Tag Archive - hobbies

Butterfly: Oil on Canvas

Monarch butterfly on reddish orange flower. Black background.

This piece of art is oil on canvas. I have been painting for a little over a year. However, I haven’t painted since January because I’ve been very busy. Painting is very therapeutic for me, and now that the weather is warming up, I can take my projects outside. I’m very excited about this!

I decided to take a picture of this and post it here as inspiration for me to get out the paints again. I still very much consider myself an amateur, so I was pretty happy with the outcome of this one. There’s things I can still do to make it better, and I think I will do those things before I call it finished. But here it is for now.

I love hobbies. I consider myself a “professional” hobbyist, because I like to dabble in a lot of stuff (but I don’t get paid for any of it, so I guess I’m not that professional–heehee!). Do you have any hobbies that you like to do that are therapeutic for you?


I’d Tap That: A Homebrewing Experience

homebrewed beer

Ogi's homebrew from a previous event

It was scheduled to start at noon, and as soon as I got there, the guys were already setting their stuff up for the homebrewing event. There is no messing around when it comes to these five guys and their beer. They make up the newly formed homebrewing club called I’d Tap That. The expertise among them is varied, from Fred, who has been  brewing beer for seven years, to Scott, who is only on his second brew. Scott, however, has obviously been learning as he’s observed and helped Fred over the last seven years with Fred’s brews. I say “obviously” because Scott gave me a taste of his first home brew, and let me just tell you . . .it was pretty darn awesome. It really is possible to make good beer on your first try.

Because Homebrewing Is So Much Fun
I want to blog about this event because all five of these guys call homebrewing one of their favorite hobbies, and during the event, it was obvious it is also one of their passions given the way they liked to talk about it. The guys just generally had a good time brewing beer, and from my perspective, this hobby gives them whitespace. It’s a time to kick back, hang with other people who share your interest, and, yes, drink a little beer.

What’s On Tap
Here is the rundown of the five brewers and their choice of beer recipes:

Ogi made a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone.
Fred made a pumpkin ale using his own recipe.
Chris made a pale ale, also his own recipe.
Scott made what he called the Evil Twin American Red, a recipe he got from a book.
And then there was Brett. He made an Imperial Dark Rye IPA from a recipe, but he ended up swinging it his own way since he forgot to bring his recipe to the event.

Extract Brewing: The Lazy Man’s Way To Brew

Just having a little fun

I will start with Brett because I learned there is a “lazy man’s way” to brew beer, and Brett was just fine with admitting that this was the way he brewed beer. I also want to start with the “lazy man’s way” to brew beer because the guys informed me that it is also a great way to get started in brewing beer. There’s a little less initial investment in doing it this way. This “lazy man’s way is actually called extract brewing.

If you are brewing beer from scratch, first you heat the water to 150 degrees F to 170 degrees F depending on the flavor you are brewing. Then you add that water to your barley mixture and you let it soak for about an hour. After that hour, the liquid mixture that you have created is what will go into your boil. This liquid mixture is where the starches have converted to fermentable sugar.

malt extract

"Lazy Man" Brett with his can of extract

With Brett’s “lazy man’s way,” he just bought the fermentable sugar in a collection of three cans (skipping the boiling of the water, soaking, and sparging, which all take a good hour and a half total). Each can was around $13.00, so we’re talking an easy $40, as compared to the other four guys, who spent about $12 total for their mixtures. But, for someone just starting out, wanting to test the waters and see if they are interested enough in continuing beer brewing, while there is a $28 difference, doing it this way meant Brett didn’t need to invest the money in purchasing a mash tun, and all the tubing and measuring tools that go along with that.

Brewing Beer Takes Thought
Don’t let the “lazy man’s way” fool you though. Brewing beer is not for the weak minded.  There is a science behind brewing beer, and there is an art. You can see that in that each brewer had his own homebrewing notebook in which they recorded the details of their past recipes.

