Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bottling Home-Brew

This past weekend we got to bottle our first O-Town Brew.  D's home-brew finally finished the fermentation process.  So after beer finishes fermenting in the carboy you add boiled sugar-water to give the yeast a little something more to eat.  

First thing, we had to take D's bottles and sanitize them with some sort of acid + water.  Then the suds have to be rinsed and wiped off of the bottles. We have a pressurized bottle-washer that fits onto the faucet.  It also serves to power-wash the crud out of the bottom of the carboy after we emptied it. It makes the process go very quickly.

Pressurized bottle-washer

Then Yuuki helped us wipe down the outside of the bottles and but them in a case for easy filling. 

Who's my helpful kitty?

D took a suction hose to extract the brew from the carboy where it had been fermenting.  As it drained to the bucket, D mixed in boiled sugar-water.  This is when the brewing corner of the basement begins to smell like beer.  The scottish ale he's made smells quite nice actually.  Also at this point there is all sorts of various solutions/beer spillage on the ground so I'm quite glad we didn't do this in the kitchen. 

beer, sugar-water, bottle caps are meanwhile in sanitizing solution

Draining beer from the carboy

Making sure the sugar-water is evenly mixed in

And then its just a matter of filling the sanitized beer bottles from the bucket, leaving less than an inch of room for air at the top.  Then you press on the bottlecaps.  

D, manning the bottlecap press

One of two cases of home-brewed beer

Now we leave the bottles undisturbed for a week or so, so the yeast has time to eat the sugar and make fizzyness (D says its carbon dioxide, which is forced down into the liquid).  In the meantime I'd love to make some fun labels for our first O-Town Brew.  I guess we could just buy label paper and print a homemade design from the computer.  Have never tried it, but there's a first time for everything.  

Bobby was no help at all. Shiftless layabout!

but clearly adorbs.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Just this past weekend I was so concerned for the doggie's welfare.  After the drumstick he ate never re-appeared, I was so worried that I left the Cincinnati Chocolate Festival early (I took my chocolates home, mwah hahaa).   So concerned that something might be inside him literally ripping him a new one, that, in a wacky role-reversal, I stuck to him like velcro Sunday night. 

Monday too, I kept my eye on him, even as he did nothing interesting.  He tore tufts of hair out of the raccoon toy that D just bought him, instead of chewing on it as intended (he's decided he's ignoring the squeaky/quacky noisemakers inside, he'd rather rip it to moist and gooey hairballs that he can scatter all over the house.  We have raccoon bits all over the house). 

Other than not coming when called, knocking my potted plants over, killing them one by one, chewing on the containers, and then running away with them when I try to retrieve them, nothing of note happened.  

He had the sad-eyes at me though, so I forgave him for being an asshole.  

"Sorry I'm an asshole, mommy"

By Tuesday things were back to normal, with him flagrantly disobeying me, but then being obedient when D gave him the exact same commands.  You know, making me look like a dick.  And there was some overly exuberant playing and more ignoring me, with me yelling at him and then giving up and having angry muttered dialogues to myself. 

"I'm not playing with him if he's going to be like that." 
"Fine, no.  Take the pot.  I don't care."
"Dogs that nip their owners get sent back to prison, prison dog."

So it really only took about two days for me to be completely over his close call.

Thursday night I took him for a run and he was super good.  Friday morning he failed to try escaping at crate time.  He trotted down the stairs and right into his crate and sat down, looking at me like the best little furboy in the world. 

He thinks he's clever.  He thinks that he can misbehave a few days and then rest my nerves for a few days and garner much attention for himself.  Yes, it appears that he's right.  But I'm only letting him think that he has bested me for now.  But I'm totally going to show him who's boss. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Circleville Punkin Show and Some Unwanted Excitement

Friday night we packed up the dog and drove to Circleville for my first Pumpkin Show (not festival, people correct you immediately if you say festival).  D had been stunned that I'd never heard of it, as I am an Ohioan by birth.  Apparently I should have, the Wall Street Journal even covered it. 

Get your gourd on
The show is hugely attended every year, and on Saturday the weather was perfect for spending the day strolling outdoors.  This past weekend was apparently the peak for the autumn leaf-viewing season.  

