Barley’s Angels at Whiprsnapr Brewery

whiprsnapr

In my continual pursuits of enjoying beer and beer geekiness, making new friends and getting out of the house, I recently took an initiative to join the Ottawa chapter of the Barley’s Angels. It’s run by a handful of amazing local ladies who are also huge beer geeks. We meet once a month at a brewery, pub or other fun venue for beer, food and funtimes.

This month’s meetup was at a relatively new brewery called Whiprsnapr, in the west end. Their selection tonight consisted of three beers on tap:

Carol Anne Irish Blonde – A tasty blonde with a rare punch to it! The Irish yeast strain they use adds some excellent fruit notes and the Willamette hops give it an excellent balanced, fresh flavour.

Inukshuk Canadian IPA – Holy hops Batman! Earthy and bitter. A great punch to this one. It’s an IPA after my own heart, and made with Canadian ingredients, including a very healthy dose of Chinook hops.

F’N’A’ British IPA – My favourite of the three taps. Great taste profile on this beer. It fits its name – it’s got a hard punky bite to it. All British ingredients. Deeeelish.

Ian, the resident brewer (pictured above) was so kind as to save enough of his sold-out ginger cream ale to give us each a sample-sized portion! It was delectable – pure and strong ginger taste and a very easy-drinking beer.

This is a great little brewery with friendly folks and a great brand profile (check out the back of the t-shirt I brought home, pictured above – #earnyourbeer!). The beers I tried were all excellent and I look forward to returning to try their black lager and seasonal offerings!

The event was also a holiday potluck, so I made a dish fitting for such an event: A healthy lentil casserole made with delicious beer – in particular, Church Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale. It was incredibly well-received and folks asked for the recipe, so here it is below! This makes great leftovers, too – it’s a favorite of mine when I’m cooking solo.

lentilcasserole

Lentil & Rice Scotch Ale Casserole

Ingredients
  • 3 cups of a strong malty beer – I prefer Scotch ale but many beers would work!
  • 3/4 cup of lentils
  • 1/2 cup of rice – I use basmati or brown rice
  • one onion
  • two carrots
  • one bell pepper
  • one teaspoon minced garlic
  • approx. 1 cup of grated cheddar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  2. Dice the onion, carrots and pepper.
  3. Add all ingredients except the cheese to a large baking dish (I use a 9 x 13 deep dish).
  4. Cover with foil and bake for an hour or until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
  5. Remove the foil, sprinkle the grated cheese on top, and bake for another 20 minutes or until cheese is fully melted but not browning.
  6. Enjoy with a beer.

Entering The World Of Sewing.

This past season, I learned how to sew using a machine for the first time in my life.

sewing8

I’ve noticed that folks act with an air of surprise when I say this – the assumption being that I could already sew. I mean, I knit. I crochet. I have a sewing machine. Why would I not sew?

Pretty simple: I didn’t know how.

Sewing was my mom’s first and foremost hobby; she would happily sew gifts for people every Christmas, make household items and repair my clothes. Most of my Halloween costumes were hand-sewn. Mom also put in a few good tries to teach me how to sew. I was pro at pinning and cutting out patterns, but not so much actual machine use. In my defense, as awesome as my mom was, a teacher she was not. She also couldn’t teach me to knit.

After my mom sadly passed away in 2006, I inherited her expansive crafting collection, including her sewing gear and Bernette sewing machine. They sat collecting dust for a good while before I realized hey, my knitting and crochet were completely self-taught, why can’t I teach myself something that women across the world know?

I tried. And I failed. Several times. Things would tangle, the thread tension would be wacky, and at one point I would wind up with seven threads coming off the machine and I would get frustrated.


Then, for my birthday this past year, Marshall surprised me with paid sewing lessons whenever I wanted. I finally took them up starting in October.

I SEWED A TOTE BAG. And it looked legit, professional, and cute.

sewing6

Our machines were pretty high-tech. The teacher was also fabulous. I learned so much about the little ins and outs of sewing, troubleshooting, and what do do if X or Y goes wrong. The class was six weeks, and near the end of the classes I got my old machine serviced. I was nervous, could I transfer all this new knowledge to my turn-dial machine at home?

