Sunday, December 31, 2017

More With Less

If you haven't finished with last year's resolutions, you'd better hurry. There will be NO leap second inserted at the end of 2017.

My resolution for last year was to get rid of any clothes I didn't wear in the course of the year. I have a pretty good pile going and I had better get it donated today because I probably won't be able to claim the deduction next year. (I expect a lot of people will be making donations today for that reason.)

Next year, I want to get rid of even more stuff. The idea came to me the last time I went on a two-week trip and lived quite comfortably out of a small suitcase. I know people who have to pack large suitcases for short weekends just so every contingency is covered, wardrobe-wise. Yet, it seems to me that with some planning, one can cover the bases with fewer, more versatile wardrobe selections.

I've found a couple of websites that offer advice on what constitutes the perfect wardrobe. The secret seems to be having a theme - basically, a color scheme. Stick to the theme and you should be able to make endless combinations with fewer pieces. Plus, less thinking.

Egads! With the clock ticking on the rest of 2017, my goal should really be to get off my rear end and do - well, something. I've been enjoying my day off today with some abandon - as in, I've abandoned getting anything done. Tick, tock - before the year is over, there are a few things left to do. None of them worth mentioning but all necessary to the function of living one's life.

So, without further ado, since we've had far too much of that, Happy New Year! May your resolutions for the new year be far more interesting and energetic!

Friday, December 29, 2017


This year's holiday festivities included a Secret Santa who was to be our favorite fictional character. My brother-in-law drew my name and I selected Monica Geller as my fictional character sometime early in December. I figured I might get some coffee or, more likely, a Swiffer but in any case, I wanted to select a character that was difficult for my Secret Santa.

As the month wore on, and I got grumpier and grumpier, I changed my fictional character to The Grinch. My brother-in-law was saved. He had no idea what to get me as Monica Geller.

Before I even opened the box, he told me I could thank him now or thank him later. As soon as I saw the green furry material, I had no doubt that the joke was on me. From the box, I pulled a full-body Grinch onesie.

I put it on immediately and modeled it for the entire family and I thanked my brother-in-law with a great, big hug.

But the joke may be on him because I've worn it every day since then. It's cozy and comfortable, comes with a hood, and scares little children and neighbors alike. (We currently have no window coverings in our living room.)

I've thought about joining the Run, Grub and Chug Club for the sole purpose of having an excuse to wear it. (They often wear costumes.) I will undoubtedly wear it every day next December on the Vancouver waterfront for my morning walks. And, I can promise, dear, sweet brother-in-law, I will wear it to your house next Christmas Eve.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Like a sigh, it's over.

Warm memories linger, relatives gone. Nothing left but paper and ribbons, shredded and discarded. Leftover food for a week in the refrigerator, cookie crumbs in the couch cushions.

We had snow. Just enough to be pretty but not enough to be troublesome. A fire in the fireplace - two of them. Classic movies on TV. Coffee in our pajamas long past the time of lounging. Consuming more calories than outputting.

And, now it's time to go, to resume normal life, the everyday. Pack, hustle, travel. Trying to delay the inevitable, we look forward to another celebration before launching, hurtling, into a New Year.

Best to all.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

'Tis two days of waiting

'Tis the afternoon before the day before Christmas

And all through the house not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse;
"Thank goodness, she's asleep," we declared
As we each found our spot for our own peaceful rest
In this crickety and drafty, rickety old house.

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that this dwelling,
(Beautifully built in 1888)
Doesn't become ashes - POOF! - in the air.

While our little one slept,
Dreaming of sugar, not doubt,
I sat alone in my room not wanting to come out.

Outside I can hear there is such a clatter.
I'd spring from the bed to see what's the matter....
Here from the window I can see a flash,
The windows are frozen, I can't open the sash.

The helicopter has been circling since morning, I fear
That a convict has escaped and is alighting on foot
From the regional justice system,
Or maybe with loot.

Egad! I thought, when will we be through
With being merry and all this "to do"?
When will the fat man appear with his stuff
Of way too many goodies for enough is enough!

What to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
Oh, no, that's the egg nog playing tricks in my head.
Perhaps I am done now. I'm going to bed.

For silence is golden, we are rich now indeed
But very shortly again we necessarily will head
The needs of a little one fueled and excited
O'er the wonder of Christmas in two very short nights.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mailing it in

I don't know what happened to Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Just a second ago it was Monday and now it's Friday. I have vague memories of tape and red ribbon, a dust storm of flour, and restless sleep. And where did these extra pounds come from?

