Brenda’s Bruvarian Brew

My most genius Christmas request ever was the time I asked Adam for sourdough starter for Christmas. He got the starter, read all the materials for getting it started, and stealthily started it in the fridge. He presented it to me on Christmas morning, as it was nearing time for use. I expressed my excitement and gratitude! But it needed to get used, and I showed no sign of getting up to make bread… so Adam made some sourdough bread. He kept feeding the sourdough and making delicious baked goods, periodically reminding me that hey! This was ready whenever I was! I kept nodding and saying I was thinking of doing something with it tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.

Basically, I got months of delicious sourdough baking with zero effort, before he figured me out. It was brilliant.

Beer kits – high hopes!

This year for Christmas, I asked for a beer brewing kit. The yeast arts are amazing ones to me. The similarities between bread and beer are striking. They’re the staffs upon which civilization was founded. And hey! Adam has a degree is biochemistry, so this is gonna work out great, right?

Over Christmas, I brewed the first kit. It was a teeny one gallon kit, perfect for a trial run. I read through the book. I watched a Youtube how to video. I cleaned the kitchen and read through all the various steps multiple times, lining up my tools like a surgeon.

The finished product

Over and over again, all the materials stress the dire need for excellent dishes doing. Everything has to be super clean. Very sterile. Completely squeaky clean. I assiduously did the dishes and contemplated how fun a hobby must be in order to be worth doing this many dishes for. I wrestled with the auto-siphon and stared at my destroyed kitchen and thought “This beer better taste good.” Six bottles were all that labor produced. I doled them out to my friends.

“Not bad! I hardly any of that banana taste homebrew usually has. This is actually drinkable!”

Hours of labor. Massive dishes. Incredible expense. All to create something I could buy a better version of for a fraction of the cost. Worst yet, Adam was on to me and wasn’t using his clean room technique to do all the work for me. Curses! Foiled again!

Dishes, testosterone style

Still, I had gotten a second kit – a five gallon one. A neighbor gave me their gear (missing one or two bobs and bits). It included this neato cooling kit that you hook up to your faucet, except we didn’t have that connector. Adam spent about 2 hours going to many hardware stores, coming home with about 7 connectors. None of them worked. D’oh!

Adam was sad his plumbing connectors did not connect correctly

As I brewed the gigantic pot of mash, I thought of my alewife ancestors. If brewing required this much cleanliness, how did they pull it off with pottery instead of stainless steel, creek water and dirty hands? Was ancient beer just really bad? Were there tricks I don’t know about? Did they have extra potent yeast? The mind boggled.

Ewww, gross

I managed to get the beer into the carboy without any major sanitation fails. It pretty much exploded in my closet. (I guess that yeast was really active?!) Then it was “add sugar and move to bottle” time. This apparently includes moving the beer from the carboy to a bucket with a hole in the bottom (at which step you add the sugar that creates carbonation) followed by putting it into the bottles from there.

Recreational kitchen trashing

I had elaborate schemes for moving everything, while keeping everything perfectly sanitary. But then the auto-siphon wasn’t long enough to reach all the way into the carboy and disasters occurred with the sterile environment. Worse yet, at one point the bung came out of the bottom of the bucket and the entire floor was awash in uncarbonated beer. There were many bad words spoken.

Finally, we got the beer into the bottles. It’s about a case an a half. If you take into account what my time is worth, each bottle has to cost about $20. I have no idea if it will even be drinkable.

Finished product

I do not think this is my new favorite hobby.

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The heart-center of the family

The kitchen is where it’s at. The heart of my family has always revolved around the kitchen. I’ve never wanted granite countertops or designer appliances. I am thrilled, however, to have a kitchen table. The kitchen table is where meals are eaten, homework is done, playdoh is played, books are propped, and the world’s most meaningful conversations happen. The kitchen in the home we bought is perfect. Well, mostly perfect. It has a great kitchen table — intact from the ’70s. The table and chairs were probably bought around the time I was born. They’re vinyl and metal and laminate and indestructible.

When we bought the house, we added a butcher-block counter and shelves for tea, spices and cookbooks. There’s a load-bearing wall separating the kitchen from the mud room (and the ‘fridge). Through the window above the sink you can watch the seasons expressed in the leaves of the trees.

A few weeks past when my mother-in-law came to visit, her big project was to tackle the kitchen. Her motivation was a passionate hatred for the burgundy lace curtains in the kitchen. The kitchen — like most of the house — was paneled. Not, mind you, the SAME paneling in any two rooms. Stop talking crazy talk. The kitchen had a light-wood paneling of very poor quality. It was impossible to clean off, which is an issue for a lived-in, loved-in, cooked-in kitchen.

For ONCE I remembered to take before pictures. Here ya go:

The view from the dining room
The view from the dining room

From near the coffee maker - note bread rising and top of curly moppet head
From near the coffee maker - note bread rising and top of curly moppet head
The kitchen table area
The kitchen table area
The new view from the dining room
The new view from the dining room
View from the pantry
View from the pantry

The Ikea island - you would not believe how much we use that sandwich press
The Ikea island - you would not believe how much we use that sandwich press

This needs to be framed in and painted, but that's corkboard and metallic paint
This needs to be framed in and painted, but that's corkboard and metallic paint

There’s still plenty to do. We need curtains. The color theme for the first floor is sage and lapis, with the living room mostly sage, the dining room a combo (we bought new fancy-dishes since the ones I got for my wedding just have not held up to normal use), and the kitchen mostly white-and-blue. Laureen also painted the mud room, bathroom, entrance hallway and halfway up the stairs white instead of cream. (She did get through the entire 5 gallons of paint!)

We’re also working on this sort of correspondence center. The wall that’s currently black and cork is intended to be magnetic paint on the bottom (currently black) and then a bulletin board framed in with molding at the top. I think we need a whole additional can of magnetic paint. The bottom has about 7 layers, but it’s not enough to hold up the boys’ magnetic toys, which was the point. Once we’re done painting, the whole think will be painted white. I’ll put things like cards and art work on the bulletin board and the bottom can have magnetic letters, etc.

We also plan on putting an overhead fan/light where the old chandelier thingy is — which will mean we will have overhead fans in every single room in the first and second floors. We’re also going to put in a magazine rack on the small shelf, and maybe really narrow shelves to hold my teas.

But I really like it. It’s clean and cleanable. It’s a light, airy room anyway, and this made it lighter and brighter.

This is the room where the living of my family will take place over the next 17 odd years. May it be filled with heavenly scents, laughter, and memories.