Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Malty Christmas!

"I wish you a Malty Christmas
And a Hoppy New Year,
A pocket full of money
And a cellar full of Beer!"
To quote a suave Christmas crooner, it's the most wonderful time of the year. And not just because it's the holidays. Some beery goodness came to us in the past few days, including the Samuel Adam's Winter Classics Pack. As in the past, it includes the delicious Old Fezziwig Ale, that I must admit I love as much for its name (inspired by the young Scrooge's generous and jubilant employer in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol") as I do for its tasty profile. Malty, chocolaty, spicy (but not too spicy), and a wee hint of citrus peel, it's a tasty holiday beer.
But what makes this year's Winter Classics Pack AWESOME is the inclusion of their Chocolate Bock. This is a fantastic beer. Roasted malts and chocolate - what could be better to a dark beer lover's palate? Only slightly sweet, the brew is aged on chocolate nibs (from some fancy chocolatier in San Francisco, TCHO) and a touch of vanilla is added. It's smooth and very rich. And, if you hadn't figured out yet, I freaking LOVE IT. I first came upon the Chocolate Bock a few years ago, sold in single 22-oz. bottles at our local ABC liquor store. I figured it was a one-time only thing, what with its silver metal "label" and all. So to see two bottles of it in the Winter Classics was a very merry present indeed.
The other beery goodness? Well, you'll have to come back for that one...

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ah, Sugar Sugar: Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout

Last week I finally got around to opening the Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout. This is part of their Blackwater Imperial Stout series, and is a summer seasonal (!?!). Imperial stouts are typically higher in alcohol than other stouts - as is this one, at 9.6% abv - and are sometimes finished in liquor barrels, like whiskey or bourbon. Milk stouts include lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Beer yeast can't convert lactose, so the sugar sticks around to add sweetness to the beer. To the Creme Brulee Imperial, Southern Tier added vanilla bean and dark caramel malt.
I was especially excited about this beer. I absolutely love stouts, and I love sweet stuff. This seemed to be the perfect combination.
I poured my Creme Brulee into a pint glass (my reward for running the beer-less Tipple's Beer Run). Only after pouring did I realize the bottle's label instructs the drinker to pour it into a chilled snifter. Which is just as well, as that's the one glass I don't own.
The beer is used-engine-oil black, with a dark tan head that lasts quite some time. The aroma will knock you over - it is SWEET. Holy moses, is it ever. You could put this out when your Vanilla Cupcake candle from Yankee Candle burns away. To be fair, if you like sweet, that's not a bad thing. It's a delicious, caramelly, yummy aroma.
I took a sip, and to misuse a metaphor, the carpet matches the drapes. Good Lord Almighty, SUGAR RUSH. After the sugar, somewhere in there I tasted roasted coffee, and finished with a hell of a lot of booze. This is dessert in a bottle.   
Surprisingly, I found myself having a hard time finishing it. This is a lot of SWEET for one sitting. While the initial sips were delicious, I do believe this is too much of a good thing. I never thought I'd say it, but this is just too sweet. At 22 ounces, the Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout would make a great after-dinner drink with someone snuggly--IF they like sugary booze.
I've had other milk stouts before (Left Hand Milk Stout). Perhaps I should try another type of imperial stout. This is my first one, so others might be different. I don't think it's the booziness, per se, as my beloved Belgian browns are pretty high in alcohol as well.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LL Cool B . . . ladies love cool beer

I know I promised a review of the Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout, but I haven't drank it yet - things that don't combine well with sitting down and enjoying a beer thoroughly keep getting in the way. Like a seven-year old's birthday party. And co-ed softball games (which apparently match well with Jello shots and cheap beer).

  But I was so pleased to see Ladies of Craft Beer founder (and president) Stevie Caldarola give a little shout-out to Tampa, Florida brewery Cigar City, reviewing (along with several other beers) their Big Sound Scotch Ale, I had to share:


Let me just start off by saying that Cigar City may just be my favorite brewery.  These guys have yet to fail me on a brew- everything that they offer is well thought out and really delicious.  Big Sound stays true to my word on this.  The beautiful cloudy cherry mohagony brew had one of the biggest noses of the night with a chewy toffee bread flair, similar to that of Panera’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagel.  Monkey bread, a bready peel off cake dish smothered in toffee, caramel gooey-ness.  Cherry rock candy meets toffee cookie in this huge and complex brew.  Yum!
I have had a couple Scotch ales before and liked them, but this sound deeeeeelicious!

  You should check out the LOC blog, by the way - even if you're not a lady. These dames know their beer.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Mistaken Identity of Sawtooth Ale

For the record, I didn't drink this beer - my husband did. I mistakenly bought it for him thinking it was an IPA. Left Hand Brewing's Sawtooth Ale is an ESB. I had to go look that up - "Extra-special beer?"
Nope, ESB stands for Extra Special/Strong Bitter. It's an ale (and, incidentally, ESB is an actual brand name is England). It's like a pale ale, but--despite the "bitter" in its name--it's not as hop-driven as an American IPA, which is why my husband was a little disappointed with it. I asked him to compare it to his standard - Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
"It's not as complex as Sierra Nevada. It's very smooth; it's not bad." We also both noted the lack of hoppy aroma that a typical American IPA will smack you with. I took a sip, and he was right - it was smoother than an American pale ale, and definitely didn't have as much going on in a mouthful that Sierra Nevada does. But I suppose it's not fair to compare it to an IPA if that's not what it is, right? I'll have to ask him to compare it to Red Hook ESB, another beer he likes. I think it will compare more favorably with another ESB. The Alstrom Bros like it, after all.
I bought myself a big 'ol bottle of Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout. Since we were leaving soon after I arrived with our bounty from Dorn's, I haven't opened it yet - at 22 ounces (and 9.6% ABV, yikes!), I want to be able to enjoy the whole thing, not swig it down and rush out the door. So I'll be back with my thoughts on that one. 


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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Dark" from McSorley's

