Routine is Good

Vacations are good. They break up your routine, change your scenery and commitments, and allow you to explore. Being back home after a longish break is good, too. There were certain aspects of our routine that I really missed. These are just a few.

With Summer really starting to ramp up, it’s a good thing we are back. The yard was a bit on the jungly side and needed quite a bit of beating back, but that also meant our potted tomatoes were doing equally well. I was happy to notice that some of them already have buds.

Tomato with Buds

The hours of yard work are rewarded with a refreshing beer on the deck. I brewed and bottled a batch before we left, giving it enough time to condition in the bottles while we were away. The resulting brew, what Northern Brewer calls its “Twisted Enkel Blonde,” is a crisp Belgian beer that is quite thirst-quenching (though some moderation might be called for – this is no Bud Light).


Our routine also includes plenty of time in the kitchen. Even though we enjoyed trying new foods out, it’s good to get back to home cooking, and there are certain “staples” that we just like to have. If you’ve been reading this blog, you may recall a recent cake recipe. I made a variation of it to have with dinner with my parents last night. This time using some freshly picked rhubarb and topped with strawberries (reduced a bit in some balsamic vinegar).

Rhubarb Cake with Strawberries

Almost weekly, I like to try out granola variations to have for breakfast. This particular version seems to be a good blend. It’s perfect in the morning with a sliced up banana and my favorite milk substitute.


I don’t really measure ingredients when I make granola (it changes based on what I might be in the mood for), but the basic recipe for this is:

  • a splash of olive oil (maybe slightly more than a tablespoon)
  • a glug of maple syrup
  • a squirt of honey or molasses (or both)
  • a heaping spoonful of crunchy, unsalted peanut butter

Gently heat above ingredients in large saucepan (on low) and add:

  • 4 to 5 cups of rolled oats
  • a handful of chopped raw cashews
  • a smaller handful of raisins
  • a sprinkling of dried cranberries
  • a sprinkling of raw sunflower seeds
  • a sprinkling of raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas

Once all the ingredients are lightly coated, spread on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 300ºF oven for about 20 minutes (or until the oats are lightly toasted). I usually stir the baking granola every 5 minutes or so to keep the raisins for getting overly done. Let cool in pan before storing.

Granola - Detail

Some things are definitely worth coming back to.

Jug of Punch

Bottling Day

Last week it was a Buddhist meditation, this week a traditional Irish pub song—what can I say, I’m a complex (and complicated) individual. I’m bottling beer today, (the 5 gallons of dry Irish stout is technically not punch, but the sentiment is still the same) so it’s only appropriate that I be listening to this.

One evening in the month of June
As I was sitting in my room
A small bird sat on an ivy bunch
And the song he sang was “The Jug Of Punch.”

What more diversion can a man desire?
Than to sit him down by an alehouse fire
Upon his knee a pretty wench
And upon the table a jug of punch.

Let the doctors come with all their art
They’ll make no impression upon my heart
Even a cripple forgets his hunch
When he’s snug outside of a jug of punch.

And if I get drunk, well, me money’s me own
And them don’t like me they can leave me alone
I’ll chune me fiddle and I’ll rosin me bow
And I’ll be welcome wherever I go.

And when I’m dead and in my grave
No costly tombstone will I crave
Just lay me down in my native peat
With a jug of punch at my head and feet.

The Clancy Brothers do a fine rendition of this song.

As promised, one celebratory beer

My numbers are finally starting to come up (mostly on their own—there’s probably a small bit of Neulasta in my system that is helping out), and I’ve now gone 4 days without needing a transfusion. I don’t know, that to me seems like I’m finally moving out of the side-effects phase of my last chemotherapy treatment. So, last night I decided to “crack open a cold one” courtesy of a gift from my uncle and aunt in Oregon (Thank you! I’m saving the barley wine for when I’m feeling completely 100%).

Celebratory Beer

And, yes, that’s a veggie burger with homemade sweet potato fries in the foreground. Life is indeed returning to normal. So, cheers to that.

Bottling Day

Bottling day is always an exciting time around these parts. The ale, having spent the better part of a month fermenting, resting and clarifying, is ready to go through the last stage before we can enjoy it.

Bottling Day

My most recent brew is a Kölsch. I brewed this same recipe last year, and it was, to say the least, a hit. I take advantage of our super-cold basement during the winter, the perfect condition for the yeast used in this ale.

Bottling Day

A quick gravity check, then taste for any off flavors, and then it’s time to bottle.

Bottling Day

I know kegging beer is a lot faster, and you don’t have to wait for three weeks while the beer conditions in the bottles. But, there’s just something about all those clean, amber-colored vessels all lined up.

Bottling Day

Bottling Day

And, there’s something satisfying about capping each bottle, creating a tasty 12 oz., effervescent package of goodness. I almost like beer as much as I like spinning. Fortunately, the two activities can be combined (in modest amounts).