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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Beer-Making, Part Four: Oh, the humanity!

A few days ago, I heard the sound of shattering glass and was startled, but had no idea from where it had come. I went into James' office, and Aish seemed to be telling me from where the sound had emanated... But it was impossible. She was looking directly at a drawer in James' computer desk. How could glass break in there?

As I stood, glancing around the office, though, I started to smell something sweet-yeasty-smelling. I looked down, and it appeared that the desk was bleeding. But, no: It was beer. Beer was pouring out from under the cabinet.

I was still pretty dense; I couldn't understand this. Still, I opened the bottom drawer and found, among the bottles James had apparently stored in there, one of his fermenting new bottles had exploded. I cleared out the intact bottles and then it occurred to me to take this picture.

Yeah. I'm very glad that wasn't sitting on a shelf somewhere, out in the open, especially near the cat.

There was no way to stop the beer from just spilling out all over the floor. I had to hose out the drawer, too. And one of James' favorite bottles is history. Le sigh.

According to this blog, we did everything right... except for maybe one thing: Cool/dark place. We live in Austin, TX. Dark, we can give the beer. Cool? Not this time of year. We only cool our house to 78, and the thermostat is in the living room, which is probably the mildest room of the house. In the mornings, James' office gets pretty warm (that's where this happened) and in the afternoon, our bedroom heats up.

This morning, the same kind of thing happened, though it wasn't as dramatic-sounding. Still looked pretty horrifying.

(Direct all comments about the boxes and whatnot to James; it's his "Hobbit Hole" and he keeps it as he pleases.)

The reason it hadn't sounded quite as clinky/explosive was that this box happened to have the cardboard divider panels in it.

So there wasn't as much collateral damage. Still, especially after having read that blog, I'm glad it was in a box. I'm thinking we need to box ALL of it up; there are a few bottles sitting in the floor, I believe, and the cat (and the computer) spends a lot of time in the office.

James said he'd never had a beer explode before, and that the friends he's had who did mostly seemed to have the bases kind of blow off. I also wonder if the fact that these are self-sealing lids has any relevance. My only other idea was that the first bottle was larger than the average beer bottle, so that perhaps the head space we gave at the top wasn't adequate for a larger volume of carbonating liquid. Anyone else have any clues?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Writing again! Part II: This time it's different.

For more than ten years, I had a pretty steady writing gig. It didn't pay anything, but I loved it. I wrote short sketches for the various churches I attended across that decade. I'd come to it in a church that produced in-house-written dramas at least a couple of weekends a month. These weren't the "youth group Christian skits" I knew from growing up... You know the treacly, sappy ones where there's a very overt message with which you are beaten repeatedly over the head? Things like the lady who wants to take up her cross like Jesus and goes into a shop but thinks the actual cross is too cumbersome and keeps talking the salesperson down until she walks out with a cross necklace. Or the one with the girl Jesus is trying to follow around and hold in his arms, and she keeps yelling at him to leave her alone, which he won't, so she finally holds him in place by tacking his hands up in a crucified position? Yeah... ugh. No.

The philosophy at the first church that I attended was that the dramas were to open up a can of worms, and then it was the preacher's job to fix everything. Basically, we used drama or comedy or whatever storytelling mode was appropriate to ask a question in a very real, very raw way. Some people even hated that, but it's okay. Music doesn't touch everyone, but it touches a lot of people. I think that drama is the same way. It breaks down walls.

I had an incredible writing mentor in Las Vegas, and he helped me hone my craft so much. I would send him a script (he's a performer and would often be off on cruises or performing in Los Angeles) and wait in nervous excitement for him to write me back... Always encouraging, always gracious (but not to the point of exaggerating the merits of what I'd done), but also always quick to get to the business of, "You missed a huge opportunity for a joke here," etc. He helped me learn how to rabidly attack my writing, getting rid of excess without mourning my precious "babies." His guidance taught me how to relish constructive feedback without having any negative feelings or insecurities about it.

So I wrote. I wrote a lot. I tried to worm my way into whatever arts programs that churches had when I'd go, and if there wasn't one in place, I was always game to give it a go.

That all ended a the beginning of 2011. When the cracks in my marriage were revealed and the whole thing crumbled, I was relieved of my responsibilities so that I could focus on reconciliation of my relationship. What actually happened came as quite a shock to me...