My husband and I recently visited friends in New York. Well, they actually live across the river in Teaneck, New Jersey, but we spent most of our time in The City. I was hoping to try several different kinds of beer while I was there, but most of the places we went to serve the standard Stella, Guinness, Blue Moon, and the typical light American lagers.
One exception to this rule was McSorley's Old Ale House. Even if you've never heard of it before, you'll know walking in that it's the oldest continuously running bar in New York City - because it says as much on the front: "This is our 156 year and ale is well," plus "We were here before you were born." If this place hasn't been used as a set for a period piece, it probably wasn't from lacking of effort on the director's part. I'm pretty sure the decor hasn't changed since it opened - simply added to. It's basically one big room, with a bar up front and big, family-sized tables in the back (along with a fireplace). I couldn't tell you much more because the place was PACKED to the gills with people. But the walls are covered with memorabilia - photos, articles about the bar, art (including several prints of the bar by noted artists and illustrators); you could barely see the walls. This must be from where Applebee's and Chili's stole their interior design aesthetic.
We were lucky to get four seats at a table with some friendly young men (who later would lead us in some sort of raucous soccer cheer/song). A rather grizzled, middle-aged man walks up:
"Dark or light?"
That's it - those are your choices at McSorley's. Nothing but ale. They are house beers, brewed for the bar by ... someone. The bar's web site says Pabst, Beer Advocate says it's no longer brewed. It was originally brewed by a local brewery, Fidelio, up until World War II. The McSorley beer was then made by several more breweries, each getting bought out by a larger one, the last being Pabst, states the web site.
But anyway. There's a light lager-looking beer and the dark-ish ale we ordered. A very dark amber color; hold it up to the light, and it's almost purple. They serve beer in small glass mugs, two at a time. And they only take cash. I suppose when you've been around for over a century, you pretty much get to make up the rules.
The dark ale is very good - lighter than a stout, but with nice flavor. And it goes down easy (probably too easy). Did I mention they just keep bringing them, un-asked, until you holler uncle?
I loved the place - loud, cheerful, I felt at home. And the history is undeniably alluring. Being a drinking establishment, and thus a man's retreat from the world, women were not allowed in McSorley's. Even when ownership fell to the adult daughter of the third owner (and first non-McSorley) in 1939 - she never entered the bar except on Sundays when it was closed. She handed day-to-day management to her husband. It wasn't until 1970 that women were permitted entrance, thanks to Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow, attorneys for the National Organization for Women, who sued for sexual discrimination in 1969 and won.
I, for one, am thankful for that.


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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale: It's Pretty Delicious

It occurred to me while in the grocery store recently, that while my efforts to be cost-conscious and buy my beloved Cheap Beer are good for my budget, they weren't helping promote my efforts to write a beer blog. I mean, I love me some Miller Lite, but even I wouldn't read a Miller Lite Blog.
This epiphany came at just the right moment, too, because what should appear on the beer cooler's shelves but the autumn seasonal from Sierra Nevada--a brown ale called Tumbler. I didn't even pause to read the description - brown ale? Hell yeah!
I'm a sucker for labels. I keep my favorites (that St. Somewhere Saison bottle is still on the kitchen windowsill). While Tumbler doesn't live up to sill-worthiness, it is a very pretty label. Lovely fall colors, a scene right out of New England--or some other fairytale place where the leaves actually change color and the air turns cool and crisp.
It poured with a lot of decent head; I tended to dinner (lasagna) while I waited to finish pouring the bottle. And it's the prettiest color: deep brown, but not completely opaque. After the head settled, it actually looked like a slightly flat Coke.
I was pleased with how malty it was. Of course it was still a bit hoppy--it is Sierra Nevada, after all; hops are their crack, I think--but not nearly as herbal-perfumey as their pale ale. Very smooth, pretty damn delicious! Out of all the Sierra Nevadas I've tried, this Tumbler is my favorite by far.
I first thought to write, "What a shame that it's a seasonal!" But as with the seasons, and more so the holidays, the anticipation and waiting for something truly heightens my pleasure of finally experiencing it. Christmas all year long would be a drag; but I look forward to the holiday season (that I officially put at Halloween, screw the marketers and their September pumpkins/costumes/candy). That could be part of the reason Sam Adams' Octoberfest didn't quite feel right in AUGUST, even as I drank it in my local watering hole anyway. So while I'll be sad when the winter Celebration beer takes Tumbler's place on the shelves in a few months, it will give me something to look forward to in next year's dog days of summer.
(Which, this being Florida, are actually still upon us. It's been in the low 90s during the day here. Although it seems to be warm Up North as well. Heck, it was warm enough in Philadelphia last night to make the players of the Atlanta-Philly game sweat their asses off. Damn Phillies.)

P.S. I hear (via the Brookston Beer Bulletin) that Guiness Foreign Extra Stout is finally returning to the U.S. - I will very interested in trying it, although with a description like "GUINNESS Foreign Extra Stout (FES) is brewed with the highest hop rate of all the GUINNESS variants," I'm a little wary.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Congratulations to the one Florida brewery that won in the GABF

Jay (hope that's not too familiar) at the Brookston Beer Bulletin listed the winners at the Great American Beer Festival, held earlier this month in Colorado. I can't say that I'm surprised, but it was still a bit of a bummer to see that Florida is only listed once. But, as I noted on his post, how many Florida entries were there?

  So, on the sunny side, let's give some big congratulations to Cigar City Beer in Tampa for its Humidor India Pale Ale, which won a Silver in Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer (out of 32 entries in this category)! I have yet to try any of the Cigar City Beers, although their Bolita Brown sounds interesting.

  I did just come back from New York City (cue the cowboys: "New York City?!?!") where I didn't get to try as many beers as I would have imagined. I ended up drinking Guinness more often than not (oh, poor me, I know). I'll have to get my notes together for a real post on my trip, because I did get to try one very interesting beer...

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Major Beer Birthday

Today - Sept. 17 - is beer writer Stan Hieronymus' birthday. His blog, (sorry, I'm typing on my phone from the airport) was very influential in me becoming a beer blogger. I have learned much of what I know about beer beyond Miller Lite from him. Happy birthday, Mr. Hieronymus! I'm traveling to New York this weekend to visit friends - hopefully I'll get to try some new and exciting beer!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Maine beer, interrupted

My parents go to Maine every year for two weeks to visit my mother's family. If you've never been to Maine, put it on your list of "Beautiful places in the United States I Should See Before Spending Tons of Cash on Europe." In my humble opinion, it's the most beautiful place in the world--in the summertime*.

I've been hinting to my husband that we need to go to Maine, but he's not really good at picking up hints of things he's not particularly interested in (strange, what husband doesn't want to be trapped in the boonies with in-laws he's never met?). So when my parents told me they were heading up, I got a wild hair and booked a flight. Just me, a couple of days, during the week, Sky-Mile-ing-it.

I would be at the mercy of my parents, so I didn't have much choice on activities. I had but one request: on the day we headed back to Portland for my flight out, I wanted to stop by the Allagash Brewery. I've been hearing awesome stuff about their beer for some time, and have been wanting to try it, even before I realized it was brewed in Maine. It's Belgian style! It's bottled conditioned! What's that, you ask?

Bottle conditioning involves adding yeasts to the beer once it's bottled, sometimes with added sugars for the yeast to feed on. It's not filtered or pasteurized, like most mass-produced beer. This is "living beer," and it actually allows the beer to last longer than filtered/pasteurized beer. In fact, some bottle-conditioned beers are meant to age for a while, allowing the yeasts to change the character of the beer. It also adds natural carbonation to beer. There's a good article on Tastings, the web site of the Beverage Tasting Institute.

So excited was I! And my parents were intrigued (they drink a beer here and there, especially while on vacation). Little did I know that a storm was brewing--literally. Hurricane Earl was threatening the East Coast and many projected paths had it hitting Maine on Friday. The day I was scheduled to fly out. Portland (and thus its airport) is right on the coast. Delta was offering travelers the chance to reschedule flights free of charge. Reluctantly, I rescheduled to fly out a day early--squashing any plans of brewery tours or tastings. Of course, as we know now, Earl petered out and became a tropical storm, dumping rain and churning up the sea, but nothing worse. Figures.

