Friday, December 30, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 3

Beer #3 on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond” List happens to coincide with our recent getaway to the New River. (I plan to post about the trip later)

So beer# 3 is in honor of our trip and the fantastic cabin we disappeared to for a couple of days, and maybe a bit of wishful thinking for the white stuff as well.
Cabin Fever
Brown Ale
6% ABV
Dark brown in color with a foamy caramel colored head, aroma of malts and roasted oats,  more roasted flavor with a hint of chocolate and some sweetness to counter the mild bitterness, balanced for a brown ale, and quite drinkable.   
Last winter we picked up some of New Holland’s Cabin Fever prior to one of the “major” snow storms that Virginia experienced.
As it turns out we were holed up at home for several days and the Cabin Fever came in quite handy, if not a bit ironic, so it comes as no surprise that this brown ale made its way onto my list at #3 while we were “stuck” in a cabin over the last few days…
I paired the Cabin Fever with hamburger sliders & shrimp skewers that we grilled on our Weber "Q" travel grill on the deck of the cabin as the New River danced in the distant darkness.
Perfect combination 

 Stephen   

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 4

Beer #4 on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond” List accompanied Christmas dinner.

It just so happens that this was the “4th” year we have hosted Christmas dinner at the house.
For the last 4 years we prepared a relatively formal dinner for the family, but we have always felt like we were missing the mark, as if our vision for the holiday wasn’t being fully realized.
Things always seemed rushed at best and we simply couldn’t wrap our minds around the issue at hand.
This year we decided to scrap the formal “traditional” style sit down dinner for heavy hors d’oeuvres and a  casual “come as you are” vibe through-out the day.
It worked, dinner was a hit, and everyone seemed relaxed, in the moment, and satisfied to be with family.
Finally…
So to try and pair beer #4 with a specific food would be an exercise in futility, so think of it as an addition to the eclectic yet scrumptious menu.
The feast included the following homemades;  
-          Seared- smoked then slow cooked venison BBQ sliders

-          Mini- Crab cakes with tartar sauce

-          Grilled Prosciutto wrapped asparagus

-          Herbed goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers  

-          Mini-Shrimp stuffed mushroom caps

-          Bacon wrapped- BBQ shrimp

-          Tortellini & mozzarella skewers

-          Grilled potato skins

-          Two types of roasted pork tenderloin (Thanks to Sarah)



The beginning of the seared & smoked Venison BBQ before it went into the crock pot 
In at #4;

Shiner Holiday Cheer

Fruit Beer/ Dunkelweizen
Spoetzl Brewery/ (Gambrinus Company)
5.4% ABV
Light brown in color, fruity in aroma, taste of peaches with malt and spices.  Mellow but you definitely get the fruit and wheat.  

Stephen

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 5

Beer #5  on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond”  List comes from the United Kingdom, and a brewery that I certainly haven’t heard of, so it should come as no surprise that #5 made it to the list on its “cheeky” name alone.

Stout   
Ridgeway Brewery, United Kingdom / (Imported by Shelton Brothers)
8% ABV

Lump of Coal Stout’s label reads;
Looking forward to a depressing holiday? Here is liquid consolation. This 8% bittersweet chocolate stout is the best you could hope for in these dark times. Actually, come to think of it, considering how bad you’ve been, this little coal-black gem is more than you deserve for Christmas this year.
Depressing huh? Or maybe they are realist over there in the UK…
(Got to love that English sarcasm)
I was kind of concerned that Lump of Coal was going to be more gimmicky than anything else, but my fears were put to rest as I poured the beer.
The stout was black in color with little to no head which was caramel colored, with an aroma of coffee, dark chocolate and roasted malts.
I tasted some coffee bean, a hint of licorice, malty with a bit of balanced sweetness to bitter ratio.
Beer #5 was quite “even keel” for a Stout, smooth & drinkable, not the strongest stout on the market but good none the less.
I didn’t pair this one with food as I typically drink stouts without accompaniments.

Stephen

Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 6

Beer #6

Its basic math, there is one full day before Christmas and I am on #6 of my “12 Beers of Christmas” List, so I have two choices.