In the main intersection, there's a crowd of people that stop to gawk (as we did) at the winning entry for a giant pumpkin award.  This year's winner was 1400lbs.  D's mom tells me that people form committees for the betterment of their entry gourds, they put up tents over them so their vines don't get scorched in the summer sun, and they feed them things like milk, apparently.  

By the giant pumpkins is a gigantic gourd market, where you can buy squashes or punkins or what have you.  The selection looked great.  (But I didn't want to carry a punkin around all day)

One of the last warm fall days
Schoolchildren decorate punkins

People along the parade route go all out
Punkins, punkins, punkins

Crispier than expected
There are all sorts of pumpkin foods.  Pumpkin burgers, which did not appeal to me.  Corndogs with pumpkin sauce, the thought of which grossed me out slightly.  Pumpkin fudge, pumpkin brittle, and all manner of things.  Here's what we tried:

We ate the legendary punkin donuts from Lindsay's (nom)
We ate a punkin waffle, which was not what I expected
D ate fried cheese on a stick.
I ate punkin cheesecake
and I drank lots of birch beer.  lots and lots. 

I started to notice people wandering around the show with these hats.  These Davy Crockett-gone-Cutesy animal hats. D tried patiently not to judge me when I insisted on buying one of my own.  And wearing it.  All day long.  

Then he bought one to match me.   tee hee.

(There are more photos, but blogger is being buggy.  Can't seem to upload them. )

Sunday we packed up the car and the dog, and then said our goodbyes to the family.  As we did so, Dog seized the opportunity to plunder the scraps from friday night's dinner, which we had forgotten in the car.  I saw him in the front seat and ran to the car.  He was sucking down chicken bones.  We pulled him out of the car, tackled him, and I shoved my fingers into his mouth and then down his throat, trying to pull out the chicken bones, but pretty much failed at that.  Then we just looked at the dog and looked at eachother and didn't have a clue what to do. 

One of D's childhood pets was killed by ingesting poultry.  The brittle bone had snapped into a sharp point,  and had caused too much internal damage for her to be saved.  Knowing this, there was a lot of anxiety felt, not the least of which was felt by the dog, I'm sure.  He surely had no idea why we'd tackled him and dragged things out of his throat.  We spent the first twenty minutes of the car ride constantly looking in the back seat at the dog, not saying anything.  I was riddled with anxiety, and D tried to find some advice on the web.  

Is he acting normally?  Well no, but we were in a moving car and Dog gets carsick.  Does he seem to be in pain?  Well no, but again, he gets carsick and lays down looking quite pitiful.  Was that a pained expression in those doggy eyes, or a nauseous one?  It did not help the aforementioned anxiety that most things mentioned, "just wait, and if he vomits blood then..."  Wait for vomiting blood.  Fantastic advice.  We'll just wait. 

I'm more of a proactive girl, myself.  And D saw that my head was exploding, so he took some internet advice from a pit bull forum involving bread.  We stopped at a walmart and bought bread.  We fed him a few slices to either get him to throw up or to hopefully make it easier for him to pass the drumstick that had not been recovered.  Less than five minutes later the dog hurls all over the backseat (our third doggy-jackpot of the kind).  There was... so much... D fought to keep his punkin donuts down as he cleaned the backseat out one paper-towel-handful at a time.  I fought to keep my own punkin donut in place, as I sifted through the mess to try to see if the drumstick bone was in there.  It wasn't.  We piled back into the car, with D giving the dog dirty looks, and we cracked the windows.  The smell was ... yeah. 

It's now Tuesday, and he seems fine.  I still haven't seen the drumstick bone.  

I have been incrementally less concerned as the days have ticked by.  Sunday I was still anxiously eyeing him wondering if he was going to be okay.  But

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weekend Beer / Okonomiyaki Experiment

Here we are in the cooling season, and I just can't wake up in the morning.  This happens every year when the weather turns, and this year is no exception.  I've awoken progressively later each day.  This morning there was no time for a dog walk at all, which makes me feel terrible, and no doubt makes Bobby feel even worse.  I need a Clocky.

This past weekend we had a rare opportunity to take time for ourselves, in that we had no other obligations.  And so we did just that. I squeezed in a super-fun night of swing dancing at Molly's Friday night, but our greater plan was a cooking experiment/beer tasting.