Suddenly, I'm in our sleigh which is stuffed full with all the necessities: suitcases and packages, extra hats and mittens, and cookies. This time, I didn't forget all the food.

Over the river and through the woods we go along with everyone else, slogging through fog and rain. My expectations are blissfully low. Not that I'm expecting disappointment, I'm just grateful for what I have. I don't need more.

I'm happy to see family and missing those who can't be with us for one reason or another. Feeling blessed and joyous, I assure you I have not been into the eggnog.

In an uncharacteristic mood of good cheer, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Craft Beer is Serious Business

The best thing about craft beer, besides the beer, is the people. Beer people are laid back, non-pretentious, and friendly. This goes for consumers and brewers alike. Consider, also, the names of beers: Chasing Fluffy Pink Unicorns by Ghost Runners Brewery, for example. There are so many more great names but I have chased fluffy pink unicorns and cannot call them to mind.

But craft beer is serious business. There are conferences addressing beer marketing and tourism, beer blogging, and every facet of growing and producing hops. There are more certifications and college level degrees relating to beer than I can name (although one such list exists here).

Occupations in the beer business go far beyond brewing which is serious enough. If you really want to get technical, you can become a brewing chemist. (The American Society of Brewing Chemists has a great website full of good brew news, btw.) You can get paid to buy beer as a Alcohol Compliance Auditor. There are also brewery auditors with the Department of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Doesn't get more serious than that, does it?

You could be a beer historian at the Smithsonian but that job's been filled.

Less serious, but just as real, are "Drink It Interns." Job requirements: drink beer, travel, use social media. (Check, check, and check.)

Also real are these news items: Taco Bell will now be offering beer and Dunkin' Donuts will offer beer on the darkest day of the year. While Dunkin' Donuts won't actually be serving beer, Wormtown Brewery in Worcester MA will be serving DDark Roasted Brew, a stout made with the Dunkin' Donuts coffee beans. Meanwhile, Taco Bell will actually be selling beer (from Four Son's Brewing) in their Newport Beach location.

But, seriously?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Phoning It In

As you can see, my phone's camera lens has finally been repaired.

As many of you know, I often commute between Portland and Seattle and often by train. I was not on the Amtrak train that derailed today. Thank you to those of you who contacted me.

The train was on the inaugural run of Amtrak's new route between Seattle and Portland, designed to improve service. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Journal Entry - 12/17/17

We are decidedly off schedule. I spent all of Thursday cooking Curry and baking cookies but work obligations kept us from driving to the coast. We packed Friday and got all the food organized and ready to go but work again kept us from getting on the road. Packed and ready to go, we stayed at home. The ultimate staycation.

We finally got on the road Saturday morning. We got about an hour into our three-hour drive when we realized that we had left ALL THE FOOD AT HOME. Lamenting our stupidity at Gilgamesh Brewing over a Vader Black IPA, we considered whether to turn back or to continue onward. We pressed on, leaving a gallon of vegetable Curry behind.

Guess what I’m serving for Christmas dinner?

Got to the beach where friends were waiting with a meal of homemade pasta and from-scratch tomato sauce. Fritos were served as the appetizer.

What if your spouse spoke like your navigation app? “In one hundred feet, take out the trash.” Never raising his/her American/British voice, “When possible, sleep elsewhere.”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Brew News - Dilly! Dilly!

Amid the adversarial relationship between craft breweries and Big Beer, Bud Light delivered a cease-and-desist letter to Modist Brewing Company in Minneapolis with class and humor. At issue was the December 1st release of a Mosaic Double IPA which they named Dilly Dilly. About two weeks prior to release, Modist invited the public via Facebook to their release event.