A.      I can attempt to drink 5 more beers and post about them before Christmas day (could wind up bad)

B.       The list can continue past Christmas and end on New Years instead, which I am more inclined to do as I don’t want to rush any parings.
Just so you know that I wasn’t intentionally being lazy with my beer list, my internet provider and their revolutionary 4G service crashed for two days this week leaving me “internet-less”, rest assured that I continued to drink beer, but posting from out here in the country was not happening…
As it goes #6 was supposed to coincide with December 22 & the “Winter Solstice” for which the beer is named.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville California
6.9% ABV
Herb/Spice/ Vegetable style Ale
Gorgeous copper is color, malty aroma, and doughy taste with a hint of spice and mellow honey or maybe even brown sugar.
This beer is delicious seriously, I love that sweetness in the finish, it has sky rocketed to my top 10 list of favorite beers.
It’s one of those ales that I could envision would fuel the adventurer’s spirit to sail around the globe in search of this tasty brew, no really, like Spanish conquistadors & roving pirates off Cape Horn. “I’m just saying” 
Also try their Amber Ale which is on par and just as delicious, great beer, no BS.   
Paired with homemade cranberry walnut bread made with Grand Marnier, fabulous…



Stephen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 7

Beer #7 hails from Brooklyn New York. If for whatever reason your southern sensibility can’t comprehend a craft brew coming from New York City, put your preconceived notions on the shelf, because these guys make great stuff.

For example, if you are really into Stouts you should absolutely try Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout which in my humble opinion sets the bar high for Imperial Stouts.
That being said, #7 on my holiday list is Brooklyn’s Winter Ale.

Scottish Style Ale
Brooklyn Brewery….Uh, Brooklyn…
6.0% ABV
Pours amber to copper in color, very balanced and drinkable, caramel aroma with relatively light “hoppyness”, taste of low key sweetness and malts, definitely more malty that hop feel, very “even keel” tasting Scottish Ale that doesn’t get lost in translation should you have more than one.
We paired it with a grilled shrimp salad which may have been a bit “under gunned” as far as being too light but it worked out fine.  Brooklyn recommends heartier winter fare of stews pork & duck.
I would definitely have a six pack of these sitting around on deck.

Stephen       

Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 8

Beer #8 on my “12 Beers of Christmas” list comes from a brewery that makes one of my all time favorite brews in their Hazel Nut Brown Nectar, I absolutely love that beer, but Rouge Ales aren’t always the cheapest of craft beers and as much as I hate to admit it I don’t always want to drop 11 or 12 bucks on a 6 pack. That being said, Rouge’s American Amber Ale & Mocha Porter can be found in my beer cabinet on a semi regular basis.



Red (Amber) Ale
Rogue Ales, Newport Oregon
6% ABV
Santa’s Private reserve is dark amber in color with a strong floral aroma, crisp presentation & HUGE hop taste, certainly not for the faint of heart, (as Santa can certainly attest to)…  
While Rogue suggest serving the ale with beef or pork, I opted to sample this brew all by its lonesome, as I feel that really hoppy brews can sometimes overpower food and are better enjoyed alone.
I may or may not have a few Rouge pint glasses and a T-shirt from the company, (I’m brand loyal like that).  
So should you find yourself on the island of misfit toys, Santa’s Special Reserve may help you along the way.

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas, Number 9

New Belgium Snow Day

 Every time I say “number 9” I think of that trippy Beatles song…
Beer #9 on my “12 Beers of Christmas” list is from a Brewery who until recently wasn’t even available in the “Old Dominion”, so I was stoked to see New Belgium beers on the shelves of our local beer purveyors.
Not to mention that I have yet to sample a beer from New Belgium’s quiver that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.

New Belgium Snow Day
IPA (Back)
New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins CO
 6.2% ABV

Dark copper to red color, Hints of pine and grass in aroma, mellow hoppy flavor with some nuttiness but not like a bold IPA, looks heavy but very crisp and easy to drink.
Paired with Grilled chicken & sweet potato salad mixed with red & white onions, peperoncinis, tomatoes, carrots & goat cheese
New Belgium Snow Day makes the 12 Beers of Christmas list because it reminds me that at this very same time last year I was freezing my arse off during a 2 week school at Fort Pickett where it was so cold that we literally stuck to the ground during one iteration and were plagued by sudden winter storms that would blow in and shut the entire base down with 14 degree temps.
In contrast to this yuletide season where “balmy” 50 to 60 degree temps make me long for a little of the white stuff to accent the holidays, but then sitting back on my deck sampling seasonal brews & staring at the stars isn't a bad gig either...
Enjoy!
            

