Dieting at a Beer Festival…or, I Can’t Eat BBQ and I Want It

On Saturday, I picked up my honorary aunt, MaryMary and we went “over the mountain” (as folks ‘round here say) and headed to the 4th annual Rocktown Beer & Music Festival in Harrisonburg, VA. This year, they had 31 breweries/cideries and three bands, four local restaurants set up in tents, and, thank God, enough portapotties for everyone in attendance.

MaryMary and I left Culpeper around 1 o’clock on Saturday while threatening looking rain clouds (or as my Grandma “Bill” would call them, “weather clouds”) started to roll in. As we climbed the mountain, the sky got clearer and it looked as though we would escape the threat of rain. I was excited just to spend time with my kindred spirit and to be out in the sun. I was not, however, looking forward to the temptations that I knew awaited me when we arrived: bbq, burgers, and lots and lots of beer and cider. I was prepared though: that morning, I drank my powered chicken, er…protein smoothie, and had my lunch of stuffed pepper and noshed on almonds on my way over the mountain. I also prepped a protein shake and threw that in my purse along with carrots and hummus.

By the time we found parking and arrived at the end of a very long line of waiting ticket holders, I thought it best to try to choke down the protein shake. Much to my chagrin, the damned thing had leaked in my purse and was warm. Nothing better in life that a warm protein shake. I guzzled as much as I could stomach as MaryMary and I waited in line behind a ridiculously annoying group of early to mid twenty-somethings. I wouldn’t go back to that stage in life if you paid me. Aah, to be older…and kinda, somewhat, maybe a little wiser?

First TasteThe first vendor we hit was Bold Rock, out of Nelson County, Virginia; not my favorite cidery, but a decent replacement as I couldn’t find one of my most favorite brands, Crispin. If you’ve never had Crispin, you simply must. They make a delightfully refreshing, light and flavorful product in two varieties: apple & pear.

After MaryMary enjoyed a ridiculously good looking bbq sandwich from Clementine’s, we hit Devils Backbone (Roseland, Virginia); they offered a tasting of pear lager which was interesting and very dry and had light elements of pair in the finish. We were fortunate enough to meet up with MaryMary’s son, Jamie and his beautiful girlfriend Kate at the festival and they were able to lead us to the Crispin tasting spot and because he was part of organizing the event, got us samples without having to stand in line! Crispin2

Jamie has been a part of the beer world for years and before moving back to Harrisonburg, announced that he will be opening his own brewery with partners, Pale Fire Brewing Company . We were able to tour his new brewery space while at the festival, and though right now the space is lookin’ a little rough, Jamie has a vision and I’m sure that his hard work and perseverance will pay off and Pale Fire Brewing Company will be a big success.

While at the festival, I was able to catch a great band out of Connecticut, Bronze Radio Return. They’re touted as an American roots music band, but they sounded to me more like a crossover band with American roots music influences. Their band included a banjo, a harmonica, both sounds that I love.

Rocktown Beer & Music Festival

Beer festivals are an interesting thing: they bring out all walks of life. Hippies and CEOs; young & old; stupid and not so stupid; drunkards and connoisseurs. They merge drink and food and music, three of my favorite things. Perhaps at the next beer festival, I’ll be in a position where I can splurge and enjoy the drink and food a little more than I did this time around. But this time around, I went home knowing that I was sacrificing for a better body the next day. And that isn’t a small feat.

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Another One Bites the Dust…Or, I Have Hope for Myself, After All

That’s right. I’m back. Back and better than ever! I recently lost about two hundred pounds. Yep. I’ve re-entered the kingdom of Singledom. As it turns out, the one that I thought was “the one” was in fact most certainly not the one for me. I chalk it all up to another bump in the road with the apropos phrase “another one bites the dust”.

The season of renewal and growth is upon us and thus I find this latest occurrence in my personal life rather fitting. I’ve decided it’s time to really focus on investing time in myself and exploring who I am (again. But this time to do it more than a couple/few months). At thirty-one, I figure it’s time to get that figured out…or rather to continue the journey. With my time not invested in someone else, I now have the opportunity to delve deeper into myself; what makes me tick? What makes me happy? And the better question: Why am I not doing what makes me happy? Where do I actually want to live?