There, Modist describes the beer as "massively dry hopped with three forms of Mosaic" (pellets, oil, and powder) . . . "and a dilly of a good time." The event started at noon and by 2:30 pm a representative of Bud Light arrived dressed as a town crier who read from a scroll:
" ‘Dilly Dilly’ is the motto of our realm, so we humbly ask that you keep this to a limited-edition, one-time-only run. This is by order of the king. Disobedience shall be met with additional scrolls, then a formal warning, and finally, a private tour of the ‘Pit of Misery.’ " [video]
King? Of Beer? Not for long if Take Craft Back, a tongue-in-cheek crowdfunding campaign, gets its Christmas wish. Their goal is to raise $213 billion to purchase Anheuser-Busch InBev. Nearly 12,000 beer lovers have pledged support, drawing attention to growing disparity in marketplace influence between small and independent brewers and Big Beer. [2017 Craft Beer in Review | Brewers Association]

In Brooklyn, there was no Dilly Dilly for Lineup Brewing who received a cease-and-desist letter for their Oktoberfest Pilsner release named Bïeryoncé. While Modist received two Super Bowl tickets for their compliance, it is unknown as to whether Katarina Martinez, Lineup's owner, head brewer, and Beyoncé fan, received tickets to one of Beyoncé's concerts.

The 2017 Craft Beer in Review also provided an update on the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA). (Not as catchy as "Dilly Dilly," is it?) While it might not be interesting, I learned there is a federal excise tax of $7-$18/barrel depending on production volumes. Under CBMTRA, the excise tax would be reduced to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels for brewers producing less than 2 million barrels per year, and reduced to $16/barrel on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and importers. (The amount would remain at $18 for amounts over 6 million barrels.) [Federal Excise Tax Overview | Brewers Association]

Originally a freestanding bill introduced to the 114th Congress, the 2017 bill has been attached to the Senate version of the Republican tax reform bill. The CBMTRA "may now enjoy wider support in Congress, but it's unknown if the overall tax reform bill into which it was inserted has wide support among craft breweries." [Kendall Jones, Brewers Association Releases Annual Craft Beer in Review Report | Washington Beer Blog]

Unknown, indeed.

Overall, 2017 was a dilly good year for Craft Beer and pretty dilly for me, too. I visited 131 breweries in the state of Washington in 2017 alone,  five in Arizona, two in California, two in Hawaii (Maui), 20 in Oregon, and three in Ohio. There was something to like about each and every one. (Mostly the beer, but always the company.)

There's still a week left.

Have a Dilly Christmas and a Beery New Year!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Not coming to a Book Club near you . . .

. . . is Economist's Books of the Year 2017. A description for "Austral" by Paul McAuley in the Fiction category reads,
" A chase thriller set in late 21st-century Antartica that combines elements of Jack London, J.G. Ballard and William Gibson. A significant contribution to writing about the anthropocene. "
I found the non fiction categories to be much more thrilling.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Journal Entry 12/14/17

So far, so good on the Holiday To Do list. I’m on schedule with the exception of the baking of cookies. I didn’t bake them on Monday so will bake today along with making the vegetable curry.

While I was at the grocery store, getting this week’s supplies, I came across a particular package of grated cheese. The labels of most grated cheese packages show measurements of 2, 3, or 4 cups. This one measured 1 ⅞ cups. Good to know, if I ever have recipe that calls for “almost two cups.”

Yesterday, I baked several dozen cookies in Bellevue and replenished my jolly. Even with the six-hour round trip commute, I was left with enough jolly to decorate our tree (really, a leafy plant) and hang the stockings. The stocking hangers which normally spell PEACE now spell APE EC but close enough. (Hubby hung them and he's not ever jolly.)

On my commute, I came to a traffic light behind a car with a bumper sticker that read “I (heart) Taxes.”

What doe the phrase, “spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss” mean? If they weren’t authorized, why were they speaking? Whoever that guys is speaks out of turn a lot.

Today, I saw a house being pushed by a tug up the Columbia River.

In a rare, non self serving move, Hubby washed my bras. (He's more fond of hiding them.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Keeping my cool, momentarily.

Woke up this morning realizing how very little time is left before Christmas and how very over-scheduled this week is. I had a slight moment of panic. More than slight, really. I don’t know what I was thinking, scheduling so much.

We will have a nice weekend at the coast, a three hour drive from here, but I have a lot to do before then. Then, next week, I only have a few days left to get ready for Christmas which, at this point, entails buying a gift for my granddaughter, and meal planning for incoming relatives.

I’ll leave next week's worries to next week (why rush?) and focus on what needs to happen in the next couple days:

Mon - find recipes and make grocery list (Curry; cookies, breakfast casserole). Look for wrapping supplies.