Well, I got it back, complete with a new foot pedal since my old one was rusted…

sewing5

And I did what I did before… I researched, I threaded, I sewed…

… I sewed.

sewing9

… and I sewed some more. (with homebrew.)

sewing11

… and before I knew it, I had replicated the bag I made in class, in a fabric I liked better, with a slightly longer strap. A few small hiccups, but I made it. And it worked. I made it, on my own machine, without outside help.

sewing2

sewing1

sewing3

And not only that…

I removed the tail from a lemur kigurumi gifted to me ages ago, so I can actually sit down while wearing it.

I fixed the hem on a pair of jeans.

I repaired two hoodie pockets and a kooky Christmas toilet seat cover.

And I’m currently working on a ferret bedding set made out of fleece, followed closely by PJ pants for Marshall and I.


But lastly, I feel a really great connection when I sew. Using my mom’s machine, I’m reminded of the many hours she spent here, working and enjoying. I feel an interesting spiritual connection that I can’t say I’ve ever quite felt about anything else before, since her passing.

And that itself is awesome.

sewing10

2 Player Mode Goes All-Grain!

Woops.

I have a blog. That I said I was going to update more often. So, um, hello!

I mean, it’s not like there hasn’t been stuff going on. Lots of stuff going on! Folks have been asking me about the blog. That’s really cool. I’m glad you all enjoy reading.

So, here I am, with a few exciting things to write about! First, why don’t we continue the tradition of our last post and tell you about what we’ve been up to with our homebrewing?

Well, to start off we have three drinkable beers under our belt now. That’s exciting.

allgrain18

L to R: Bog Beast Brown Porter, Little Red Amber Ale, and lastly the Cincinnati Pale Ale, which was the subject of our last post. The beers are in reverse order of creation here, the porter being our newest. There’s full info and tasting notes for our beers over on our fancy brewery page I made on UnTappd. UnTappd is essentially social media, for beer. Which is awesome.

I’ve obviously been having fun designing our labels. We have a “base” template that I’m kinda digging. Easy to plug in artwork I illustrate, change colours, and plenty of room for beer info and tasting notes.

We also have an unnamed ESB happily conditioning in the bottles that will be drinkable in two weeks or so. They mark our last extract brew, at least for awhile…

Marshall has been completely gung-ho on moving our hobby forward. Truly, it his primarily his hobby, in the sense of planning, preparation and execution. That said, it’s lots of fun to do together and I’m able to contribute in a lot of ways… and drink the results. Best part.

Most notably recently has been are acquisition of all-grain brewing equipment. Up until now, we’ve been using pre-prepared malt extracts in our boils, as shown in our previous posts. This is referred to as extract brewing. Extract brewing is pretty great for simplicity’s sake and for a faster, easier brew (and more ideal for those in smaller spaces). However, to get the full range of brewing possibilities available to you as well as to have the most control over your brewing, it’s logical to switch to all-grain as soon as one is able. Most homebrewers will make the choice to brew all-grain if they can, and most commercial breweries do.

That’s our new gear on the floor.

allgrain1

The difference is quite simple: Instead of dumping extracts into your pot of water at appropriate times to create a wort, you spend extra time before your boil to crush your malted barley fresh, and use a hot water steeping process which hydrates the barley, activates the malt enzymes, and converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars. This is called mashing.

Since it involves very hot water that needs to stay hot for an hour, most homebrewers use huge picnic coolers to make their mash. Marshall was nervous about the plastics and heat, since the picnic coolers aren’t rated for heat use. So, we’re going against the grain and using a stainless steel kettle instead as shown above on the floor. The wool blanket is for insulation. Much like our big boil kettle in the previous post, but bigger. We use it for making the mash as well as for draining our wort. Brewers call this pot a mash lauter tun (MLT for short).

We also got a beast of a grain mill.

allgrain19

With all-grain brewing comes better water management, so we also got some various salts and lactic acid to regulate our water pH.

Oh, and what’s that thing in the back?

allgrain2

Another thing we’ve done for our last two brews (unrelated to all-grain) is use liquid yeast, so we had to make a yeast starter ahead of time. This creates healthy active yeast that will really aid in fermentation. It requires a bit of TLC and lots of stirring, but our last brew was so clear and lovely out of the fermenter… it was worth it.

