Friday, November 24, 2017

All I want for Christmas is a colonoscopy.

I received one of those medical maintenance reminder letters from my healthcare provider and after having put it off for a reasonable amount of time, I phoned in to order a stool sample kit per the instructions. "Oh, no," I was told. "You don't need a stool sample kit. You're overdue for a colonoscopy."

She was right, of course, but I was hoping the rules had changed and I wasn't due until next year. Or maybe five years from now.

I was tricked, I tell you.

While the year has had it's ups and downs, it's official: 2017 was shitty in the end.

Standing in line?

Are you one of those people who gets up at O'Dark Thirty to find holiday bargains before the sun comes up? Not me, that's what online shopping is for. I'm still in bed. Right now. With coffee in one  hand and my Washington Beer Lovers map in the other. I have all morning to plan my afternoon.

But if you're one for standing in line, hustle over to Binny's in Chicago to buy Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout. This Beer Could Be the Biggest Black Friday Deal of All - says Fortune.

Breweries all over the country have special releases on Black Friday. Food & Wine's Black Friday Is a Big Beer Shopping Day, Too:
" Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery will release Black Friday Imperial Stout on, fittingly, Black Friday. Seattle’s Fremont Brewing will release its bourbon barrel-aged winter ale, B-Bomb, on the same day. Athens, Georgia’s Creature Comforts will release three limited-edition beers on, yup, November 24. Akron, Ohio’s Hoppin’ Frog will release its Barrel-Aged Gavel Slammer 17.4% Monumental Dark Ale . . . ."
If I'm going to stand in line today, getting a beer at the end of it sounds just fine to me. A black ale, even better. As for the rest of you, good luck out there. I hope you find what you're looking for.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving and beer.

If you're considering pairing beer with your Thanksgiving meal, The New York Times offers helpful suggestions in To Pair With That Thanksgiving Bird, Consider Beer 
" In all the meticulous course planning for Thanksgiving, wine tends to get top billing on the beverage list. But beer — with its versatility, approachability, carbonation and broad range of flavors — may be just as happy a pairing. "
Their simple explanations and easy to follow pairings makes trying beer with this traditional meal an appealing idea. However, I might try a Porter rather than an Imperial Stout with dessert, as they suggest, as it might be less alcohol, less sweet, and incorporate more coffee notes to offset the sweetness of pumpkin or pecan pie. Besides, it starts with "P...."

GQ offers a different take, offering beer pairings for everything on your Thanksgiving table. If you're considering serving mash potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce as separate courses, check out GQ's Thanksgiving Beer Pairings.

Of course, why serve food at all when you can serve beer that tastes like food? How to Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner Entirely in Beer Form from Food & Wine sets out to create a Thanksgiving feast entirely in beer form. Their results included this:
" . . . . Brussels sprouts. Only one example popped up from a small Canadian brewery called StoneHammer Brewing in Guelph, Ontario. Wurst Idea Ever Brussels Sprout Sour was a one-off experiment from way back in 2012, and the name might explain why other brewers haven’t delved into Brussels sprouts as an ingredient. Though the people behind that wild idea are no longer with the brewery, a current representative said that the next year, they went so far as to brew a beer called “Soury About Last Year” for the same event. "
While I can imagine a beer that tastes like cranberries, I have a tough time fathoming a beer that tastes like turkey gravy - much less Brussels sprouts - or a reason why anyone would want to drink it.

Cider might be an excellent way to go for Thanksgiving - a happy middle ground between wine and beer but I lack any suggestions here. Seattle Times Surprise family with something new for Thanksgiving: craft cider offered some beautiful and enticing suggestions but left my head spinning. Best to find an expert at a local bottle shop or head to your favorite cidery for suggestions.

In any case, eat, drink, and be merry. And be thankful for whatever's in the glass.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Almost there

As you can see, the living room is getting better while my camera phone is not. Genius Bar appointment is Saturday. We'll see....

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Had hardwood floors installed while we were away, recently, and they turned out nicely. The rest of the house, unfortunately, was destroyed. The contractors were very nice to drape the kitchen cabinets but they didn't drape anything else. Dust was everywhere. They ruined the carpeting in two rooms (that they weren't even supposed to be in) and one Persian throw rug. It took me three days and countless loads of laundry before it was habitable again.

Wednesday, we start Round 2 - an electrician is coming to install canned lights, then painters, followed by a carpenter to install new baseboards. It'll be worth it in the end, it'll be worth it in the end, it'll be worth it . . . .

Meanwhile, I'm on to my third iPhone in as many months. Not exactly but almost. I went swimming with one in July. It didn't survive so I got a new one on July 26. The new one stopped working - just died - so it got replaced with a replacement on September 7. I started noticing that my replacement phone wasn't taking very good pictures. I was disappointed because I thought the new iPhone was supposed to take awesome pictures but I didn't know what the problem was. More than a week ago, I noticed the replacement phone's camera lens has a hole in it.

Maybe I dropped it. If I did, it wasn't one of those spectacular, yard sale, kind of things. Nothing notable. The rest of the phone is in perfect condition. Not a scratch on it. Anywhere. Looking at my photos, the lens broke around September 17-19. The last clear photo is the 17th and the first fuzzy one is the 19th. I was in Seattle on the 17th, Portland on the 18th, and home on the 19th.

I went to the Apple store in Portland and they told me the camera lens can't be repaired. The phone has to be replaced. A quick internet search indicates otherwise.

In other news, I've spotted the first ugly holiday sweater of the season and it wasn't even mine. Also, a neighbor already has holiday decorations up. For Christmas, not Thanksgiving.

