I don’t feel great about the nearly one month that has passed since my last post, especially since I have, in this blogger’s opinion, actually accomplished some pretty magnificent things… I made some cool bathroom art, learned to cook Pad Thai, and downloaded the new Beyonce album… you know, the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. But in all seriousness, I’m painfully aware that I’ve let the blog kind of fall by the wayside over the past couple of months. Because of the holidays, maybe? Or lack of inspiration? Busy schedule? I can’t pin down the precise reason, but dang if I’m not going to do better in ’14, starting now with the obligatory look back at the best and worst of our escapades in the past year.
Proudest Accomplishment: Kitchen Overhaul
In April, we put the finishing touches on our once beige and boring kitchen.
This project is/was the most time and energy intensive DIY renovation we’ve sunk our teeth into, but it has also been the most gratifying. It started before we officially moved in when I painted the walls a nearly day-glow shade of green called “Spritz of Lime” which just seemed an appropriate if not nauseating color choice for a kitchen. From there, we—to be read in one breath now—replaced the florescent lighting, striped and restained the cabinets and added new hardware, removed the wood paneling from the wall and added custom shelving, replaced the faucet and added water cut offs, demolished the countertops, replaced the countertops, and…gasp…retiled the backsplash. A project more than a year in the making, it felt indecently good to marvel at the successful culmination of a lot of hard work.
Biggest Transformation: Hardwoods in the Living Room
Thanks to a ridiculous sale on laminate flooring at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore, what started as a routine Saturday errand resulted in Heath and I throwing caution to the wind and just doing it already—”it” being ripping out the carpet in our living room and replacing it with some sweet, sweet laminate wood flooring. Oooh. That is fresh.
Biggest headache: Rebuilding the chicken coop
After finding a possum in the chicken coop one evening, we knew we had to prioritize a task we had long been delaying—rebuilding the chicken coop, a project that literally stinks, is labor intensive and painful. We finished it in a day, and the coop is certainly in better shape now than it was before, but it didn’t go down, or rather up , smoothly. We endured cuts, scrapes, mosquito bites, sun burns and blows to our egos along the way, but at day’s end, a bigger, brighter, possum-free coup stood triumphantly in the dh backyard.
Riskiest project: The stencil wall
It was nearly a year ago exactly that I finished totally weirding out our living room by painting an accent wall with a scallop stencil. It was kind of a gamble as a floor-to-ceiling geometric pattern could potentially be overwhelming, but there is something hypnotic and appealing about the repetitive nature of geometric prints. Since geometric scribbles practically dominate all of my handouts of staff meeting agendas, I thought I should take the concept that had been gnawing away at my subconscious to heart and put that idea on the wall. A year later, I still get lost in the rhythm of the green scallops and love it as much as the day I started painting.
Biggest fail: the garden
2013 was not the year of the garden for House Doodle. Because of the heat and other various preoccupations, we slowly stopped tending to our veggies and other flora. Next we knew, a once lush and sustainable backyard paradise transformed to a desolate and pathetic excuse for a garden. As it turns out, plants don’t respond well to gross neglect. It is was not our finest hour.
Greatest discovery: Homebrew
At the recommendation of some dear friends, Heath picked up brewing beer at home as a new hobby, and boy have we enjoyed it. We cooked up our first batch in February, and by June we committed to going full throttle when we installed kegerator in our kitchen so we could enjoy draft homebrew at our leisure. Yes, we’ve officially crossed the beer snob threshold, and it’s delicious.
We saw triumphs and tribulations in our home projects this year, but 2013 was also a year of significant personal achievement, loss and transition: Heath conquered a mountain when he hiked 26 miles through the Weminuche Wilderness, we bid farewell to a beloved home from my childhood, my always bro/sometime roommate joined the navy, and I left my communications job with the school district. Good/bad/ugly/beautiful….2013 was peppered with experiences that will stick with us for awhile.
This winter we finally got around to brewing our own beer. A bunch of our pals have been at it for a while and we had long been intrigued by their tales of the process. I don’t want to give away the ending of our experiment here in paragraph one, but suffice it to say, we will surely be brewing again before the month’s over.