Plus… SCIENCE.

allgrain20

Anyhow. On to the brewing process. Our brew of the day was a good, simple American Brown Ale recipe. We used an existing recipe but have substituted malts and hops, so ours will be unique.

The one thing I didn’t get a photo of was our first step – crushing the grains. Oops. It was pretty cool, I promise you. In total we crushed about 12.5lbs of malted barley – mostly Canadian 2-Row malt (a base malt commonly used in North American brews) with dabbles of Caramunich, Chocolate and Melanoidin malts.

While the grain crush was going on, we got a lot of water heating up in our main brewing pot, to prep it for the mash. Marshall swirled a gallon or so around in the MLT to start getting it warmed up.

allgrain4

Once the pot was warmed, we dumped our crushed grain into the pot and started adding the hot water. Temperature is key here – you want your strike water temperature to be higher than your desired temperature to account for heat absorption by the grain. This water is 160 degrees F, with intent on it cooling to 152 degrees F.

allgrain5

A better view of filling the MLT from our boiling pot. Confused yet? And yes, we do brew in pyjamas.

allgrain6

After the MLT is filled with water and given a really good stir, we wrap it up. That yellow blanket is pure wool, and I stuck a fleece blanket on top of the lid for good measure. We let it sit in its warm hug for an hour, stirring once on the half hour.

allgrain7

Now, ideally the mash stays around 152 degrees F for that hour. But that said, temperature loss is usually to be expected within that time frame. At the half hour point we had dropped to around 144, so we added some extra water from the pot to the MLT to heat it up again. It worked great.

While the mash was doing it’s enzyme thing, we heated up even more water for our next steps. Our brewing pot got a good workout that day. It’s important to get water heating up ASAP since this much water takes… awhile to heat up.

allgrain8

Here’s a few more of the new toys Marshall got to help our brewing process. The red thing is a pH meter for reading the pH of our mash. We also got a digital thermometer which is useful everywhere, throughout the process of brewing. At the bottom is a refractometer – a device that helps us measure the sugar level of our beer (and predict our beer’s gravity) without using a hydrometer. It’s less precise than a hyrometer, but we can use it throughout the process at any temperature, requiring only a few drops of liquid to work.

allgrain9

After an hour, our mash is done… mostly. We do a short process called recirculation, where we drain a few quarts of wort into a pitcher from the MLT’s tap, pour it back into the pot, and repeat. Once the wort’s coming out clear, we begin to lauter – pour the wort from the mash kettle into the brewpot.

In the photo below, the pots have switched places – the MLT is on the counter and the brew pot is on the floor receiving the wort from the mash pot. The additional pot on the stove is holding the water we boiled two photos ago.

You might be wondering how all the crushed grain doesn’t come out of the tap. I didn’t get a photo yet, but inside our MLT at the bottom is a device called a false bottom. It’s like a reverse sieve that attaches to the tap that filters the grain at the bottom of the pot and allows only liquid to pass through to the tap, leaving the grain in the pot.

allgrain10

Once we’ve drained the wort into the brewpot, we add our sparge water to the MLT – that’s the hot water in the smallest pot above. Adding the sparge water to the leftover grain in the pot allows us to get as much of the sugars out of that grain as possible – we give the whole thing a good stir, let it sit for fifteen minutes and then pour out THAT water into the brew pot as well.

This leaves us with 7 gallons of delicious-smelling malt wort ready to start boiling for our brew. Now we’re at the part we started at in the last brewing post. Make sense?

allgrain13

The 12.5lbs of spent grain is generally tossed at this point – but we can bake and cook with it, as well as make some awesome natural healthy cookies for Finnegan. In the warmer months we can also use it for compost if we wish. I saved 8 cups of it to play with this time around, which really wasn’t much at all.

allgrain11

Another thing we saved was a quart or so of the wort – I had read online about this magical-sounding drink called a “hot scotchy” – popular with homebrewers. Take a small glass of hot wort and blend it with a healthy shot of your favourite scotch. We tried Islay Mist with our wort and oh my goodness gracious this was a tasty drink. Especially on a cold rainy day while one is brewing. Highly recommend.

allgrain12

With hot scotchy in tow, we did the usual tidying up while monitoring our hop additions.

allgrain14

Then cooling…

allgrain15

… then pouring into our fermenter. You may notice that it’s not a bucket this time – we’ve upgraded to a 6 gallon glass carboy. Complete with a lifting harness. The pouring took a long time – the trub (leftover brewing gunk) in the boil pot kept clogging our sieve in the pot, but eventually we had all of it out.

allgrain16

We pitched our yeast into the carboy, then Marshall got to try out the last of our new toys – an aerator that attaches to our power drill to aerate the wort. As you can see, it works great.

allgrain17

Then the beer goes to rest in our electronically-temperature-controlled custom beer fridge in the basement. Oh yeah, I guess that’s a new toy too, isn’t it?