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Winter Sun’s Reign

Did you get an opportunity to see the sunset this evening?


The sun set fire to the horizon as it bowed below the western sky.

And it was amazing…

Side note: I realize the picture quality is not what it should be; I was snapping photos with the cell phone as I made my way home along country roads.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 10

Lagunitas “sucks” Holiday Ale, “Brown Shugga’ Substitute”

Beer #10 on my “12 Beers of Christmas” list coincides with the celebration of a milestone birthday for my wife,

Check out the rest of the story here; "A Well Spiced Life"

It also didn’t hurt that my father had just returned from a successful fishing outing on the bay and hooked us up with several beautiful rockfish steaks.    
So my gift to Ash was a candlelit rockfish dinner for two…
I looked at my plethora of holiday brews that are waiting in the pantry, and picked the ale with the incredibly long name to have with dinner…

American Strong Ale, (akin to IPAs)
Petaluma, California
7.6 % ABV
A deep golden color, aromas of citrus with a slight alcohol flavor and hints of honey
Paired with fresh caught Chesapeake Bay Rockfish (by my dad) in several iterations
-          Grilled eggplant medallions toped with parmesan cheese and Balsamic reduction

-          Maryland rockfish & seafood soup

-          Grilled rockfish steaks over Israeli cous cous tossed with green peppers, red onions & mushrooms


The Lagunitas Holiday Ale was PHENOMENAL, one of the best beers I have had, I love a beer that has sweet undertones, and this beer did not disappoint, I can’t say enough about the flavor of this beer and while I don’t do it justice in my description it is truly delicious…but dangerous, the 7.6 %ABV can hurt you because of it’s incredible drinkability.

"It also doesn't hurt that Lagunitas adorns their label with a Pitbull that resembles our beloved Blitzy". 
98% score on Ratebeer, (it’s that good)

12 Beers of Christmas, Number 11

Bells Christmas Ale

 Scotch Ale

5.5 % ABV
Amber in color, very drinkable for a scotch ale, subdued flavors with a hint of toffee and slight citrus aroma
Paired with marinated grilled chicken, asparagus spears & grilled steak fries with Sriracha BB-Q sauce
Bells brewery has some fantastic beers, their Ambers, Stouts, and Porters are by in large some of my favorite and most frequently purchased beers so their Christmas Ale was an obvious choice for me.
That being said, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the brewery that makes “Two Hearted Ale” which has incredible flavor and aroma, so I was surprised by just how drinkable and mellow their Christmas Ale is.
Great option if you want to drink several to toast the holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas

With all of the incredible seasonal craft beers available during the holidays I thought it would be cool to showcase 12 different offerings that embrace the spirit of the Christmas season.

For the sake of continuity each “beer find” for my holiday dozen will contain the following information;

-The Beer name and type
 -The Brewery & its location
-Alcohol content
-The beer’s basic taste and complexity
-What food I opted to pair with the beer (If any)
- Why I chose the particular beer to be one of the “12 Beers of Christmas”
Beer Number 12
To kick off the festivities I give you Beer #12 on my holiday list.
10° Below Ale, Imperial dunkelweiss
ScuttleButt Brewing Company, Everett Washington
7.4% alcohol by volume
A medium volume ale very dark copper in color with a sweet aroma and hints of citrus with a  strong chocolate finish
Paired with grilled pork chops & portabella mushrooms in creamed spinach 
 10° Below Ale made the “12 beers of Christmas” list because I have had other Scuttlebutt beers and  really liked them.
Besides the bottle has a Polar Beer wearing a scarf, you can’t get much more Holiday than that.

     

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hail to the Winter Grill

The temperature drops, and the evening hours become crisp and clear, I don my down jacket for my favorite season of grilling out.   


In the distance roving bands of hounds chase their barks through the night air. 

The grill sizzles and pops as the unmistakable aroma of seared sustenance waifs through the country air. 

