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So, imagine that,  I failed yet again at my goal of keeping this updated.  :(   Once again, i’m going to try and keep it up,  at least until my wedding and the internet drought of our honeymoon.   I’ve come to the realization that there are people that I know that still don’t know I am getting married.   A few have been a bit vocal about it, and this actually quite bothers me.   I do my best to keep everyone in the loop, but life, school, and planning this damned awesome thing have collectively stomped on many of my plans.   If you didn’t know i was getting married, and are finding out this way, I’m sorry but things fall through the cracks. I don’t mean to exclude you.

So anyway, wedding planning!   It’s actually sorta fun when all the big stuff is booked and taken care of to look back and see how much has actually been accomplished.

  • Officiant — This is the person that actually marries us.  Our officiant is Donna Goodrum.  We met with her not too long ago, and she seems really nice.
  • Limo — Okay, this isn’t absolutely necessary but it is certainly nice.   We’ve booked a 14 person limo through Millennium limos.   They’re a fairly laid back company, but they come highly recommended from just about everywhere
  • cake —  Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the cake place.   It has a lot of p’s in it.   I am somewhat worried that the cake isn’t going to turn out the way we want, but I’m not going to stress over it too much until the day of.    It’s going to be a topsy-turvy layer cake with a Dr. Who police call box on top.
  • Ceremony Venue — We booked the Botanical gardens a long time ago.  It’s a private ceremony so it can be as special as possible.🙂
  • Reception Venue — Arnaldo’s!  it’s a wonderful banquet center that has a wonderful starry ceiling.
  • Rings —  This has actually been a tough one for us.   We’ve had three places either not be willing or not be able to make the rings that we wanted.   We’ve finally gotten them ordered and their on their way!

I’m sure that there are things that I’m missing with this, but it’s a good start.   I’m sure I’ll be posting again about other wedding stuff, so I can catch stuff I’ve missed there.

Unfortunately I think this will be a disorganized rambling post.   I’m making an effort to update this at least once a week, but have already failed.  Partly due to my great friends that came to visit A2 for the weekend.  (quick shameless plug of their new blog )  Also, it’s been a fairly mentally busy couple weeks.

So, let’s see here, where to begin.   I know,  my next batch of mead.   I had an idea and put it to vote between a ginger warmup mead or a cherry vanilla mead.   I picked two recipes from various places on the internet, and modified them greatly to match my skill level and my personal tastes.   After all the votes were tallied cherry vanilla came out on top.   My recipe is as follows.   Begin with 3-4 gallons of cherry juice and 1-2 lbs of dried cherries.   plus ~10 lbs of meadowfoam honey.   After it’s done fermenting, it will be racked onto a few vanilla beans til I get it nicely balanced.

You may be wondering why I would want cherry juice and dried cherries in the mead.  It is mostly to get the most complete cherry flavor and color I can in the mead.  Cherry juice provides a lot of color, but also a lot of fermentables, so the cherry flavor from the juice will tend to be subdued.  Dried cherries on the other hand will only add minimally to the color of a mead but have much more concentrated flavor bits that can be leached out by the cherry juice and other components to the mead.

I’m willing to bet that you’ve never heard of meadowfoam honey.   meadowfoam is a dense ground covery flower that tends to grow in prairies.    the honey itself has a wonderful flavor of roasted marshmallows, which is ironic because marshmallow honey tastes nothing like marshmallows…    Anyway, after it is fermented, it has a sorta marshmallow flavor along with some richer notes.   I’m really hoping that it will be as well balanced as my first mead, which has a wonderfully bright orange flavor along with it.

Mead is the most wonderous exercise of patient and self-restraint.   It takes a couple months for mead to ferment out and settle in the carboy.  After then, the longer it can stay in bulk and unconsumed the better it gets.   My first mead is about 6 months old now, and has mellowed quite a bit but even now has a bit of a roughness that will take maybe another year or two to smooth out.

Now on to some rantings!   Anyone that has been a pedestrian, cyclist or driver in the city knows that the three groups absolutely despise one another.  I, however, don’t think that this needs to be the case, or even should be the case.   One of my friends and coworkers was hit on a bike recently.   I would understand if he was doing something stupid or dangerous, and quite frankly i wouldn’t feel bad at all about them getting hit.  In this case however,  they were being as safe as humanly possible on the road (the legal place for cyclists to ride in the city).   Drivers and pedestrians have been trained too well by the dangerous cyclists, that they don’t pay attention or think about where cyclists might  be difficult to see.