IMAG2223

And now we wait for our brown ale to mature, all the while enjoying the past fruits of our labours. Such a fun and rewarding hobby this has been so far.

For those who care a bit less about brewing, the next post will not be brewing-related. I promise. :) Stay tuned.

Home Brew Day – Cincinnati Pale Ale

Sunday was our first

HOMEBREW DAY.

*fanfare*

For real. We’d been musing about home brewing beer for some time, and at the end of August we finally decided to jump into the hobby. Over the years I’ve had many friends tell me all about their homebrew (as well as tasting a ton of great ones) and I’ve since had an underlying itch to try it for myself.

After a lot of research (mostly by Marshall, who is a research guru) we did a lot of reading, price comparing and listmaking. We got our equipment from OBK and Toronto Brewing, with a smattering of supplies bought locally at Defalco’s and a few good books, including the biblical How To Brew by John Palmer, the first edition of which is available online for free. It’s a great resource if you want to learn about homebrewing. One of the best, in fact.

I’ll be doing my best to explain everything in this post as though explaining to newbies who want to learn; if anything escapes you, you can peek at the link above, or just ask me in comments! Our first recipe is a Cincinnati Pale Ale recipe, suggested in the book above.

Anyhow. After breakfast out (to not dirty the kitchen) and an errand to pick up a few last-minute items, we were ready to go. We decided to begin our homebrewing hobby with a simple beer recipe that uses malt extracts. Many homebrewers commonly use an all-grain method that is longer and more involved, but we wanted to keep it simple for the first time.

So, for extract brewing, the homebrewing process consists of these main steps:

  1. The malt extracts (dry and/or liquid) are boiled with hops for seasoning.
  2. The solution is cooled and yeast is added to begin fermentation.
  3. The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol.
  4. When the primary and secondary fermentation is complete, the beer is bottled with a little bit of added sugar to provide the carbonation.
  5. Several weeks later… BEER!

On Sunday, we began our brew. The substance you get from boiling the malt and hops is called a “wort”. Pictured below is our 8-gallon stovetop brew pot, fitted with a thermometer gauge and a spigot for easy pouring later on. On the right is our fermenting bucket, which was currently sanitizing all of our equipment.

homebrew1

The first step is to clean and sanitize everything. Twice. Any homebrewer will tell you that this is the most important part of any brew. The heavy use of yeast plus long rest times at room temperature assures that any contamination will show through in the beer. The pot and spoon only need a thorough cleaning, but every other piece of equipment also requires sanitization. We used a solution that is a no-rinse sanitizer to clean everything out.

homebrew3

With that done, the fermenting bucket was set aside and we started adding water to the pot. Six gallons of water. Twelve full containers.

homebrew5

We started the water to boil. This was going to take quite a while to heat up. Marshall got the wort chiller ready to go. That’s it below. It’s an immersion chiller that we will use later on when we need to cool the pot. Marshall built it himself and I’ll talk more about it later!

homebrew4

Meanwhile, I passed the time by writing our the recipe. And failing. Oops. Need to re-write that. Our bible was on hand, of course.

homebrew6

Testing the wort chiller one more time to make sure it was leak-free. And it was. Marshall did an awesome job.

homebrew9

When the water reached 40°C, we added our malt extracts. We used both liquid and dry malt extracts. The liquid extract was syrupy and slow to come out, taking a lot of coaxing to empty the bottle. Next time, we’ll let it warm up a little instead of using it straight out of the fridge.

homebrew10

Now it was just a matter of stirring the malts periodically and waiting for the water to reach boil. It took almost an hour and a half for the six gallons of water to go from 20°C to boiling (100°C).

homebrew11

I took the time to re-write the recipe in a format that made more sense. This was a learning experience in many ways.