Finally, if you're near a McMenamins try a Black Spider Porter if you can still find it. It's generally available from October 15-31 but we were able to find it just this last weekend (on tap and in cans). With Black and Roast Malts, it's a robust and eerily delicious brew.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What We Tried

On this trip to Maui, we tried to venture out a little, beer wise. We usually opt for locally sourced food* and drink, when available, whether we are traveling or at home and Maui is no exception. Beers from Maui Brewing can be found in most places offering beer as well as those from Kona Brewing (from the Big Island). My personal favorite, though, is Talk Story Pale Ale from Koholã Brewery (Maui). Light tangerine flavor, subtle malts, and 5.1% ABV makes it an all-day sipper.

This time, we focused our attention on beers from some of the other Hawaiian islands. They are not always easy to find and they are sometimes expensive (compared to the mainland). And, most places don't offer tastes which means you have to commit to a full pint, can, or bottle. This allows for a better experience of the beer but limits how much you can actually taste at any given time.

There is a whole lot more Hawaiian beer to explore but this is what we tried in the time we had:

On draft:

From Kona Brewing Company enjoyed at Hula Grill Ka'anapli
  • You can find their Longboard Lager at almost any establishment, as well as in bottles at various retail locations. It is very popular. Very light malt flavor and low hops, it drinks easy at 4.6% ABV. After two or three, though, I'm ready for something more robust. For many others, however, this is their beer of choice while on Maui.
  • I'm no expert (yet) but I thought the Fire Rock Pale Ale drank more like an amber than a pale ale. It's copper color and 5.8% ABV lent to that experience. More robust than the Longboard, yes, but not more refreshing, imho.
  • Their Hula Hefeweizen is a traditional Bavarian-style weissbier. Try it with a slice of orange or pineapple, or both. This one registers at 5% ABV.
We also sampled Barefoot Brew which is specially brewed for Hula Grill by Maui Brewing. It is a honey amber incorporating Macadamia Nut Blossom Organic Honey with tettnang hops. Slightly sweet, and full of honey flavor.

From Waikiki Brewing Company enjoyed at Ka’anapali Grille and Tap Room
  • Ala Moana Amber - light, smooth roasted malts, slightly hoppy. Very drinkable at 5.6% ABV. This was our second favorite of the Waikiki beers we sampled on draft. 
  • Eee Pah IPA - at 7.65% ABV, this one is hoppy with a strong malt backbone. Flavorful in all dimensions.
  • Hana Hou Hefe - this was our favorite. Equal parts malted barley and malted wheat with noble and tettnang hops. Orange peel and strawberry purée added a soft and refreshing sweetness. At 6.55% ABV, it might be a little dangerous as an all day sipper but it's definitely worth a second pint or a growler fill at the very least. (Yes, Ka'anapali Grille sells and fills growlers.)
  • Jalapeño Mouth - a well balanced amber with jalapeño spice. Its bark is worse than its bite so don't let it scare you. A strong chili aroma at hits you right up front but the jalapeño flavor is mild enough to keep it highly drinkable. I liked this one very much, easily enjoyed at 5.36% ABV.
  • Skinny Jeans IPA - don’t let the light hoppiness fool you. This beer is 6% ABV. Mosaic and simcoe hops create a light, classic West Coast IPA flavor profile. We were offered a taste but didn't drink a whole pint. My impression is that it's well worth coming back for. (Sounds like a good pre-shuffleboard plan to me.) We also found this beer available in cans from Island Grocery Depot at a good price.

By the bottle:

Hanalei Island IPA from Kona Brewing is POG forward, meaning the fruit flavor profile is made from passionfruit juice, orange juice, and guava concentrate (POG). You can't get more Hawaiian than that.

Overboard IPA by Big Island Brewhaus is an award-winning beer for some award-winning shuffleboard. "Men's Journal included this beer in its 2016 list of 101 Best Beers in American, it won a 2014 World Beer Cup Bronze Award, and was Gold Medal winner in the U.S. Open Beer Championships in 2013 & 2011." [Big Island Brewhaus | Beer] As for the shuffleboard, Hubby is ahead in the scoring. Yesterday's match ended in a tie, however, under the stadium lights**. Grudge match will be held later today at 5pm. (Note to self: get more beer.)

By the can:

Aloha Spirit Blonde by Waikiki Brewing - hoppier than the name implies with perle, tettnang and cascade hops, and a strong malt backbone. (Know your hops, know your beer.) Easy drinking at 4.6% ABV, we found this beer at Island Grocery Depot.

Bikini Blonde Lager and Big Swell IPA by Maui Brewing Company are fairly ubiquitous on Maui in the can or on draft. The Bikini Blonde is a "clean, crisp & refreshing Helles, perfect any time" - a pretty spot on description. Big Swell is citrusy, refreshing, and easy to drink but at 6.8% ABV you might want to be careful about how much you drink. Delicious, nonetheless.

~your faithful beer researcher on Maui

*SPAM is not locally sourced. "Spam that is sold in North America, South America, and Australia is produced in Austin, Minnesota (also known as Spam Town USA) and in Fremont, Nebraska."[Wikipedia] So, if we're talking about family reunions, Austin MN could be a good spot. Just saying.

**Also known as, cell phone flashlights propped up on nearby lounge chairs.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Beer, here

... on Maui

Since researching Hawaii breweries, I've discovered a quite a few places in Maui that offer beers from neighboring islands. This is by no means an exhaustive list but I will endeavor to continue my research. Now that I know what to look for, I'm finding more and more Hawaiian craft beer.