Ok, so first things first. Most of the equipment we used came from a brew kit. (This one, to be exact. Thanks Mom!) A brew kit is pretty great because, as kits are known to do, it provides you with all of the supplies and tools you will need to brew successfully. The big ticket items are the glass carboy (used to hold the beer during the fermentation process) and the secondary fermenter contatiner (basically a big bucket with a nozzle for bottling). We had to make a few additional purchases in addition to the brew kit, but the add-ons were minimal: bottle caps, high pressure nozzle for cleaning out bottles, and a large pot for boiling the ingredients. We also referred to a copy of The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, which provides a lot of great information and instruction. I definitely recommend this book to first-time brewers because, in addition to directions, it provides an excellent summary of the science behind fermentation, which we both found extremely intriguing. For instance, it provided Heath with the clarity and confidence to proclaim that “alcohol is basically yeast poop” so you know it’s a good read.
Once we did a quick survey of our inventory and concluded that we did in fact have the necessary tools to become brew masters, we set off for Austin Homebrew Supply to get the ingredients for creating our first batch. Shelf after shelf was stocked with plastic containers labeled as “malt extract” and other unfamiliar head-scratchers. It was a little intimidating at first glance, but the knowledgeable yet laid back staff set our minds at ease. Essentially the way it works you flip through a book with hundreds of recipes and let the cashier know which recipe you’ve chosen to try your hand at. They were great about telling us which recipes were easy, which ones were more difficult and what other folks had said about their experiences with that particular brew. We walked away with the materials for a peach hefeweizen, not a traditional choice, but one we were nonetheless excited to try.
Once we were back at home we immediately got going. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve created the following step-by-step guide for other brewing novices.
Last weekend we had our first sip of our trial batch. And all I have to say is a satisfied “ahhh.” Our first sampling came before the beer was completely carbonated, but it was still a glorious moment to take that first drink and discover that we aren’t incompetent DIY brewers. Yes! This actually tastes like beer! It actually tastes like good beer! One week later, the brews are nice and carbonated. The bottles make that exciting “ssssck” sound when you first remove the cap and the beer foams and bubbles slightly when when you pour it into the pint glass. Such joy we’ve derived from just that moment and the drinking hasn’t even started.
In summation, the process was fairly easy, though it does require attention to detail and a lot of patience. But, like any cook or brewer, I love the science behind the process and the satisfied feeling we have when sharing it with friends. I’m giddy thinking about what creations we might turn out next. An IPA, a stout, a pilsner? The sky is the limit. Doodle house? More like Brewdoole house!
This weekend Heath and I met up with pals at the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival at Fiesta Gardens on Lady Bird Lake.
There were dozens of micro brew booths at the fest, which, according to our buddy and home brew aficionado Mike, was twice as many as were in attendance at last year’s gathering. Yes, the surge of micro breweries in Texas has quite literally doubled over the past year, and you won’t hear any complaints from us. And considering that micro breweries may be one of the only industries not in recession, it seemed like the only American thing to do was to get out there and grow the economy, one beer at a time.
The selection at the fest pretty well covered the spectrum of beers: dark and light, bold and mild. We got to taste 6-oz samples from some of our old favorites like Live Oak and some new ones like South Austin Brewery. Neither of us are much in the way of beer experts, but we do know a good beer (and a bad one) when we taste it.
The satisfying and sobering Blogworthy concoctions included:
- Flying Monk by Adelbert’s Brewery—A rich and nutty brew that’s as delicious as it is dangerous at 10% ABV.
- Saison D’Austin by South Austin Brewery— A beer on the dark side with a little kick and spice but still goes down smooth.
- Das Wunderkind by Jester King Craft Brewery— A sour beer, which is apparently “in” right now but looks like foggy water and tastes like vinegar. (In other words, don’t do it.)
- Smokin’ Beech by Circle Brewing Co.— An unusual, thick beer with smokey flavors that aren’t overwhelming but definitely get the taste buds tingling. I could get down on a pint, but think I would need to switch to something less anomalous after that.
Good beers or bad ones, we enjoyed ourselves sipping on cold and distinctive brews on what was the first chilly day of fall, overlooking the lake and chatting with pals. I imagine we will be back at next year’s fest, especially when I know it makes Heath so happy.