I’ve found that when I am in a relationship, a lot of my personal goals go by the wayside; for some reason, I can’t seem to juggle focus very well. Does everyone struggle with this or am I on my own here? I’ve decided to hit the reset button on my priorities and to reassess my goals now that life’s circumstances have changed:

#1 Get back to writing on a regular basis.

#2 Start playing music again. And possibly *gasp* start writing music again. The prospect of which scares the ever-loving shit out of me. Possibly start taking mandolin lessons.

#3 Make a concentrated effort to expand my culinary abilities.

#4 Continue hiking and *trying* to form myself into a shape that is a little less round.

#5 Start thinking seriously about moving. No really. I mean it this time.

#6 Start saving. No really. I mean it this time.

#7 Do not get distracted from any of the above goals.

After I pulled myself together, I realized that I was going to find myself with time that I hadn’t had in several months. After all, I wasn’t going to be commuting to anyone anymore. I was going to have weekends back to myself. I wasn’t going to need to be tied to my phone at night anymore. At first, the thought of breaking all of the above habits was going to be overwhelming. But then something beautiful happened. My mind opened up and I had a moment of clarity; I remembered that there are no rules and I can do what I want with my time. In fact, I can do whatever I want in regard to *all* of my life. There is no rule in stone saying I have to stay in one place or that I must do anything in particular. Those thoughts are liberating in what can be a very scary time of transition. I have hope for myself after all.

Going Blonde and Hating It …or When You Look Good, You Feel Good

After years of thinking about making the huge leap from my natural very dark brown hair to blonde, finally did it last weekend. I made the leap across the chasm and ended up none too thrilled. I did it on a whim. I made an appointment to get a haircut and walked out of the salon four hours later… Yes. Four hours. Three bleachings and four hours later, I left with a buttery yellow shade of hair. I remember looking in the mirror after it was done and thought, “huh. So this is it?” And then I started talking myself into liking the hair experiment.

This wasn’t exactly my first foray into jumping the chasm of scary shades between super dark brown and blonde. I tried going blonde during my early twenties, but it wasn’t a completely successful attempt. I ended up walking around with strawberry blonde hair that I walked around with for ages. No one in my family liked the color and looking back, I can attest that that shade did not look spectacular on my olive toned complexion. But, at the time I liked it. I think I was in such a haze of pot smoke at the time that I was so relaxed all the time I simply didn’t care.

This time around though? I cared. As I said, I upon first glance into the mirror when it was finally finished looked in the mirror and felt like I was obligated to like it. After all, I was spending over one hundred dollars on this and I’d just invested four hours. So, I decided that I liked it. And, I think I kind of did. Maybe. Until I got home and happened to be in the room when two of my sisters were face timing. Is that how you make Face Time a verb? My sister flashed the phone at me and my third sister says to me, “At first glance, you look like Slim Shady.” And then? She laughed. After that, all I could see was Eminem when I looked into the mirror. That’s how yellow my hair was. Butter yellow.

And then Monday rolled around and I had to go to work. My drastic change drew several gasps from my coworkers. And the second Eminem reference from my boss. That’s when I decided. It was official. I hated this yellow mop on top of my head. After several phone calls, I finally had an appointment with a hair dresser who I was confident could rectify this hair disaster. Two hours after I walked into the salon, I walked out with hair that is my natural color. I was elated. I felt like me again.

mid-fix

mid-fix

It amazes me how good I feel about myself now that I’m back to my brunette self. My eyes look brighter, my skin looks better and my hair most definitely looks better. I don’t think men really get how our silly beautification practices make us feel better about ourselves. When you look good, you feel good. Am I right ladies?

Journey to Texas…or Ponderings of Moving

It’s been a few days since I returned from Spring, Texas where I visited with my sister, and I miss both my sister and the place already (though it is wonderful being back in my own bed).  There’s something about traveling to different places that makes me wonder why I’m still in the small town in which I grew up. It makes me wonder where I “should” be…or rather where I belong, where I fit.

Spring is a fairly large suburb of Houston with countless nail salons, tanning salons and fast food restaurants; it also has the novelty of summer-like weather for extended months in comparison with Virginia.  It also has the novelty of housing my sister, the one with whom I am closest in age and heart.  Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for that bustling outlying area of East Texas.  Indeed, in 2011 (when last I visited my sister, or as I refer to her “thithta”…just say the word sister with a minor speech impediment) I was gung-ho to move there; and my sister being my sister said she’d support it if I did, but that starting a new life in a place where you don’t know anyone is hard. Very hard. She uttered the same sentiments during my visit this time around.  The difference is, I would know her and a couple of her friends who she has had the pleasure of knowing for the past three years.