Tue - grocery shop; bake cookies

Wed - 7am drive 150 miles to Bellevue; 2pm drive back

Thu - am make Curry; pm drive 150 miles to coast. Bring Curry, rice, breakfast casserole, cookies.

Notice that Holidailies is not listed so I need to find time to wedge that in somewhere. You might also note that “locate brewery near coast” is also not on the list but I found time for that already. In fact, ahead of everything else on the list. Perhaps, there will be time for Holidalies as well. (Matter of fact, I used this post to delay attacking this list so the answer is yes, at least for today.)

One might note that “work” is not on the list either. This presents a problem as I will fall behind in a project assigned to me if I don’t make this a priority soon. This stresses me out more than Holiday preparations. (At this point, it should.) A little every day should keep things moving. (I hope.)

(Also not on the list is “return emails.” Sorry, if you haven’t heard from me lately. I’m sure to get around to it.)

Now that the list is complete, it doesn’t look so daunting (until I read the small print). I have a plan and it seems reasonable. (Don’t read the small print!)

However, I reserve the right to panic at any moment.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What to Get the Beer Drinker in Your Life

The short answer is: beer.

You could get a funny t-shirt or a mug with something clever on it but if you're wondering what to get the beer lover in your life, consider getting them beer. That's what they really want. If you're traveling, bring cans, bottles or crowlers of your favorite local craft beer, especially if it's something that haven't had before. If you or your beer drinking recipient are not yet into craft beer, head to a bottle shop for advice on what to try. You could buy a six pack of their favorite beer but it's Christmas, after all; try something new and different. Your local bottle shop, and even larger places such as Total Wine and BevMo!, have experts who can guide you. (But I'm for keeping it local whenever possible.)

If you're flying, check whether your airport has a brewery - right there in the airport! If you find something they like, they will look forward to the annual treat. (For my friends in Phoenix, please bring Morning Brew from O.H.S.O. Brewery!)

If you're long distance but can't travel, look into whether your beer drinker's local brewery or tap house offers gift cards. They're easy to mail and fit nicely in a stocking. You might also consider beer making kits which are available online. You can find a good selection on Uncommon Goods. You might be able to locate a local home brewing supply shop such as Bader Beer and Wine Supply (Vancouver WA). A starter kit there runs $40 and makes one gallon of home brew. (Refills are $16-$19.) Or check into a beer making class for $25.

At $450-$2,000 a PicoBrew will make beer and virtually clean up after itself. As an added feature, it can also cook your food when it's not brewing beer, sous vide style. (That's what we used to call boil-in-bag.)

Learning more about beer is always good. A subscription to a regional brewing news source can be found at Brewing News Store where a one-year subscription is $20. I also like Sip Northwest which also covers wine, spirits, and travel, in addition to beer. That subscription is $19 or free with a subscription to Washington Beer Lovers (WABL) which is an excellent gift in itself at $30. Another excellent publication is BeerAdvocate for $30. The ultimate beer resource may be The Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth. You can get that on Amazon for $15.

Glassware that helps you enjoy the beer does not require a logo. The official glass for beer judging competitions is actually a plastic cup. But in your living room, you can use a glass. Glassware that leaves room for a tall head, allows you to swirl the beer, and allows you to smell the aroma without inhaling the beer is what to look for. A Bordeaux glass works just fine.

BeerAdvocate offers advice on different styles of glassware specific to different styles of beer which you can find online at a variety of sources (Amazon, KegWorks, Crate & Barrel, etc.) Reidel offers a few choices but if you want to boil it down to a single, all-around glass, consider this one from Teku available from True Beer.

For glassware that keeps on giving, find a local brewery that still has openings in their mug club. Prices vary but can be as high as $100 (or more). Mug club benefits include discounts on beers, growler fills, and/or merchandise as well as invitations to private events. Check into your beer drinkers favorite local brewery for details and availability.

There's nothing wrong with funny t-shirts but if you really want to score this Christmas, buy your friend a beer or something that allows them to enjoy it more. Drink, be merry, and be of good beer.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Beer Stories

(or A Dork Who Drinks Beer)

I almost met my idol last weekend, although idol probably isn’t the right word. Carol Burnett is an idol. I found myself in the same room with her once and I almost fainted. I got so nervous, I had to leave the room.