The Cheeseburger Nation franchise owns or is in partnership with Waikiki Brewing Company. All three of their Maui locations feature a wide selection of beers from Waikiki Brewing as well as other Hawaiian and international beers. Cheeseburger in Paradise (menu) is located in Lahaina, Cheeseburger Grille and Tap Room (menu) is in Wailea, and Ka'anapali is host to Ka'anapali Grille and Tap Room which has, by far, the most extensive beer menu.

Island Grocery Depot had the lowest prices I've found so far on the island. This week, they are offering two beers from Waikiki Brewing Company - Aloha Spirit Blonde Ale and Skinny Jeans IPA - available for $7.99 in six-pack cans. They also had 22 oz. bottles from Big Island Brewhaus ($7.49) and Lanakai Brewing Company. (Don't quote me on these prices!)

Longhi's in Wailea offers one selection from Aloha Beer Company on tap. I neglected to get a price as we were still eating breakfast.

The Mill House doesn't offer inter-island beer but they do have an international selection and some very fine cocktails. The Mill House is a category all it's own. In fact, it doesn't really belong in this post. I just wanted you to know about it since it's a new discovery for us. Put on a nice shirt and make a point to stop by this place for lunch, happy hour, or dinner. Or, just stroll the grounds. It's a beautiful place.

Merriman's in Kapalua offers inter-island beers in cans and bottles although they can be expensive. A 22 ounce bomber is $18. The outdoor deck and happy hour food menu are amazing.

Pacific'O offers selections from Oahu and the Big Island for $14-$17.

Safeway at Lahaina Cannery Mall had three selections of Hawaii Nui Brewing - Kauai Golden Ale, Sunset Amber Ale, and Haps Brown Ale - available in six-pack cans for $8.49-$8.99-ish. (Darn, I should write these things down!)

Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors offers a small selection of Hawaiian craft beers at decent prices. By no means, the least expensive however. You can find Hawaiian, Japanese craft beer, and many West Coast beers in addition to major brands and other international beers here.

Many establishments offer craft beer from Japan. Tamura's, Star Noodle, and Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar come to mind. Hitachino Nest Beer is one to try.

We bought a few of these selections. I'll get back to you after I've had a chance to enjoy them. And as I find more Hawaiian beers available on Maui, I'll keep you updated.

~your faithful beer researcher on Maui

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Minit Stop Stormed for Coffee

A storm blew through the Hawaiian islands earlier this week knocking out power to nearly all of Maui early Tuesday morning. The Maui News reports the outage was due to high winds and multiple lightning strikes around the island. Power was restored by 4 pm for most people.

Apparently, the biggest risk during the power outage was a shortage of coffee. While the airport continued to operate, the rest of the island was in a panic over where to get their morning joe.
“It looked like Black Friday,” Kihei resident Arthur Criste Jr. said of Piilani Village Shopping Center. “This parking lot was crazy busy. People were trying to get gas, Starbucks was closed and everybody was going to Minit Stop for coffee.
Now, that's an emergency. Luckily, we had brewed our coffee the night before and stored it in the refrigerator. Sure, we might have lost all our food if the power hadn't come on early, but at least we had coffee.
Donna Tabulinar, store manager of the Minit Stop, said her store sold five to six times more coffee than she has ever sold in a day — even surpassing free coffee promotions. 
Maui unplugged | The Maui News
We went for a drive around 8:30 Tuesday morning. Any place that had power and was serving coffee had a line out the door. Gas stations were especially busy. In Lahaina, people were milling around a darkened Starbucks looking lost and confused. Cheeseburger in Paradise, one of the few places in Lahaina with power and serving breakfast, had a line down the street.

Further down the West Maui Coast, the Starbucks in Kihei was open with a long line out the door. The parking lot for the nearby Safeway was full as people were stocking up on - I don't know. I would think batteries but maybe it was coffee.

By the time we got there, nearly all The Shops at Wailea were fully functioning. By then, I was ready for another cup of coffee myself so I set about looking for a quick cup to go. Lappert'sHonolulu Coffee, and Island Gourmet Markets all had long lines. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf remained closed altogether. I gave up.

By Wednesday morning, the island of Maui was able to get their regular cup of joe at their favorite establishments. And a sense of calm prevailed.

15 to go!

According to my brewery app, there are 17 breweries in the state of Hawaii:  two on Kauai, two on Maui, four on the Big Island, and nine on the island of Oahu.

  • Koholā Brewery - located in Maui Brewing's previous (non air-conditioned) brew facility, they received the Bronze Medal for their Lokahi Pilsner at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival. "Maui's best kept secret." 
  • Maui Brewing Company - the brewery and tasting room is located in Kihei with happy hour daily, and an awesome outdoor patio. They also have a brewpub located in Kahana (and Waikiki, Ohau). The brewpub has a food menu while a rotating array of food trucks currently serve the brewery although the brewery plans to add a restaurant.
Big Island:
  • Big Island Brewhaus - beer, locally sourced food, and live music. Hawaii’s highest brewpub at 2,764 feet above the sea.
  • Hawaii Nui Brewing - one of Hawaii's largest independent breweries, they brew all-natural beers.
  • Kona Brewing Company - with distribution to all 50 United States and 26 countries, Kona Brewing is the top selling of Hawaii's breweries. With two brewpub locations (Big Island and Oahu), brewery facilities are located in Portland OR Woodinville WA, Memphis TN, and Portsmouth NH in addition to its main brewery facility in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
  • Mehana Brewing Company - owned by Hawaii Nui Brewing, their Tsunami IPA won a Gold Medal in the 2012 World Beer Championship held in Chicago. Their Hapa Brown, Volcano Red, and Southern Cross all won Silver Medals.
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery - claiming to be Honolulu's first brewpub, they are located in the Aloha Tower Marketplace on the Honolulu Harbor. Gordon Biersch operates 35 restaurants all over the United States as well as four restaurants in Taiwan. Offering food and beer daily.
  • Home of the Brave Brewing Company - aims to remember, honor, and salute the US Military with commemorative beers such as Remember Pearl Harbor Mighty American Ale, D-Day India Pale Ale, and Zamperini Extra Special Bitter. They are host to the largest collection of WWII memorabilia in the Pacific in their museum, Home of the Brave Tour Company, and a Brewseum -"Kaka'ako's best kept secret."
  • Honolulu BeerWorks - located in the heart of Kaka'ako, they produce 1500 barrels per year. Offering lunch and dinner menus, they are open Monday through Saturday.
  • Lanikai Brewing Company - open Thursday through Sunday, they are located in Kailua. "Paradise in a bomber bottle, best shared with friends." Follow them on Facebook for more information about the brewery.
  • Square Barrels - craft burgers and beers in downtown Honolulu, they also feature a happy hour menu. Closed Sundays.
  • Stewbum & Stonewall brewing Company - currently closed for expansion, they are due to reopen in 2018. Beers to look forward to include Low Elf Esteem  Spiced Winter Ale, and The Days of Our Wives Bitter Ale.