I know, or I acquiesce to this in theory, that my identity is found in Christ alone. It is God's creation and love that gives me worth, and no one can take that away from me. Not the opinion of others, not my own poor choices, and certainly not what I do or don't do. But what I realized had happened, once this was removed as an outlet for me, is that at some point, I'd mentally shifted from being a child of the King to being that child of the King who writes stuff. When the "writing stuff" outlet was taken away, I found myself not understanding where I fit into things, and I did not "feel" as close of a relationship to God. I think that I was mistaking the momentum of output in an area I adored for an intimacy with God.

To be certain, I know that any ability I might possess to write comes from God. Like I mentioned in the last post, the story came to me, not from me, and I was overjoyed by the process. I was mostly grateful for the opportunity to write *for* something again. I'll write, anyway. I'll blog. I'll observe. I'll make you all sick of my words. It's already happening, right? But to have a goal, a reason, and to be able to share with other people... It's what I love.

And maybe I'm doing it for the love of writing from now on. Maybe God doesn't want me to confuse so personal a passion and service with a closeness to Him. All I know is that I was shaken to my foundations when I was pulled off of the short film we'd begun to work on, and it took me a long time to figure out where I fit in with God again. I had been so certain that using whatever talents I had in church was how God had planned to "redeem" my otherwise fairly useless liberal arts education, and maybe it was... for a time. I think maybe now, there is fulfillment to be found in writing wherever the opportunity arises, and in believing in earnest that all is sacred.

I'm okay with that.

Writing again! What I learned (again) about discipline...

In what Dr. Horrible would categorize as a "crazy random happenstance," (which it actually wasn't at all; my husband was a very important conduit) I had the opportunity to write a script potentially for use in a live show in the style of an old-fashioned radio drama. After working on it for a week, I finally submitted it and found out a couple of days ago that it's going to be used. I was also asked whether I could do at least one more: There are to be four shows in all, and my first submission was a Thanksgiving-themed sketch.

During the writing process, I learned (or relearned) a couple of important things.

The thing that I relearned was something about perseverance. I haven't written a script in about two and a half years. This was to be a 10-20 minute-long episode, so it felt luxuriously long compared to the 7-minute shorts to which I had been accustomed. Thing is, I was used to having a brainstorm session with at least two other people first. When I walked into writing with a framework, it was usually easy for me to fill in the gaps with dialogue or jokes or whatever was appropriate.

Building an idea from the ground up was more difficult. I mean, I can get an idea and write. That's largely what hobby writing *is*. It's another thing entirely to say, "You have a deadline. Now think of something clever. Go!"



I came up with two basic scenarios: One for Christmas (at a bus stop) and one for Thanksgiving (in the hall of an old house, family members waiting for the bathroom). I ended up going for the Thanksgiving script first, even though I set up files for both, because I figured that I could introduce several characters and maybe by the time I'd done that, I'd have some momentum and could complete an actual story arc.

I was wrong.

Although I had nothing about which to write, I made myself sit down and do something whenever I had the chance. I managed about four pages this way, then ran out of steam. I had in the back of my mind that somehow the door was going to end up locked with no one inside, and they'd have to problem-solve how to get it open. There is some room for comedy there, but the whole thing was so domestic and familiar, I felt like I needed something a little out of the ordinary to happen to shake it up.

One of the elements I'd included, thanks to a suggestion from my mother-in-law, was two cousins sitting on the roof throwing Halloween candy at trick-or-treaters. I ended up having to switch that out with another tradition in order to make my eventual story work, but I think that idea of a past connection in childhood finally sparked the idea that came to me in the shower last Sunday morning.

I'd gone to bed, planning to mull it over while I dozed off, but had crashed instead. The idea came after a good night's sleep, and I laughed at it. It was so not at all where I'd planned the story to go. It had become a fantasy, which wasn't my intent in the least. But it was going to work, and almost on the heels of the idea came the ending that made the whole thing even better.

I smiled all through church and itched to get home and write.

Even then, though, when I got home, it took James setting a timer to force me to sit down and just go. Once I started, the thing wrote itself. It bulged at 16 pages, when I'd only wanted it to be 15, but I kept it as short as I could and still have it tell the story that had come to me out of somewhere to which I don't have conscious access.