 Hail to the winter grill. 

Grilled Salmon fillet with green apple & horseradish garnish
Grilled Mussels with garlic, sundried tomatoes, onions & olives
Seasonal Ales complete the composition; biding my time with sips of spice and malt during the minutes of grilling magic. 

This is Living


New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale
A 94 user rated score on "Rate beer".
Malty, chocolate, but really smooth to drink  





   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fowl Play

A Thanksgiving parable

Every year around this time we start looking forward to the holiday season;

Family, food, and great craft beer…
Err, I added the craft beer part but then I’m sure the Native Americans & settlers had their own elixirs in their time of thanks as well, but I digress.
I was ultra-excited about the prospect of a four day holiday break which included time spent with the family, the aforementioned food, and a forecast of absolutely gorgeous fall weather.
What could be better?
Then it happened… *sniffle*…*cough*…*sniffle*…
And on the day before the Thanksgiving festivities I found myself at Patient First mingling with dozens of sickly folks.
For 3 Hours…
When it was all said and done I had 3 new prescriptions and was laid out in the bed until turkey time arrived.


But Murphy’s Law wasn’t done shaking his bare ass at our family holiday just yet…
This may sound exaggerated, but Thursday’s kitchen scene went something like this;
The Kitchen Aid mixer was a gift, an appliance of considerable stature and one in which Ash uses with great fervor to concoct culinary delights.
So you can imagine my dismay as Ash quipped that “it had stopped working” just as the motor began to make a “clackity” sound and refused to mix her homemade potato rolls.
As my compromised immune system tried to process this impending food folly another kitchen calamity began to unfold as the sink which houses the “insinkerator” waste disposal began to back up with a gurgling sound.
I took immediate action and flipped the switch to pulverize the food bits I had assumed were creating the back-up.
BRRRR!!!!!
The disposal jumped to life spitting water out of the sink like one of those crazy red neck jet boats.
“Is it supposed to do that”? I said aloud knowing damn good and well that it wasn’t.
Within seconds I began to feel the sickening surge of water splashing onto my feet from under the counter.
What the hell?
“Ash… what did you put down the disposal”?

“Oh, nothing”….
“Ash”?
“Oh, just some potato peels”
“Damn it women!!!”
Within minutes I was soaking wet and under the sink unscrewing plumbing work to locate what will forever be known as the “Thanksgiving day potato plug”.

Potato Plug Aftermath
Once the 6 inch potato plug was removed the water flowed freely and we were back in business.
That was the extent of my kitchen contributions.
Ash would carry the weight of hosting the feast at our home, but after several years of marriage she has developed broad shoulders and is a master of her cooking domain.

21 Pounds of Turkey deliciousness
With help from every member of the attending Thanksgiving family, she aced the dinner without back-up from her dude, (sans the plumbing) who was walking around dazed with cotton balls in his ears.

Bounty
While I will admit that there are advantages to an ear infection that limits your ability to hear at family functions, it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation when everyone sounds like the grown- ups in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
And with food being the center piece of this particular holiday gathering, you can imagine my disappointment of having little to no sense of taste or smell.
Looks like those craft brews would have to wait…or maybe just one.
Thanksgiving was exactly as it should be, spent with family and giving thanks.


In the mist of the swirl of Thanksgiving preparation Ash had also found time to plot a backpacking trip to Shenandoah National Forest.
We would leave Friday morning, and return late Saturday, and we were both really excited about getting back into the woods.
But this was not to be as I am still fighting a major sinus infection as I type, with my equilibrium being a bit catawampus.
Ash never complained, not a word, she was content to hang out at home, and take care of her infirmed Boo.
And as I still struggle with losing a perfect weekend, she continues to counter with “let it go, there will be other weekends".
Sunday morning, the sun is out, it’s beautiful in the country, and I have spent quality time with my wife & family…
Being sick sucks, but there are always worse ills to be had, being thankful is what matters in both sickness & in health. 
Stephen

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Salomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boots

First Look;

I have been in the market for a new backpacking boot for a while. 

I currently wear my LOWA Tibet GTX boots on our backpacking excursions & they are phenomenal, but they are also the quintessential heavy load bearing full leather upper backpacking boot. They are no-nonsense task specific boots and are quite heavy to don for a day hike or a trip to the market. 