I have been to the three Maui locations but it looks like I have some work to do. Most of the bars on Maui feature both Maui breweries on tap as well as beers from Kona Brewing but the only time I've seen other Hawaiian beers is at a liquor store with a good beer selection which speaks to the high cost of distribution between islands.

Well, if the beers won't come to me, I'll just have to go to them. Beer tourism, anyone? If I plan the trip, will you come with me? It's time to do some inter-island beer hunting!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Garage Takeover

There used to be a car in here.

No Rush

I'm sitting in bed, drinking coffee, and waiting for the sun to come up. Doesn't get much better than that.

I'm drinking a chilled coffee and don't have a coaster. Was too lazy to get up and find one so used an
Laziness at its finest.
open drawer instead. Figured there'd be little harm in that.

The flight to Honolulu was about five hours. A little bumpy but mostly uneventful. We flew on Hawaiian Airlines which is one of the only airlines left - if not the only - that still serves a complimentary meal to all its nearly 300 passengers. First class passengers got something else but the rest of us got a breakfast sandwich, preheated in a sealed plastic wrapper. Dated 7/31/17. Yum.

Once in Honolulu, we had about 90 minutes to kill before our next flight so we sought out some local craft beer at an airport bar. Sammy's Beach Bar & Grill offered selections from Maui Brewing, Kona Brewing, and Aloha Beer. We were headed to Maui so we opted for beers from Aloha, which is in Oahu, and Kona which is from the Big Island but with production facilities in several cities on the Mainland, including Portland, Oregon.

As the bartender was preparing our drinks, he gave our glasses the customary glass rinse only the star sink malfunctioned. After our beers had been drawn, he accidentally set one edge of a glass on the glass rinser which activated a spray of water into the air in all directions. Even after moving the glass, the water continued to threaten nearby bar patrons. I wasn't even sitting at the bar but it narrowly missed me, my phone, and my boarding pass.

We selected a different table further away while the bar staff got the flood under control. We finished our beers, made our flight, and eventually found our way to our destination. I'm just glad I didn't have to finish our trek in a soaking wet silk blouse.

The sun is up and my cup is empty. Outdoor temperature is 77F. Guess it's time to get my butt out of bed.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Granddaughter, are you missing something?

Lost pony found wandering in Vancouver store parking lot
You never know what you'll find at Ross Dress for Less. You might find a new pair of pants, a cheap shirt - or maybe a pony.

A few more before I go

Carpet and baseboard removed.

Discovered linoleum under our kitchen floor which was wood laminate.

Never Visit the Sausage Factory

... and Other Tales from the Dark Side.

Tax Season Part II ended Monday. That's the dark side. I'll have a break from work for a couple of weeks and then I'll start gearing up for next year. T minus six months until the next deadline.

I never know what to say when people ask what I do for a living. Usually, "income tax return preparer" is enough to avoid any follow up inquiry. If I say "accountant," others often hear "C.P.A." which I'm not. In any case, they hear "I give away advice for free" which I don't. Because, not C.P.A.

Most people are eager to change the subject after I mention income tax preparation. Or they want to involve me in a political discussion often having to do with an area of taxation I know nothing about. I like what I do for a living most of the time. But that doesn't mean I want to talk about it. And if I did, you wouldn't want to hear about it. It's deadly boring stuff.

Bond premium amortization, total and at-risk basis calculations, stock option basis adjustments, and ordinary income recapture on market discount bonds aren't necessarily interesting topics but they are highly technical concepts that the ordinary investor (and often their brokers) are oblivious - tax time or otherwise. I like the technical mechanics of a tax return. And I like the solo nature of preparing one.

I'm the person in the back room crunching the numbers and manhandling the tax software not the person who can talk about this stuff and relay the bigger picture to the client. I just make sense of the paperwork and try to be as technically accurate for as reasonable a price possible. And then I do it over and over and faster and faster until my head nearly explodes. Then I take a break, get reacquainted with my loved ones and start all over again. Sound like fun? 

I probably shouldn't write the recruiting brochure. Anyway, enough about me, what about that sausage factory?