homebrew13

…while Marshall got comfortable and waited for the water. Turns out a watched pot will still boil.

homebrew12

See? This was just before boiling point. Quite exciting!

homebrew14

Now all we had to do was wait a few minutes for the wort to reach “hot break” (when the foam begins to form proteins that eventually separate and sink) and then our first hops were added. Below is our two types of hops. The Nugget hops are our “bittering” hops: these are usually added at the beginning of your boil. They don’t have much, if any flavour and are used for bittering the beer. The Cascade hops on the right are what are called the “flavouring” hops and are usually added at a few different times during the boil, to give the beer its floral nose and flavour. Many beers use more than two hops, but as I said, this is a simple recipe.

homebrew7

At the beginning of the boil we added 1oz of our bittering hops. I should note that at this point, our entire kitchen was really smelling like beer. Mmmm.

homebrew15

The entire boil took 60 minutes. At 30 minutes we added 0.5oz of the Cascade flavouring hops, and added 0.5oz more 15 minutes before the end of the boil. This part involves a lot of waiting, stirring the wort periodically and keeping an eye on the boil.

homebrew16

During that time we also re-hydrated the dry ale yeast to be added to the fermentation bucket later.

homebrew21

Right near the end of the boil, we immersed the wort chiller to sanitize it before it starts work.

homebrew17

At 60 minutes of boiling over with, we began chilling the wort immediately. It’s very important to cool the wort as quickly as you can so that a “cold break” occurs, keeping sulphur compounds from forming as well as thermally shocking more proteins out of the wort. The immersion chiller that Marshall made consists of copper tubing that gets immersed into the wort and has cold tap water run through it and back out to the sink. It worked incredibly well, cooling the wort to about 25°C in 15-20 minutes.

homebrew18

Now that the temperature was back to almsot room temperature, we poured a small sample to take a gravity reading. This measures the amount of sugars suspended in the beer, and it’s a good idea to take a reading before AND after fermentation. Our first gravity reading (original gravity, or OG) was a bit lower than the projected OG in the recipe, but we used slightly less malt extracts than the recipe so this is okay.

homebrew19

We then poured the wort into the fermentor. I have no photos of this task because it took two of us. We poured the wort out of the pot’s spigot and into the fermenting bucket. We used a steel strainer to keep the sludge of hops, proteins and leftovers (called trub) from falling into the bucket. The slow pour allowed the wort to aerate as well, which is important for fermentation. Once the wort was poured, we poured in the rehydrated yeast (i.e. pitched the yeast) and shut the lid.

homebrew20

Marshall the strongman lugged the bucket down to the basement, where we applied the airlock (a one-way gas escape) and set it up under a table in the workshop where it won’t be interrupted for two weeks.

homebrew22

The temperatures in that room are ideal for fermenting, and the airlock is bubbling happily as the yeast does the heaviest work over the next few days. And otherwise? We wait. Our next step is in two weeks, when we bottle. Until then, we will brainstorm our brewery logo and design our first label!

Algonquin Park Highlands Trail – Backcountry 2014

As my previous post stated, our most recent adventure took us to the Algonquin Park Highlands backpacking trail for Labor Day weekend.

Now, as mentioned before, I’m a girl on the bigger side. I am also currently in the process of getting healthy the logical way – positive eating choices and lots of varied exercise. This trail was to be more difficult than the previous trail we did last year (Eastern Pines) and would provide me with a good challenge.

Boy howdy, it sure did, in very good ways. We managed to arrive at the trailhead and set off at around 11:00am, which was great timing! Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

gonq1

Our plan was simple. The trail has a long and a short loop – we did the short. We followed the trail to Provoking lake, then would travel counter-clockwise over the four-day course (with one two-night stop) until we got back to the trailhead.

highlandstrail

Marshall (who has done this trail several times before) warned me that the first day would also be our most difficult, terrain-wise. The entire trail is located on a higher plane (thus highlands) and so the path from the trailhead to the primary lake (about 3.8km) is a lot of inclines.

gonq13

No pressure.

gonq12

Unlike last year, I had a baseline. I also had an awareness that my heart is a bit weak. So I spent just over a month before our trip practicing climbs at home and nearby at the beach, as well as daily walks with a weighted backpack. I also brought my trusty heart rate monitor on the trip, and kept a rule that if I hit 180, I stop, catch my breath and recover to 155. As long as I kept to that rule, I felt great throughout the trail. If a bit tired in the legs.