So I had just one full day in Maine. We went to Camden, a lovely coastal town, and hung out with Jim (one of my three uncles) and his girlfriend. If you only have one day to do Maine, this wouldn't be a bad way to spend it - lobster roll and beer at Bayview Lobster Company on the wharf, perfect view of Camden Harbor, strolling around the quaint shopping district, another beer at Camden Deli on their rooftop deck - another fantastic view.

It was at the Camden Deli that I had my one local brew: Geary's Summer Ale. Geary's is also based in Portland. Here's their description: "full bodied with a spicy hop tang and a rich, crystal clear golden color." This reddish-blond ale was definitely full bodied--a little more than I'd care for in the crazy, unseasonably hot weather Maine was experiencing (in the upper 90s!). Maybe a little too spicy? Perhaps it's my Florida summer palate, but this struck me as a beer to be savored in slightly cooler weather. Then again, who in Maine would make beer for 90-degree heat?

Geary's calls their Summer Ale a kolsch-style. Kolsch (there should be two dots over the "o" there) is an ancient German style of brewing. In fact, only beer of this style brewed in Cologne, Germany is allowed to be called Kolsch (the name of the town is actually Koln, again with the two dots over the "o" - Cologne is the Anglicized way of saying it). I'd never really heard of this style before. It's made with all barley (no wheat), and is very light in color and flavor. Unlike the ubiquitous lagers, there should be a subtle fruity or tangy aftertaste. The German Beer Institute website has an excellent entry on Kolsch, and Carolyn Smagalski at Bella Online has a great article, "The Seductive Style of Kolsch" that includes a list of American kolsch-style beers, including Geary's Summer Ale.

The Beer Advocate folks don't think Geary's Summer Ale adheres to the Kolsch style very well; I'd have to agree. It's more amber than gold in color and a little too full bodied. Not that that's a bad thing. It's a tasty beer.

Interesting label note: Geary's asks Maine College of Art students to submit entries for each year's summer ale marketing and awards the winner a scholarship. That's pretty cool, even if I wasn't too impressed with this year's effort. (The photo on Beer Advocate is of a different year - cuter, in my opinion).

* That last part is very important, especially for Southerners. I spent much of my childhood summers in Maine--my mom, little brother, and I would spend three months with my grandparents in BFE, Maine, whilst my poor father toiled away in the sweltering heat of Florida. Hey, somebody's got to work! Anyway, Maine is fan-freakin-tastic in the summertime - warm during the day, cool at night, dry. It's covered in nature, from the rocky coast to the gorgeous forests. HOWEVER. It is cold as hell frozen over any time not called "summer." I went up in March/April a couple years ago for my grandmother's funeral--may she rest in peace--and it was FRIGID. I was MISERABLE. ALL CAPS MISERABLE. I went again a few years later for my sainted grandfather's funeral in October - guess what? FRIGID.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Caracole Amber Ale: Delicious

Happy September! (Can you believe it's September? Where'd the year go?)
A couple weeks ago, I was at a friend's house, celebrating his upcoming 30th birthday (yes, I hang out with the chil'rens). He's a bit of a good 'ol boy: hunter, owns a big truck and has several dogs running around, and is a proud fan of Natty Lite. But for some reason, he always seems to have one or two bottles of unusual brew hanging out in his refrigerator. I'm not sure how they get there; he doesn't drink them. But true to his oversized heart, he's happy to share.
So it was with great excitement that I discovered, lonely and forgotten in the refrigerator door, a bottle with a familiar image on the label. Looking handrawn, it was of a snail standing (yes, it has legs; it's a cartoon snail) in front of a lit candle set in the ground.
One of my favorite beers ever is Nostradamus, a Belgian brown ale from Brasserie La Caracole, in southern Belgium (the Wallonia region). At 9.5% ABV, it's a heady, sweet beer. It's also the only beer I've ever seen from Caracole.
But here, in my friend's refrigerator, was a beer labeled simply "Caracole." It was 8% ABV and lighter in color, a Belgian amber ale (the label says as much). Not as sweet as the Nostradamus, it still had that sherry-like alcohol taste. It was a little like a heavy wheat beer - I definitely tasted citrus and spice.
While I couldn't find a web site for the brewery, D&V International, an Belgian and French beer importer, has a good deal of information on Caracole. From their web site:

Truly artisanal Brasserie La Caracole is located in a small village Falmignoul, Province of Namur, Wallonia in southern Belgium, close to the French border.  All styles are bottle conditioned (second fermentation with yeast in the bottle), unfiltered and unpasteurized. The recurring theme on each label is that of spiral snail shell from which the brewery takes its name. Apparently the snail is the emblem of Namur and the word for a snail in local Namurois dialect is "Caracole".
The brewer also make a white beer called Troublette and a blond called Saxo.

  The only retail establishment I've found Caracole's Nostradamus in is The Wine & Liquor Shoppe of Jonesville, right on Newberry Road. And they didn't actually have it, they ordered it for me. This is not a beer you find just anywhere. Stubbies in Gainesville has had it on tap before. So where in the hell did my friend find this one bottle of Caracole amber ale? I asked, and he had no idea how it showed up in his refrigerator.

  Foiled again. Oh well, at least I had this one. I'd love to have another.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wish Me Luck! A 5K on Saturday

With the house-buying, wedding, and puppy-training behind me, I no longer have an excuse for not exercising, so I've decided it's time to get back on the wagon. I've been to my gym's women's center three times in the last week. Right now I'm only running/walking on the treadmill, because I still feel pressed for time, and running is my goal.

I've signed up for a 5K and a 4-mile run. The 5K is this Saturday! I'm totally not ready.

The first annual Project Haiti 5K is part of Project Haiti, a medical mission trip of students, faculty, and staff of the University of Florida College of Medicine and Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL. Started in 1996, every year they travel to provide free healthcare to people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

My friend Kelly, who ran the Disney Marathon this January, suggested a group of us do it. Of course, just because I signed up with her and some other friends doesn't mean I'll be running with them. I am, after all, a penguin - a slow runner. I'll say hello when we all meet at 8:30 am on Saturday morning to start the 5K, and then cheerfully wave goodbye, and well, eat their dust.

Because a woman who runs marathons - that's 26.2 miles, y'all - should not have to wait up for a chick who's "running" a 15-minute mile. And also because I subscribe to the Jeff Galloway "run walk method," so no matter how fast I will ever run, I will always take walk breaks, and that's not for everybody, I know.

A 5K is a little over three miles, so I think I should be okay. I just hope I'm not last!

My husband asked if I was going to the "big" gym, and I told him that I was going to the gym's women's center. Not only because it's smaller and more "adult" than the main center, but also because I don't - DO NOT - want to run into any of our gym rat friends. Very few things are as embarrassing as wheezing along on a treadmill, going reeeaally slow, than having some buff dude and his tiny-and-trim girlfriend stop to say hello. When I'm running, my face gets all red and I sweat like, I don't know, like someone who sweats a lot. Like my old food service boss in college, who was easily 300 pounds and drank like a fish. Wow, did that man sweat.

