Monthly Archives: September 2014

Mead

That is mead, not meat. The amount of time that people misheard me with that was astounding and I don’t want to think about why I should be making meat, but I digress. In any case, honey wine, or mead, is a quite simple drink to make and at least the version that I made is not particularity alcoholic but is more of a semisweet delicate floral spritzer, perfect for a summer day.

I used 6 lbs of orange blossom honey and 1 cup of molasses, brought 1.5 gallons of water to a boil, turned off the heat, and added and stirred in the honey and molasses till it fully dissolved.  Then I added another gallon of cold water and put everything in the primary fermenter with 1 oz of wet sweet mead yeast; any dry wine yeast or champagne yeast should work.  I let it ferment 1 month in the primary, 1 month in a secondary, then another month in the bottle.  I know that sounds like a long time, but I think that even now, about two months into bottle aging, the flavor is still improving so patience is unfortunately required.

But at the end of the day, you get a very refreshing drink that I want to make again, maybe with an extra 50% honey to give it some more flavor.  Also, sorry for the low quantity of pictures; apparently I just zone out a bit on projects this long.

Finished Product! and that's it for the pictures :(

Finished Product! and that’s it for the pictures :(

Lassen Volcanic National Park (N40.49 W121.42)

We have gone to a fair number of the National Parks in California, but the top of our list that we hadn’t been to yet was Lassen. With nicer fall weather and kids in school, we decided to make our way up.  Out trip did not start well – we were both hung over from too much drinking the night before, so it wasn’t a nice ride up, and Jasmine felt a little queasy on the mountain roads. When we got about 200 yards in to the hike, we had to turn around in order to re-lock the car. Then, in the first 1/2 mile, we saw about two dozen people which made us a little leery of the hike. But after those issues, we got underway for real and had an awesome couple of days back packing.

Lassen Park as a whole is like a lot other parts of the cascade mountains that I have been in: that is to say lots of open pine and ceder forests, clear glacial lakes, and cascading streams. For me, it is between the Cascades and a nice rocky ocean shoreline for the prettiest places in the world (well, that I have seen so far)

The one extra thing that Lassen has are volcanoes! Well, maybe not currently active, at least since 1915, but lots of sulfur hot springs and residual volcano domes.  We saw some of the hot springs on the side of the car but, as they were actually boiling, we didn’t test out the water and we hiked up on of the cinder cones.  I would highly recommend going up to Lassen to any one in the area or even thinking about coming the the area. :)

So as we usually do, above is what more or less most of the hike looked like. Some times with extra streams or lakes.

So as we usually do, above is what more or less most of the hike looked like. Some times with extra streams or lakes.

We sat around this lake for about two hours on the second day and skipped stones.

We sat around this lake for about two hours on the second day skipped stones and dipped our feet in the lake.

About halfway down the hike we arrived at Mordor and had to hike up Mt Doom (or Cinder Cone)

About halfway down the hike we arrived at Mordor and had to hike up Mt Doom (or Cinder Cone).

The view from the top of the Cinder cone was quite majestic and made up for the hike up 500 ft of ashy rock

The view from the top of the Cinder cone was quite majestic and made up for the hike up 500 ft of ashy rock.

The first day Jasmine was really tired and took a nap. I carved a raven's head to watch over her.

The first day Jasmine was really tired and took a nap. I carved a raven’s head to watch over her.

Boiling sulfur water! It smelled as bad as it looks, and was boiling away quite merrily. Geothermal activity is cool

Boiling sulfur water! It smelled as bad as it looks and was boiling away quite merrily. Geothermal activity is cool.

Settlers of Catan Laser Cut Board Game

A couple of my friends made a laser cut game board for Settlers of Catan and I thought the board looked really cool. Since this is a game Lloyd and I both enjoy, we decided to make one ourselves. We didn’t come up with the patterns for all of the pieces, just used the designs from my friends’ boards. The laser cutter I have access to fits 12 by 24 inch sheets of material, so I came armed with 2 sheets of 12 by 24 inch birch plywood. It used pretty close to all of both sheets, but this was partially because the game included the 5-6 player expansion. That’s a lot of pieces!

This took about 3.5 hours on the laser cutter. Then we sanded every one.