After the hardest of the climbing was over for the day we were treated to a beautiful scenic waterfall…

gonq10

…and some really pretty views along the way.

gonq5

It wasn’t long after that when we got to our site. All by itself down its own side trail, on Provoking Lake.

Priorities:

Step 1. Backpacks and hiking boots OFF.

gonq14

Step 2. Sit and take in the scenery.

gonq15

We got to the site nice and early (around 2:30pm) so we had plenty of time to enjoy and unwind before site chores had to be done.\

Therefore, repeat step 2.

gonq17

gonq22

Step 3: Evening chores – the usual camping fare. Pitching tent, locating and cutting firewood, making preparations for dinner, etc.

The dinner part was easy this time around – we decided on bag dinners for easy eating and less cooking time (with some fresh veggies we brought along for additions). No photos of the rest of that first night, though – as we were eating our meal, the rain started coming down. Hard. With thunder and lightning. We hurriedly gathered all of our belongings, threw them under a tarp and retreated into our tent for the night with water and our flasks of booze. From 7pm onward we sat in the tent chatting, brainstorming brewing stuff, and playing cards. Sometime after 8:30pm we both zonked out for the night. We were exhausted.

At least, I wish I zonked out. Sadly, I fell prey to the same beast I did last year on that first day: dehydration. A pounding headache kept me up for a good part of the night. It was unfortunate, but eventually I conked out and thankfully, since we were staying on that site an extra day, I was able to sleep in. Let that be a lesson, future self: over-hydrate on that first day!

Anyhow. It poured all night, almost nonstop. The thunder and rain were soothing. By morning the rain had subsided, but the site was pretty soaked (our gear was all fine). The firewood Marshall had cut up the previous day was completely drenched, but we kept hope that it would dry out enough for that night. (That box in the photo? Not ours. The site was a bit messy when we got there, sigh).

gonq24

Then we had our morning coffee with a good dose of Bailey’s inside it and everything was wonderful. This is an every-morning occurance on our backpacking trips.

gonq25

Then it was time to refill the water bladders and Nalgene. For the uninformed, we’re using a handy-dandy pump that pumps water through the hose and pad you see, through a filter to remove micro-organisms and create drinkable water from the lake. It’s time-consuming and laborious to use, but extremely portable and really nifty.

gonq26

Soon it was time for our day hike. Marshall pointed out a lookout on the second loop that was a 7km return trip. With no packs, it made for a light day hike. So onward we went!

gonq28

Along the way, we got as close to a moose as we would get this trip.

gonq37

The entire Highlands trail looks like this. Can’t complain.

gonq33

The human scenery wasn’t so bad, either. :)

gonq34

The lookout was on a nice clean rockface that we rested at for almost an hour. We brought lunch.

gonq30

The view was a bit blocked by trees, but overlooked a clear swampish area and was quite pretty.

gonq29

We were joined by several little friends…

gonq31

…and I took some artistic photos of lichen.

gonq32

The rain stayed away all day, save for a bit of misting. We enjoyed a delicious evening dinner of asian chicken & noodles. In a bag.

gonq38

The sunset that night was quite lovely.

gonq39

Our firewood was still moist, but with a lot of huffing and puffing on the fire by Marshall, we managed a small fire. Enough to cook us some homemade cinnamon bannock on a stick and enjoy a delicious cigar (Fonseca KDT Cadetes). Yum.

gonq40

After a good night’s sleep and a breakfast of oatmeal and more Bailey’s coffee, we packed up camp and set off further along the first loop to our next destination.

gonq42

The hike was a long one – our longest. It was also quite incliney and a hotter day than before. But a beautiful trek and the trails were all very well-maintained.

gonq44

Our next site, along the north end of Provoking Lake, was very spacious and surrounded by tall trees. Perfect!

gonq46

The waterside was pretty, too.

gonq49

A delicious dinner of vegetable stew.

gonq52

And with dry ground and fair winds, a roaring fire. Finally! Woohoo!

gonq54

Plenty of fire for an evening of flask-drinking and enjoying the second cigar we brought – Montecristo no. 3.

gonq55

My last Bailey’s coffee by the water. Sniff.

gonq56

Last day, go!

