Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Post: Update from Siebel

It's takes a lot of coffee to study beer!  This picture shows the coffee pots that are filled about twice daily to satisfy the homebrewers wanting to turn pro.  Confession time.  I haven't had a drop of coffee since the summer of 1996 at Scott Bruss's parents' house.   I actually like the smell of good coffee (not burned cafe/gas station coffee) but well made coffee.  The reasons I don't drink it are arguably more philosophical, but I try to justify it using logic.  Caffeine is bad for you (like alcohol is in large quantities, okay bad logic), and then I don't drink caffeine-free because I'm a beer snob and coffee snobs know that caffeinated coffee tastes better.  Trust me, if I can snob-up beer, I can snob-up coffee and next thing you know I own my own electrically controlled brew pot, grinder, and home roaster.   I think brewing is enough of a passion (read: addict) that I'm not welcoming the idea of another beverage consuming my time.
This week we had a diversity of professors from other countries.  In college I had a diversity of professors but they seemed to be Asian, Indian and African.  In Beer-School, we hear from the Scottish, German, Canadian and English.  These guys were great and we bantered over what was "real" beer  was and every picked on the one Canadian in class (even the Canadian prof).  I really liked Graeme Walker from Scotland.  He is probably the world expert on yeast (and if you remember this week was 40 hours worth of yeast materials).  Graeme was witty, smart, entertaining and "really knew his stuff."   You could tell he was a real professor because he knew how to lecture and could keep us engaged as well as skipped info that was irrelevant to the materials that we would be tested on.   He also told us drinking stories and hangover can you not like a guy like that.  Besides his accident was a mix between Sean Connery, Shrek and Mrs. Doubtfire.  :)
Yeast.  YeAsT.  YEAST!  Um, yeah, I've learned more chemistry, biology and microbiology this week than I did in high school and college combined.  Fortunately we didn't have to balance chemistry equations or memorize what NAD and ATP stood for (even though I did, just in case).  In addition to learning what makes yeast tick, and metabolic pathways, we got to taste yeast flavor defects..also never forget the importance of Glycolysis and Zinc.  From memory our tasting was (because my other notes are in Chicago) Diacetyl, Acetaldehyde, Yeast, autolyzed yeast (dead), ethanol, high alcohols and one more that escapes me at the moment.  Good tasting experience.
We also had our "American style" tasting (see pic).  Except for Michelob (which tastes pretty good when served in clean glasses at the correct temp) everything was a craft beer, and high alcohol at that.  They really need to give us a snack if they expect us to taste 10 beer high-proof beers.   I didn't think I would learn much from beers I've already tried, but Lyn (remember the tasting expert and pres of Siebel?) is really good at facilitating these tastings and I won't underestimate her palate or these experiences again.
Only found one new place to eat/drink this week called Local Option.  The owner had a birthday party for himself and bought a huge selection of hard-to-get beers.  They were awesome.  But at $9 a beer, I didn't stick around long and won't be going back, even though the selection was probably the best I've ever seen at a Chicago beer bar (even better than the old Chicago favorite "the Map Room").
My wife brought a "beer" puzzle to Chicago that I've owned for about 2 years.  I got it used and the pic said that it was taken in 1990 (21 years old....old enough to drink!) I thought it would be cool if the class put it together and then hung it on the wall.  But....  I didn't think they would let me do it.  So I just let it sit on the bar for 2 days first and tried to get a feel for it.  No real feeling one way or another, except Derek who seemed interested at lunch on Tuesday.  So I suggested that we just do the border.   We only had 20 minutes and got about 80% done with the border before lunch was over.  Next break I come upstairs and see the border is done, a few bottles are finished and the whole puzzle is sitting on a chunk of cardboard that is taped together for easy transport.  Turns out the admin's are both big puzzle gals and LOVED the idea.  It took us less than 48 hours to put together this 700 piece puzzle just during lunch, breaks and after school. Lupe is getting some glue to put it together and we have been approved to get it hung on the walls of Siebel somewhere.  (I'm hoping to get us to sign it as a class or something).  Nerdy idea that has materialized into something pretty cool!
Monday my roommate and his girlfriend (who is visiting from Belgian) had a fight for 3 hours and the cops showed up, so that made the week..."interesting."  Let's just say that Facebook doesn't advertise how many breakups they have instigated.  She left this Saturday and so did he for 2 weeks, so I have the apt to myself for 50% of the time I have left in Chicago.
I took the Megabus back home to Pella, IA, this weekend.  The bus was almost an hour late, so I didn't did crawl into bed until 12:45AM on Friday and my daughters had me up at 7AM.   It was awesome to see them and spend some time with them again.  Erin was a quilt guild retreat in Newton and I filled the role of daddy and babysitter at the same time.  We had an open house in the morning so we headed over to a friend's house for the morning, but it ended up being all day since the girls had a good time playing with their daughter and we adults were feeling lazy enough that it felt good to just "hang."
I'm in Iowa City waiting for my Megabus return trip and my glass of Great River Dirty Blonde is done (awesome chocolate-flavored blonde ale from an Iowa brewer) so I'm going to call it.  Next week ends with another tasting as well as a field trip visit to Metropolitan Brewery.
(written by Adam on Sunday, February 27, in Iowa City, while waiting for his Megabus)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Epic Fail