The day after tax day, yesterday, a contractor showed up bright and early to get started on our hardwood floor installation. They seemed like nice guys. Showed them around and then headed out for an appointment. Came back and instant construction zone: garage is full of equipment, a load of lumber in the living room, another one in the dining room, dust everywhere, kitchen towels in use for who knows what, toilet paper exhausted in one bathroom, a borrowed phone charger. I can't wait to see how it all looks when it's done but I decided I didn't need to see how it gets done.
I meant to take a "before" picture but forgot before I left. This is a not-very-good picture of "just-got-started." I'm heading out of town for a couple weeks while they take over the entire space. Theoretically, it'll be done when I get back but I don't hold out much hope. These things never go the way you think they will.

Also, a not-very-good picture of me in front of a purple car. It was a Charger that was for sale. How would I look in that ride?

Which reminds me, finally, of Baby Driver. It's not a movie I would have picked but I had a whole lot of fun watching it. Check it out.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tax Season 2.0

It'll all be over in a couple weeks and one or two long weekends.

Chocolate has become a mainstay of my diet.

Coffee runs through my veins.

Sleep, ha! Who needs sleep? I am a tax return robot.

Someday, an actual 'bot will do your tax return.

And I will be on a beach.

To those of you I haven't seen in a while: miss you.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What is special?

The good new is we can see the Sun again. Breathe the air, go outside, see blue sky (rare enough here). Had rain. (Never been so grateful.)

The bad news is now that the Sun is out, I can't see it. Not when I wake up anyway. This actually started August 31st: My alarm clock sounded before sunrise.

Worse: Just when it starts to go the other way - literally, the day it would be sunrise at or before 6:30 am again - Daylight Saving Time shifts the clock an hour and we start all over. Which means it's April 12th before I see the light of day again (in my waking moments). This, in addition to my current occupation, may contribute to my overall grumpiness in Spring. Be prepared. (Or send chocolate.)

Is this preemptive grumpiness? Yes. It is a warning.

Lest we leave it on a sour note, more good news: A blind long snapper finally got to enter a live game in the fourth quarter of USC’s win over Western Michigan. Jake Olson "nailed the snap while his teammates and the crowd went wild." (Pete Carroll cried.)

Special, indeed.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The hills are on fire.

Eagle Creek is 30 miles from where I live, although on the other side of the Columbia River.

This article from The Columbian includes a pretty amazing photo as well:
Officials extend air-pollution advisory
(Stevenson, by the way, is halfway between where I live and where my brother lived until very recently.)

Ash has been falling here since Monday. I didn't go outside at all on Tuesday and I haven't been outside at all today. No doubt, the ash is clogging our A/C filters. The ash in the air is think enough to block the sun's rays. Not completely, but it feels a little like the eclipse. The available light is eerie and temperatures are slightly lower because of the diffused light. The sun is glowing a deep orange rather than a bright yellow, looking more like Mars than the Sun.

I-84 and Highway 14 have been closed, school and outdoor events have been canceled, towns have been evacuated.

Wildfires aren't new. What is new is how close I am to them now. (Rather, how close they are to me.) I'm not native to the area but I've lived here most of my life now. As for ash, I moved here after the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. Then, the ash spewed was far worse as you can see here.

We are headed to Seattle this weekend, a little more than 150 miles north of here, where ash is falling from fires in Central Washington.

This map will show you how much these (and other) fires are affecting the country. Just showing the fires and smoke layers yielded this image:

This is truly spooky, a little bit scary, and a very sad for the people whose lives are forever altered by these fires. NOAA is reporting a Red Flag Warning for the area which means thunderstorms with abundant lightning is forecast, combined with critically dry fuels which may result in numerous fire starts. These conditions "can contribute to extreme fire behavior." West winds will continue through Thursday.

We could use the rain but lightning we can do without. Maybe a quick trip to Boston is in order. I hear there a lot of rain out there. (Flash floods? Egads! Is no one safe?)

Friday, September 1, 2017

A three-day brews cruise - just in time for Labor Day Weekend

Last weekend, we took a few days to visit breweries in the Puget Sound area and the Georgetown, SoDo, and Capital Hill neighborhoods of Seattle. But first, the commute. On the way we stopped at Dick's Brewing NW Sausage & Deli in Centralia where we had a French Dip sandwich and a Pale Ale. Dick's is located in what we call the "beer desert" - the 110 miles between Vancouver (WA) and Olympia, 60 miles south of Seattle, with only half a dozen breweries between the two. The good news is there are more coming: McMenamin's is building a new location in Kalama, Dick's will have a new location in downtown Central, both coming in 2018, and we just discovered Flood Valley Brewing is in Chehalis. Finally, an oasis!

While several breweries in the Puget Sound area are accessible by boat, we did this cruise by car. Our next stop was at Silver City Restaurant and Brewery in Silverdale where we paired their Clear Creek Pale Ale with their Crispy Cod Tacos for a satisfying snack. Next, was Downpour Brewing in Kingston where we shared a flight and tossed the bags on their back patio. Downpour is an easy, albeit uphill, walk a half mile from the Kingston Ferry Terminal (from Edmonds) and Port of Kingston which means it is absolutely accessible by boat. If you're in Kingston by boat, I recommend making the trek uphill.

Further away, is Hood Canal Brewery which is another four miles away. It's a small brewery worth your time, but you will need a car. The buses don't go that far and Uber and taxi service are non-existent. If you're a WABL member and filling out your passport, note that nearby CB's Nuts is a WABL sponsor. Stop in, check them out, and get a stamp. I didn't figure this out until after we had left Kingston so I'm not sure what the connection between organic roasted nuts and craft beer is (do they also roast malts?). The only way to find out is vast them and ask so be sure you do and let them know you appreciate their WABL sponsorship.