Homebrewing books

A sample of the studious supplies of a homebrewer

The guys often consulted and jotted things down in these books as they brewed their beer.

Homebrewing uses chemistry

Another example of a homebrewing notebook

Each guy also had their own favorite book from which they learned about homebrewing. It was obvious to me that study and attention to detail were truly a part of the homebrewing process.

And this attention to detail starts right from the beginning when the water needs to be boiled. Many home brewers use a propane tank to heat their water. And since the water has to be a specific temperature (150 to 175 depending on your beer flavor), this involves a little drum and dance with the propane heater knob. Ogi called it “the poor man’s temperature controller.”

homebrewing temperature control

Poor man's temperature control

And it gets better. Ogi, who is also the resident beer brewing chemist, pulled out the brewing salts he uses to fiddle with the flavor of his water.

water chemicals for homebrewing

Water chemicals for homebrewing

Ogi likes to mess around even with the chemistry of his water. At one point, he looked up the chemical balance of water in Bosnia, in order to do his best to match the water from his homeland. According to Ogi, even these small nuances can make a difference in the taste of your beer. Ogi doesn’t stop with the chemicals there. But we will get back to that.

Homebrewing: The Grains, Ah the Grains

Scott mixes the grains

Each brewer, except Brett who was extract brewing, had put together a combination of barley with varying other flavors (chocolate, pumpkin, seeds, what have you). They then poured this into the mash tun. “Oh, nothing beats that smell,” Scott said. So I sniffed it. All the guys loved the smell of the barley as they poured it out of their bags. It was very aromatic, rich, with a robust nutty scent to it. This part of the recipe is what creates the initial scent and flavor for each beer.

pour the grains into the mash tun

Fred pours his grains into the mash tun

measuring the sugar content of beer mixture

Scott measuring the sugar content just before the boil

After the water has been soaking with the grains inside the mash tun, the guys prepare to sparge. Sparging starts at the end of the steep. The brewer adds hot water (at their specific temperature) to the top of the mixture, and lets out the liquid mixture at the bottom of the mash tun. Essentially, the brewer is coaxing the sugars from the grains out into what will now be called the “boil” mixture. Once the water mixture is all poured into the brew kettle, the brewer measures the sugar content. Ogi told me that he is looking for a sugar content of 105—this tells him that the sugars have successfully converted into fermentable sugars.

And then its time to chill the beer. The beer needs to be chilled as quickly as possible to about 75 degrees F.

Homebrewing’s Human Element
Each of the guys has a different story when it comes to how they got involved with brewing beer. Scott, who is married and has a young child, helped and observed Fred for six or seven years before attempting it himself. It took him this long, because Scott was already involved in other things that took him away from his family, and he wasn’t ready to give those things up.

Finally, as he talked it over with his wife, Mandy, he decided to give up one night of hockey each week. Although Scott doesn’t brew beer every week, he uses his other off nights to spend time with his wife and son. Mandy was supportive of this decision, and showed her support by buying him his first homebrewing “how-to” book. It was cool to see the bond that existed between Mandy and Scott. She was not only supportive of his interest by buying him that book, she also hosts the beer brewing events at her house. It becomes an even better event in that Chris brings his wife, Krissy over, and the two wives hang out and sometimes go out while their husbands brew. “Brewing beer is not a small hobby,” Krissy said, “you need the support of your spouse if you are going to spend that much time away.” Chrissy also supports her husband, Chris, in his interest. She said last year’s Christmas presents for Chris were homebrewing related.

a family affair

Homebrewing can be a family affairFred's pumpkin mixture for his beer

Meanwhile, Fred has been inside, preparing his pumpkin for his beer. If you remember from my last blog post about Fred’s homebrewing, Fred had made a delicious citrus beer—it had kiwi in it. It is apparent from this new concoction that Fred likes to really “do it up,” on the recipes and give them authentic, rich flavors.

pumpkin mixture for homebrewed beer

Fred's pumpkin mixture for his beer

This is not so much the case with Brett, who, has been “doing it up” in his own fashion. He who forgot his recipe showed me what he called “the scientific way to measure out your hops.” It reminds me of the way I like to cook in my own kitchen.

