truth, as there are probably more hours in a day on, say, Jupiter.  Therefore, one good thing to come out of this post is that I'm glad I don't live on Jupiter.  I already waste a good chunk of the day, there it would just be worse.

Most people spend 8 hours a day at work.  Throw in lunch, commuting, showering before, etc and we can probably tack another, say, three hours on that.  So, were up to 11.  I think, someone check my math.  Sleeping should be 8, but I think most people get 6, so let's call it 7.  We're up to 18, yes?  Damn, now subtraction.  Eighteen (notice I didn't start the sentence with a number, look at me go) from 24 (I have no idea of mixing digits and numbers spellt out is acceptable or not, try and keep up, though, this is going somewhere) and we're left with 6.  Six hours.  Per day.  That's ours.  Notice I'm concentrating on the work week here, as weekends are a whole different story.

Six.  This is where I fall down.  I'm guessing the same holds true for a lot of people.  Two thirds of a workday.  Wait...three quarters of a workday.  What do you get accomplished?  Chores?  The next great novel?  Retiling your bathroom?  Probably not.  Me, neither.  Unfortunately, most people probably get caught up on Law & Order reruns.  And, that's sad.

I don't do well at night, which is when my six hours of freedom occurs.  I've never been much of a night person.  And, now that daylight savings has ended, it's dark by the time I've served my daily pennance, so I just want to go home and get into my pajama's.  But, that sucks.  That has to change.  Now.

So, this week I have told myself that at least one night I need to work on something.  Not get something accomplished, as that may be an unrealistic goal.  Just get off the couch and go do something. 

What, you ask?

Something that gets me further along to where I want to be.  Maybe it's packing up more stuff to be donated/sold/trashed.  Maybe it's working in my woodshop in the garage (that needs a lot of work).  But, just do something.  And, I think both of you should, too.  Pick something you've wanted to get accomplished and work on it during your six hours of freedom.  Even if it's only for a few minutes.

There is a famous Dutch woodcarver, Nora Hall.  So famous, you've probably never heard of her.  I have a feeling woodcarvers are famous to, well, other woodcarvers.  I saw an interview with her some time ago where she said something that really sticks with me.  She said, "practice carving everyday for 15 minutes."  That's it.  At least 15 minutes a day and the affects will be astounding.

Fifteen minutes.  I think I can carve that out of my 6 hours.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend Chores

Quite exciting weekend in that some gardening actually got accomplished.  Even more exciting since the word "Garden" is in the title of this blog.  I believe that's called a win-win.  I always like to throw in a bit of business terminology that makes my stomach turn.  Anyway, on to the gardening...

We got about halfway through trimming back the lavender.  It's the first time we've trimmed these, and they are coming up on year three.  They look a bit butchered, but I'm hopeful they bounce back.  We didn't touch the one's that are blooming, such as the one in the upper right of the picture above.  We'll hit the second half next weekend.

As you can see, the 13 or so lavender have kind of grown into one large mound of plant.  Which, of course, was the point.  I love it when a plan comes together.  Especially, because it happens so seldom.  Not that it comes together, more that we actually have a plan.

Next up was something I have been concerned with for some time.  The trimming of the olive tree.

Of course, I didn't take a picture of it before I trimmed it.  Remember the whole "we rarely have a plan" comment?  This would fall into that category.  (Actually, fine reader, you really should substitute the "we" with "me" or "I", as my lovely wife always has a plan.  I just stumble along.)  Here is a picture of the olive from a few months back:

As you can see, it was really more of a bush.  Now, it's more like a tree bush.  I hacked off about the bottom two feet.  Next year, we'll hack off a little bit more, and then it should really look like a tree.

In the meantime, let's all light a candle and hope it doesn't die.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh, Crap

I had turned comments off.  Sorry about that.  I'm an idiot.  Or, at least that's what I'm going with as to why no one commented on anything.  Not, that I'm an idiot, but that I turned the comments off.  I've always been an idiot and people still commented.  Even the Idiot

Anyway, I think all is fixed, so go plant something.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Olive Harvest 2010

Saturday we headed out to the front 40 (not acres, mind you, more like square feet) for our very first olive harvest.  Now, we only have one tree, so let's not make this out to more then it is, but it was still quite exciting as it was the first thing we've ever really harvested.  I don't consider the occasional tomato or the instantaneous eating of a somewhat red strawberry by my son to be a harvest.  So, here we were:

Kiki hunting for olives.  She did pretty well, once she understood we didn't want the ones on the ground.

My son really got into it.  Especially, when he figured out he would need a ladder.  That was great fun.

We still have no idea what kind of olives these are.  So, we're sticking with "black".  We harvested these fairly late, December 4th, so nearly all of them were black.  And, when I say nearly I mean 99%.  From what I understand, olives can be harvested from September to December, with the greener olives providing a different flavor then the more mature black olives.  Whether or not this is correct with our unknown variety, I don't know.  Next year, we'll be noting on the calendar to harvest half in October and the other half around Thanksgiving.  That way, we'll compare the difference between harvesting at different times.