Our last stop for this Thursday was Rainy Daze Brewing in Poulsbo. We shared a flight there where the Rainy Daze Rye IPA stood out for me. Rainy Daze where "it's not the size of your system—it's how you use it" is a larger facility, with a cool vibe and where their nearly 20 wood tap handles are crafted by local artists. Award winning beers, with front row seating to the brewing facilities, and a beautiful bar make for a good experience.

Friday's expedition started with a flight at Slippery Pig in Poulsbo. Of the three we tried, the Boldur's Blonde stood out for us. We also stopped at Valhöll Brewing Company, also in Poulsbo, where the bartender/owner was very gracious. We enjoyed a pint of the Dry Hop Warrior Golden Ale. Both these breweries are accessible by foot if you are staying at the Port of Poulsbo Marina. Slippery Pig is a few short steps from the marina while Valhöll is a quarter mile away.

Before leaving Poulsbo, we made a quick stop at Sound Brewery. This is only 1.5 miles away from the Port. The roads were busy in some places but it is possible to navigate by bike or bus, if you happen to be in in Poulsbo by way of boat. There, we had a very smooth Munich Dunkel which was quite satisfying. They also have food, if you're hungry.

Our last stop for the day was Bainbridge Island Brewing where we sampled a flight of northwest IPAs. Our favorite was the Windfall Grapefruit IPA. Despite their logo, which looks like a ferry boat, Bainbridge Island Brewing does not supply beers to the Washington State ferry system. Although there are several local craft breweries that do, Bainbridge Island Brewing isn't one of them. (The breweries that have that honor are listed here.) This brewery is located in an industrial complex that also features a winery, a distillery, and a coffee roaster. There is also a gym located there that we studiously avoided.

Saturday was a busy day of focused brewery touring. After taking the ferry from Eagle Harbor to Seattle, we headed to Counterbalance Brewing. This small, out of the way spot in the Georgetown neighborhood south of Seattle seemed to be favored by locals and other beer industry types. We tried the Passion Fruit Hibiscus Farmhouse Ale and the Bohemian Pilsner, both delicious in their respective lanes.

From there we ventured to Lowercase Brewing where the bartenders are friendly, the menu is informative (thank you), and the beer is delicious. A former auto shop, their remodeled interior used  reclaimed wood from nearby Boeing for their wood paneled walls. We had the Double Black IPA, a collaboration with Flying Lion, which was outstanding. From there, it was only a quarter mile to Machine House Brewery where we had the Matrimonial Pale Ale which, brewed specifically for the brewer's wedding. Cheers!

A mere 52 feet away, we stopped by another WABL sponsor, Full Throttle Bottles, who was closed for remodeling after a recent ownership change. Nothing to do but venture forth so we headed to Two Beers Brewing Company who was celebrating with Seattle Cider the latter's fourth anniversary. We were still outside while this video was being taken (posted on Facebook). Once we gained entrance, however, we savored a pint of Return of the Tonic. "Looks weird but tastes good," was the advice and it was correct on both counts. This cider was made with ginger, carrot, turmeric and who knows what else? Highly unusual and extraordinarily delicious.

Next was Schooner Exact Brewing which was also crowded as we happened by while they were participating in a block party with their nine winery neighbors. Unable to find parking, we purchased a bomber to go and moved on to Seapine Brewing which was closed for a private event. This place looked interesting so we will definitely want to come back. Luckily, Ghostfish Brewing was right around the corner. And, we were able to find on-street parking.

Everything on the Ghostfish menu is gluten free - the beer as well as the food. They use traditional brewing methods with non traditional ingredients to produce some really great beers. Their taproom is big and open with indoor and outdoor seating with friendly and knowledgeable servers. The samples we tasted were varied and creative. We settled on the Vanishing Point Pale and Grapefruit IPA and liked them both.

Although we would have liked to have sampled some of Ghostfish's food items, we settled on the Ultimate Beer Burger - because bacon jam - at Pyramid Brewing Company at their Seattle Alehouse. Located across the street from Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, this place can be busy on game days. It was not, the day we visited, so we had ample parking and quick, friendly service. There, we shared a Outburst Citrus IPA (7% ABV) which was just perfect on the outside patio.

Before wrapping up our day's tour, we stopped by a WABL sponsor, The Pine Box, where they have 32 beers and ciders on tap from a wide range of breweries and cideries. Located on the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle, this place was just starting to get busy on a Saturday evening when we arrived.

Just as the sun was starting to set, we had our last beer of the day at Redhook's new Brewlab which opened August 14th. Located in the old Pike Motorworks Building, we had no trouble finding the place since we used to have our cars serviced there some years ago. This is one of the largest spaces we've visited. Plenty of room which included two patios and two fire pits for cooler Seattle evenings. Redhook has a long history in Seattle as its first microbrewery. While their main operations are consolidated in Portland, the Seattle Brewlab is a place where they will create the next generation of Redhook brews.

Sunday was draft day for our NFL fantasy team so we didn't make any brewery visits which isn't to say we didn't enjoy any beer. We cracked open a Gin Botanical that we purchased earlier from Seattle Cider and the Hopvine IPA we purchased at Schooner Exact. No doubt they aided in our draft picks for the season.

What ever you end up doing this Labor Day weekend, be sure to stop in and visit your favorite craft brewery for refreshment. We will be home, painting the house. But, it won't be long before we're on the road again, looking for new craft breweries to try.

To our friends who will be in Poulsbo this weekend, sorry we could be there with you. Cheers!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Brews Cruise

In an ongoing effort to visit more craft breweries in the state of Washington than anyone else (watch out, Bob - you know who you are), we set out to visit the breweries of the Fremont and Ballard neighborhoods of Seattle. We managed to visit twelve in a single day and we did it by boat. (Actually, mostly on foot.)