Prior to the LOWAS I had a pair of Asolo Fugitive GTX’s when we first started backpacking and I had no complaints about those either, they were great boots.  

An unfortunate lack of knowledge at the time saw me shrink my Asolos by a back country campfire and I have wanted a similar weight/style backpacking/hiking boot ever since. 

Earlier in 2011 I purchased a pair of Solomon XA Pro 3D Ultras for trail running after an extended hiatus from the company’s shoes.  

For years after owning an original pair of the Solomon XA Comp trail runners I found that the arch support on their shoes were too defined, and while I loved the foot wear, the arch support made it impossible for me to wear the shoes.  

During the rehab for my ankle surgery the Physical Therapist also determined that my arch had fallen, he devised a strengthening regimen that would ultimately allow me to “re-discover” Solomon’s line of shoes. 

Since that time the XA Pros have been on par with my INOV-8s as my favorite pair of shoes.

Because of the incredibly comfortable fit of their trail runners I started exploring Solomon’s line of hiking/backpacking boots.  

My requirements were as follows;

 -Light Weight

-Good ankle support

- Low Profile (read subdued colors without reflective material)

-Waterproof upper

-A tacky, softer sole than my Asolos 

The Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots fit the profile and when I found the boots at REI in an olive color I was sold. (I haven’t seen these boots in this color combination anywhere else).


The boots seem to be well made with an attention to details and no identifiable defects in the workmanship. 
They have the easily identifiable Salomon toe cap with the raised rubber lip, a feature that took some getting used to with the trail runners. 


The boots lace up with traditional laces as opposed to the snazzy Salomon “quicklace” system found on their XA-Pros, which may be a selling point for some.
I haven’t had them long enough to make an absolute decision on their longevity, but in a matter of 2 weeks time I have worn them for extended periods outdoors in multiple positions and on short runs with 2 days seeing significant rainfall in terrain of  mostly grass and dirt .

So far the Quest 4Ds have been amazing with zero hotspots, great traction, and light wear- ability.


I plan to revisit them on a later post to review their overall durability with an overnight backpacking trip in the works soon.  
__________________________________________
Solomon Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boots 
Olive/ Dark Olive/Black
$220.00 at rei.com

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Twilight

I try to take the camera with me as much as possible. 

That being said, my rides, runs and physically oriented activities are just that; a way to stay in shape as a way to beat age off with a stick, and as a way for me to release any pent up anger, anxiety, or other rogue emotion that may surface during the course of a week. 

So when I ride, as with anyone who rides or runs, I develop a flow which I have spoken about in past posts.  

This “flow” is almost indefinable but can be described as a feeling of everything making sense, working together, and being in sync.

A camera can capture amazing things, and anyone who wanders through the woods knows the incredible sights that you can stumble upon.


As such these two disciplines collide because when you’re in that sweet spot, that moment of physical exertion that washes away the day it is quite difficult to stop and take a picture. 


So when I have a “Wow” moment on the trail I’m conflicted with being in that moment, or trying to capture it on film, which is a large part if not the entire point of this blog and more importantly the memories that drive it.

So the struggle continues, while in the meantime the leaves change color, the sky grows darker more quickly, and the air develops a certain “nip” that you can only experience 

in the moment…

Caught in a moment of twilight on the trail 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saves the Day…

After spending the afternoon with thousands of like minded folks at the “Urbana Oyster Festival” I realized that sometimes the only positive affirmation I need is for me and Ash to step out of our front door and into the night air, a glass of red wine in hand, surrounded by the wildness of a cold country night as it echoes under a brilliant sky.  

Happiness in fact resides there.   

So is it any wonder that during these times of “clarity” one tends to think "deep" thoughts?

The backdrop of this weekend set the stage.
 
So where does all of the daylight that’s been saved go? 

Is there a daylight savings repository?  

Can I use my daylight savings to purchase hours against the darkness?  

Does darkness preclude fitness?  

Why is darkness so entwined with fear? 

Is it for the same reasons that people are convinced that there is a “bogyman” that resides in the backcountry? 