gonq57

On our way off the loop, Marshall took us up to a gorgeous lookout of Starling Lake and Lake of Two Rivers for lunch.

gonq58

gonq60

Back at the start of the loop. Someone having fun with arrows.

gonq61

..and we were back to the trailhead. Begin the ritual of shedding gross woods clothes and driving back home.

gonq62

All in all, an excellent getaway. The trail is really nice and well-maintained, and going on Labor Day weekend meant bugs were never a huge problem. Some boggy areas on the trail meant our boots got a bit mucky (and in one instance in my case, soaked through, oops) and it’s got some challenging inclines and declines along the way. But all said it was a ton of fun, and my confidence and strength this year were far better than last year.

I hope you enjoyed. I sure did.

gonq23

 

Backcountry Camping Trip 2014 – A Look Back

Well, the time has arrived: Our (now) annual backcountry camping weekend begins soon! Since my work is done for the day and I’m focusing on the trip ahead, I figured I’d take the time to do a recap of our 2013 trip.

We did this together for the first time last year, heading to Algonquin Park to take on their Eastern Pines Trail. Marshall, a seasoned camper and portager, didn’t have much trouble with the trail. Me, well… I was certainly seasoned experience-wise due to being in Scouts for so many years, but enough years of my body being allowed to get doughy, soft and less muscled and… let’s just say it wasn’t easy.

Our distance wasn’t too bad. an 18.5km trip spread over three days and two nights. The image below outlines what our basic trip consisted of.

eaternpinestrail(map is courtesy of the incredible Jeff of Jeff’s Maps.)

We started off bright-eyed and bushy-tailed…

packing2-lo

…and upon arriving at our site for the night, we were a bit less so. Especially me.

packing4-lo

That first evening was… well, I won’t lie. It started horrible. The weather was nice and our site was stunning, but I was in a haze of headache and nausea from the heat and over-exertion. My poor body was not ready for the onslaught. I rested, I ate, and I drank water. Funny enough, Marshall suggested a swig from the flask (we both brought a flask with booze, because why not?) and that did the trick. Alcohol saves the day!

Really, though. A beautiful campsite. We were situated along Johnston lake, a popular spot for portage.

packing18-lo

Marshall made us steak n’ beans for dinner. Oh man was that dinner ever welcome.

packing24-lo

I know. Steaks, what? Backpacking with steaks? Turns out, raw steak does okay in a pack for a few hours. Worth it.

The second day was easier on both of us, despite being much longer – our first day was 4.5km, second was 7.3 – due to full bellies, a deep sleep and our muscles being more used to the weight and pace.

packing28-lo

Our second site was interesting – it was the only site on the entire Bucholtz Lake. No neighbours except lots of bullfrogs, a loon, and we’re pretty sure a moose or two.

packing47-lo

It was calm and lovely, right near to the lake.packing39-lo

The entire area reminded me of a fairy tale.

packing33-lo

Nights by the campfire with your mate, your flask of booze and a fine cigar (A. Turrent Triple Play). Bliss.

packing43-lo

Mornings by the lake with your mate, Bailey’s in your coffee and frogs all around you. Bliss.

packing45-lo

The way out of the park was… fun. We got lost. In fact, I’m pretty sure we got lost 2-3 times. A few loops around Berm Lake, which was scenic and popular for day hikes, so we met others frequently. We were tired, but at least it was scenic and we made it out to the car eventually.

packing49-lo

Next, we’re heading back into Algonquin Park, this time trying the scenic but more challenging Highlands Trail. Marshall has hiked this one before. It’s a bit shorter overall, but with much more varied elevation and a few great lookout points. We will be spending four days and three nights. Below is a loose idea of our plan. The second and third nights may be spent even closer in, I’m not sure. We intend on a day hike on the third day, since we will be staying at the same campsite two nights in a row.

highlandstrail(once again guys, Jeff’s Maps. Awesome.)

Will this year be easier? Well, I’m more fit than last year, but still doughy and soft for backpacking, so I foresee this as a challenging trip. Just like last year though, I am excited to take it on and add it to my list of successes.

Wish us luck!

Socks, Beer, and Summer.

We’re back!