Near Urban Family Brewing Co.
We cruised on a 2002 Formula 37PC from Lake Washington to Fishermen's Terminal, got a slip for the night, then set off on foot to Urban Family Brewing Company which specializes in the eclectic. Although they have a couple of IPAs, their focus is on experimental beers (mostly sours) using a variety of fruits. While sipping a flight of sours, we downloaded the app for an urban bike sharing program called Lime Bike. We found and rented a couple of bikes which allowed us to get to Hale's Ales, about 2.5 miles away.

There were certainly better routes to choose (via the South Ship Canal Trail or over the Ballard/Hiram M. Chittendon Locks) but we crossed the Lake Washington Ship Canal via the Ballard Bridge. The narrow sidewalks and opposing bike and pedestrian traffic made for a harrowing experience but the ride was free*.

Our route, first half:

See promo codes below for your free ride.
We were certainly ready for refreshment by the time we got to Hale's Ales. We cooled off with a pale ale and a sausage and spinach popover. Bad Jimmy's Brewing was less than 500 feet away so we locked the bikes and left them at Hale's Ales. Bad Jimmy's is a small brewery housed in what feels like a large garage (or small warehouse) with a roll up door, small but comfortable patio, and lofted space with more than a half dozen pinball machines. We had the Cucumber Lime Blonde and broke out the quarters.

Our next stop was about a half mile away, Populuxe Brewing. They had a large selection of IPAs on tap. This is a good place to have a flight to compare the profiles of various hops. They also had a large, family friendly, outdoor space complete with two corn hole sets and an adjacent food truck. This was where we encountered our first Cycle Saloon which was a great endorsement for Pupuluxe. We were just glad we had ordered before they got there!

Next was Lucky Envelope Brewing which was just a couple blocks away and where we encountered our second Cycle Saloon. We were on a popular pilgrimage! This time, we weren't as lucky with the beer line. We shared a Blood Orange Session IPA while watching a couple of corn hole games in progress on their smallish outdoor patio.

From there, we made our way to Stoup Brewing. Stoup had a young vibe, crowded on this now early Saturday evening. This was clearly a popular spot. There, we shared a pint of their Mosaic Pale Ale - a good one. (Stoup Brewing was also the 100th unique Washington craft brewery visit since I started keeping track with the WABL passport. Cheers!)

Tap list at Reuben's Brews
A few blocks later, we were at Reuben's Brews. This place was really hopping! There, we shared an r&R Pilsner - a collaboration beer with Rainier Beer. This combination elicited an "ew" when I first heard about it. Nothing against Rainier Beer - iconic in these part of the woods. However, the thought of Rainier Beer reminds me of the cheap swill I drank many years ago. What I can tell you now, however, is that I highly recommend the r&R Pilsner. It's definitely worthy of your time. Speaking of time, it's time for me to reconsider Rainier Beer!

About a third of a mile away was Maritime Pacific Brewing Company which had large indoor and outdoor spaces and food. From there, we walked the half mile to  NW Peaks Brewery at the old Spinnaker Bay Brewing location. There, I would recommend the Eldorado Pale Ale. A short block away was Peddler Brewing which is not exclusive to cyclists. Rather, this place was busy with people using all modes of transportation. It featured a large outdoor space with corn hole and a food truck out back.

Crossing the Ballard Bridge again (this time on foot), we aimed for Rooftop Brew Co where they just celebrated their fourth anniversary. This is a small, family-friendly place that is, quite literally, located on a rooftop.

Our route, second half:

Even though we had snacked our way through the afternoon at several locations, we took a dinner break, feasting on a whole crab at Chinook's at Salmon Bay. Sated, we visited our last brewery for the day, Figurehead Brewing Company, only steps away. We sampled the Bigger Than Brown in this friendly and intimate spot and enjoyed the company of like-minded patrons.

The best way to visit a brewery is to sit at the bar and order a flight or a pint. Whoever is behind the bar, if not the owner, is likely to be very informative about their beers. You're also likely to chat with other patrons who are invariably friendly. But, if your goal is to visit as many breweries as possible, you have to pace yourself. Give yourself plenty of time, don't drive, and don't order full pints unless you're sharing it with someone. 10oz, 8oz, 4oz, or even 2oz options are often available. Remember to eat and drink plenty of water. If you're not feeling fine the next morning, you did it wrong. Or, spread out your visits. This tour would be easy enough if you spent a weekend taking the time to enjoy each brewery in turn.

Washington craft breweries are becoming more and more ubiquitous. I finished writing this post at the Vancouver Library where, behind me, sits a man with a shirt from Bushnell Craft Brewing Company which is located in Redmond, WA.  We visited that brewery the day before this Brews Cruise but that's a different story.

*Use one of these promo codes for Lime Bike and your first three rides are free.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hubby to Father who is planning to visit: Don't come here. It's hot and smoky.

Father: Sorry, son. I thought you were saved.
Barista: Can I get a drink started for you?

Me: No, thanks. Just a pound of coffee beans today.

Barista: Need them ground?

Me: No, thanks.

Barista: Old school, huh? Tell me: how do you do it? Do you just dump the beans in and push a button to make coffee, or what?

Me: No, I have separate machines: coffee grinder and espresso maker. I can only make coffee one cup at a time.

Barista: That really is old school.

Me: The machine is made by Saeco but I bought it 15-20 years ago when it was sold under your label.

Barista: I should get a machine like that.

Me: I have a spare. . . .

