Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter is Over!

Well ... at least where we are, that is. We had two sunny days in row in 70' (!), so of course i am getting into gardening mood. I know, it is still too early to go outside, so all i have for now is the potted greenery. I was glad to find out that my kind of neglected orchids survived all the last year construction mess just fine (except they did not bloom) and they started flowering again, at least some of them.

And I am so very proud about my Hawaiian acquisitions ;)

the stick with miniature leaves pushing on the top is a plumeria and the little creature behind it is Kauai coffee plant. Hmm ... actually, it is of the Kona variety when i think about it, we bought them both right before we left the island (Kauai) in the little store at the airport. They are understandably very restrictive about what you can take or bring in plant-wise over there, so everything living has to be specially certified before leaving. Anyhow, i am still sorry i did not pick some real Kauai raw beans to sow when we went to see the coffee plantation there, the "fruits" were just ripe, oh well silly me. Plumeria produces those very sweet smelling white flowers which are traditionally used for leis. For me it is the best fragrance ever, it always will remind me of my most favorite place in the world ... the trees were blooming under our windows when we went for our honeymoon:). I am so happy about these little guys :) I was worried they will not survive the winter, we brought them in the middle of November last year, after squishing them for eleven or so hours in plane. Yet, the coffee one revived quickly, but i had no hopes for the stick. Well, fortunately, the nature is an almighty sorceress :)

(this one is from my lunch time walk, just happy about the blue skies and green...uhmm...spring chimera?)

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Sound of Music

We have had plenty of that in past week, on Tuesday we went to see another of the old time legends, Robert Plant & his Band of Joy with Patty Griffin.

He is singing lots of duets with ladies who can supply the heights he probably cannot reach any more these days (on his last CD) and it works nicely. We had fun that evening, especially since he as well performed some old Led Zeppelin songs ( It's Been a Long Time, Tangerine, Whole Lotta Love) - as close as one can get (minus the jeans).

Than, to pre-celebrate our anniversary, we went to waltz dancing this Sunday. It is organized on regular basis at stylish art deco Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom, with some basic class at the beginning and live band through out. It was little bit like at the first dance lessons we went through at high school in Czech. They unfortunately have not teach us the Viennese Waltz though, which caused some confusion for me and poor W. since I tried to steer him all the time. People just circle ballroom here, which is kind of boring, and as the amount of couples increased with time, it was little bit like maneuver through the traffic on the beltway (as W. commented). But, overall I think it was not so bad as the first attempt. It is great exercise and I am promised we shall be back. I really would like to learn some salsa...and tango perhaps...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Batch One ... xmass present this year was a beer home-brewing kit and after a little postponing, the day D of the first trial happened to be this Saturday . I was thinking, best way how to learn the tricks would be to get prepacked beer kit, to see what and how much of it is used and hopefully find some process ideas in the "user's manual". I have chosen Imperial IPA, my favorite style, since i like the hop flavor in my brew and good IPA has plenty of that. That particular beer is started with grain steeping (just like a tea),

than after some on and off flame exercise and used grains disposal (btw, dogs ate all the grains next morning + gauaze bag, i was a bit surprised, but it was probably irresistibly tasty;)) the malt and hops are added to the "wort" (how the true brew-master would call the mixture) in prescribed time intervals.

The brewing itself was not so time demanding, just hour or so,

but the trick is to cool the wort down as fast as possible and that took quite a long time even outside in the freezing winter evening. I foresee some copper cooler coming to us soon since it would be impossible to accomplish that in suggested hour interval in any warmer weather.

I was curious how the "raw" beer tastes, it is mostly sweet, little bit like grain cereal made from scratch - and than the hops bring the bitterness and wonderful smell. Our czech friend stopped by and to create some atmosphere we let run in a background old czech hop picking movie "Starci na Chmelu" and were remembering the times we used to go to hop-picking in high school. The recipe yields 5 gallons of liquid for fermentation but only about half is actually brewed, the rest is water added to wort just before the fermentation start (that trick is done by beer yeast mixed in)

(measuring the gravity here, i was a bit off what i was supposed to be, oh well..)
The taste of whatever i tried was somehow concentrated, i am very curious how it will end up. The fermented liquid will be transferred into carboy (big glass jar) for secondary fermentation this coming Saturday, that should clear up the muddiness, and than bottling is ahead of us in another 2 weeks. This kind of beer should sit in bottles for at least 3 weeks, so our first batch shall be ready for the spring welcome party sometime in March :)