So the lesson here, which I've known and of which I need to be reminded constantly, is that, in order to be a writer, you have to write. If I'd waited for my story to come to me before I'd been willing to sit down at all, I don't know that I would have had this idea. But because I forced myself to just pound out some words, I had a beginning into which the middle and end happened to fit perfectly. I had a cast in place, and they already knew their parts.

What I ended up with was still a domestic comedy, with a little impossible thing thrown in that makes it pop. I was happy with it, and would have been even if they'd elected not to use it. The act of writing again... It's what I'm supposed to do. It's just confirmation.

The other thing that I learned will be in a second post, after I've read a little and napped a little. So stay tuned!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Spicy Peanut Butter Mousse-filled Chocolate Coffee Cake

Years ago, I bought a Betty Crocker Bake'n Fill pan set, and I've used it with varying levels of success over the years. I think this one will be remembered as a hit.

First, I made this eggless chocolate cake, (because I was out of eggs) except that I used baby food carrots instead of oil. It added moisture without any fat. But don't worry! The "no fat" wasn't the goal; it was really just an experiment to see how the cake would turn out. Turns out, it's spongy and moist, and tastes very nicely of coffee-flavored chocolate.

I used the more "squared off" of the two outer cake pans (one is round for balls and more uniformly dome-shaped cakes) and put the filling insert in. Then I baked the cake base.

Next, I made the peanut butter mousse from this recipe, but we didn't have any heavy cream and I wasn't willing to walk further than the 7-11 at 8:30 last night, so we substituted almost an entire can of spray whipped cream. Oh! Also, I used half regular peanut butter and half of the Rebo spicy peanut butter from Haiti. (Please take the time to read that article; it's a good one.)

After I put the mousse into the cake well, I topped it with the base and put it in the refrigerator to set overnight.

This afternoon, I melted a stick of butter. I melted a bag of chocolate chips. Then I mixed that with about 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and enough powdered sugar that it looked like frosting. You know what I mean.

I frosted the cake and put it all in the fridge to let the frosting harden so that I could wrap the cake without making it look too hideous, and here is the outcome. Daphne said it's delicious! (I'm still too full from sampling frosting to try it.)

This cake is an honorary birthday cake for my brother-in-law, who lives many miles away and can't enjoy it, but don't worry, Khrys: Tomorrow, we will eat this thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if we have to, just to prove how much we honor your special day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

An average weekend for Team Dave's

This weekend, nothing hugely amazing happened. It was just a quiet weekend at and around the Nuthaus. What does that look like? Like this:

Friday afternoon, James got off work at a decent hour and came home, still full from the lunch we'd had at Flying Saucer (a shop). We all snacked around for dinner and were working on various projects, then after the sun started to set, we all went to walk some errands.

First, we went to Tyler's on the Drag to see if we could find a new pair of flip-flops for Daphne. She didn't like anything that was available and in her size, so we continued our journey up to Wheatsville Food Co-op to get coffee for James and to pick up some Dr. Bonner's Magic Organic Peppermint Hair Creme. I'd wanted it because it's a leave-in conditioner that pretty much smells like candy canes, but realized when I read the label that it's also for "light styling." Since my hair hasn't been holding curl well but I've been hesitant to use straight-up gel or hair spray or mousse or other potentially sticky hair product, I was interested to see how this would play out.

On the way back, we also stopped at CVS for some stuff, then walked home, totally forgetting, as we passed campus, that it was the night for free telescope viewing. Oh well. Saturday, it was going to be happening, too.

Saturday, Daphne was supposed to go to a friend's house, but her friend got sick. Instead, we all got a slow start then went out to lunch (a shop) at The Third Base. We brought James home after that and Daphne and I went to: 1) Half Price Books to sell another box of James' stuff. 2) Bed, Bath, and Beyond to use a 20% off coupon... I was planning to get a CO2 charger for the Soda Stream, but they're double at BBB what they cost at Breed and Company, so I ended up just getting two more bottles, since ours "expire" in January. Also, we found Diet Dr. Pete there, and Breed and Co. hasn't had that for weeks, and maybe even months. Daphne got creme soda, and I also got a diet Mt. Dew knock-off, which I hadn't seen before! Woo hoo! 3) Khols, to use a "$10 off of any $30 purchase in intimate apparel" coupon. We did, but we realized that we really need to buy a tape measure because the hit-or-miss trying on of foundational garments, especially the weekend before school starts when there is a line for the fitting rooms, is not a fun task. I did find two pair of shorts that were on major sale, and though the receipt said I saved over $80 when I spent just under $80, I'm 100% certain that we did not purchase $160 worth of clothes.