ANYWAY. The proceeds from the Project Haiti 5K this weekend will go to toys, toiletries, clothing, medicines and more for the people the project serves in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beer America TV (is not impressed with your cheap beer)

How is it that I had never heard about this? I was reading the Brookston Beer Bulletin, an awesome beer blog based in San Francisco/ Northern California (and thus constantly teasing me with all sorts of cool beer and cool beer events), and beer writer Jay Brooks was doing one of his regular "beer birthday" posts, where he features a notable beer person on their birthday.
"Today is also the 41st birthday of John Pinkerton, founder and brewmaster of Moon River Brewing in Savannah, Georgia. John is also involved in Beer America TV. He also brews some terrific beers and is great fun to drink a beer or three with. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday." (from Jay Brooks' August 16 post on Brookston Beer Bulletin)
Beer America TV? I had never heard of this thing. Some of this is because I don't tend to watch video online much. But still! How has this escaped my attention? Anyway, birthday boy John Pinkerton and Paul Leone, whose background is in TV/video production, are the hosts, and most of the episodes are them drinking a beer and talking about it. They also do some "go to the brewers" interviews and such. It seems pretty cool: laid-back, with a brewer and a "regular guy" who like beer, talking beer. I can dig it.
The most recent one was about Lazy Magnolia's Indian Summer Spiced Ale. They really like it. But what struck me most was, when Paul Leone talks about how great it is that there are more choices for summer beers by craft brewers now, he admits to once drinking Miller Lite during the warmer months.  Of course, he knew, even before uttering the words, that he was out of line.
"I would actually drink..." Here Leone pauses and looks at Pinkerton apologetically, "I'm gonna say it - Miller Lite in the summertime."
John Pinkerton, the professional American craft brewer, was shaking his head before Leone could finish the sentence.
"Wow," Pinkerton chuckles. 
You could see the subtext all over his face--"Wow" equals "I can't believe you actually said that out loud. On a beer vlog. About American craft beer." But it was all in good fun, and I couldn't help but laugh. Especially when Leone goes on to say, "Because it was ice-cold, watery, you can just throw it down..."
Which is EXACTLY why I love Miller Lite. I'm not sure if I've said this yet, but I love me a cold Miller Lite during the summertime.
You sit in the sun at Ginnie Springs in North Central Florida on a Saturday in August for a couple of hours and see what you feel like drinking. Not, as Leone said, "some ten percent beer." No, you want a light American lager. It's refreshing! It's delicious (when ice-cold). It's the beer drinker's, well, water.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Strange Brew: St. Somewhere Saison Athene

My friend and fellow blogger, the Sassy Crafter, shared an article with me that she found online about a Tarpon Springs, FL-based brewery, Saint Somewhere. They're tiny and specialize in Belgian ales, which I have recently discovered. So it was with great delight that I found a bottle in my local beer shop, Dorn's. To add to the excitement, it turned out to be a saison - a style of beer I have only just heard of and of course had never tried. Two birds with one stone: Florida brewery AND new style of beer!
First, what's a saison? Brewed in the French-speaking part of Belgium, it's a "farmhouse" style ale, meaning in the "olde" days, ye regular folk made this type of beer in the winter and had it ready to drink by summertime. Don't think this means "lightly refreshing summer beer," in the style of a wheat beer or--heaven help us--a Bud Lime. According to beer god Michael Jackson, a saison is a "sharply refreshing, faintly sour, top-fermenting brew, sometimes dry-hopped, often bottle-conditioned, 5.5 - 8 by volume."
Being the kind of girl who buys wine for the pretty labels, I have to admit that the label on the Saint Somewhere Saison Athene made it all the more appealing. A pretty girl-fairy soars over a Southern-looking locale (evidenced by the palm and citrus trees, and well, the fact they're based in Tampa). Very Mucha, Belle-Epoch-looking stuff. You can (sorta) see from their web site that their other brews have similar labels.*
This is a big bottle - I got almost four pint glasses out of it. And it's not "light," per se - 7.5% (for comparison, a Sam Adams summer ale is 5.20%). And the taste?
Not that I had any expectations, but ... I guess I must have, because this wasn't what I expected. Very sour, like a fuzzy, beery lemonade almost. With a lot of different flavors thrown in the mix for good measure. This is one complex brew. It kind of reminded me of a lambic - another Belgian beer. Very distinct, not at all "hoppy," even though hops are used. But I think, like lambics, this beer's hops were dry, because I didn't get that herbal, perfumey taste that I get from the popular American "hop bombs" (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, as an example - to me, anyway; I'm not sure a "hop head" would think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was sufficiently hoppy). What I did get was . . . funky. And I don't mean that in a necessarily bad way. Just really, really, really different.
Would I buy it again? No, not anytime soon, only because there are a lot of other new styles of beer I want to try. This is unusual enough that I wouldn't add it to my everyday repertoire (as I have, say, the Wacko summer ale).
* - The Saint Somewhere web site is all Flash (boo!) - which explains why I couldn't see anything when I first tried to look at it via my iPhone. The images are all very pixilated and they don't give individual descriptions of each style of beer they're currently brewing, instead relying on Beer Advocate reviews! What? You can't even simply type out what's on the back of the bottle? Even that would be better (wish I had the bottle here with me while typing this, actually). Not enough "story" on the brewery, either. At least it didn't have music.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Minneapolis beer, and a beer I had in Minneapolis

I just got back from an amazing conference on web design. Absolute gods of the web Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman started An Event Apart, and it featured them plus a host of other web design rock stars. It's two days of intense, mind-blowing knowledge about standards-based web design. Can you tell I'm still swooning?
Anyway, while I was there, there were several chances to drink beer, thanks to sponsored mixers after all the mind-blowing. At the newish (and very cool) Subo, I chatted with the friendly staff and had a couple beers. First up was a Minnesota beer, Sheephead Ale by Brau Brothers. Subo lists it as a "red ale," and it is a copper color, but it's only called an ale by the brewery. It was very nice, evidently marketed as a pale ale, but the bartender told me it wasn't very hoppy, and he was right. This is a good thing to me, as I'm not a hop-head. Kinda zesty and light. I would have had another, but I saw a familiar label - New Belgium! 
I love New Belgium's Fat Tire (a truly amber ale), but can't seem to find it in Florida. This was not a Fat Tire, but their summer beer, Skinny Dip (also the name of an excellent Carl Hiaasen novel that I highly recommend). Turns out this beer is their "mascot for water advocacy," a subject that any brewer should be interested in. One of the specific programs New Belgium supports is Save the Colorado, a river dear to my own heart, thanks to a week of rafting down in it in the Grand Canyon. (If you have any interest in conservation and/or the Colorado river, check that site out - it's lovely.)
Where was I? Oh yeah, the beer.
It's a blond ale, very light. I would compare it to Sam Adams' summer seasonal, although it has a little less spice and a little more citrus (New Belgium mentions lime leaves). This is a beer, much like Fat Tire, but even more so, that I would urge a Bud Light/Miller Lite/Coors Light drinker to try. It has the summer beer qualities a hot Floridian would want - it's refreshing, it's light - and then adds actual flavor and interest. I think this is what the Beer Advocate forum fellers would call a "session beer" (meaning you could happily drink more than one), although they rate it rather poorly. I don't think I have the same palate as BAers. I would buy this in bulk. Delicious stuff, especially for warm weather.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