hops for homebrewing

The scientific measurement of hopsOgi's organized hops

how to organize your hops

Ogi's organized hops

Ogi on the other hand, has a more deliberate, measured and thoughtful method. Each round of hops go into the boil mixture at a certain time. Chris told me that first round of hops are for adding the bitter and the hops at the end are for flavors. Ogi separates his hops ahead of time, labels the containers (with labels he custom made) with the time they are supposed to go into the boil, and how long before the next round of hops.

Somewhere along the line, this stuff is called the “wort.” Nice name, huh? I like Scott’s version of it better: the “sweet liquid of love.”

wort from homebrewing

the wort

After the wort has boiled, essentially, it is ready to go into the carboy, the carboy into the controlled temperature environment, and then it has to sit so the yeast can do its thing. Ahh the waiting period.

Sediment after only several days of waiting

But we must be patient for a good thing. I’d Tap That says its worth the wait.

The Give Away
I’d Tap That would like to make a little give away, which I will conduct by a random drawing. Simply make a comment on this blog post before Friday (the 16th) at midnight, and you will be entered for this giveaway. For this giveaway, I’d Tap That is giving a beerbrewing recipe kit. The kit includes all the “food” that goes into the beer (hops, grains, etc). You get to choose the recipe. Fred also said if you live close enough and would like to join them, he’d walk you through your first recipe, and EVEN let you borrow his equipment. What a great way for someone to “tap” into homebrewing to see if they like it, without ever spending a cent. So go ahead, make a comment! Heck, this would even make a great gift!

P.S. I’d Tap That’s Fred Seger is going to be at the Microbrew Festival in Columbus this Saturday. He will be at the Gordon Biersch booth, pouring beer. So stop by and say hello if you are going to be there.

You can get more information about the club, I’d Tap That at bethebrew.com; the clubs website.

Something Uplifting

First, just a quick note to say that Angie D. won the honey. I will be in touch with her and send it to her. Thank you all for participating. It was a lot of fun for me. Hope you liked reading the article.

I passed a friend at work today, and he said, “hey superwoman!”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about so I asked. “Huh?” (I have a way with words.)

“You were lifting that 200 pound log above your head.” I perked up then. He was referencing the last post I had written, Running Beyond the Fight. I had placed the picture of myself lifting the log above my head (which wasn’t really 200 pounds, that was just my dumb sense of humor) in the hopes that it might make you laugh. He told me it made him laugh. I’m glad it made someone laugh.

A big reason I write is to make a connection with other people in some way. It doesn’t mean I expect all of my readers to be my best friends (though a lot of readers are my friends), it just means I want to reach other people in a way that might make them smile, laugh, give them insight or inspire them. From the age of seven, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I know I was seven because I remember the piece that I wrote. It was a poem for my mother, on mother’s day.

Mother’s are so special,
My mother is that kind,
I know my mother is the one
Who surely gets behind.
Although she tries to hurry,
She should not scurry scurry,
But when she thinks she’s done,
She thinks she’s really won.

I know–it’s childish and juvenile, but hey, I was only seven. What I remember about writing that poem though, is how good I felt writing something that would show my mom that I had noticed her. I had noticed how she was always cleaning and cooking and taking care of things at the house. With this poem, I hoped to show her that that made her special–at least it made her special to me. And I felt like, by writing that poem, that just maybe it would make her feel good.

As I learned to read, I found that I loved reading novels. I devoured them. I loved being able to delve into the world of the character, to feel what they were feeling, to see what they saw and to see it from their perspective. I loved when a novel would inspire me. Usually, a novel that told the story of human triumph or great love or redemption would inspire me the most. When I finished a novel, I would flip back to the inside cover to see what I could find out about the author. I wanted to know who was this person who could stir such emotion inside of me with their words, their story. I wanted to connect with that author. And I wanted to do for others what those authors did for me: take them to another place for a while, show them something new that they didn’t know, make them laugh, give them hope, encourage them. I felt that if I could do that, it would be the greatest service I could do in this world. I knew that then.