By the time we headed home, I was so ready. I used to love getting out and running errands with Daphne when she was tiny, but I think we've both changed a lot. Also, we both just really love the Nuthaus and love being here.

That night, we had family movie night, and watched a 1987 film James recommended that I'd somehow missed called "Hiding Out," which featured the amazing Jon Cryer of "Ducky" fame (I don't acknowledge his more recent, and surely lucrative, work).

Once again, after that movie, I looked at my phone and had received a notice for the telescope viewing at UT. We'd missed it again!

Sunday, D and I went to church, then came home and she was ready to play online with her friends since we'd had such a busy run-around day on Saturday. James and I went to a different Third Base for lunch (a job) and enjoyed a nice, quiet meal with the place almost to ourselves. We watched motorcycle racing and talked through some domestic things. I love having a partner with whom I can share things and get feedback and we can actually say true things that are a little "owie" and still be extremely affirming and loving.

The afternoon was awesome. Daphne used up all of her computer time while James and I read and then napped. Then I finished writing a radio-drama-style script I'd been working on. It was pretty cool... I'd informally committed to writing this, and just had a skeleton of an idea. I'd started on it last weekend, determined to write, even if I didn't know where it was going. Then yesterday morning in the shower, I had a nugget of an idea that forced me to go back and change part of what I'd already written to make it work, but then the rest of the script pretty much wrote itself.

Last night ended with all three of us lying on the bed, reading together. Then two of us kind of fell asleep, but I won't narc on those people specifically.

So, that's it. No major adventures, no changing the world. Just a nice weekend to regroup and relax, and now we're ready to hit the world again. :) It's fun watching all of the "first day of school" pictures scroll through my Facebook feed today. It's 8:20 and Daphne is still in bed, though I have a longer list for her on the "to do" board than I have since she's been back from her dad's.

We've structured school a little differently, now that she's getting older. I've always walked the border between unschooling and some structured stuff, but now I'm loosening the reigns even more. She does have a page of math (either algebra or general math, she can choose) to do because math skills are worth developing and she wouldn't do it on her own. But then the rest of the day is pretty nebulous. Her computer time is limited (read: it shuts down) to three hours. Then she has some Khan Academy, laundry, making cookies, and she has to create something whether it's writing, drawing, or building... just producing something. Tomorrow, she might work on computer programming. She's been trying to figure out how to install a very stubborn Minecraft mod on her computer, and has come to the conclusion that the .jar file is corrupted. These are important life skills, even if, for now, she's "just" trying to play a game.

James just went back to bed for a short nap before work. I think it's probably good that none of us has to get up and ready for the first day of school! Now it's time for me to work! (And, yes, I'm still in my pajamas.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy Austinversary!

(I have to give credit for coining "Happy Austinversary" to my husband, who wished me this as he left for work this morning.)

Today is the anniversary of my first full day in Austin, Texas. On August 13 of last year, Daphne and I woke up, make sure everything was packed in the car, including the cats, retracted the RV slides, and caravanned from Sherman to Austin with the guy I'd found on uShip.

Several people told me at the time that I was "brave" for heading out on my own, but I certainly didn't feel very brave.

Truth is, back in May, when I first set my mind to leave Sherman, I was very certainly running away.

I overheard the stalker telling someone that I was moving away because of him. That was untrue (although it has been nice not to have to worry about his showing up on my doorstep when something hits him the wrong way). I was running away from situations I couldn't right and that were continuing to cause pain for myself and for people who cared about me. I was running from the pain of seeing relationships I'd had dissolve around me, and things I never dreamed I'd lose fading away. I was running, mostly, because I knew that if I stayed in that place, I would keep banging my head against the same walls and nothing would ever change. I'd believed, early on in the process, that time would fix things. It turned out that time was actually amplifying many of the problems, and the only resort seemed to be to go.

However, something happened between May and August. I had to stay in Sherman because I'd committed to a summer play. And during that "lame duck" time, I happened to go up to Tulsa to visit James. Obviously, we ended up dating, and over those two months, I began to hope again. I began to see the move not only as escaping an unbearable set of circumstances (don't get me wrong: several of those were direct results of poor choices that I made), but as running toward... a new day, a fresh start, a life that would be free of the baggage that surrounded me in the small town where it had all happened.