This took about 3.5 hours on the laser cutter. Then we sanded every one – mostly while listening to Giants games.

We had initially thought of painting in the details on the pieces, but immediately decided to just stain the pieces when we saw the level of detail in each piece.

So detailed! I think that's why I liked this set in the first place, though.

So detailed! I think that’s why I liked this set in the first place, though.

The only part we did end up painting were the game pieces for each player. We knew going in that one set would be green and one would be orange, but the other colors were undecided until I went to the hardware store to buy colors. I decided to do the primary colors and secondary colors: red, yellow, blue, orange, green, and purple. I mixed the orange and purple by hand since they didn’t have any at the hardware store. Weirdly, I did a lot of paint mixing for color matching in high school so it was fun to use that skill again.

I may be doing something artistic, but at least I'm doing it like an engineer.

I may be doing something artistic, but at least I’m doing it like an engineer.

The finished project turned out really well. The cards are available for sale on their own so we bought a package of those. We used die we had at home and a silver quarter for the thief. Since the game is made for three people, we team play player three. It makes for some interesting game strategy.

The first game on the board.

The first game on the board.

Next, I sewed mesh bags to hold each of the player pieces in matching colored mesh. I also made black mesh bags for the the standard pieces and expansion pieces. I think they turned out well.

I like the idea of color-coded bags.

I like the idea of color-coded bags.

Finally, Lloyd made a box out of thicker birch for the whole thing and put a silver inlay S on the top of the box. The box looks really good, but gives the game a homemade-in-the-1700s feel. We like it. :)

The empty inside of the box. The lid is press-fit.

The empty inside of the box. The lid is press-fit.

Silver inlay S.

Silver inlay S.

The filled box. We went with a different shape than the commercial version.

The filled box. We went with a different shape than the commercial version.

Ready for storage!

Ready for storage!

Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail

A couple of weekends ago, Jasmine and I were driving to a county park and out of nowhere there were all sorts of signs for wineries that popped up out of nowhere.  When we got home, we looked into it and found out that there are two dozen wineries just south of the bay so we thought we should try some of them out.

First things first, I completely failed to take any pictures of the 4 wineries we went to but, long story short, we bought some wine from each of them so they were all at least decent.  The best of the wineries we went to was Thomas Kruse which had a couple of good Zinfandels and a decent house red blend.

Overall worth the trip if you’re in the area, with the wineries perhaps not as fancy as Napa or even Sonoma, but with comparable wines and some rather pleasant people.

So many wines just waiting patiently in line to be drunk

So many wines just waiting patiently in line to be drunk.

Chitactac-Adams and DeBell Uvas Creek Park

So here we come to two of the smallest parks in the Santa Clara County Parks: Chitactac-Adams and DeBell Uvas.  Not much to say about either, just a short review.

Chitactac-Adams is a tiny park that can’t be more than 3 or 4 acres in size.  It is mostly devoted to the Ohlone Indians and what is there is rather interesting.  There are a few petroglyphs in the rocks by the river as well as a large amount of mortars dug into the rocks which were interesting.  There is also a pretty cool looking shelter and a bunch of interpretive signs – seems built for a school field trip.  All I have to say is learn Spanish before you read the interpretive signs unless you want a serious whitewashed history.

DeBell Uvas Creek was nothing but a paved path along a dry creek bed.  I don’t quite know why they called it a park.

I quite like this style of building, the old circle with a partly open roof.

I quite like this style of building, the old circle with a partly open roof.

There were probably 20 of these mortars in the rocks.  That is a lot of acorn grain for that deep of a hole.

There were probably 20 of these mortars in the rocks. That is a lot of acorn grain for that deep of a hole.

The English in no way reflects what the Spanish says in this sign

The English in no way reflects what the Spanish says in this sign.

Uvas Bell, why are you even a park?

Uvas Bell, why are you even a park?