Wow... after that last attempt at a post with pictures... after 30 minutes of trying different things with the pictures to have them show up 'correct' in EVERY OTHER PROGRAM except the blog... and then the numerous text and size issues I experienced... Imma bout ready to head over to Wordpress with my blog... sheesh...

Guest Post: Week 2 @ Siebel

[My apologies for the picture formatting... iPhone-to-Windows-to-blog proved to be a failed attempt in how they are appearing... believe me, I have tried!  -erin]

Back for another blog update?  I wanted to start this post out thanking you for following me during this experience.  The emails and comments that I get are good fuel for studying hard and following this path.  This week flew by faster than the first; I think mainly due to two field trips this week and the fact that the warm weather melted all the snow in Chicago and it was quite pleasant walking from place to place.

At noon on Monday, our class gladly walked across the street to meet with the Goose Island Brewpub head brewer, Jarrod.  Jarrod gave us the nickel-tour and welcomed questions from us students.  As a former Siebel graduate he was very generous with his answers and kept encouraging us to pick his brain.  He did prompt us with one question though, "How do I get a job in the brewing industry?"  His answer focused on the main points of: working hard, volunteering to do low jobs at breweries and just building relationships with brewers/breweries.  "Find a brewery that will let you help out for free to prove yourself and get experience" was his theme.

On Tuesday we got to Siebel two hours early and jumped on a charter bus heading to Chilton, WI, home of Briess Malting Co. 

Briess is the smallest malting operation in the US but is renown for their huge selection of specialty malts and their malt extract production worthouse.  The smells that came from this place were heavenly and I almost hyperventilated trying to take it all in.  After a short presentation followed by an amazing sack lunch (if you could call it that) we loaded up the bus to head to the other location where the malt was made.  This was need to see the steps, in person, that we kept reading about.  Receiving, testing, steeping, germination, kilning, roasting, cooling and packaging were the main steps that we toured.  We even got to taste germinating barley, warm kilned malt and early stages of the warm roasted malts.  When we got back to HQ, they couldn't give us a tour of the malt extract facilities because they didn't want to suit all of us up in their biosuits.  But we had another presentation where we tasted their whole lineup of specialty grains and got our questions answered.  It helped that they provided beverages for washing down the husky flavors left in our mouths.  Briess were great hosts and finished by giving us each a bag of their own chocolate-covered malt balls (fantastic!)  We were also pleased the bus had a restroom on it as the three-hour bus ride home was also quite jovial. ;)

Our instructors this week ranged from Ray Daniels, who instructed us on mashing, John Mallet ( from Bell's), who covered adjuncts, milling and lautering brewing calculations. Most of us really like John.  He had a great presence, could making boring sections like milling sound "thrilling" and look a little bit but sounded just like Ray Romano.  We were guinea pigs and had one 1hour lecture via Siebel's new online presentation format from Kurt Annend, who covered Boiling.  Most of the class didn't like the format compared to the instructor being present.  Those of us who have previously taken online classes and presentations though had good reviews on the format.  The nice part is at anytime you can pause it to take notes or repeat sections.  Siebel says that any questions will be answered in 24 hours if emailed to the moderators/instructors.  We also had Tim Foley who taught us wort clarification, cooling, aeration as well as brewery effluent (sewage).  Lyn Kruger wrapped up the week on cleaning and lab analysis.