This raises the question (for me at least) of ‘how did each group grow to hate each other in the first place?’   For people disliking pedestrians it is easy; the pedestrians developed a sense of entitlement and a case of myopia.   For cyclists, however, there is more at work.   I think a lot of it comes from a mixture of growing population densities and lack of government encouragement for safe riding.  There are very few dedicated bike paths in Ann arbor, and almost none of them even lead anywhere useful.  There is a great set of bike paths, but that doesn’t help bicycle commuters or any other cyclists in town.   likewise there aren’t any dedicated bike safety courses.   I would be a fan of a mandatory course to be able to cycle within the city,  I doubt it would actually help the idiot cyclists, but it would definitely raise awareness among the cycling masses that don’t know the rules of the road for cycling.

Since the tagline for my blog says I’m a student I should probably actually talk about school and student jobs and whatnot.  I’m completing the last semester of a physics degree here.  I’d imagine I would be more excited to graduate, but the more I actually think about things, the more I miss my already graduated friends, and all the experiences I’ve had here.  Note I didn’t say just the good experiences,  I’m a definite believer in that you need the bad to truly appreciate the good.  Those that know me, know I’m ever practical and pessimistic realistic.   If for no other reason, you need the bad experiences to relate to the rest of the population that isn’t on prozac, naturally or otherwise.    I mean, really,  how often do you bond with a stranger in a line that is moving quickly, or a bathroom that is in great condition?   never,  it’s the bad times that give fodder to sometimes reach out and make a connection with a stranger.  I’m sure I’ll rant more on this later….

I have more but, I think I’m all blogged out for tonight.

yesterday Cy and I successfully brewed our first batch on my new propane burner. I recently bought a bayou classic deepfrying kit so I could brew outside since my current apartment has a tiny electric stove. We pay for cooking electricity so boiling 6 gallons of water for an hour would be quite a hit to the wallet.

Yesterday was a typical michigan winter day. Temperaturs below freezing and winds that nearly put out the burner. We assembled a small mostly inefficient wind break from two metal sliding doors. Later we worked out a much better solution of adding a baffle to the vents on the burner itself. We also had to adjust for the colder temperatures with a home made choke. It consisted of a bit aluminum foil fitted over the carburator. it worked fairly well at keeping the flame more stable.

At first the brew day was a bit slow moving. without the baffle and choke the burner would heat the water at a degree every 10 minutes or so. with the lid on it was a degree a minute or more but leaving the lid on while boiling to wort because compounds that taste bad are trapped and boil overs can’t be predicted.

On the note of boil overs, we had two early in the day. luckily, we didn’t lose much liquid and the burner was completely clean when the brew day was over. These were handled by Cy because i went inside to grab something from my apt. I guess next time we’ll know a bit better how the system behaves and with the additions that we’ve made the system will be much more stable and predictable.

now on the the Brew itself:

This was made from a brewers best black lager kit bought from adventures in homebrewing. after opening I noticed that the kit itself was a bit old. there was a note about changes due to the 2008 hop shortage. there were some bad hail storms that destroyed a huge amount of the crop of european hops but this years crop so far hasn’t had any issues of this sort.

The black lager is described as a ‘rich european lager’. As its name suggests the wort is nearly black in appearance. I chose this kit because i have access to an unheated cellar that is about 50 degrees in the winter, which is perfect for a lager. the beer is setting at 65 degrees in my apartment for a couple days then being racked into secondary, to be lagered. The OG was spot on for what the kit had but I’m a touch worried that it will be too hoppy, even with being from a kit.

Below is a BeerSmith workup for the brew. I chose to use the american dark lager because there wasn’t a black lager style choice and I was too lazy to make one for this post.

Dark American Lager

Type: Extract
Date: 2/6/2010
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Brewer: ross smith
Boil Size: 5.79 gal Asst Brewer: Cyrus Ghaemi
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: –
Taste Notes:

Ingredients

Amount Item Type % or IBU
6.40 lb Pale Liquid Extract (8.0 SRM) Extract 92.75 %
0.25 lb Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 3.62 %
0.25 lb Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) Grain 3.62 %
1.00 oz Vanguard [4.40 %] (45 min) Hops 15.2 IBU
1.00 oz Sterling [6.00 %] (15 min) Hops 11.2 IBU
1.00 oz Cascade [3.20 %] (15 min) Hops 6.0 IBU

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.046 SG
Measured Original Gravity: 1.050 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.46 %
Bitterness: 32.4 IBU
Est Color: 24.1 SRM