Monday, January 30, 2012

Rockwell Brewing: Sharing our beers with the public!

Last weekend we got the chance to participate in an exciting beer tasting festival that was specifically for showcasing home brewers. Joe and I partnered with our beer loving friends Angela and Pedro, made a whopping 25 gallons of beer between the four of us, and brought them out to Wicker Park on a cold winter day.

Brew HoHo was coordinated by my friend and coworker Won, a talented chef who knows way too many people who love beer. He's not a brewer himself, but this was his third time coordinating a group of brewers into an event like this. There were a lot of passionate and inventive home brewers sharing their creations to a crowd of about 250 people... a huge turnout!

We had so much fun sharing our beers with everyone, and got some great feedback. People loved what we had brewed! It sounds like our most popular was the Imperial IPA that Joe made, but all five brews were in demand throughout the day. It was a kind of overwhelming experience, but once we were there and had everything in order, we were able to just enjoy ourselves! We met some cool people through the experience, and look forward to continuing to explore the brewing community around Chicago. If you live in Chicago, let me know if you want details about the next event in April!

Three quarters of Rockwell Brewing

We baked our spent grain into all kinds of yummy treats!

All the brews on display

Thursday, January 26, 2012

South Dakota, Instagram style

Had to add a few more pictures of our trip to South Dakota, taken on my iphone. 

Dad & Little Sis


Independent Ale House in Rapid City

Mt. Rushmore

High Rollers, Deadwood style

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wild West!

My parents have never been the type to stay in one place for too long, and they've really proven that in the last 10 years. When I graduated high school, they lived in Colorado. That's my simple answer for where I "grew up", even though the real answer is, "California, Colorado, Virginia, then back to Colorado". Now, in the last eight years or so, my parents have been able to add a few locations to their ever growing list... The Netherlands, St. Louis, and most recently... South Dakota!

They've been in Rapid City since this summer, and Joe and I finally had a chance to visit a couple weekends ago. We had a great time exploring their cute and tiny new city, and soaking up some of the beautiful wilderness that surrounds the area. We saw some famous old guys, ate buffalo more than once, and enjoyed laughing and catching up with my parents and little sister. It was a relaxing visit, and we can't wait to visit again in the summer, when all the touristy stuff is open for the season.

Our plane was sooooo small!

My cute little sister was in town for the first day we were there, so we got to hang out a little.

With my parents outside of Custer National Park.

Wild West!

We had to do a little gambling in Deadwood

The digital blackjack was addictive!

My mom and I love cooking together

Homemade pasta... yum!

Not just any pasta. This is fresh pasta with buffalo ragu.
And it is amazing.
It was a great trip, and we loved just hanging out around my parents new home. Can't wait to see you guys again!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Joe's Goals for 2012

I think I can speak for Joe when I say he has two "resolutions" for the upcoming year. Both goals are already in the works, though, and I think he's making good progress considering it's only 12 days into the new year.

First up: all grain brewing. He got his beloved turkey fryer for a Christmas gift, and was testing it out last weekend. He actually brewed the first batch when I was working on Sunday, and it seems like it's going to be successful. Only time will tell, and we'll be tasting the first of these in 4-6 weeks.  Let's all just cross our fingers that he doesn't burn down the house. He's using ceramic tiles under the burner on the deck, which makes it safer. And when he does stupid things (such as burning our laminate countertop) he has to take care of the damage (2012 will be the year of the new granite countertops!). I have a feeling that is the worst of the damage this resolution will do, and the tasty beer is a fair trade off.

Joe is also learning to play the guitar in 2012, and started his lessons last week. He'll be spending each Monday night at the Old Town School of Folk Music, taking group lessons and jamming with other students. This school is a landmark in our neighborhood, and it seems like it deserves the great reputation it's had for years. I'm so excited to see how these lessons go for Joe, and I can't wait until he starts regular serenades for me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Goals for 2012

It's that time of year again, the time for new year's resolutions. I'm not vowing to join a gym (I already do, and it's crowded lately!), and I'm not promising to eat healthier food (leave good enough alone). I have two goals for myself, though, and I've already started to work on both of them! 

Let's start with the silly one... I want to bake more this year! I'm going to try to bake more challenging things, like macarons or lattice topped pies, and I'm going to make Martha look like the jailbird hack that she is. Ok, I actually really like Martha, but I'm going to show her a thing or two by the end of the year.

I started on the right note, with this Pumpkin Cake with Browned Butter Icing, courtesy of our favorite hostest with the mostest. Not going to lie, this cake was freaking amazing, and I WILL be making it again. And I made a cute little 6-inch sized cake, so we could enjoy it without feeling too much post-holiday guilt.

My second goal is one I've had for quite some time, and the new year seemed like as good an excuse as any to finally get started. Folks, 2012 is the year that I am going to finally start to volunteer on a regular basis.

I'm going to help with food sorting and distribution at one of the locations of Lakeview Pantry, a food pantry here in Chicago. They have sites with evening pick ups that will coordinate perfectly with my work schedule, and the location I'm going to be at is right between work and home. I will be able to commit to a regular weekly schedule, but they are also very flexible if things come up and I have to switch my times around. Working at a grocery store full of (mostly) very privileged people, it's exciting to me to have this opportunity to help people who are less fortunate. My first official "shift" is tomorrow night... wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

NYE Outtakes

NYE was a blast, full of awkward, slightly blurry, dark pictures. Our friends hosted a party at their apartment, and we snacked, danced, and enjoyed a few tasty beverages. It was a low fuss get together, without any wristbands or bar package deals. There was good music and better conversation, and I loved ringing in the new year with some of my favorite people in Chicago!

I think the lesson learned from these pictures is that a good party leads to terrible pictures. These are all so goofy, but we were too busy having a good time to actually worry about the photography!

Final Christmas Post

Christmas this year was quite lovely. I had a great time soaking up the season with our "Dates of Christmas"... we didn't get twelve dates in, but I thought eight was a pretty solid effort! I will be sure to do something like that for future Christmas seasons, because it really motivated us to soak up the holiday together, all over our wonderful city. I think my favorite date was seeing the Zoo Lights, but the play at Neo Futurists was pretty fun too.

I also had the privilege of hosting Christmas for some of Joe's family this year. I was missing my family a lot this season, since we're all scattered across the country. But Joe's parents are less than two hours away, so it's easy to see them for holiday celebrations. Usually we go out to their house, but since I only had Christmas Day off from work, we decided to invite them to spend the holiday at our house. It was an unconventional day, with our tiny condo and my less traditional cooking, but I think everyone had a great time!

What's that you say? Or I guess think? Did I hear you ask for more pictures???

Ok... how about a little rest-of-Christmas photo dump?  Here ya go!

Opening presents, and trying on new scarves!

On holidays it's ok to drink with breakfast... and I LOVE mimosas!

Breakfast Casserole from Epicurious
SO simple, and you can make it the night before,
then bake while you're opening gifts.

Christmas Dinner

Grill master Joe took care of the pork tenderloin for Christmas Dinner.
This recipe is always a hit.

Ok, just one more holiday recap to go. I have to tell you all about our fun NYE, and then it'll be back to your regularly scheduled blogging...