On Thursday afternoon we had our 2nd set of tastings but our first "styles tasting" that covered English, Scottish and Irish styles.  These bottles were all imported and many of them carried the classic faults and flavors that form due to storage and transportation across the pond.  I think I have a better understanding why I don't care for these beers and feel that a trip to Great Britain to taste these styles fresh would change my opinions about these styles.  One example is when my wife and I traveled to Dublin in 2004 and we got to appreciate Guinness as it was intended.

I got to check out a few new places this week as well.  On Friday Erin came via Megabus to visit for the weekend (we had our daycare lady take the girls).  Right after class 8 of us and Erin headed to Revolution Brewpub which is located in my neighborhood.  Every time I pass this place I notice that it is always full and hopping (no pun intended). We had about an hour wait and so we stood around and tasted each others beers.  By the end of the night we had collectively sampled all 12 offerings (two were on cask)  Revolution started about a year ago and is so successful that they are in the planning stages for a bottle brewery in addition to the 2nd floor being expanded at the brewpub.   The food was a bit pricey but was very good.  Their bacon-fat popcorn seemed to be a hit as well as their fire oven pizzas.

Erin and I hit a diner in my neighborhood for breakfast, Millennium Park, Michigan Ave shopping, Navy Pier  for lunch, a movie, pre-dinner drinks at the Wrigleyville Goose Island brewpub and supper at the Rocking Horse Tavern which were all quite good.  

I was really pleased with the beer selection and food prices at the Rocking Horse as it is only 1.5 blocks from my apt.  I escorted Erin back to the Megabus stop this morning and got wet with all the rain.  The rest of the day was laundry and studying.

This next week is 5 days straight learning about yeast and bacteria.  I've already paged through the material and it is very chemistry and biology-heavy material, this stuff isn't for the casual student.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

17 Months

Dear Raven,
Today you are 17 months old... it has been 17 months since you've joined us out in the world.  Seventeen months isn't a remarkable or milestone age, by any means, so I'm not quite sure why I choked up tonight thinking about it, while I rocked you to sleep.
It shouldn't surprise me that you are saying words already, surprising us with words like "Bible", as you did this last weekend, and which you're happy to repeat over and over again.  You enjoy helping by taking things to the trash, carrying objects from one room to the other, and putting books away.  You can walk, you can run, and you can climb, and each day it seems you get better at it.
Thanks to your sister, today was the day you discovered the miraculousness that is A Blanket.  I don't recall when your sister first became attached to hers, but you have been attached to your Sheep for some time now.  Today you added the Blanket to your list of lovies and it reminds me of when Julia couldn't be parted with her blanket and her seahorse.  Julia doesn't carry the seahorse around anymore but the blanket is still her best bud, and it breaks my heart into a few pieces to think that you might soon give up Sheep for Blanket and I'm not sure if I'm ready for that yet.
When your sister was 17 months old, I was 5 months pregnant with you and already preparing for your birth.  I wasn't as concerned about "losing" my baby because I knew I would be meeting another one soon, but I'm not pregnant now and I don't know when I will be again, and I'm having a hard time letting the little pieces of your babyhood slip away.  You amaze me and cause me tears at the same time as you pop new teeth, start to thin out, show me new things you can do and say... I'm so proud of you, little one, but please, stop growing up so fast!  At the rate you are changing, I fear the next child will be 18 before I know what happened.
I'm not sure why... maybe it is your erratic sleeping in your crib, but before today, I never thought to give you a pillow.  At naptime, you and Julia were causing a ruckus in your room, so I took you out and put you in the Pack and Play in the guest room because I knew you needed a nap (and so did your sister, but the hives had other ideas).  I gave you a pillow because you looked so pitiful in that bed and you zonked right out and never moved until you woke up two and a half hours later.  Tonight, as you struggled to breathe through your nose to sleep, I thought of that pillow, and since I was upstairs, I grabbed one from my bed.  Again I was reminded of the first time Julia slept with a pillow... one of mine, for about four months, until we bought her one of her own.  You nestled right into that pillow when I laid you on it and I can only hope it helps you to sleep well tonight.
While normally you are much to active and would rather fall asleep on your own, tonight you needed your Mama and I was so glad to rock you for a while to soothe your body and your tears.  I hope you feel better soon, but until you do, I will cuddle you and rock you as much as you want, soaking up every minute of it, because it's not "normal" for you and I love it and I miss it.  Nothing gave me greater joy today than having both your and your sister's heads leaning against my chest while you sat on my lap and I read you books.  I love you both so much, my sweet little girls.
Happy 17 months, my sweet little girl...
your mama