But it was something I forgot about until I started writing this blog. And as I’ve written in here, read your comments here and on Facebook, and in person, I have been reminded of why I love to write, and why I ever wanted to be a writer in the first place. It’s because I love people, and I want to see them happy, and I want to do anything I can do to maybe help that happen, if even just for a little bit. Writing has been a part of my whole life. It has been the way that I learn, the way I express, the way I reach out. It has been my profession too, as I have made a career out of writing. It’s a talent God has given me, and which I have practiced in order to get better. I’m truly blessed to have something like this in my life. The best thing I can do with this talent, is to find ways to make you laugh, to inspire you, to help you learn. I hope I get to continue this blog, and whatever else God might bring my way so that I can continue writing something uplifting for others.

So, thank you readers, for giving me a chance to do this.

How To Turn a Chore Into a Hobby

How in the world could THIS possibly be a hobby?

Recently, a friend asked on facebook, “can laundry be a hobby?” I say, why not? If you like it, or if you have a lot of laundry to do, why not make it a hobby? Especially if you have a lot to do, then it might be a good idea to turn it into a hobby. It just might make it fun that way. How can you turn an everyday chore into a hobby? Well, like I’m doing, you could blog about it. You can see my website starts with the word “project.” The idea started because I had so many projects at home to work on. Never mind that I’ve only gotten through three of them. Actually, four—I just haven’t written about the fourth one yet.

I love hobbies. In fact, I refer to myself as a “professional hobbyist” because I have a broad range of interests and often find myself researching, learning and participating in a lot of different things. Right now, you could say I participate in these hobbies:
1.       Writing (specifically, blogging)
2.       Oil painting

3.       Dog rescue and dogs in general
4.       Triathlons

My triathlon hobby

5.       Marathons
6.       Weightlifting
7.       Sewing
8.       Vintage fashion
9.       Antiques
I think you get the picture. And this doesn’t even count the things I’ve had as hobbies in the past. This only lists the stuff I’m currently doing.
So, as a professional hobbyist, I need to tell you that there is one ultimate mindset that you must take on in order to turn anything into a hobby. That mindset is a decision to accept it as a valuable experience in your life. Usually, we don’t think of everyday things like chores as a valuable experience. But think about it. Laundry (or any chore) is a part of your life, it is a way to nurture and show care for others in your life, or there’s just a lot of it to do, so why not stop and think about the value that is added to your life and your loved ones’ life as you do it? So, on behalf of my friend who posted the question “can laundry be a hobby?”, I will show you six ways you can turn a chore into a hobby, and I will use laundry as an example. And remember, the foundation to your success at this, is that you make a decision to accept it as a valuable experience.
1.       Become knowledgeable about the chore:  You might think you know all there is to know about doing laundry, but, aha! There is so much more to learn. What about the history of laundry? Do you know all there is to know about who did laundry in the 1300s? How did they do it? What was “laundry day” like for these people, and for those in the 1400s, 1500s, 1800s and so on?

Detail from Tintoretto’s Jews in the Desert: Washer Women**

How do people in Ethiopia do laundry? People in Afghanistan? What about the chemistry behind the soap making? I’m sure there’s a lot to learn there. How is laundry detergent manufactured? How do your friends manage their laundry? What are some interesting quotes about laundry?
2.       Show your love through your new-found hobby: this might sound cheesy, but I am so sincere about this. If you didn’t do the laundry, your family would go to school or work smelly. Either that, or they would have to do it themselves. So what you are doing is a great sacrifice, and it’s a very loving and nurturing thing to do. Why not take the opportunity every once in a while to take it a step further? You’re gonna think I’m silly, but I’m serious here. If you have a daughter, for instance, especially a young daughter, on a special day, why not wrap a stack of clean clothes in a pink ribbon so that when they open their dresser, they look like gifts?