The backcountry bogyman… 

Yes, I am quite aware that guys like me don’t invent things like light bulbs…

Gearing up for the season of the glow worm, cold starts and dark finishes, like a strong Imperial Stout…

Perfect...

Stephen 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Osprey “Viper 10” hydration pack-Gear Test & Review

I am a rabid fan of Osprey packs as their Aether 70 has become my tried & true backpacking pack.

It was because of this fact that I chose Osprey’s mountain bike geared “Viper 10” over other comparable packs in the same class.

The Osprey Viper was a replacement pack for a well worn Camelbak “Mule” that I have had for years and was in desperate need of replacement.
The Viper 10 comes well appointed for a smaller pack with multiple tool specific pockets, and the obligatory key keeper.
Inside with view of pockets
Osprey also incorporated a “helmet clip” where the rider can secure their helmet to the pack, a feature that I have as of yet found a reason to use.
The shoulder straps (which seem a bit narrow to me) were well thought out with an added pocket for gels or an MP-3 player.
The Viper comes with a slender stomach strap as well.
Osprey incorporated a small magnet in the bite valve for the hydration bladder which attaches to another magnet located on the pack’s chest strap, this idea works really well when I secure the valve one handed while riding.  
Bite valve & chest strap with magnets
The Viper-10 comes with a 100 oz Nalgene brand reservoir that is contour molded to the wearer’s back.

The reservoir is both easy to fill, and very well made, I would say it’s one of the most thoughtfully designed hydration bladders I have used.
The Nalgene bladder slides into the back of the Viper almost effortlessly due to a Velcro style tab on the back of the pack, with ample opening room for the bladder.
That being said, the tab is positioned in such a way that its rubs my back no matter how I secure the straps or redistribute the pack weight.
This “hot spot” doesn’t make the pack un-wearable, but its irritating rub is enough to annoy even on short jaunts.
The Offending Velcro-like tab
Again I love Osprey packs, but you cannot have a hot spot in such a critical area, and I have yet to figure out a way to defeat how uncomfortable it can be.
Another minor gripe is that the stitching at one end of the carry loop has pulled out, an uncharacteristic flaw from a company that typically makes bomb proof packs.   

With the exception of the listed shortcomings, the Osprey Viper-10 is a well balanced pack which has proven to be the perfect size for accommodating the necessary gear for single day trail outings from runs to rides, (multi day treks would probably warrant a larger pack for supplies).
I am able to get a Garmin GPS, bike pump, tube, wallet, phone, and Canon G-11 Camera stuffed into the Viper-10 with little coaxing.
I am having a hard time getting past the issue with the Velcro style tab that rubs me the wrong way, and as such I’m trying several different options to make sure that it’s something that I’m not doing wrong when I don the pack.

Osprey backs all of their gear with a 100% “All Mighty guarantee which I may entertain if I can’t resolve the tab issue on my own.  

Stephen


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Autumn...

October gave a party; the leaves by hundreds came-The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples, and leaves of every name. The Sunshine spread a carpet, and everything was grand, Miss Weather led the dancing, Professor Wind the band.  

                                                                                                                           ~George Cooper

As the days grow shorter and the air begins to chill; we climb obscured paths up ever changing hills
 

Of trails cloaked by thoughts; in hues of crimson, rust and gold, summer’s fleeting warmth yields to an impending winter’s cold.

 The seasons change with authority, in splendor they prevail, just beyond the mountain’s mist under autumn’s starry veil.    
      
~October rides require post-ride seasonal libations~ 
A "true to form" Oktoberfest brew; 
Munich Germany's own  
Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen
Brought to you by Wine & Beer Westpark, craft beer and wines without the pretentiousness 

Friday, September 9, 2011

10 Years Later, like it was yesterday

It’s just 2 days shy of 10 years ago when I walked into my matchbox apartment above an engineering firm on a downtown street.