By the time Daphne and I pulled into the Royal Palms RV Park, I didn't feel like we'd finally gotten far enough away... I felt like we'd finally come home. That very weekend, we started attending the church where we have begun to make a family. (Also that very weekend, I fell in the laundry room, which probably exacerbated my spinal injury, but life happens no matter where you are.)

Over the past year, I have made way too many trips to Dallas, handled the stress of a long-distance relationship very poorly (actually, handled the stress of a close-distance relationship equally badly), visited the Texas coast with my favorite people in the world, gotten married, moved into the city center, gotten reacquainted with baking, visited another country and met some incredible people, and have had so many amazing "new life" experiences that I am overwhelmed by the blessings of it.

It has become very clear that Austin is my town. There are so many opportunities here to meet people, have amazing experiences, not to mention that my sister and her family are here. I am grateful for my new start, and I am looking forward to seeing what the next year brings...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

S'mores! But even MORE than just s'mores...

Several weeks ago, after we'd brewed the beer, we were left with a giant mush pot of barley and assorted grains.

We do not like to waste food items around here. James mentioned that he and his brother had tried to make an oatmeal-type breakfast out of it before, and that it tasted really bad. I decided to dry it out first and see what might happen.

It spent about a day in a 170-degree oven and the dried stuff actually tasted not bad at all. It was mildly sweet and very crunchy because the barley still has some hulls.

I decided to make two things: 1) granola bars (that turned out to be a disaster because of user error, but would have been lovely had I followed the recipe here correctly.) 2) and barley "flour."

At first, I wasn't certain what to do with the barley, but after a couple of days, it hit me: homemade s'mores. But instead of graham flour, I'd use this. I couldn't do it immediately, because to attempt such a thing when Daphne was gone seemed very wrong.

Thankfully (on many levels), she came back last week, and once we got through the bottling drama of the weekend, yesterday seemed like a great day to attempt this project!

First, I used Alton Brown's graham cracker recipe, but really only as a guide. For instance: I didn't use graham flour, I used milled brewer's barley et al.; I don't have a food scale (anymore: battery acid got one of the nodes), so I measured in cups and teaspoons and eyeballs; I was concerned that I didn't have enough brown sugar, so I supplemented with dark chocolate chunks. All of this makes sense, right? My point is: "If it feels right, do it" is horrible life advice, and it's an often disastrous cooking tip, but in this case... it happened to turn out okay. Try it sometime.

Dry stuff before processing.

Dry stuff after processing.

After adding butter.

After buttermilk, molasses, and vanilla. Look at those beautiful chunks!
At this point, the dough had to be refrigerated for at least half an hour, so Daphne and I went to work on the marshmallows. Yes, that's right. We made those, too. Yes, I know that you can buy them at Wal-Mart. But I can guarantee they're not this tasty, or this much fun. It's science!

Hey, guess what? We also use Alton Brown's marshmallow recipe. I've never had it fail on me!

Three packets of gelatin dissolved in a bit of water.

Boil the sugar slurry until it hits 240 degrees.

Meanwhile, Daphne prepares a sprayed pan with an equal mixture of corn starch and powdered sugar.
Once the syrup hits 240, it's time to add it to the gelatin. Slowly.

Verrrrry slowly.
 Next, you whip the mixture for a very. long. time. 12-15 minutes, as a matter of fact.

It's already gaining volume!

Still growing!
 Toward the end, your mixer will be whining in protest. That's how you know it's done!

It's tempting just to eat it now.
Finally, you pour the mixture into a prepared pan and then cover it with the same sugar/cornstarch mixture and let it sit overnight to dry.

Then, of course, there is this.
 After the ceremonial licking of the bowl, we moved back to the process of cracker-making.
Put the dough between two sheets of parchment.

Roll it out and put it on a cooking sheet.
You need to cut the crackers before they bake. Also, fork holes allow the steam to escape without causing the crackers to rise.