Guest Post: First Week at Siebel

Has it only been a week?  I already know all of my 40 classmates and half of them more than others; part of me feels like I've known them for months!  The Packers winning the Superbowl seems like it was eons ago as well. (Go, Pack!)  Anyway, the class has 1 female from Madison, Wisconsin; 1 guy from Cairo, Egypt (Heineken); 1 guy from Belize; 1 guy from England; 1 from Canada; and the rest from around the nation (AK, CA, KY, ID, IA, NY, NC, WI, IN, PA, OR, WA, NJ, MD just to name a few).  We spend time together all day and even get together to study a lot in the evenings; we spend a lot of time together and have become pretty good friends just after one week.  My new homebrewing club, so to speak.  Except for the Egyptian and guy from Belize, we are all homebrewers and surprisingly to me, none (maybe one) is a BJCP judge.  The ages range from 21 to 50 but we average around 25-35 years of age.
Commuting to school takes longer than I expected.  Even though I'm only 1.5 blocks from a train station and less than 4 miles away from school it takes me 35-50 minutes each way (depending on how long I wait for buses and trains).  That is like traveling 3.9-5.5 mph.  The positive part is that there are breweries, brewpubs, and beer bars all within a very close proximity...I'm not bored yet.  Goose Island Brewpub is across the street from Siebel and we get a discount due to being enrolled at Siebel!
Erin and the girls came with me on Friday - Sunday last weekend to drop me off and settle me in my new pad (see pic) (apprx location) and on Saturday I started coming down with something....turns out I've been fighting this head cold all week now.  It isn't painful, but it is uncomfortable and makes it harder to focus on the content that we are learning.   They recommend that we study about 2 hours each night; I averaged about 1 hour because I didn't have the healthy stamina that I hoped.  I also haven't been sleeping well at night, I toss and turn a lot, which must be the bed because I'm usually out when my head hits the pillow....another mild inconvenience.
Due to this blog's audience I won't get into too much beer details of what we are learning (like what deoxynivalenol is?) but can give you generals.  Our first instructor was Rebecca from Rahr Malting in Shakopee, MN, and she taught us about barley and barley malt for three days.  We learned in great detail about the growing, diseases, geography, steeping, germination, kilning, bio-chemical changes, etc., which is all required for grain before it even gets ordered by a brewer for use.  We learned from Mike on day 4 about water chemistry and brewing/filtrations processes.  This was my favorite and I wish we had more lectures on water, good stuff!  We had a 6 page quiz on Friday on these chapters and I overstudied; it was pretty easy therefore.  After the quiz we had Brian teach us about hops, hops and hops.  Brian and Mike are both from a company in Michigan called Kalsec that makes hop oils and extracts.
What some more of you might rather know is what kind of hands on training are we receiving.  Well, our beerstube (see pic) offers 2 beers on tap at all times.  Even though we are discouraged to drink throughout the day, many guys have a beer at lunch and a couple after the day is over.  We've already finished off the first two kegs and are on the next two.  
We had our first sensory training with Lynn Kruger the President of Siebel on Wednesday afternoon.  We got to taste Bud that was spiked with flaws at 3 times the normal threshold of detection.  This was fun and we were quite rambunctious at the end of this exercise.  Some of the compounds we tasted were: salty, mineraly, grainy, DMS, hoppy, and skunky. 
On the day of water we tasted Ice Mountain compared to Evian and I had my bottle of Nestle water for another comparison.  Wow, I never did a side-by-side of water before, eye-opening!  (the Evian has a very dry mouth feel.....)  
Lastly on Friday we had some hop and hop extract (hoppy drops) evaluations.  We did the traditional hop rub in our palms and smelled them.  We also added hoppy drops to Coors Light and contrasted the results.  I didn't like the hoppy drops by themself, but could see how a hoppy beer could benefit from a balance of both.
I went out with a large percentage of the class on Tuesday night, and 5 guys and a girl on Thursday night for quiz study session and then on Friday I hung out with a completely different crowd from class and we hit Piece Brewery for beers and pizza (in Chicago? really?).  The big thing was when I suggested to Mark (from Chicago) that we hit 3 Floyds in Munster, IN, just outside of Chicago.  So he coordinated us (11 of us) to meet at Flossmoor Station Brewpub and then we carpooled to 3 Floyds on Saturday for a 3PM lunch and beer (there was a line standing outside the brewpub for while).  We did the 4 PM tour and headed back to Flossmoor for a private tour and tasting with the brewer, Brian.  Beautiful brewpub and good beers.  On top of the 12 beers they have on tap, he took us into the cellars for the reserve collection of 4 bottles of unique one-off's; it was a good experience....we kept joking that we should get extra credit from Siebel for this!
Next week we go on two field trips, so you can look forward to my reports about that.
Adam "Basscat" Draeger