I wasn’t much better when I ran into ABV Girl (aka Kimberly), now owner of Final Draft Taphouse. I didn’t faint or leave the bar. But I didn’t introduce myself either. She’s doing what I fantasize about doing. She loved beer and wrote about it. And then she turned that passion into a career in opening Final Draft. Although she has a blog, I was first introduced to her on Twitter (@ABVGirl).

Owning a bar is not for me. I wouldn’t mind learning how to brew but I’m not about to become a home brewer. No, I’ve been thinking about pursuing a Cicerone Beer Certification or becoming a Certified Beer Judge because I’m the type of person that starts to run and then runs marathons. But there are two problems: work and work. As you know, that's something to be avoided.

I already have a job and to get a certification of any kind will take not only money but work. So I have to consider why I would do such a thing. To what end? I have given thought to creating a blog devoted to beer and certification would give it cred and improve my writing. Certainly, there are plenty of blogs around but none dedicated to SW Washington. The Columbian has food and restaurant reviewers but it doesn’t have anything devoted to beer or SW Washington wines.

Beer judging, whether I do it professionally or not, appeals to the geek side of me - getting technical about a thing, becoming an expert in one’s field. For me, part of enjoying beer is understanding what’s in the glass.

But will the craft beer industry continue to grow? I think so and I think there’s room for beer education, beer tastings, and beer tourism along with it. All of that sounds exciting to me.

That’s why I was excited to almost meet ABV Girl. She’s already doing it and I think that’s awesome.

Next time, I’ll try to say hello.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Goodbye, Ethan.

Today would have been Ethan’s due date. He was our grandson who, born July 24. He died July 25. He was born at 21 weeks, too young to survive. Too young, even, to save. He was born to our youngest son, Chad, and his girlfriend, Allison, and we happened to be visiting them when it happened.

The pregnancy was high risk from the beginning. She was in her mid-thirties and got pregnant even though she had an IUD. The IUD could not be removed after she became pregnant and threatened both Ethan and Allison. It was possible we could have lost them both.

I haven’t talked about it much. There was enough grief going around at the time and I didn’t need to add to that. Plus, most of my friends have never even met Chad. Yes, it was sad - super, super sad - but the loss was theirs, not mine. I had only met Allison the day before. I was not invested like they were.

I got to meet him but I will eternally regret that I didn’t hold him. I was afraid to. I had literally just met Ethan’s mother and witnessed Ethan’s death. It seemed too intimate a time to ask if I could hold her baby. I should have, though. I should have.

Today might have been Ethan’s birthday. Instead, it’s his Memorial.

Goodbye, Ethan. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Journal Entry 12/6/17

I hired a house cleaner yesterday. The first twenty minutes, she told me her story. When she started crying, I worried I had made a serious mistake. The house got clean eventually. I’d recommend her as a cleaner but you might not want to be home.

I also put granola on my yogurt and made a half-decaf latte. I NEVER drink decaf and I only put granola on Hubby’s yogurt. It was a weird day.

I’m thinking about giving up my Blue Apron subscription. I love to cook but I hate to meal plan and grocery shopping is like housecleaning. I can do it, but I’d rather do something else. One thing I would change about the service is the way the boxes are put together. I suppose if they are making 100 boxes with the same meal in them, it makes sense to put the same ingredients in each box. Less to go wrong there. But I would like to tell them which ingredients I already have and don’t need included in my shipment.

So far, the meals have been delicious. The problem I’m having is, again, I’d rather be doing something else. It’s cold here but it hasn’t started to rain in earnest yet, here in the Pacific Northwest. Going out is way more fun than staying in a cooking. There’s always something going on in town. Plus, my freezer is full of food, meals I made previously that provided leftovers.

Maybe I’ll just put Blue Apron on Pause and resume service when it’s just too dark and wet to go out. Right now, I need to head to Ghost Runners Brewery. I haven’t been there in a while and I hear their sales are slipping. My bad. Plus, I want to show them my support. And then the Christmas Ships are sailing tonight. (Maybe not, high winds are predicted.)

See? So much to do!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Journal Entry 12/5/17

Went to a local taphouse yesterday. A man came in by scooting. I first noticed him as he entered - the door opened and a man appeared in the doorway, sitting on a chair. He was recognized by another patron who greeted him and pulled up another chair. I thought it was so the man in the doorway could put up his feet. Perhaps he was hot and didn’t want to come all the way inside.