International Beer Bloggers & Online Media Conference

The first-ever beer bloggers conference! Doesn't that sound awesome? If you're a beer blogger, that is?
Beer Bloggers Conference
And it's in Boulder, Colorado, making it even cooler in my mind. Of course, it's in November, so I'm guessing it's going to be really friggin' cold. At least to a Floridian. But I have gathered--some from reading about beer, brewing, and breweries, but mainly from looking at the label on the neat beers I've tried and seeing where they come from--that Colorado is up there in the ranking of Cool Beer States.
There will be speakers, including the co-founder of Stone Brewing, but what got me excited is that there are media professionals speaking about writing. Beer writing, of course, and that's something I could definitely learn a thing or two about. I can write, and I can surely drink beer, but that doesn't mean I'll be a great beer writer.
Two sessions that interest me in particular are Julia Herz from the Brewers Association: “Why Beer Bloggers Further the Revolution” and Jessica Daynor from Draft Magazine: “Beer Journalism: Beer Bloggers & the Print Media.”
Of course, the dinners at Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons and Boulder Beer Company are rather intriguing as well.
I'd really like to go to this. I could learn a lot (okay, a ton), meet some interesting people who are even more passionate about beer than I am, and make some good contacts.
One thing that struck me on the conference blog was a post about five things the event organizers had learned from their other conference - one for wine bloggers:
"2. Making Money – Offline – From Wine Blogging: We learned loud and clear at the first Wine Bloggers Conference that most bloggers do not make more than pocket change from their blog and probably never will."
But this conference costs money. Maybe not a lot to some, but it's enough to give me pause. After all, I have a spouse whose input is needed, a home with items in need of repair/replacement, a dog with a healthy vet bill, etc. And this? This beer blogging thing? Not only am I just starting out, but it's not a money-making endeavour.
As an MBA dropout, I can't help but think . . . what's my ROI? How will this conference help me? My family? I have to ask myself - is this an indulgence?
That being said, the Beer Bloggers Conference looks like a great idea and any beer blogger, aspiring or otherwise, should at least consider attending. I mean, I'm still thinking about it...


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More Summer Beer: Wacko

What? It's Florida, people. It's HOT. Wait, it's hot everywhere this year, isn't it? At least on the East Coast. So here's a beer for everybody.
Anyway, my creative friend Kim (aka The Sassy Crafter) suggested this beer to me. It's Magic Hat Brewing Company's Wacko - a summer ale (maybe) with a pinkish/reddish tinge. I liked it; I was worried it would be sweet since they mention on the front label that it's brewed with beet sugar, but it wasn't. Much like Kim reported, it's crisp and light. I think the beets are there for color - I didn't taste anything... beety. Of course, I don't remember the last time I ate beets...
What I usually like about summer ales versus my other favorite "holy Moses, it's hot as hell" beer, American light lagers, is there's still a little herbal snap to it. The hops, I presume (and could be presuming wrong - I'm only now learning the minutiae of the brewing process). Wacko was a little closer to a light lager than an ale; if you'd have taken a couple dollars off the price of a six pack and covered the label, I would have guessed it was a specialty summer beer made by one of the Big Guys - Miller, perhaps. And I don't necessarily mean that as an insult; I like light lagers made by Big Guys. Miler Lite is my Cheap Summer Beer.
I was amused by the reviews over on Beer Advocate - Wacko was mainly given a "C" grade, even though many said it was "drinkable" and would definitely have another one. That's a "C" beer?
I should give you a link to Magic Hat site, but it's really awful: heavy on the Flash, light on easily-accessible information. And they commit the most terrible web sin: music. That YOU CAN'T TURN OFF. Ugh! I understand that you've got an arty thing going on up there in Vermont. I actually like the label (damn you, Ed Hardy, for covering your douchebag-couture with hearts, skulls, and daggers!), but I don't need to watch a little cartoon of the making of it. TELL ME ABOUT THE BEER.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My local beer shop: Dorn's

For all my tightwad-ness, I do like to try new beers and drink some quality stuff every now and then. So I'm very lucky to have Dorn's only a few miles from my house. Their "official" name is Dorn's Liquors & Wine Warehouse, but I rarely buy liquor from them and while I do buy my wine from them, I hate the whole "warehouse" part - makes them sound like the Sam's Club of wine. They are not.

  Dorn's is a tiny little store squeezed into a shopping center between a framing store and a newish restaurant. There's a casual vibe. I'm almost always older than the anyone working (I'm 37) and they're, for the most part, friendly and ready to talk about the products. One of the guys appears to have an endless supply of tiedyed t-shirts.

  They have THE best prices on wine - hands-down (I bought the wine for my wedding last year from them). They also have an amazing fancy cheese selection, as well as other fancy foodstuffs - European chocolates, etc.

  They have a decent beer selection. It's not big, but they've got some interesting stuff, beer you're certainly not going to find at Publix. But what I like best about Dorn's is their tastings: wine, liquor, cheese, and yay - beer!

  Last week they had a tasting with a theme in keeping with the July 4th holiday, "American Originals." Twelve American-brewed beers of varying styles and price points.

  The good: From New York, Brooklyn Brewery's East India Pale Ale. I don't normally like American-made pale ales as they're too damn hoppy for me. Anything that smells perfumey just isn't going to taste good - in my opinion, although millions of people apparently disagree with me. This was crisp and hoppy, but not too hoppy. Very refreshing; I'd drink this by the pool, or heck, on the couch. I made the mistake of thinking my husband would like it and bought him a bottle. What was I thinking? His favorite beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (Colorado), and the Brooklyn IPA just wasn't hoppy enough for him.

  Also good was Sprecher Brewery (Wisconsin) Black Barvarian. This is a German-style schwarzbier, or "black beer." While it's a dark color like a stout or porter, it's actually a lager, making it a lighter, smoother tasting beer. The Black Barvarian was smooth and surprisingly sweet, with a coffee flavor that wasn't bitter at all (as it can be in stouts/porters).