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just when...

... you blog about your kids getting better and seeming to be on the mend from their bad colds, one of them is moaning and you realize that she has a high fever and the other one looks at you with a sad look on her face and you realize that she's 100% broken out in hives... fantastic.  Both girls have been Vick's'ed and de-snotted and hugged and loved and tucked into bed and Mama hopes that they both sleep well and feel better in the morning... prayers and good thoughts for them, if you would... and for me, as I had some plans tomorrow that now I have canceled because I don't feel good leaving them home not knowing if they are getting better or worse...
Here's hoping this is the worst of the colds and flu for the season and that the rest of February and Spring are easy-going!
(I can't complain... we've been extremely blessed this Winter!)

I don't mind being the 7th wheel...

... when it means I get to spend time with adults.  *grin*
A lot of people have been inquiring how life is without Adam around right now, and I half don't know what to say and am half amused because I haven't really thought about him not being here.  It's a fact... it's a known... it's something that is definite right now... so, in many ways, because it's something that I know to be true and happening, I can roll with it a lot easier than all of the unknowns in our life right now.
Of course, ask me again in about four weeks.
But, honestly, aside from the fact that my week has been filled with sick kids and us being cooped up in the house, we are doing and doing well.  For now both girls seem to be handling the absence well, and we were able to video chat with Adam on Wednesday night, which I think helped Julia (Raven would always just rather play the drums, so who knows with her).  Julia has been very good about knowing that Daddy isn't coming home from work, Daddy isn't going to be home when we get home from daycare, and Daddy isn't hiding out sleeping in our room in the morning.  Daddy is in "Cago".
So... back to the beginning of my post.  Last night I held what has become a recurring event even though Adam wasn't here.  I was excited to invite some local friends over for Game Night, and for the first time in what has been (I think) five months of Game Nights, I actually played a game instead of knitting.  It was fun to hang out with couples who I've known for at least a few years... some from the first day I moved to Pella, and just be with adults.  The kids were here, but they were good as they always tend to be and went to bed well for us.  It was enjoyable to eat snacks and drink and laugh and play games and generally just be.  With adults.
And, that is probably the one main concern I have about being a "single parent" for the next 11 weeks... making sure that I don't hole up and that I actually spend time with adults... working from home and not having that "free babysitter" (read: other parent) to takeover when you need to escape for a few hours makes me a little anxious... and I know I have friends here in town who are willing to help out at a moment's notice... but, sometimes the thought of having to ask someone who isn't part of the regular routine to step in and take over for a couple of hours is hard... especially when I'm not going to pay them... well... it's hard, and doesn't always seem worth the effort, if that makes sense.  Sometimes the point of running to the grocery store to get milk is just to get out of the house by one's self.  Asking someone to come and sit in my house for 20 minutes to do that... seems a little ridiculous.  Especially when I can do it on the way to or from daycare tomorrow.  *wink*
This week was especially interesting because both of the kids were pretty bogged down with bad colds.  Normally I have no issue with loading them up and taking them pretty much anywhere I need to go... but they looked like walking zombies for a few days there and the last thing I wanted to do was coat them up and drag them out into the (what was) bitter cold.  So we stayed in.  A lot.  And we did okay.  Today was so much nicer outside and the girls seem to be recovering well so we went ou for a couple of hours and that was nice.
So, suffice to say that we're doing well... I'm doing well... and while I know rough times will come with Adam being gone for so long... so far, so good.  *smiles*

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One More Post for Tonight

I know I've overwhelmed you with pictures today... but hey, I found the camera!  Here are pictures of me and the girls goofing around on Adam's "couch" (futon) at the apartment while he was out for a stroll with his landlord.