I think the time has come in life to figure out what I want to do.  And, evidently, so do a few of my co-workers who honestly love me dearly; just yesterday, I was invited to lunch but politely declined as I’ve decided to start my Weight Watchers venture again (God, help me)  and upon their return, one of them mentioned that she believes it is time for me to do what I want to do and be where I want to be, because as she put it to me, “you have the whole world in front of you and no strings holding you here.” That lady has a point.

But, therein lies the question: Where do I want to be? Truth be told, I have no idea. I know that I’d like to be somewhere out west. I don’t know why that is other than for years, I’ve had an affinity with the west. Maybe it has something to do with a past-life reading I once had (evidently, I used to live out west).  But see, there is a problem: I know that the prospect of being far away from my family scares the living shit out of me. I’m a worrier; it’s what I do.  I’m afraid that the second I move, something will happen: one of my parents will get sick or hurt. I don’t know why I think that, but I do.  Who then will be there to help when help is needed? Maybe that’s a strange worry to have…maybe I should just realize that wherever I may go, I’m only a drive or a flight away. Maybe the problem is that I am so reliant upon my folks because they’ve been there for me when things got really, really shitty that the thought of not being able to be right there for them if they need me is truly the basis of the problem.

Here is a list of places I’ve thought of moving to throughout the past couple of years:

  • Spring, Texas
  • Colorado Springs
  • Denver
  • Charlottesville, VA
  • Austin, Texas (just because “Keep Austin Weird” is their motto)
  • Arizona (nowhere specifically, I just think the dry climate would be good for me)
  • Spring, Texas

I think my other problem is my fear of leaping, of making a big change, because in the event that I do make a big change, I have the very real probability of failing. So many things dictate the thing that we do in everyday life and I’ll admit that fear has been a big dictator throughout my existence.

What am I fearful of failing at, specifically? Well, I shall make you another handy list:

  • Not being able to get work
  • Hating said new job
  • Being lonely
  • Deciding that I actually hate the place where I choose to move
  • Something major happening with one or both of my parents

Obviously, the above fears will need to be a hurdle that I jump in order to move forward with my life.  Who knows, maybe admitting to my hang-ups and writing all of this out has been therapeutic and will actually aid in my quest to move forward.  With that said, anyone have ideas for the place I should move?

these are my options

these are my options

There Aren’t Enough Orange Foods: The Making of Pumpkin Soup

I’ve been one hell of a Betty Crocker this weekend! It used to be that I did the majority of my most creative cooking when I was upset; it seems that I’ve turned a page and now can try some creative stuff just when I feel curious. Not only did I can seven more jars of hot pepper jelly (leaving seeds in this time around to make a jelly with more kick as requested by a couple of people), I also baked two loaves of zucchini bread (a first for me, made with a huge garden grown zucchini) and made a soup that harks to the coming of fall.

Ain’t that a purdy punkin’?

We grew a large pumpkin in the garden, so I asked a very creative culinary friend of mine the burning question: What can I make with pumpkin? The looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said very simply, “Pumpkin soup.” Being as I’ve never had pumpkin soup, or butternut squash soup for that matter, I found this both intriguing and a bit of a challenge. I asked how one goes about making such a soup; he told me to roast the pumpkin with olive oil and salt and when finished, purée it to prep it.  I figured this would be a long process, but once I had cut and removed all of the pumpkin’s guts, it was very simple: drizzle and roast. The roasted pumpkin came out of the oven sizzling with an earthy aroma and a rich orange color.

Pumpkin Drizzled with Olive Oil and Sprinkled with Salt Prior to Roasting

I allowed it to cool a few minutes and scooped the soft pumpkin flesh (ew, flesh) with a spoon into a bowl, leaving only the skin to dispose of.  Then, I scooped the soft, roasted pumpkin into a food processor and blended until it was puréed.