Instead, the seated man moved from his chair in the doorway to the new one provided and the standing patron put the doorway chair outside. Was someone else coming via chair? He then positioned another chair near the sitting man a little further into the bar.

The seated man then used his chair as a walker pushing it before him to the next chair which he sat in. He thusly made his way to the bar pushing his chair to the next chair which had been positioned by the standing patron. I don’t know if the seated man made it into a barstool which was behind me or if he just sat at a regular chair to order his beer.

We left after that.

Is there a grocery store rule about how to wrap cheese? It’s always in plastic wrap secured by a sticker that tells you how much the cheese costs. The ends of the plastic wrap are hidden under the sticker so there’s no way to open the cheese other than to rip at the sticker in hopes of finding one of the ends before the whole package is destroyed.

The kitchen sink is a metaphor for life. A mess in continual need of cleanup.

Do you ever call customer service and find yourself on perma-hold just when you desperately need to pee?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Well, I should live forever then.

On November 24, 2017, Don Sweeney reported in The Sacramento Bee, That extra cup of coffee can help you live longer, research shows.
" At least, that’s the finding from a new meta-review of scientific literature on the topic in the British Medical Journal. The review shows that drinking three to four cups of black coffee a day can reduce a variety of health risks and can decrease your risk of death by 17 percent.
" “Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake, with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at three to four cups a day, and more likely to benefit health than harm,” the report says. "
Imagine my joy at reading "three to four cups." Unfortunately, they mean, literally, a cup as in 8 ounces so I measured my cup. 10 ounces! I can have another one!
" Also, adding lots of calorie-rich creams, sugars or flavorings to your coffee can cancel out the health benefits and raise your risk of diabetes and other problems, the review says. "
Again, score one for me. It's not real coffee if you put all that other stuff in it. Black is just how I like it. But it can't hurt to have something sweet on the side, can it? I hope not because it's National Cookie Day and what could be better than that?

Coffee and cookies - no better way to make a Monday better.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Is it December already?

So far, the holiday season has been relatively stress free. I just don't have the need for it anymore. Stress. Besides, I have enough stress the other eleven months of the year. Why should I heap any more upon myself?

The last few years, I tried desperately to meet everyone's expectations - what I imagined them to be, anyway. This year, it isn't that I care less. It's more an attitude of "it's going to be whatever it's going to be." I'm happy. The rest is up to you.

I still have travel plans. I still have gifts to purchase. I still need to decorate the house but it will all happen in due time. And what if it doesn't? Travel is already planned and paid for. Gifts - well, I still need to figure that out but that's what Amazon is for. And, right this moment, I don't care if the house gets decorated or not.

Does that make me a Scrooge? I don't think so. You should see me when I'm stressed. Trust me, it's better this way.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Craft Beer - Phoenix

On the first day of  meteorological winter, thoughts of warmer climes nag. While winter beers - dark, malty, and alcohol high enough to warm one's soul - beckon, the sun promises warmth of a different kind.

We recently escaped the cooler temps by fleeing to Phoenix although it was hardly a beer expedition. With over 30 craft breweries, there simply wasn't enough time. We were there to see family and friends. We also went to a NASCAR race (two day's worth) and watched the Seahawks/Cardinals game. Nevertheless, we found some time for beer.

Phoenix Ale Brewery - located near the Phoenix airport, this brewery was launched by former owners of Pyramid Brewing in Seattle. As their staff shirts helpfully point out, you can find Phoenix Ale Brewery between stops 19 and 20 of Phoenix's light rail. I tried their Cranberry Oatmeal Stout, a seasonal offering with notes of oatmeal and a hint of cranberry on the back end - an excellent way to start a visit to Phoenix in the Fall. (After all, it is still Astronomical Fall.) The flavors became smooth and mellow as the beer warmed making it a delicious pint from start to finish. We also tried the Orange Peel IPA, a west coast IPA as citrusy as the name implies. A mouthful of fruit flavor with just enough bitterness for balance. We had a taste of their flagship beer, the Camelback IPA. This one was an English style IPA which, typical for the style, had more of a malt presence than the Orange Peel providing an earthy, herbal, and dry beer. If you want a beer with a little more malt and a little less citrus, this is the one to try.