New Digs

This is Adam's new apartment... he's in the "garden" apartment (i.e., half underground just like our first apartment!).  He shares with one other person.  Other tenants lives on the main and 2nd floors of the house.  He'll be here through the end of March, and then he'll fly to Germany with his class for the remainder of his studies.

Views from the Lakefront Center

Here are some of the views from the McCormick Place Lakefront Center... this was on our walk Friday night.


This is a product of one of those "I want to get my hair cut!  MUST GET MY HAIR CUT!" moments and I am very happy with the results.  Dear Hub is not so keen on the length, but I am enjoying the easy of maintenance and the ability to make it look like something in a short amount of time!

Me and My Girls

Awww.... (too bad it is impossible to get them to bo look AND smile at the same time)

Horseback Ride

This is what you do when you no longer have a job... you hang out with your children in the mornings and give them horseback rides around the living room.  *grin*

Dressing One's Self

Yes... I let her wear this to daycare...

Roar #3

This is my friend Janice modeling a hat I had made for the son of a friend of mine... the girls were in bed when I finished, however, so I needed a hat model, and Janice was more than willing.  :)  Of course, a little beer doesn't hurt.  She is excellent at roaring as well.  (Thanks, Janice!  Love you!)
(This is the third Roar hat that I've made... so easy and fun!)

Silly Picture

Hopefully you can see the poof from this headband Adam was able to keep on Raven's head... she is not one much for wearing stuff on her head (even winter hats disappear as fast as they can... hence the wearing of mittens that are way too big... ha!).  But, she sat for a good five minutes with this thing before she noticed it was even there.

Update on Raven

So... I've not been great at updating on Raven like I was with Julia when Julia was this age... but know that she's growing well and learning and a regular little monkey.  *grin*
I thought I'd write a quick post to update on what Raven is doing these days...
... she has said, "book", "bass", and... she just said a word this morning that shocked me... I will have to try to remember.  She has only said those words once... she has this attitude of, "you know I know what it is, you know I know how to say it, so just deal, parent, 'cause I'm not doing it again".  Ha!  (She has said other words too; we have a list somewhere but in all of the "house picking up" we do, we've managed to miss-place a number of things.)
... she says, "uh oh" on a regular basis and does things specifically so she can say it.  Throw that cup on the floor?  "uh oh!"  Tip that pile of books over?  "uh oh!"  Pull all the clothes out of the dresser?  "uh oh"
... Raven knows what "time-out" is.  Sad, but true.  Julia didn't understand/learn this until she was almost 2 years old, but Raven is very aware of her naughty nature and tests us plenty and has learned what time-out is because of it.  Now all we have to say is, "Go to time-out, Raven", and she plops her butt down on the steps.  Julia thinks this is fantastic fun.  Julia has gotten a time-out along with Raven for "tattling" and carrying on about Raven being in time-out.  Vicious cycle, there.
... Raven knows how to shake her head "yes" and "no" and it has made life a lot easier.  I will say, "do you want a drink?"  She will "say" yes or no.  Are you ready for bed?  (Amazingly, she says "yes" and means it... SO COOL!)  She understands SO much... it is unreal... and so it has become easier with her because I can ask her yes or no questions and get an "honest" answer from her.
... but she has also started throwing tantrums when I refuse to give her what she wants.  Today she wanted the toothpaste SO BAD and when I wouldn't give it to her, it was an all out tantrum.  Hilarious.  And bad, bad, bad.  Ha!
... she runs, and one of her favorite "running" activities involves going up to her sister, grabbing something that she is playing with, and running away as fast as she can.  Which isn't very fast, but Julia is non-confrontational, and so instead of going after Raven, she starts crying instead.  We are teaching her to go and get back what was taken from her.  All the while, Raven is wielding her evil little grin and running around with her loot clutched in her hot little hands.
... she suddenly has TONS of teeth.  Including molars.  She has gotten ~10 teeth in the last 4 months.  CRAZY.
... (I hesitate to write this because then it might backfire on me...) finally, after many months of not, Raven is sleeping through the night again and sleeping ~11 hours straight.  It is pure bliss.  *I* am getting sleep again and I have finally been able to reinstate my "7 AM Rule"... i.e., not going in the girls' bedroom until 7 am, even if they wake up before then.  This gives me time to get ready in the morning... yay!  I've been waiting for this day for about 7 months... ever since that summer cold Raven had, we've been struggling with sleep... so yay! 
... she is finally realizing that me leaving means mommy won't be in the room anymore, so nursery at church has become a load of fun again.  Just when Julia stopped crying when I left her in there, Raven has started.  Oh, Joy.
... she loves to make animal noises.  Funny, most of them all sound the same, but if you listen close, they do have some different sounds.  Her "best" ones are cow and fish.  But, she loves to try them all.  It is especially funny to watch her bark.  She bobs her head as if bobbing her head will make the "woof" come out easier... hilarious.
That's all I have for now, but I will try to be better at updating on how and what she is doing!