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Crickets cannot tell time

... but they can tell the temperature. According to the Farmer's Almanac:
To convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 14 seconds, then add 40 to get the temperature.  
Example: 30 chirps + 40 = 70° F 
This was verified by
Dr. Peggy LeMone of The GLOBE Program (a science education program funded by NASA, NOAA, NSF, and others). . . .
However, she concluded that temperature was more accurately measured by chirp counts at 13 seconds plus 40.

The ones who cannot tell neither the time nor the temperature end up here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Starbucks denies rumor of discounts for immigrants

How would that work anyway?

Aug 11 ...
Barista: Are you an undocumented immigrant? 
Customer: Yes. 
Barista: Can you prove it? 
Customer: Er, no?

What Just Happened?

Besides Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, this:

Blue Angels performing at Seafair over Lake Washington

Flowers floating

As for the Conference, I didn't attend. I'm still practicing.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Why does coffee ground for espresso have less static electricity than coffee ground for a French press? Same grinder, same bean so I think it has something to do with surface area.

While I wasn't able to find the answer to my query, a quick search on the internet revealed that static in coffee grinding is a common problem. Cook's Illustrated offers that the only thing to do to get rid of static is give the static time to dissipate on its own:
" For medium-grind coffee (appropriate for a regular drip coffee maker), grind the coffee, wait for 5 minutes, and then remove the grind chamber from the machine. "
Five minutes? Clearly, they jest.

The most interesting (and most expensive) solution was a Zerostat 3. Cool.

I wonder if Amazon sells a holster that I can attach to my bathrobe.

From the Desk of Captain Obvious

WSU study suggests pot use relieves stress

Friday, July 14, 2017

Career Planning?

I have a handy app on my phone that tells me where the closest brewery is from my current location. Good thing to have if you're looking for some suds.

There are 20 breweries within 5.25 miles from my front door. That's as the crow flies but theoretically, I should be able to walk or bike to all of them. (Eleven of them are in the #Couve.)

From my office, the 20 closest breweries are within a 7.25 radius.

Would it be a bad idea to quit my job?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Beach Update

The beach is back! Back in March the river was at 17 feet and up to the sidewalk at this spot and over the sidewalk just behind where this photo was taken. Now, the water level ranges between four and six feet between low and high tides which is about normal.  Meanwhile, the rock next to the piling at the far right side of the frame looks about the same.

The osprey nest (if you're falling along) appeared to be in great peril this morning, rocking violently. The chicks had better fledge soon or they may not get a choice about it. Even if they survive their first flight, I will be shocked if that perch is still here when it comes time to lay eggs again next year.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Surprise, Beach!

Surprise Beach
The beach known, quite possibly only to Google Maps, as Surprise Beach made its first appearance of the year just in time for the Summer Solstice. You can just see the slightest sliver of it above. (If you look up Surprise Beach on Google Maps, you can see at least one photo of what the beach usually looks like.)

As the river returned one beach, it took away from another. Just recently, the river claimed a sign belonging to Beaches Restaurant which is just out of frame, upstream from the above image.For 22 years, the sign stood atop a group of pilings outside the restaurant, about 150 steps from my front door. We used it as an unofficial depth gauge to see how high the river was. I don't know how high the river was when the photo (found at link) was taken. At its high, the river reached the bottom of the phone.

Osprey perch and nest.
The river also threatened to take these two pilings which are currently home to a pair of nesting osprey. (You have to zoom in real close to see an osprey on one piling. The nest is barely visible on the other.) They wobbled and swayed at the higher depths and currents. The pilings remain but a horizontal perch that was just atop the nest is now missing.

The river is down about 7 feet from it's high of 17+ in March. If you scroll back through some of my posts (here, for example), you can see that the river was up over the sidewalk (a short distance downriver from where these photos were taken). 

Floating rock.
If you zoom in real close on this other image you will see a rock near the base of another piling. (All three images were taken from the same vantage point.) We are confounded by the fact that this rock looks exactly the same as when the river was 7 feet higher. We walk by this point every day. This photo was taken yesterday but the rock looked exactly the same in March. We can come to no other conclusion than this rock floats.

That's biggest surprise of them all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Now You Don't

Our living room.
Our garage.
Thankfully, this is not our condo. The above is the neighbor's condo. The extent of damage in our place is minimal by comparison.

Upside: We've been thinking about updating our base moulding anyway and since half of it's been ripped out the living room, we might as well do it now. And if we're doing that, we might as well update the flooring - go to hardwoods. Perhaps, we should update the kitchen flooring while we're at it. (Wait, that was the good news?)

Downside: Insurance doesn't cover the upgrades, not that I expected it to. But I did expect it to cover the damage. At present, our condo still looks like these pictures because we haven't reached an agreement with the insurance company on the cost to repair.

So far, the adjuster, from his office 350 miles from here, thinks it should cost about $1500 to restore the condo to it's previous condition. Meanwhile, the contractor, who has actually been here, thinks it'll run about three times as much. I'd be irritatated but we didn't have to move out like our neighbor did.

As it happens, the neighbor (and her roommate) have moved back in but their furniture has not. They have use of their kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms only. Meanwhile, the insulation, which is only on our side of the common wall, has not been replaced. Which means, we have become very friendly with one another.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Impromptu Remodel

Now you see it ...

Neighbor's pipe burst in the common wall yesterday. She was having a new washing machine installed on the third floor of her condo when the pipe burst flooding the two floors below. Luckily, our damage will be somewhat minimal although a contractor is preparing to rip out the bottom two feet of our second floor living room wall so the space behind it can dry out. Water damage to the den and garage walls on the first floor was also detected.

Our neighbor, on the other hand, is having to replace the second story ceiling and the laminate flooring she recently had installed.

I don't mind the damage so much as dealing with the insurance people.