Pureed Pumpkin

I turned the pumpkin soup experiment into a two-day event because I waited until fairly late Saturday night to roast and after my second glass of Perrin Nature Cotes Du Rhone I was in no frame of mind to finish making soup.  Today, my mind clear and unaffected by copious amounts of deliciously rich Cotes Du Rhone, I completed the task.

After scooping the puréed pumpkin into a big, cast iron dutch oven I added half a cup of water and about two cups of chicken broth, stirring to dilute the pumpkin.  My friend had said all I really needed for this to work was chicken stock or broth, cream and spices, so I figured even if this experiment went awry, I could say I’d made the attempt.  I relied heavily on my taste buds and after adding cream ( I have no idea how much, because I just poured until the consistency was smooth and somewhat thin), I added cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, salt and sugar (again, I failed to measure) and stirred until all spices were well mixed.

Addin’ the Flavor

I chose to thinly slice a few baby carrots and finely dice a medium sized white onion from the garden and saute with a large pad of butter and chicken broth until the carrots were soft to the touch and the onions were translucent, and then added both to the pumpkin and spices. I remembered a friend making and incredible tomato bisque for me, and him using a blender to combine herbs and spices thoroughly while giving the soup a tremendously smooth texture, so I employed the same technique to introduce my sautéed vegetables. After tasting, I was thrilled at the outcome! It was rich and smooth and the blended carrots and onions added a fantastic earthy flavor to the hearty soup.

The Finished Product

After this experiment, I fully intend to try my hand at more soups this fall and winter and now I know that while soup making is slightly labor intensive, it’s totally worth it.

Since I seem to be turning into a regular culinary queen, there will be more to come!

Adding to My Goddess List: I’m A Jelly Makin’ Fool

jelly makin’ fool

This Saturday, I took the opportunity to add something new to my “Goddess List” (the list of all of my abilities and talents and named affectionately by a very sweet friend of mine who continually reminds me that I am indeed a goddess and deserve only the best).  Because the garden has been so very fruitful this season we have a plethora of jalapeno peppers; the fridge is overflowing and the peppers have been slowly but surely wilting. My dad and I were discussing what we should do with the harvest one day and it dawned on me: hot pepper jelly.

This condiment is something my family enjoys with unabashed joy during the Christmas season. For some reason, there is nothing better than spicy green jelly and cream cheese spread on a cracker when it’s cold outside.  I should interject here that while I’ve made a good many dishes and experimented in the kitchen, I have never, I repeat NEVER tried my hand at canning. And never before have had I had the urge.

I planned on joining my Aunt Mary, a seasoned canner, for a lesson, but plans fell through.  Being as I’m hard headed and had canning on my schedule for the day, I decided that I would try it out myself. After all, how hard could it be? I took to the web for a recipe and got some tips over the phone.  Forty dollars, two dozen jars and lids, two boxes of pectin and several sweet peppers later, I was ready!

cannin’ supplies

I was excited! I had a recipe and decided I’d follow it to a T and go from there. Washing the jars, lids and rims and putting everything into pots to boil on the stove to sanitize was annoying and tedious. After I finished that chore, I began to doubt the decision to delve into this venture alone.

big ol’ steamy pot of jars

Chopping up a cup and a half of sweet green peppers was easy. Chopping a quarter of a cup of jalapeno peppers, however, was an ordeal and experience in and of itself. By the time I even got to this part, I was sweaty and nervous as I glanced to a huge pot filled with steamy water to sanitize my jars and a separate sauce pan bubbling over and sizzling on the stove to sanitize the lids and rims. Then, things got a whole lot worse: I think I inhaled a seed because all of a sudden my nose started burning, my eyes started watering, I started coughing uncontrollably like something was caught in my throat and I began sneezing like a son of a bitch.  At this point, I cursed the peppers (I mean really REALLY cursed them), nibbled on some bread and threw the chopped sweet peppers and chopped and seeded jalapenos into the food processor to turn them into tiny slivers.  Then, I dumped both kinds of peppers into a big pot, added six and a half cups of sugar, a cup and a half of vinegar, stirred it all up so it looked a little like this:

jelly fixins’