Looking back now, I would have questioned your sanity if you had tried to tell me that later in life I would end up married and living a quiet life in the country… (Or at least a semi-quiet life)
10 years later.
10 years is a long time.
That morning I turned on my TV in customary fashion to relax and unwind after pulling a midnight shift which ended at 8:00am.
It was typical for me to take a few hours to unwind after work, to “come down” as they say.
But then nothing was typical about that morning.
I was watching the Today Show with what I’m sure were millions of other Americans when the first news broke about a plane that had slammed into the World Trade Center in New York.
Then as I watched in horror, live on network television, the second plane came in…
I remember calling my supervisor, telling him that we were under attack, and feeling profoundly angry.
I wanted to do something…anything, but it was not to be.
So I tried to go to sleep.
2,977 people went to work that day and never got the chance to walk into their apartments again.
Never see their kids again.
Never kiss or hold their loved ones again.
Never feel the sun the rain or the wind…again.
I would be willing to venture that the average person doesn’t wake up each morning only to consider their demise before the day’s setting sun.
But then maybe that’s exactly how we should live our lives.
10 years later.
You see, I don’t want to forget, and I will not reduce the events of that day to the simple description of being “American history”.

I apologize, but “move on” and “get over” do not apply to this particular incident.
Have we become “numb” to the idea of it happening again?
It couldn’t possibly happen again.
But then it couldn’t possibly have happened the first time either…
In 2 days it will be September 11, 2011.
10 years after the fact of a day that I won't forget & will always remember.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

And her name was Irene

As the sky became more threatening and the wind began blowing intervals of heavy rain we opened the windows to the house and were greeted with the rising and falling sounds of our strategically positioned wind chimes which would come alive in the gusts in a seemingly synchronistic storm front melody.
The storm’s gusts of wind would move the linen drapes in a way that would seem as if they were dancing to the chime’s melodic notes and we both agreed that the night would be memorable.  
There are but so many things one can do during times of natural phenomenon, you can sit and ponder the “what if’s” or you can embrace the experience.
We are no strangers to nature’s “nuisances” and as such we chose to celebrate Irene’s arrival.  

Feeling hearty and well prepared we opted for a grounded food experience to match the storm’s bravado.
As the weather worsened the unmistakable smell of freshly “made from scratch” potato bread began to waif through the house.   


I don’t pretend to understand the wizardry behind homemade bread, but Ash seems well versed in its culinary alchemy, and within a few short hours piping hot rolls drizzled in Agave nectar made a perfect partner with my Belgian ale.
Long before Irene began showing herself on our coast Ash devised the idea of a grilled hotdog being the perfect complement to an Atlantic Hurricane.
Hotdogs you say, and while I understand your inquisitive scowl, these little bits of Beef parts goodness were divine as are all Hebrew Nationals dogs.

Hotdog sliders; one with broccoli coleslaw, Dill pickles, & Boar’s Head Mustard, with a side of sour Kraut &the other dressed with stuffed jalapeño peppers slices and more kraut.
Phenomenal when paired with grilled sweet potato fries.      
The night was not without its peril and commotion
Anyone who grills in the country knows the danger inherent with attracting the maniacal European Hornet to any light source.
We grill at night under the constant specter of its arrival and the unmistakable buzz of its wings which instinctively makes the hair stand up on one’s neck.
This night was no different, and through the pounding rain and howling wind he arrived…


He seemed more irritated than usual, and his normal quick pass gave way to a frenzied “bounce off the roof” spasm that made me realize I would have to deal with this threat personally.
I sent Ash and the dogs into the safety of the house and picked up my can of hornet/wasp spray.
Fissssssttttt….Direct hit!
WTF?
Fiissssstttt….Hit him again…
Oh, he’s mad now.
Bob…
Weave…
Run to the side of the deck exposed to the storm!
BLAM!!!
Onto my ass I went.
Wet deck boards are slippery as hell mind you.
“This is no ordinary hornet” I thought as I picked myself up from the soaking deck
Back into the house to get my fly swatter, and then out onto the covered deck I went.

Within seconds the Satan spawned hornet from hell was on me like a spider monkey.
Zap!
The basatrd stung me in the cheek!
AAAEEEEEE!!!!!!
I ran flailing back into the house ripping my shirt off convinced that the yellow stripped death dealer had now flown down my collar!
No sympathy to be had as Ash was DYING laughing as she tried to explain just how high pitched my voice went as I screamed bloody murder back into the house.
The storm blew on as we enjoyed our good fortune of not losing power and I couldn’t help but wonder if the National Weather Service keeps statistics on Hurricane induced hornet attacks…