  The surprise: From the Virgin Islands, St. Johns Brewers' Tropical Mango Pale Ale. As fruity as it smelled, it wasn't overwhelmingly "mango". I learned from the brewers' web site that they use mango extract, because mango juice/fruit would be too strong. Names aside, this is closer to a fruity light lager than a fruity pale ale. If you turn your nose up at Budweiser et al, you won't like this. But it would be a great Florida summertime beer.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A July 4th memory and my first living beer

I know I'm a little late in this, but I was too busy having fun this weekend to blog.
In the summer of 2004, I travelled to London - my first trip to Europe (does that count? I know it's not "the Continent"). While the highlights were definitely the Roman baths, Westminster Abbey, and the British Museum, the travelling pleasures of England are not the point of this post. The point of this post is an Independence Day memory and "real" beer.
It was on this trip to London that I tasted what they called "live" beer. Unlike most beer, it doesn't get its fizziness from carbon dioxide, but from living yeasts. Live beer hasn't been pasteurized and filtered, so the yeasts that created the beer in the first place continue to live on (for a while). I was entranced by the idea. I mean, if you love beer, then you love fermentation, and by association--at least in my mind--the tiny little things that created such a magical beverage in the first place. 
This was ages before I would hear of "real ale" and CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). I just thought it was an amazing way to get back to the origins of what beer was supposed to be. Oh, and it was excellent, by the way. I don't have any tasting notes, but I do remember being pleased.
Disclosure: the photo accompanying this post was taken in the hotel bar, the Borough. Honestly, I'm pretty sure it isn't where I was served the live beer. (Amusingly, everyone who worked there was from somewhere else besides England - mainly Australia. Friendly people.) We did go on a pub walk, to more charming, aged bars, but I think I was afraid to take photos in such dignified places. And as I stretch my memory back, I do think it was another modern-looking bar where I had the live beer.
And what does this have to do with the holiday? We happened to be flying home on July 4th, and two things made that hideously long day memorable. First, on the plane with us was a group of school kids. Middle- or high-school. When they learned that we were a group of Americans on our way home, they were so pleased and excited to wish us a "Happy Independence Day"! It was touching; I'll never forget how friendly they were, and how pleasantly surprised we were at the fact. And then later, by the time we touched down in Orlando International Airport, it was dark, and we were treated to a view of fireworks on our drive home on the interstate, likely thanks to Walt Disney World. An appropriate homecoming.

It's never too late to give up your prejudices. --Henry David Thoreau, American author
Shameless self-promotion! Check out my blog: Scurrilous Tosh

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dumb Beer Laws

Did you know that craft beer above 5% ABW is illegal in Mississippi? Neither did I! What a shame - they're missing out on some great beer (like all those Belgium browns I've been swooning over).
And now, thanks to dumb beer laws, the people of Mississippi--and Alabama--are missing out on a chance to support a good cause.
Abita is putting out a "Save Our Shores" pilsner, with a portion of the proceeds going to efforts to fight the effects of the Gulf oil spill.
Cool, right?
But it's going out in 22 oz. bottles, making it illegal to sell in Alabama, and it's 7% alcohol, making it illegal in Mississippi.
So some of the very people who Abita hoped to help can't even buy the damn beer!  
The Mississippi Brew Blog has more on why SOS will be sold in 22 oz. bottles, and that's where I learned about that particular state's dumb beer law. And I learned about this farce first at Appellation Beer, a blog that if you're not already reading, you should be. It's written by Stan Hieronymus, journalist and dude who knows his beer.
(Abita is also selling S.O.S. gear, and 100% of profits from the sales of their magnets, t-shirts, and hats will go to the effort.)

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Beer

One of the great things about beer is that it's brewed in so many different styles - so many that there's easily a style for any moment. Hot weather in Florida is more than a moment, of course - it's half the year. So while I love my Guinness and spicy ales and holiday porters, once we get to May here, it's too damn hot for too much of that.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons I'm a staunch defender of lighter beers - even the frowned-up American light lager. When it's in the upper 90s (F) and the humidity is high enough to drown a midwesterner, frankly I'm THIRSTY. I am not going to be able to sip thoughtfully on my beer. And I don't think that means I should have to forego beer. A light lager, say, a Miller Lite, tastes damn fine at the end of the hot day.

 (Somewhere, a beer fairy just died. Quick, someone open a hefeweizen!) 

BUT. There are more flavorful beers that still tread lightly across the tongue. Sam Adams Summer Ale isn't my absolute favorite, but it is carried at my beloved Publix, meaning I didn't have to make a special stop just to have a beer with dinner last night. It's kind of spicy with a teensy bit of sourness; just wheaty, I guess. I used to only drink Tucher in the summer--that is, to be specific, Tucher Helles Hefe Weizen, which I think is the standard for wheat beers. It's a great beer, if you can get it on tap somewhere that pours a lot of it. I've found it in bars that don't sell too much of it, and it tasted "off." Of course, it's good bottled.

What I've been wanting to try is a beer shandy. From what I've read on the beer blogs (most of which are British, for some reason), it's half-lemon/lime soda and half-beer. I can't decide if that sounds refreshing or nasty, but I'm intrigued never the less. It wasn't so much the bloggers suggesting it as it was commenters responding to "What are you drinking this summer?" (Post on summer beer in the Guardian's "Word of Mouth" blog by Mark Dredge, who also writes the Pencil &Spoon beer blog)

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Belgian Browns (repost)

(My apologies, this is a repost. I'm not liking PicPosterous...)

My friend Tabby took me out a few weeks ago for my birthday. My choice, she said, so it had to be Stubbies & Steins, a tiny little beer pub with a massive selection. I have a bad habit of getting the same thing (the Belgian brown ale Nostradamus or Young's Double Chocolate Stout), but we decided it was time to broaden our horizons. This was Tabby's first beer of the session, a Belgian strong dark ale, Gulden Draak. Seriously strong, alcohol-wise, at 10.5% (only one of these at a time!), we both agreed it was excellent - almost a cognac-taste to it. Fruity, but not light. Sweet, but not too syrupy. I loved it, but it's definitely not something to drink by the pool on a Saturday afternoon in Florida June.

I failed to take a photo of my favorite beer of the evening - Gouden Carolus classic, also defined as a Belgian strong dark ale - although a weeny up against the Gulden Draak, with only 8.5%. I know it won't help my street cred, but my first reaction to this beer was "awesome!" Smooth and very malty - I love me some malt. Also sweet, probably sweet than Tabby's, but I still didn't think it was too sweet (maybe that's b/c I'm the kind of girl who drink chocolate stouts).

I never thought I had a favorite style of beer, or, if I did, it was stout, but I'm finding myself searching out more Belgian browns - recommendations appreciated! 



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Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Suggest-a-Blog Thursday!

Okay, I made that up*, but I do have a blog I'd like to suggest you peruse:

MWF Seeking BFF

That stands for "Married White Female Seeking Best Friend Forever," and it's by a lovely young woman named Rachel, who moved to Chicago with her husband, leaving best girlfriends behind:

"I have two lifelong BFFs, Sara and Callie, who I met when I was 10 and 14, at camp and high school respectively. I have seven super-close friends from college. I have dear pals from high school whose weddings I’d never miss and babies I’m dying to meet. There is no shortage of shoulders to cry on. Here’s the catch: I live in Chicago. Sara and Callie live in New York City. My Northwestern roommates live in Boston, San Francisco, New York, and St. Louis. The high schoolers are in D.C. and Manhattan. My closest friends are everywhere but here. "

Her blog is about the active effort to find "Miss Right" -- a real, true girlfriend. Not a coworker with whom you might do Happy Hour every once and a while, not the perfectly nice wife of your husband's friend, but a real girlfriend. Someone you could call up on Saturday morning and say, "Let's get a pedi!" Rachel not only shares research on friendship, but also her adventures in finding potential friends - through readings at book stores, casual conversations in line at the bank, and other funny (and sometimes awkward) experiences.