It’s been a very busy, busy summer. Which started off with a sad loss.

fertsdeck2

My little ferret girl, Porom, was taken from me suddenly. She fell ill to what I believe was a stroke, and despite careful nursing, died of internal bleeding while under the care of my petsitter (who did everything she could as well). She was six, which is not young for a ferret. But she was my first. I was, and still am, devastated. We also lost Freya earlier in the year to an unknown, sudden cause (guessing heart attack) so we only have little Barrett left in ferretland. He’s healthy and happy, though, and for that I am thankful.

The rest of the pets are doing great. We moved in with Marshall in May, and he has two cats. My dog, Finnegan, is not sure how to handle cats who not only do not want to play, but hiss at him if he does anything out of the ordinary. It doesn’t help that hissing cats somehow make Finn’s brain go into threshold overdrive which makes him bark and want to chase them. Sigh. So they are currently separated most of the time, with careful on-leash training sessions for all three of them. It’s going well, but with our lives being busy, progress is slow. I hope we can integrate them fully.

The dog’s still pretty happy, though.
sunny3

And my new feline roomies are pretty awesome. This is Stan. He’s older, and slightly more nervous/fearful. He hates the dog with a passion. But he’s a great snuggler. Snuggling is his favourite thing in the entire world. Second only to tuna.

IMAG1441

Then there’s Fiora. She’s young, energetic, and just plain weird. She wags her tail when she’s happy, plays fetch, plows headlong into dining chairs and has eyes like the moon. She actually kinda likes the dog, as long as he acts calm and does nothing weird.

IMAG1513

A lot of the first few weeks of summer involved unpacking and sorting All The Things. We managed some fun weekends away, though! Hanging out at our friend Justin’s cottage in Quebec…

cottage4

…and spending the weekend at Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal in August. So much music absorbed in one weekend!

osheaga8

There was a lot of cooking and baking. I started making bento box lunches for my workdays. Fun, tasty and healthy. I hope to keep it up, including getting a new fancy bento box this fall.

IMAG1343 IMAG1352

Marshall and I took a class in baking taro pastries, and our first batch was pretty delish. We even flavoured the pastry with matcha.

IMAG1405

I tried making gazpacho for the first time, and it was an excellent summer soup.

IMAG1530_1

And finally, two cherry pies! The first one had a bit of a failed dough, which left me frustrated; so the second one, I redeemed myself. Yummm.

IMAG1410

Knitting is happening, too, of course. First sock is done in the current sock project, and second sock is on the go. Yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight in the old Jailhouse Rock colourway. Pattern is Simple Ribbed Sock.

socksrock1

And our newest hobby is about to fire up, which I’m sure I will be blogging about pretty often… we’re taking the leap into brewing our own beer at home! We started with some fine literature…

IMAG1594

…and the first half of our equipment shipped yesterday. We were relieved to find out that our brew pot did indeed fit on our stove. We also installed our spigot and thermometer, because excited!

IMAG1598

The shipment of our other half of equipment should be coming today. I await with bated breath. Stay tuned!

Hello World.

Well, this blog was defunct for a very long time. The details of why are unimportant. I was going through a lot of troubles and changes, and I’ve come out the other side feeling pretty great. I’ve kept the patterns here for all to enjoy, and will continue to do so.

So, who am I? What’s new? And am I still making things out of string?

My name is Allie.
redraj1

I’m almost thirty. I’ve lived in Ottawa, ON my entire life. I have very long hair.

I knit and crochet, which is how this blog domain got its name.
whosocks-comp5

I have a border collie named Finnegan. He’s my heart and soul, my co-pilot. Plus he keeps my bed warm. Useful dog.
hiking12

I also have three ferrets. L to R: Freya, Barrett, Porom.
ferts1

I’m also currently raising some tadpole shrimp for fun and science.
triops24

We all live together in a cute little bungalow all to ourselves. I also work here at home, doing pet portraits, custom paper products and graphic design consulting.
newoffice1

 

There’s also my fella. He’s kind of awesome.
bf17

I also adore being outside. Hiking, biking, walking and running. I look forward to starting to snowshoe this winter.
bike1

cb102

hogsback25

But yeah. Lots of fibre. Knitting, crochet.
3dscozy5

This blog will be about all of that, and more. I do a lot, I learn a lot, and I love to write. And so, I hope this blog will be full of grand things. Please follow along if you enjoy what you read.

Cheers!