Tie a bow around your daughter’s clean clothes on a special day

How about including nicely scented sachets on the top stack of folded clothes inside their dresser? Have a spouse? Remind them that what you do everyday is a gift. So the next time you notice they need new underwear or socks, go out and buy them some, wrap them nicely and include a card. Let them know you put thought into it. I’m totally not kidding. How about this? Include a note in a pair of your spouse’s or child’s jeans. Let them find it later.

Slip a note in your loved ones’ jeans pocket for them to find later

3.       Experiment: in your effort to learn and become knowledgeable about the chore, you will undoubtedly run into things that you can experiment with. For instance, you will probably run into recipes for homemade laundry detergent. Experiment with them. Figure out the ones that work and the ones that don’t. See how much money you end up saving on laundry detergent. Ever tried hanging your laundry on a line? Why not try it now? It’s a great way to get a little more outdoor time and saves money on energy.

Hang your laundry on a clothesline to save money and to spend extra time outdoors; *photo by 60in3

4.       Master the activity: I’m talking about mastering the everyday activity of laundry, with none of the extra stuff included. Just plain wash, dry, fold, put away. Get on a schedule and stick to it. For myself, I organized my closet with three baskets—a white one for whites, a blue one for colors, and a black one for dark colored clothing. This makes it so I don’t have to sort anything when it’s time to wash. I also know when I have a full load of whites to wash. Master the activity so that it takes you less time. Challenge yourself to this and even turn it into a game. Week by week see if it becomes easier. You know how if you leave your clothes in the wash too long they start to smell moldy and then you have to wash them all over again? Figure out when the best times to wash are so that you know you will immediately put them in the dryer. Master the activity.
5.       Figure out how to incorporate or associate enjoyable things with the chore: do you like lists? Make a laundry list. Do you like to see how fast you can do things? Time yourself. Like music? Blast it. Dancing? Shake that booty while you load the washing machine. Like scented candles and lotions? Find scented detergents and softeners that you love. Add your own scents to a non-scented bottle of softener and let it be your “signature” scent. Like to talk? Call your grandma when you’re doing laundry. Or whoever. The more you associate other pleasant things with your new hobby, the more you won’t put off doing it.
6.       Help someone: do their laundry. For real. And now that it’s your hobby and you’re an expert at it, you’ll love to share your new skill with them. They will love you for it too. How about a new mom? She’s got a butt-load of laundry to do (no pun intended-haha!). What about a woman who’s husband is overseas for military duty? They might even just like it if you help them and talk with them while you help.
Our everyday chores are valuable experiences, if we remember to treat them that way. I wouldn’t expect someone to do all of these things (but if you do, please tell me because I want to write about you!), but I hope what I wrote will help you to think about your chore a little differently. And I hope that maybe there’s something in here that you will actually DO and in that doing it gives you a new perspective. Because our daily life is all about our perspective. I hope this has helped you.
*Laundry on clothesline photo by 60in3 on Flickr. Thank you.
**Source for Tintoretto’s Jews from the Desert: Washer Women

Free Beer Fridays

One of the things I think give people whitespace in their lives is a hobby. Recently, I was able to explore a little bit more into Fred Seger’s hobby: beer brewing. I had always pictured beer brewers to be a very different sort than Fred. I’m not sure exactly what I thought they should be—big burly men with kilts and a huge pot, stirring it up with big old clubs of a sort. Ha! Fred’s not that. He’s an IT guy.

Last Friday, Fred gave me a free beer from one of his brewing batches. He said it was “free beer Friday.” He didn’t tell me anything about it—it’s flavor or what to expect. He only asked that I pour it into a glass when I tasted it. I finally had a chance to sit down to savor the flavors of Fred’s beer last night.

A free beer from Fred

Here’s the thing: I’m not a beer drinker. I really don’t care for the taste of beer, but I appreciate Fred’s hobby and I was interested in the product that came out of it. I was trying to be cognizant of the flavors because Fred had asked me to be. So, being the amateur beer conneiseur, I swirled it around in the glass, sniffed it and then took a drink. I was entirely surprised!