After dating Kyle "long distance" for three years, spending every spare social moment here in Gainesville, and then finally moving here two years ago, I finally feel like I have my own friends. Yes, I met them as girlfriends of Kyle's friends OR via a girlfriend of one of Kyle's friends, but I finally feel like I can meet up with them without Kyle or their boyfriend/husbands; I even (sometimes) have plans of my own that have nothing to do with Kyle.

Not that I don't love spending time with my husband, or spending time with him and "our" friends, but I think it's important, nay, crucial to a marriage that a sense of individuality be maintained. I don't think it's fair to expect Kyle to be everything to me: husband, lover, friend, sole freaking source of entertainment. I think that's quite a burden. And if you lose your individual personality, you lose some of that person that your spouse fell in love with in the first place.

So I know how Rachel feels, moving away from your girlfriends and feeling that void. And she's a hell of a lot more proactive about finding friends than I was; I'm enjoying her adventures and her writing. Even if you feel like you've got all the friends you'll ever need, I think you might enjoy her blog as well -- it's really about that very important thing: adult female friendships.

(*If I thought I could do anything on a weekly basis, I would suggest a blog on Thursday, though...)

Photo time! Our first gerbera daisies of the year:

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Thing of Beauty, and It's About Beer!

Through the magic of blogging, I came across the most beautiful poster for a beer festival ever:

It's for the Copenhagen Beer Festival 2010 (here's a link to their web site, but it's in ... Swedish?). The fine fellow who writes A Good Beer Blog received a few of these lovely things from yet another beer blogger, Knut Albert, who posted about the festival on his blog (named, aptly "Knut Albert's Beer Blog").

There's not a chance in hell I'll be making it to Denmark this . . . May (I think that's May), but I love the poster. Simple, clean lines, beautiful beery color - very Art Deco. How pretty would this look framed and hanging? Would you think me a poser for having it up in my living room if you knew I hadn't gone?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Breathe deeply, forget those jerks

Listening to the radio this morning, I got so angry that I was shouting and swearing. NPR was reporting on Newt Gingrich talking at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this week. Gingrich, besides calling the current administration "the most radical administration in U.S. history," also made some comparison between the Republican party and its imagined rivals. The phrase that got me yelling was, "The Republican party was founded on the work ethic, not the redistribution ethic" (cue applause from audience).

What, exactly, I yelled cannot be printed, not even in "Scurrilous Tosh." Let's just say it would have looked like this:


Something like that.

I get so mad at this rabble-rousing bullshit. I have been working since high school. I've been a (bad) waitress, a secretary, a counter girl at a fasteners store (bolts and screws); I've sold soft serve ice, shoes, Girl Scout cookies; I've been a bank teller, a PR lackey, a low-level press release writer. I've promoted the openings of baby hospitals, I've called strangers to ask them how they feel about particular names of HMO plans. I've been a secret shopper, I've sold high-end bar stools, I've even stood for eight hours at a time, extolling the virtues of space-age material in pool cues.

I've worked. All my damn life. AND I'M A DEMOCRAT! And because I don't have an inheritance coming, nor a family business to take over, I will probably work for the rest of my damn life. AND I'LL STILL BE A DEMOCRAT! How dare you! RWARRR!!!!

I could go on and on (and get into some flame-throwing match with a total stranger, most likely), but I won't. My point is, I was fired up. I'm serious: SCREAMING out loud, in my car, in the office parking lot. At a RADIO. At people who I've never met, and hope not to.

And then I opened my car door.

And the orange blossoms saved me. And my coworkers (from having to deal with a sullen brat).

There are few things as lovely as the scent of orange blossoms washing over you in the morning breeze. I was standing downwind from the university citrus orchards, and the trees have just started blooming in the last few days.

Even now, writing about it, the fragrance washes the angry right out of me. This is why nature is important. It's simpler, and yet bigger, than petty politics. Newt Gingrich doesn't know me. That cheering mob doesn't care about orange blossoms. But the scent of flowers was right there, all around me.

And it's comforting to know that this swirling, nostalgic perfume exists regardless of me, of leadership conferences, of radio broadcasts. Regardless of politics, presidents, parties. The smell of orange blossoms simply IS. It does not need me, but damn if I don't get so much out of it.

I think I'm going to take a break from this computer and go for a walk. Perhaps it sounds silly to you, but I suggest you do the same, while things are growing and blooming. Preferably in the morning, but you know, whenever. I wouldn't be surprised if there's something poisonous curled up in your mind, be it a fight with your spouse or something depressing you read about in the news. But I bet there's something lovely in the air that might wash it away.

At least for a little while.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hallelujah - It's Spring!

I realize that anyone who lives north of Florida would smack me for this, but seriously - it was an unusually cold winter. No, really! Especially for us native Floridians. We're like strawberries - we can handle a freakishly cold day here and there, but successive cold days might actually kill us.

So it's with a glad and humble heart that I welcome spring. It's been in the 70s for several days, the sky a lovely blue today, and the sun is shining. Best of all, my back yard is once again showing signs of life.

I've misplaced my camera, so I haven't taken as many photographs as I would like to; the iPhone camera has several limitations, most importantly (at least when you're talking tiny green buds), it doesn't have a close-up view.

But I did add two new and neat apps to the iPhone last night: Hipstamatic, which allows you to take photos that look aged, plus other cool effects, and TiltShiftGenerator, which also allows you to fiddle with color saturation, focus, and other photo effects. Both say that the app gives your photos a "toy camera look" - but I have no idea what that means.

Anyway, the azalea bush in the back is going crazy:

Photo taken with the Hipstamatic (John S lens, Kodot Verichrome film, standard flash)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tiki, babies, and other awesome things I must leave the house in order to appreciate

First, did I mention I'm walking for babies THIS SATURDAY? And that I haven't made my lame fundraising goal? Hmm?

Secondly, and weirder, a tiki art show!

The Hukilau (warning: great site, but starts off with music - the player is at the bottom left of the page) is an annual event celebrating Hawaiian and Polynesian Pop culture while honoring the historic Tiki bar, the Mai Kai, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I've been whining about going for several years now, but can't get anyone to go with me, and this little lady doesn't go running around South Florida alone.

ANYWAY, the Hukilau is sponsoring an art show at the Bold Hype gallery in Orlando, beginning April 17 through May 8. Now, Orlando - not as far away as Ft. Lauderdale, AND the show is free. There will a ton of great art from contemporary artists, such as one of my favorites, Shag, and more. The opening night is going to have fun events, as well! Says the gallery owner:

"It's going to be a really fun night, with a tiki bar, music, food, and tons of tiki art. Scott Scheidly will have a new limited edition tiki mug, which will be for sale, and one lucky winner will receive it free, by wearing hawaiian shirt/dress you are automatically entered into the raffle. Opening night, Saturday April 17th, will go from 8 to midnight. The artwork will be up for a month after that. There is no fee to get in at any point."