Two bits of inspiration got me going.

One: The calendar in my office at work features different scenes in different Asian countries.  When we flipped over into October, there was a shot that I recognized immediately, Itsukushima Jinja on the island of Miyajima.  I've been there so many times it was unmistakable. It made me think of my old stomping ground across the pond.  Which made me think of food (because thinking of Japan always makes me hungry). 

Two: I frequent the 365Cincy Site quite often, browsing their calendar to see what's going on or what's coming up.  I came across a wine and beer tasting in Sharonville which sounded fun, and the brewmaster from Moerlein Brewmaster was supposed to be there.  Not only is this right up our alley, D is a home-brewer and it sounded like a great opportunity for him to get some pointers or compare notes.  Well.  We flushed that all down the toilet when we realized that the entry fee was $75 bucks a person.   For that kind of money we could have our own tasting. 

And so our beer/okonomiyaki experiment came into being.     

This was the first time that I finally got up the guts to try my hand at Okonomiyaki. 

The instruction in this video is pretty good, only I'd add that in Hiroshima they add grated Taro root to the batter to give it a bit more body.  We found that at Jungle Jim's, as well as the okonomiyaki sauce (Otafuku, of course), and Kewpie mayonnaise (because standard American mayo is gross). I actually already had everything else in the pantry, other than the veg and meat.  We skipped the tenpura-drippings, and we did not add doritos.  I didn't miss them. 

Okonomiyaki, though requiring some prep work, is deceptively simple to make.  I was pretty proud of myself. 

This was D's first time trying okonomiyaki.  He called it "soul food," and I think that's a pretty good description.  I even found this awesome video on youtube of somebody's trip to Hiroshima's Okonomi-mura.  Makes me homesick, ::sniff::

At Jungle Jim's, we spent an hour or so in the beer and liquor department.  We came away with these:

Boont Amber Ale (my fave from Alefest, in a bottle this time)
Wychwood's King Goblin (English strong ale)
Hitachi no Nest Red Rice Ale (Belgian strong pale ale)
Southern Tier Mokah (Imperial stout)
Belhaven Wee Heavy (Scotch ale)

I am not a beer pro, I am a craft beer fan.  Trying to describe the taste of beer (or wine) in terms that extend beyond sweet/dry/heavy/light/bleh, extends me past my capabilities for description.  I find myself grasping at words that I cannot seem to find.  As though the adjectives were wee little butterflies.  Wait, that makes no sense.  

 Oh sure, when there's a description written on the label of wine/beer, informing to look out for "carmel," or "chocolate," sometimes I can find it on my palate and agree with it.  Sometimes though, they tell me "woody," or "earthy," and I respond "huh?"   Most often there is no key, though.  I can only describe things in the most basic way, and say like or dislike with any confidence.  So I leave it to people who can fake it better than I.  Fan reviewers at Beer Advocate

But I will say that I've never liked a group of randomly chosen beers so much as these.  Boont did not let me down, but I truly enjoyed all of these others.  The Moka was the exception, and I wouldn't buy it again.  I think it would appeal to Guinness fans.  

In keeping with the beer experiment theme, D stocked up on hops, and a vat of thick and icky-sweet smelling malt extract at a Cincy supply store called Listerman's.  He's got a scottish ale fermenting in the basement now.  A few weekends ago, while D was watching the game I cleaned up the cobwebby damp/disgusting mess in a corner of the basement, dried and painted a counter, and set it up as D's brewing station.  D has further rearranged some shelving to accommodate the giant bucket brigade and bottles and access to the utility sink. 

No before photo, but I think you get the idea

It is very important to paint over grossness
Tah-dahh!  Brew Corner!

The weekend experiment was super successful and extremely fulfilling.  Beer and okonomiyaki are a harmonious combination.  I'd have taken photos, only I couldn't find the battery for the camera.  And soon, that is, as soon as the fermentation process finishes, we'll be bottling up D's scottish ale home brew. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eager Wilderness Doggie Adventures

When your border collie becomes bored, it is his problem. 
He will make it your problem.  I promise you.