The finished product, darker and more textured than Alton's, but looking just as charmingly rustic.
This afternoon, D and I cut the marshmallows. We knew that we wanted to use them mostly for s'mores, so we cut them pretty big. I don't know whether you looked at the instructions for making mini marshmallows, but that whole deal with piping sounds very labor-intensive. (If that made you laugh, then you can just go read another blog.)
The dried slab.
After cutting, you coat the marshmallows in the sugar/cornstarch mixture to keep them from sticking to each other. Like this:

Okay, okay, okay... Here's the SERIOUS FOOD PORN!

After dinner, we made s'mores. We just toasted them, open-faced, in the toaster oven, then opened OUR faces and shoved them in! SO delicious. Worth every minute that went into making them! (Plus, it was just fun.)

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Art(ful Dodger) of Shaving

Have you attempted to purchase a shave brush stand recently? At The Art of the Shave, the least expensive one that they have is $50. Rumor is that they DO have their $6 stand somewhere in the store, under a cabinet somewhere, and will sell it to you if you're super obnoxious about how you will NOT pay $50 and want a shave stand NOW... but apparently I didn't protest enough and was not offered the Holy Grail of shave stands.

This weekend, James wondered aloud why he couldn't make one out of a wire hanger. Later, when I Googled "Why are shave brush stands so expensive?" we happened upon instructions from a man who had done just that. A quick glance at the multiple steps put James off of that plan. He wandered into the bedroom, performed a few cursory twists, and proudly came up with this.

What followed was a fanciful discussion about how to sell these on Etsy, perhaps for $.49 each, but charging $300 shipping. Or naming the account CrapNoOneShouldBuy.

But, seriously, that thing was huge. I had to have a crack at it.

I used vise grips and a wrench, and pulled a lot (but not all) of the powder-coating off of the hanger. However, it takes up much less real estate on the sink now, and it even holds his razor blade!

Stubb's, Sam Tsui, and an unseasonable storm

Last night, D and I walked with my sister and her older three to Stubb's Bar-B-Q *shudder* (at the misspelling) to see Sam Tsui. There were going to be other performers there, too, but that was the headline act for us.

Since Stubb's is only 1.3 miles from the Nuthaus and there's no free parking, we walked. It was hot. In fact, it was 98 degrees with 33% humidity. When we got there, it was about 15 'till doors, and there was a line down the front of the building...

The front doors are just at the right, and we were back about twice the distance of that big truck. In fact, we were here...

See the window at the left? In the white-bricked building? That's where we were standing. You can see the front end of that same truck at the right frame. Anyway, notice the ATM and the small awning there and for a few feet beyond it. That will be important later.

It was nearly 100 degrees and we were waiting in full out sun. Ugh. As it got closer to 6:00 PM, the line got a lot longer. Also, people started packing in very tightly. Eventually, even though the doors weren't open so no one had moved, we were closer to the scraggly tree.

Then it started sprinkling. We were so relieved. It felt amazing! For about three minutes. Then some serious rain broke out. Like big, downpour drops. Uncomfortably heavy rain. Thankfully, they opened the doors and we started moving.

Here is where Reminder #1 of the night that I'm an old person happened: As the people poured into the building and up under the larger awning of Stubb's (note the first picture) some sweet little things in front of us apparently strategized that they would wait under the post-ATM awning until the line thinned out enough for them to dart across the half block of rain and up under the shelter themselves.

I didn't notice this at first, but a person behind me did. She asked, "Are you guys going to go, or what?" One of the sweet little things said that she was, "but..." and that's when it hit me what they were doing. So I reminded her of something that she apparently had not thought. I said, "Well, while you're standing there NOT getting wet, EVERYONE ELSE in line behind you IS getting wet. You need to go."

See? Right there. I mommed someone who wasn't mine. Old lady style.

Yeah. We were all pretty much drenched. Then it stopped. It apparently barely sprinkled here at the Nuthaus.

This was Reminder #2 that I am an old lady: I hadn't really fixed up for the show at all. There were a lot of girls who had obviously ironed their hair and picked out special clothes... and the fact that everyone got dumped on by this rainstorm was infinitely amusing to me.

But don't worry. I am about to get mine.

We walked inside and realized, as I should have guessed, that this was a standing room concert. Ugh. Pppth. Fortunately, we were early enough that the front row of the "balcony" (really just the top floor of the bar area that is opened to the stage below) was open, so we stood there. Then people stood behind us. And in case you've never been in Texas before when it has been nearly 100 degrees while people were waiting in the sun, sweating, THEN poured rain, thus giving everyone a bunch of moisture that's sure to hang around in the ensuing 55% humidity, and THEN had every one of these people all stand shoulder-to-shoulder and front-to-back... let me assure you, it's a ripening situation.