Doesn't that sound like fun? Don't you want to go?

And don't forget the Hukilau itself - this is a tiki-must!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Help me reach my goal - sponsor me at March for Babies!

Were you thinking about giving a little bit to March of Dimes this year? If so, why not do so via me? Every little bit counts!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thumbs Up for Roger Ebert

"I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."

-- Roger Ebert

An excellent article on Roger Ebert in "Esquire" magazine. Film critic extraordinaire, Ebert is still battling the cancer that took his lower jaw. He hasn't spoken a word in nearly four years, but writer Chris Jones brings the man into full focus.

Read more:

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Look Back, with Fondness: 2009

As I was trying to catch up on my favorite blogs, I stumbled across a December post from an excellent one, Pilgrim Steps, about a year-end meme. And while, yes, it is February, I decided to look back on the fabulous year that was 2009.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Got married! Went to California and Yosemite National Park!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't think I made any for 2009. I did make one for this year - to get to work earlier - and I'm not doing so hot.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not any of my closest friends - they all did in 2008 and back. Some got pregnant in 2009, though.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank goodness. But people that I care about lost loved ones.

5. What countries did you visit?
Just the United States.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Two working showers in the house.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
5/09/09 - my wedding day.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Training our puppy Murphy to be the lovely dog that she's becoming.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I didn't exercise at all - seriously.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing worth writing about.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our wedding (of course, I didn't purchase it alone, but it was definitely money well spent).

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Murphy's - such a good girl.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
People who kill children. I don't think I will ever comprehend.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The wedding!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My honeymoon!

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
"Swing," by Savage. For some reason it became my and Kyle's theme song. (Ignoring the actual lyrical content, of course)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

  1. Just as happy

  2. Fatter, most likely.

  3. Poorer, but not in spirit.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Tossing and turning in bed.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With family: Kyle's first, then driving to Palatka and spending time with my parents, my brother and his wife, and my husband. :)

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes, again and again.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
"No Reservations" with Anthony Bourdain.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

24. What was the best book you read?
I can't remember reading a "best" book.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I didn't really have one.

26. What did you want and get?
A meaningful, lovely wedding and honeymoon.

27. What did you want and not get?

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 36 and frankly, I don't remember what I did. It came after the wedding and the honeymoon, so probably nothing too exciting.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I had made it to Maine.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
A little too casual.

32. What kept you sane?
Kyle, cooking, an awareness of how lucky I am.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Health care.

35. Who did you miss?
My Nana Knight.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I'm not sure I met anyone new in 2009.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
That the only thing good about missing someone is that it brings the realization of how deeply you loved that person and how much they loved you.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Every long, lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true:
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two Hairy Situations

It was late Sunday morning and I was enjoying lunch in the den with a last cup of coffee. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm, so Kyle was outside working in the yard.

I had just turned my laptop on when Kyle came in. He went into the living room and came back.

Calmly, he asked, "Have you been sitting there for a while?"

"Yeah, actually, I have. Why?"

"Come see what Murphy did in the living room."

Oh God. I figured she must have peed on the "dog couch" in there again (marking it? Who knows), but as I turned the corner into the front room, I saw a brand-new type of naughtiness:

She had uprooted Kyle's six-foot corn plant from its pot in front of the window, and dragged the entire plant--with most of its soil, apparently--onto the couch. That dark spot on the cushions isn't a shadow--that's dirt.

As we stood there, staring silently, Murphy wandered in. She had this look on her face, like, "Heeeey . . . so, you noticed the plant, huh?"

Stonefaced, Kyle said, "I'm not dealing with this right now," and walked out of the house.

Which was probably for the best, anyway. I yelled at the dog for a while, in the hopes that the yelling would communicate this was not considered appropriate behaviour. She wisely retreated to the back yard to think about her actions.

After thirty minutes or so of sweeping, scooping, replanting, and vacuuming, everthing looked pretty much the same. (Here I insert a shout-out to our "Gardening in a Minute" Flickr photo set, Repotting Indoor Plants) Of course, the plant is now leaning a little, and the pothos plant that was growing at the base of it is much, much smaller. I did take a few pieces of the pothos and put them in water; hopefully they'll root. And while the couch cushions are not clean, exactly--they're clean enough for the dog, anyway.

There are two lingering mysteries: one, why now? That plant had been sitting in that same exact spot for a few weeks. And two, how did I not hear her knock it over? I didn't have the television on or anything. Weird.


I promised a photo of Kyle in his beard, and I got one just in time--he plans to shave it off when he returns this weekend from his trip down to Polk County (he's helping our friend Greg with a BBQ competition).

I took it with my iPhone last night at Hooters trivia:

He grew that in a week. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy New Year! Now, what to change?

So even though I now have a computer at home, I still didn't blog over the holidays. Frankly, I feel more isolated at work than at home. Perhaps I need a home office. It's hard to put your thoughts down when you're sitting on the couch being pestered by the dog ("Throw the ball! Throw the ball!") and have your lovely husband peering over your shoulder ("Why are you on the computer? Watch tv with meeeeee!").

The holidays were wonderful, and I got an iPhone for Christmas! A 3Gs. When I opened the box, I danced around like a child. Being addicted to Facebook, Twitter, and text-messaging is even easier now! My first apps to download:

TweetDeck (for Twitter)
PS Mobile (by PhotoShop)
Bejeweled 2
NYT Mobile (New York Times)
myWireless (AT&T)
Peggle (game)
Epicurious (recipes galore!)
Sextuple Lite (word game)
NPR News

I looooove it. Kyle actually sacrificed his own phone upgrade in order to buy it for me - isn't he a peach?

Speaking of Kyle, he's growing a beard. It took all of nine days to get full. I'll have to take a photo soon; he's tiring of it.

I actually made a new year's resolution this year - get to the office earlier. I had been going in (and leaving) late, to spend more time with the puppy, but now that she's 8 months, I need to stop using her as an excuse. I've actually done pretty well! Of course, it's only been a little over a week, but still, it's progress.

The new year has also prompted some sartorial introspection. I'd like to expand my wardrobe, to inject a little style into it. In thinking about style, I realize - I have no personal style! I mean, does an endless parade of jeans and solid-color tops count as a style? I think not.

But even when I try and imagine what my "style" would be, I come up short. Don't get me wrong - I know what cut looks good on my frame: boot cut jeans to minimize my thighs and butt and lengthen the leg, fabric that lays flat on my torso to emphasize what little bust I have and show off my (relatively) flat stomach. I like certain colors - red, orange, brown, teal, turquoise. But when it comes to details, I'm lost.

Of course, if a personal style can be defined as "a distinctive quality," I probably have one. I'm sure most of my friends could guess what I'm wearing right now and be very close to correct. I'm so consistent in what I like that one friend even can point out "Jen shoes."

And I don't want to change who I am - I'm not looking to make myself over. But I do need to go shopping (an activity I happen to loathe), and I'd like to add a little kick to wardrobe.

One friend has suggested scarves as being versatile and budget-conscious. Do you have any suggestions?