Clam Chowder (Manhattan)

I had never made clam chowder for Jasmine before and, as it randomly came up in conversation, I decided I needed to remedy the situation.  I also make the right variety of the chowder, the one with tomatoes, not the horribly cream based abomination.  Its originally my grandmother’s recipe and something I remember fondly from home. You need:

-3 dozen clams
-6 slices bacon (I used 3 tablespoons of rendered duck fat)
-6 cups potatoes cubed (I used taro and red potato)
-1 onion, diced
-3 celery stalks, chopped
-4 carrots, chopped
-2 lbs chopped tomatoes
-1/2 gallon of water (I used duck broth)
-6 cups clam liquid (i.e. the residual from boiling the clams)
-2 teaspoons salt
-thyme, pepper, and parsley to taste ( ~ 1 tbsp each)

Wash the clams really well – like really scrub them hard as this matters. Boils the clams in 8 cups of water till they open, throw out the ones that never open, and shuck the ones that do.  Drain out and reserve the liquid.

Starting the Clam boil.  We only had one that didn't open.

Starting the clam boil. We only had one that didn’t open.

Saute the onion and the bacon, then add all the ingredients but the clams and parsley.  Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour. At the end of the hour, chop up the clams and add them back in with the parsley and boil for another 10 minutes.

Finished soup, even though there aren't that many clams using the liquid from the boil makes it taste really clamey.

Finished soup. Even though there aren’t that many clams, using the liquid from the boil makes it taste really clammy.

Its a quite tasty soup and I hope you’ll join me in liking it better than the New England variety.

Dress

A couple of months ago I made a dress for my mom for her birthday. She likes bright colors and as soon as I saw this fabric, I knew she would like it and what shape I wanted the dress to be. The next step was finding a pattern. I ended up using this one, which worked well.

The main issue that I had with this dress was I don’t do darts very often and this dress was all about darts. I got the darts pinned up and the dress didn’t look right so I wanted to see what it looked like on a person. Mom and I aren’t the same size, but my dress form can do both so I set up the form to her size and put the dress on the form. Sure enough, the dress looked good on the form so I sewed it up and then did the whole thing again for the lining.

I tried out some new techniques on this dress to make it look a bit more finished. Unfortunately, I didn’t take close-up pictures so sorry about that. First, I sewed the zipper between the lining and the dress so that it doesn’t show. I also left the sleeves unlined and sewed the edges of the lining over the sleeve seams. This meant there were no unfinished edges on the dress. Definitely techniques I’ll use again.

Importantly, the dress fit Mom well and she really liked it. She said people were surprised when she told them I made it. I think it’s the finishing techniques, personally. It’s the small details that make people think “homemade”.

The front of the dress. I thought the sleeves looked better unlined.

The front of the dress. I thought the sleeves looked better unlined.

You can see I actually installed a zipper straight! My best work to date. Zippers are not my strong suit.

You can see I actually installed a zipper straight! My best work to date. Zippers are not my strong suit.

Henry Coe SP (N37.12 W121.43)

For Labor Day weekend we decided to do a bit of backpacking, but we decided rather last minute so we were somewhat limited in places to go.  As luck would have it, one of the state parks near us, Henry Coe, has a first come first serve back country camping so we decided to take advantage of it and went out early Sunday morning.

The park in general was the standard East and South Bay fare – rolling hills with the valleys a loose bunch of scrub oaks and the hills grasslands spotted by more of the same trees.  On the different side there was water!  We walked by a fair number of moist springs and some that still had a trickle of water, which is amazing given the serious drought we are currently in. Also, we got to spend a nice siesta around Coit Lake under some shade trees which was about as pleasant as you could ask for.

The one downside with the park was the set up of the trails; I swear that they have not heard the word switchback or saddle point.  We spent what seemed like most of the hike huffing straight up the nearest hill in an effort to find another hill to walk straight up.  Seriously people, switchbacks are your friend.

Our planning was also off for food so we brought: 2 bunches of grapes for snack food, a loaf of bread and a half pint of strawberry jam for lunch and breakfast, a thermos of Manhattan clam chowder for dinner, and a bottle of wine for desert (a 7% ABV asti). Strangely, it worked out quite well for the weird collection of abnormal trail food.

This time we saw a flock of turkeys before we even left the car

This time we saw a flock of turkeys before we even left the car.

This is what most of the trails looked like

This is what most of the trails looked like.

We also got some pretty stunning and sunning vistas

We also got some pretty stunning and sunning vistas.

Our campsite in the morning, from the looks of it deer had used it the night before

Our campsite in the morning.  From the looks of it, deer had used it the night before.