And read the recipe. I was supposed to wait for things to boil for three minutes. It was weird to see this gloopy mess come to a rolling boil and thin out, creating a thin green film around the perimeter of the pot.  The timer sounded and it was time to squeeze in two pouches of thick, sticky pectin.  The liquid slowed its boil and strangely morphed into a sticky boiling mess. I stirred the concoction, set the timer for minute and waited. I’d reached the last part of the recipe that I’d been waiting for! I removed the heavy, cast iron Dutch oven from the burner and set it aside to cool for five minutes, and skimmed the pot, removing a thick gooey layer.  Beneath that disgusting layer lay a lovely green shade of sweet, sticky jelly! Made with my own to hands! I was so excited and broke out my canning funnel and sanitized jars, lids and rims and set to fill them all up. Sadly, I was introduced to one of the “joys” of canning: lots of work and sweat with a very little bit of product; my batch filled only six and a half jars.  No matter, I thought. This wasn’t so bad; I’ll do it again and fill the rest of them!  And then I realized how hot, sweaty and sticky everything was and had second thoughts.   I decided six and a half jars were good enough for a Saturday afternoon.

spicy, homemade yumminess

Today is Monday and the more I think back to the hassle that canning is, I really do get why people do it.  It harks back to the days when people were resourceful and used what they had in everyday life. Not to mention, anything homemade always tastes about a million times better than anything you’d get from a store, it’s much healthier and it’s not packed with preservatives and chemicals.  I’m really excited that I’m developing a new skill and would like to try my hand at other forms of canning.  I’m hoping that round two of jelly making’ is as successful as round one! I wonder what’ll be the next addition to my Goddess List?

Waiting For…Wait, What Am I Waiting For Again?

I’m one of those people who is constantly waiting for the next thing: the next event, the next obstacle, the next interest. I’ve found that when you suffer with the chronic affliction of Whatisnextitus, living in the moment is pushed to the back burner and you’re in a constant state of slight anxiety, always feeling a little “meh”.

sometimes you just feel “meh”.

When you’re eyes are looking ahead with your thoughts in the future, it’s difficult to live in the moment and enjoy that which you have been given. The very moment, day, week and month goes by without much recognition; experiences, while enjoyed aren’t totally savored, because I’m always looking forward. Planning. Wanting.

The good news is that as I knock on the door of thirty, I realize this and am trying my damnedest to amend my way of thinking.  The bad news is that I find changing my way of thinking next to impossible and to be a struggle of internal voice that says, “Is that what you should do? Yes, why not? You get one go ‘round…go for it. Yea, but what if…”

Growing up,  my best friend’s father had a saying that always baffled me, yet the older I get, the more I get what he was trying to say, “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. As a teenager, I remember his sage advice irritating the piss out of his daughter who lived in her own little world filled with big dreams; being polar opposites, when we’d discuss some of these ideas,  I’d respond with a young sense of jaded wisdom and an eye rolling “yea, but how practical is that?”

I was always the prepared one of the two of us: I studied in advance for tests, I did my homework the afternoon that it was assigned, I showed up to class fifteen minutes early. Now that I’m older, I have anxiety if I go somewhere unprepared: I like my phone to be fully charged before I get in the car. I carry a fully stocked first aid kit along with a rain jacket, knife and food in my backpack when I hike (I refuse to go on any trail without these things). I like to be at work fifteen minutes early (at the bare minimum). About a week ago, I was chatting with my friend T, who seems to live his life without schedule or planning.  I told him that I was envious of this kind of living and his response made me smile, “It’s simple. Just quit thinking. When you plan, you miss out on what’s happening right now.” How I wish I could turn off the what-ifs and planning instinct that naturally occurs within me.

The tables have turned a bit (not in my neurotic need to be prepared, but in other ways).  I find that the older I get, the more grandiose my dreams and wants become: they’re less and less practical and yet, I still want to follow through with them. For example, I want to travel (but I’m not really sure how to afford it), I want to rock climb (but I’m terrified of heights).    I find that I live with my feet off of the ground and my head floating in the clouds more now than ever before dreaming and planning and wanting to experience new and different.  Perhaps I’m aging in reverse; perhaps this is happening because I was such a serious and grounded child, who knows. The bottom line is that my friends T and Jess are both right: enjoy the present, don’t overthink it, today is a gift. If I look at life in this way, I can actually enjoy right now without yearning for the next thing to come along, without waiting for…whatever it is that I may be waiting for to happen. And when you stop looking forward, you hold pure happiness in your hands.