Again, we were lucky enough to be on the front row, so we didn't have to smell anyone's backside. But people had to smell ours.

The first band was King the Kid. They were AWESOME. They rocked, and I was glad because, frankly, after standing there for 45 minutes, I needed an excuse to MOVE. Here's an official video.

After they played for a while, the instruments were reset and Landon Austin and Luke Conrad took the stage.

They were good, too, but I felt like, with their acoustic set, they really should have opened. Rather, if I were the one putting the concert together, I would have had them go first so that the energy could build throughout the show. I would think that would put them in the best position to make a good impression on those of us who had not heard them before.

Luke started off in a band called The Ministry of Magic, and if you've never heard of Wizard Rock, you can either trust me that it's a thing, or go here and read about it. He sang one of his songs about Hermione and Ron called "Accio Love," and that was sweet.

It's interesting, though, how when Sam Tsui took the stage, it was a whole other level of presence. He was just this rock star. Even though the other two bands were talented, and I think that King the Kid could have a great future if they stay with it, Sam Tsui is an entertainer on a whole different level.

I had to grab him on keys because when he wasn't playing, he was all over the place. I recorded a bit, but it was so loud, my camera didn't capture well; everything sounds blown out. His show was very high-energy all the way through. As you can tell from this picture, he was "glistening," as I might have mentioned the heat. And the people. Which one doesn't notice as much when one is being engaged. 

Here is one of the songs Sam Tsui performed last night. He did several original songs from his new album, as well as a couple of covers and medleys. But I'm including this one because I think the video is pretty clever. For this song, he and the guitar player unplugged and did everything acoustically.

Alex Goot was on after Sam Tsui, but I don't know him well enough to hang out another hour. That, friends, was Reminder #3 that I'm old: I have a back injury and it is excruciating to stand in one place for three hours. I was glad that Daphne and I were in a cornerish area and/or near the railing because I was able to brace myself to pop my back if I needed to.

My sister and her kids stayed after the show and got pictures with Sam and the guys from King the Kid. Daphne and I walked back after Sam's portion of the concert. So we didn't get a picture with Mr. Tsui, but I saw this on the way back. It was pretty lovely.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beer-Making, Part 3: Bottling and Bubbling

After two weeks in the primary fermenter and one week in the secondary fermenter (officially called "carboys"), it was time to bottle James' honey blonde beer. We hot-washed and essentially baked the bottles to sterilize them for bottling.

All of these beer bottles in the dishwasher remind me of the Cathedral of Junk!
James found a few more self-topping bottles after we'd run the wash, so he washed them himself using a very cool (if very leaky) bottle-washing attachment for the sink.

Water violence!
At this point, we had to boil two cups of water, then dissolve sugar in that and boil it for another minute, then cool the liquid down to 80 degrees. The sugar's job is to reactivate the yeast. This is what will eventually carbonate the beer.
Enjoying an earlier incarnation of Jamesbeer.
James explained what we had done so far to bring Daphne up to speed, then it was time to move the beer out of the carboy and into the container we were going to use for bottling.

A good pump on the siphon, and we're off! The sugar water was already in the bottom of the bucket.

You siphon rather than pour the beer to 1) keep air out of it and 2) keep the yeast at the bottom of the carboy.

Ready for service!
James has a tap for the 5-gallon bucket, and a neat attachment for the end of the tube. The attachment is fitted so that you press it to the bottom of the bottle, and as long as it's depressed to the bottom, it is open. Once the beer reaches the top of the bottle, you pull up on the device, and it closes. When you pull the tube out, it leaves just enough space at the top of the bottle.

Then the non-self-closing bottles have to be capped.

He's working so hard!

Mmm! Yes! I do love me some beer. (This is a lie. I do love my husband and enjoy making things in the kitchen.)

Measuring the specific gravity of a sample, to check the alcohol content of the brew.

Now we just have to wait three weeks or so while the stuff carbonates. James said the flavor has mellowed a lot since a week ago, when it was pretty hoppy. He said now it's getting closer to a light summer beer. We'll see in a few weeks!