I had felt pretty run-down last week, what with Cricket's untimely death.  So I had slacked off on walkies for the puppy.  Meaning I also slacked off on training.  Bobby let me know in his own sweet way that it was not in my interest to continue to loaf around moping. 

Eager explorer doggie

This past weekend we had to travel to T-Town to visit family and celebrate my nephews' third birthday.  In part out of guilt for neglecting my poor puppy, and in part to settle him down for a super-long car-ride, this past Saturday we took him to our favorite park.  Ault Park.

Ault Park's most visible landmark is the pavilion and the grounds and gardens surrounding it.  It's a lovely spot, which is probably why its so sought after as a wedding venue.  We had our own wedding photos taken there.  It also has a newly planted sakura grove next to the ball field.  I cannot wait to see it in bloom next spring. 


The weather was unseasonably warm, the trees were showy with autumn, and there were quite a lot of people (and dogs) coming and going.  Nearby a Korean family was playing soccer ("No, no! Mama already got red card!"), but Bobby didn't bother them, which was a blessing as he has taken to barking formidably at anything, and sometimes at nothing. 

The ball field would have been a great place to let Bobby run, and D tried to play fetch with Bobby, but it was just impossible.  Bobby has difficulties with his attention span in the best of circumstances.  In the park, there were just too many sights and sounds and smells for him to withstand.  Our giddy puppy barely looked at the ball we threw for him.  He also wasn't terribly obedient.  So we took to the trails.

Ault Park's wooded trails are sorta rugged.  Perhaps I say that because of the dirt trails and because I may or may not have fallen down some old stone steps.  Whatever.  The woods made for a lovely walk, and Bobby got to explore in the wilderness. 

There were some dogs running around off-leash, which made me tremendously nervous.  I don't know what strange dogs will do.  I have yet to feel a mastery of my own dog, nor do I posess an understanding of what he will do.  So the meeting on the trail could have ended in tears.  But the off-leash doggies (also border collies) were well behaved and quite obedient.  They sniffed eachother and that was the extent of the interlude.  Wish Bobby were so well-mannered. 

Anyway, it was a lovely day for it.  And probably the last nice/warm weekends this year.

Colder days they are a-coming

The rest of Bobby's weekend could be described as traumatic.  We shoved him in a car for hours on end, where he got carsick (as he often does) and threw up in the back seat.  The next day we walked him up in a wooded park up north, but then cruelly packed him away in the car for another torturous ride.  He didn't throw up on the way home, but there were some shaky moments. 

When we got home and after things settled down I took him for a walk.  We were walking down a busy-ish street in front of a restaurant and suddenly Bobby's head snapped toward the landscaping bushes.  He immediately tensed up, growling and snarling as I have never seen him do.  Bobby continued baring his teeth and barking (reeeally loudly) and I admit, I was frightened.  My first thought was that some ill-intentioned creature would rush us from the bushes.  After a few moments, when it became glaringly obvious that neither feral mongoose nor sabre-toothed wombat was flying out of the shrubbery at us, I felt a tad embarrassed.  Bobby was still doing his (loud) impression of a rabid mongrel.  And finally it dawned on me. 

There were two animals.  One was my dog.  One was the mascot of the barbecue joint. A giant pig statue.

There in front of an elephant-sized pig, my dog was having a cow. 

I tried to bring him closer to show him that the pig wasn't real.  He put his paws out in front of him, trying to hunker down, desperate to not go any closer.  I stood in front of piggy calmly.  I knocked on it with my hand to show him it was solid.  I tried to explain that he might be overreacting but that I appreciated his concern for us both all the same. 

Bobby paused, tearing his eyes away to look at me as though listening to reason.  And then he continued to have his panicky fit.  He would not be shushed.  The barking stopped only when I clamped his mouth shut.  And when I released his jaws he started again.  There was nothing for it.  I began to drag him bodily away.  Because he didn't want to leave either.  As though the spot he was on was the only spot that was safe from the giant pig.   On the way home he kept looking behind us, as if expecting to be mauled from behind by a ravenous pig. 

What are we going to do with this dog?