State 48 Brewery - located in Surprise, this brewery has it all - good beer, a full menu, outdoor seating, and corn hole. Plus, $2 off draft beer during Happy Hour (M-F 3-6). You can't beat that! The only criticism I can offer is their website doesn't provide any information about their beers. That makes it hard for me to recall what I sampled unless I take notes while I'm there. I remember I had their Vanta Black IPA. Dark and hoppy, it provided a mouthful of roasted malts and plenty of hops (70 IBU) for a dry pint of flavorful Fall goodness. At 7% ABV, I limited myself to one and paired it with the Roasted Beet Salad and a side of Brussels Sprouts. I don't remember what everyone else had at the table (should have taken notes) but everyone seemed happy with their selections of both beer and food. (Portions were big enough to share.) We've been to State 48 before and will definitely back.

Camera still busted...
Saddle Mountain Brewing Company - closest to where we were staying so we visited more than once and (between four of us) sampled nearly everything on their menu. Venessa, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, served us. (Seek her out.) Their 15-barrel brew house was built by Marks Design and Metal Works, located in Vancouver, Washington. My favorite was the Night Raid Schwarzbier, a seasonal offering - a dark lager with dry, mild roasted malts. At 5% ABV, it was easy to drink.

Problem Child DIPA  - at 8.5% ABV, this beer was dangerous because: A) 8.5% B) A big mouthful of sweet citrus with see A). I have an Uber promo code if you need one....

The four of us shared a Chasing Tail Amber Ale which was happily and enthusiastically consumed. From their website, "...copper in color, with a malty body that is tamed by the toasty flavor of roasted barley, keeping the sweetness in check." Entirely accurate, easily recommended.

I also liked their IFR Oatmeal Stout. It was slightly sweeter and creamier than the Schwarzbier. It warmed up nicely and is easily a gateway beer for the newly initiated. Dark and rich. Perfect for cooler temps.

Tuskegee Red Tail - deep red and malty, but not too sweet, it has a nice hop finish. At 5.5%, a nice, warming fall brew.

Both their IPAs, Ray’s Gold and Hop Snob were nearly the lightest beers on the menu, in terms of color. The lace on the glass was as beautiful as the clean, crisp brews.

OHSO Brewery & Distillery - standing for Outrageous Homebrewer's Social Outpost, they had one such outpost at the airport. Three others are located in Arcadia, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley with a fourth to open in Gilbert in 2018.

I had the Morning Brew since it was still morning and because the description included the word "coffee." I asked the waiter about it and he said if I liked coffee and beer, this was the one for me. He was absolutely right. It's a light blonde beer, aged with coffee and vanilla beans. With 4.5% ABV, I didn't feel too guilty about drinking (slightly) before noon. Hubby sampled the 89Ale. This beer balanced caramel, toffee, and roasted malts with gentle hops (24.5 IBU). In the mood for an IPA, this beer didn't fill Hubby's desire for something hoppy but it's caramel color and balanced flavors made for a satisfying alternative that paired well with The Gobbler turkey burger - outstanding!

If you're feeling chilly, seek out something to keep you warm.  Cheers!

So hip.

I am not hip. Dude, I'm practically invisible. Luckily, perhaps, I might be confused as hip living in the most hipster city, in the most hipster state, in the United States.

If you're considering a move and hipsterness is a factor in your decision, you should consider the scientific research of MoveHub which concluded Vancouver WA is the most hipster city in the nation. A close second place is the entire Pacific Northwest. Surprise! We are no longer "in the middle of nowhere."

Definition of hipster aside, hipster rankings were based on microbreweries, vegan stores, thrift stores, and tattoo parlors per capital plus rent demand. Vancouver ranked second for microbreweries, fifth for tattoo parlors, and first for rent demand. I'm not sure what that says about Vancouver, or hipsters for that matter. (Locals drink to find - or escape - their roommates while contemplating body art?)

Vancouver, Tacoma, and Spokane hold three of the top ten most hipster rankings, making the state of Washington the most hipster state in the country. You could replace your button down shirt with flannel and move here if it wasn't for the rent. Nearby Portland ranked #12, making the Pacific Northwest a hipster Mecca.

A front page article of The Columbian ("Vancouver tops ‘most hipster’ cities list" by Scott Hewitt,
November 29, 2107) also reported that Vancouver boasts the second best children's library as well as being the sixth best place to retire. Youngsters, oldsters, and hipsters - I'd say Vancouver has it all. That's cause enough to walk to the closest brewery and have a beer.


Monday, November 27, 2017

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.

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!