It had a definite sweet flavor to it, and something else. . .  I had to take a few more sips before I could define what I was tasting. So I did. Is that a sourness I taste? Yes, I think it is. Sweet and sour! I’m not sure what you regular beer drinkers might have thought of that flavor, but as for me, except for a chocolate beer I once had, I had to say that this was the best beer I ever tasted!

So I asked Fred some questions about his hobby and decided to give them to you here.

1.       What got you started in brewing beer?

I enjoy the actual taste of beer but thought there had to be something more than Bud or Miller. They never really impressed me and I found it funny that they tried to sell their beer on the assumption we’d get hot babes if we drank it. They failed to focus on the beer which is a good marketing tool if the product sucks. About 15 years ago a friend of mine and I started venturing into the unknown and buying different British, German, and even Canadian beers. We used to drive to Niagara Falls about every 2 months to get loaded up on Molson XXX (a malt liquor) and Bradour and bring it back to Ohio. After many different varieties and some horrible mistakes, we thought we would try and make some. We talked the talk but never walked the walk. One Christmas about 6 years ago my wife Angela bought a $75 beer making kit from The Winemakers Shop in Clintonville. I failed horribly on my 1st batch but I stuck with it and the hobby exploded. It’s a fun hobby with great rewards. I especially love giving my beer out to friends to see what they think.

2.       How long does it take to brew a batch of beer?

A typical brewing day can last 4 – 6 hours for me but it doesn’t stop there. Once I make the wort (pre-beer) I turn things over to the yeast who actually turn the wort into beer. They eat the sugar in the wort I make, and the end result is CO2 and alcohol. This process can take anywhere from 2 weeks if I rush it, to 6 months depending on the type of beer.

The pre-beer, wort

3.       When you are brewing beer, what about it do you enjoy?

There’s a point when I’m brewing I get to relax and wait for a conversion to take place. It normally takes about an hour. About 60% of the time I get to relax. The other 40 is troubleshooting gear or trying to bring the water up to a certain temperature so the conversion takes place. That’s relaxing, which is nice. When I start boiling and adding hops I get a feeling of camaraderie that goes back thousands of years ago when humans started making beer. Curious neighbors who’re interested in what I’m doing start to ask questions. Me and the other brewers start chatting beer talk or even politics which is always fun. We ‘sample’ the past homebrews (several times) which opens up a livelier atmosphere.  It usually turns into a small party.

4.       When you are not brewing beer, what kind of activities are you involved in that are related to brewing beer?

I read. A lot. I have a goal to read 40 books on brewing by April of 2012. I’m also running a small homebrewers club that I hope will turn into a business which in turn will pay for a small brewpub. I read books on the process, styles and even history of brewing. In fact I just finished up a small book on the history of German brewers in Columbus (Lager and Liberty). It was a very good read. 

Carboys in the cooler

5.       Does brewing beer give you a deeper appreciation for anything else?

Food. Definitely food. I’ve always enjoyed cooking but since I started brewing I’ve paid a lot more attention to what goes into what I eat. I’ve become somewhat of a naturalist about it. I try like hell to avoid processed, mass produced foods. If the 1st ingredient is HFC I run to the hills.

6.       Have you made any relationships because of this hobby?

Several. Some where I work, some social clubs around Columbus and some through other people interested in brewing. It’s getting large enough I’ve started a small club.

7.       Do you want to take this hobby any further than a hobby?

Yes. I would love to open a home brewers shop in Westerville. I would also love to take brewing to the pro level, but it takes a lot of practice and a lot more knowledge of the craft than what I have. I’d be very interested to learn how the pros do it on such a large scale and with such great consistency. I think opening a brew pub restaurant would make a nice retirement project. I’ve even named it but I have to keep it a secret for now.

Fred's beer gear (most of it anyway)