The pot is actually lower in the grass, so it looks like less, but according to the NASA-like accurate bathroom scale, we got around 8 pounds.  And, yes, I remembered to subtract the weight of the pot.

We did some research online as to the different ways to cure the olives.  Since, I didn't want to go out and buy anything exotic, meaning stuff that wasn't already in the pantry, we're curing the olives using two different methods.

Half of them we are curing in plain water.  Olives in, water in, that's it.  My father-in-law is doing the same with his olives and changing the water once a week.  I've read the water should be changed once a week and I've read it should be changed daily.  Being realists, we're going with the once a week approach.

The second half of the crop we're curing using a brine.  One quarter cup of salt to one quart of water.  That will also be renewed once a week.  Both of these methods should yield edible olives in three or four weeks.

Water bath on the right, and brine on the left.

Once we're done, my family will have a taste test and let both of you know how they turned out.  You see, I can't stand plain olives, so they will all taste terrible to me.  However, everyone else eats them like candy, so I'll leave the tasting to the experts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Decluttering: Take One

I'm not sure decluttering is actually a word, but I think everyone gets the point.  We've decided to begin clearing out our crap.  No, not to make way for new crap, but to open up some space in the kitchen and our closets.  Something I find stressful is opening a cabinet and having to remove four items in order to get to the one item I need.  Drives me batshit crazy.

So, we are clearing out the crap we don't use so we can more easily get to the stuff we do use.  Later (notice the title "Take One") we'll decide if the kept stuff is required as well.  This will be a continuous process and already feels liberating.  Anyway, on to the goods!!

This barely makes a dent.  Anyway, the following is what the Salvation Army will be picking up Monday. And, yes, Mr. IRS Agent, this is my PROOF of my deduction.  (Sorry, I'm an accountant.  For now.)

2 End tables
4 Framed pictures
1 Toddler bed frame, toddler not included
2 Bags of clothes
24 pieces of dinnerware, plates and the like
1 set of mixing bowls
1 mini table top fountain thing
1 coffee maker
1 bread maker (makes crappy bread, but I don't think that affects my deduction any)
4 serving dishes
1 icee maker
1 laptop, hard drive scrubbed, of course
1 waffle maker

Now, this stuff was pretty easy to get rid of, as we honestly never used it and a lot of it is duplicates of things we already have.  At any rate, it will be fantastic to get this stuff out of the house.  I can't wait until Monday.

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have some actual gardening to do!  Alert Anderson Cooper (look him up)!!  My hands will be getting dirty!  Along with two children, if all goes according to plan.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Our New Minimalism

For some time now, I've been reading blogs about minimalism.  I originally wanted to start this post with a definition of minimalism.  Here's what I found:

1)  A school of abstract painting and sculpture that emphasizes extreme simplification of form, as by the use of basic shapes and monochromatic palettes of primary colors, objectivity, and anonymity of style. Also called ABC art, minimal art, Also called reductivism, rejective art.

2)  Use of the fewest and barest essentials or elements, as in the arts, literature, or design.

3)  Music. A school or mode of contemporary music marked by extreme simplification of rhythms, patterns, and harmonies, prolonged chordal or melodic repetitions, and often a trancelike effect."

Not really helpful, is it?  Everyone seems to have their own definition of what this type of living entails.  By reading the dictionary's definition, I can see why.  In a nutshell, it's freeing yourself from the clutter and confines of, well, stuff.  Not just physical stuff, which many refer to as "crap", but the mental things that seem to bog down your day and life.  I was speaking with one of the father's at my son's Scout meeting on Monday and he was telling me, after running into the room five minutes late, about his day.  His son got out of school and went to football (soccer) practice where his wife left his son to go take their daughter to dance class.  He then had to go pick up his son and get him to Tae Kwon Do while his wife took his daughter to piano.  His son got to eat (I'm sure some type of fast food) in the backseat of the car on the drive over to the Scout's meeting.  I was so exhausted after that, I didn't even bother asking if his wife was going to show up to the meeting we were in.  I assumed she was face down in some parking lot from fatigue.

And, they choose to live this way.  Well, we don't.  These types of stories, which I fear are the norm, are what make us not want to live that way.  I doubt the poor man even got to see his wife that day.  I won't even venture into that might be part of his plan.

Notice in my definition above the word "free".  Yes, yes, yes it's the base word of another word, but shut up.  That's what we're looking for.  Freedom.  Freedom to do what we want.  Freedom from the crap in our lives that weighs us down.  Freedom from the obligations related to things we don't want to do, and the ability to concentrate on the things we do want to do.  And, no, I'm not talking about sitting around in your underpants watching football all day while pounding pints.  I'm talking about doing something that gets you out of bed on the morning without the use of an alarm clock.  That is what we are striving for to do in our family.

And, using this blog, hopefully we'll inspire others to do the same.  The garden will always be a big part of what we do, but so will our home and our life in general.  Hopefully, we'll pick up a few of you for the journey.

And, before my loyal followers start worrying I'm going to break into a bout of Kumbaya while tattooing a peace sign on my forehead and turning vegan, don't worry, the gopher still dies this weekend.  And, for shits and giggles, we may cook it and eat it!  While enjoying a pint...or several, of course.