Monday, October 3, 2011

Good Night, Sweet Girl

D and I were talking about how to keep Cricket warm as the cold weather descends upon us.  We came to an agreement that we would put some sort of container on the front porch to provide a shelter for her.  She had sheltered under the deck through the summer, but surely that wouldn't be warm enough for the winter.  D's vote was for a cardboard box, but I didn't think it would hold up against the elements.  I was thinking we cut a hole in a rubbermaid container (like so).  We kicked around the idea of a low wattage bulb for heat, as is used by several chicken coop owners around the internet.  D's mom, advised us to keep straw in the box, not a blanket, because straw retains heat easier and blankets must be warmed up against the cold. 

It'd have been easiest if we could bring her inside.  We very seriously considered it, despite the fact that we're already teetering on the edge of capacity, teeming with animal life.  But she and Max just weren't in to eachother.  She'd join us on the deck or on the front porch and seek out your hand, or your pantleg, or whatever she could rub up against.  She was always so sweet, lifting her forefeet off the ground in order to get more out of the petting you were giving her.  Such a sweet-tempered cat, and not a mean bone in her body.  Far too sweet to be feral.  She loved us too much and too easily to have spent long in the wild.  She never clawed either of us, not even on accident.  We'd have brought her inside if we could have, and lord knows she tried to come in with us.  We tried cracking the door open to allow her and Max chances to sniff eachother in relative safety.  We tried bringing Max out to sniff Cricket.  We tried bringing Cricket to the windowledge to sniff Max.  It always dissolved into hissing and growling. 

It's gotten to be sort of like Wild Kingdom in this house, so one of us might invariably ask, "did you feed Cricket?"  or "have you seen Cricket?"    If you wanted some company you only had to call her, and she'd emerge from under the deck, ready to be sweet on you until you tired of it, because she never seemed to.  She listened better than Bobby, that's for sure.  And if we hadn't seen her to give her her daily dose of love, massaging her kitty chin and scratching her kitty shoulders, she would make sure we didn't forget.  She took to stretching her paws up to the front window and scratching it until we came out, cat food in hand.  "oh, there's Cricket."  Or she'd meow for us on the back deck "hey, is that Cricket?" 
furry helper on the most recent deck project

There was no question that she was ours though, our lives-outside-but-we-feed-her-and-pet-her cat.  She was as much a part of our daily lives as anything in the new house.  She was a witness to most of the outdoor projects, as a furry little cheerleader.  She walked right up to our guests, even those she'd never seen before, and she introduced herself.  She'd be there by the front door to greet me as I came home from work, or as I left to take the dog for a walk. 

We didn't quite want to part with her, though we did try to find her an indoor home.   But everyone we know already has a cat (mostly they have two) or else they have intentions of remaining cat-less.  We certainly weren't going to take her to a shelter because odds are she'd have been euthanized.  So we were happy to let her stay with us, albeit outside.  Things might change.  But for the present we had cat food anyway, so what's one more kitty mouth to feed?  
Cricket's naptime spot

Monday morning we left for a run.  Ran into a neighbor outside, and chatted with him because the dog wouldn't stop barking at him until we crossed the street and let him sniff the man from close up.  Then D, and Bobby and I ran as the sun turned bled from blue to orange and pink.  Things get incrementally easier, I think.  As in, I walk in smaller and smaller time increments.  It's still quite taxing to my unaccustomed cardiovascular system.  If we had run the other way we'd have found her sooner, though it wouldn't have made a difference. 

D was the one who found her, not far from the house in the street.  Our sweet little garden-cat was hit by a car some time last night.  D went and carried her away from the road.  She looked like she was sleeping (insofar that a cat with limbs stiff with rigor can).  Anyway, I'm saying it looked like she didn't suffer.  We buried her this evening, in the spot by the deck where we first met.  It was painful, but we said our goodbyes by her grave.  Bobby, oblivious to the solemnity walked around on top of it.  Well, he's a dog.   

It's all so wrong.  D wondered how we might better have protected her.  I'm convinced I should have looked harder for a home for her.  We'd have never seen her again, but she might have lived a long and happy (and warm) life.  I wish we had more photos but I just assumed we'd have more time.  She was too young to go so soon, and far too good to have been run over in the street. 

The familiar sight of Cricket on the deck

So please, slow down and drive safe out there. 
Otherwise the cat you could run over might be somebody that someone loves.
And the cat that you save may be your own.