Monday, February 7, 2011

GO, PACKERS, GO! Congrats on a Superbowl win!

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the Superbowl last night with friends and were even MORE excited that the Packers won!  YAY!  GO, PACKERS!
The girls were mostly enthralled with toys they don't often play with, however they were good for a "touchdown" now and again. 

Off to Chicago

On Friday, we set out for the snow-covered land of Chicago to move Adam to his apartment.
(What?  Yes, Adam started school at Siebel today already!  The last few months have FLOWN by and already Adam is off on his brewing adventure while the kids and I brave the cold back in Iowa.)
We arrived in Chicago Friday afternoon, and thanks to a heads-up from a friend, we were prepared for the rush hour traffic (which starts at 3 pm on Fridays, apparently).  We stayed at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, which I found through, thanks to a suggestion from a friend.  While we could have paid less money to park our vehicle farther out and take the train into our hotel, we opted for paying the hotel fee for their garage as we had all of Adam's stuff in our car.
Friday afternoon we walked through the conference center (which will host the 2011 Chicago Auto Show this coming weekend) and to the McCormick Place lakefront view where we were able to see the lake, boats on the lake, and also had a grand view of the Planetarium and downtown.  It was also cool to see the start of the setting up of the Auto Show.  It smelled like exhaust in that entire building.
(Excuse me for not having pictures right now but I wanted to get this post out but have yet to unearth the camera from wherever it ended up over the weekend...)
After this longish walk (which involved chasing after Raven, carrying Raven, and going backwards to get Raven multiple times when she decided it was fun to head in the opposite direction), we went back to our hotel room to determine what to eat for dinner.  A quick use of the iPhone found a pizza place that was only about 5 blocks from our hotel, so we pulled on our shoes, bundled up in our coats, and headed out again (it was brisk out, to say the least).
Now, as you might have heard, Chicago got snow this last week.  A LOT OF IT.  So, it wasn't any wonder that there were still unshoveled spots where walking through the snow sunk one up to her knees.  There was a lot of ice and snow... well... most of our walk, it seemed, which made the trek to the pizza place even more exciting, only to arrive and find out that they didn't have beer.  BUT, they had the Chicago deep dish, which is what we were after.  So, we settled into a nice-sized Chicago deep dish pizza, and amazingly enough the kids ate WITHOUT bibs and neither one of them got any pizza on their shirts.  How this happened, I do not know.
After we returned to the hotel, Adam took Julia swimming while I put Raven down for bed.  Fast forward to 9 pm, and we were all asleep.  Tiring day!

We took our time getting ready Saturday morning and then piled into the car to find Siebel.  We knew the address of it and we braved traffic to find it.  After finding Siebel, we headed towards Adam's new digs in Logan Square.  Thankfully on the way we saw a Dunkin' Donuts where we stopped in for breakfast... we hadn't ordered hotel breakfast because it was very expensive and the piece of cheese was not enough to tide the kids over to lunch.  We ate a bunch of donuts, which the kids thoroughly enjoyed, and then headed off to find Adam's apartment.

We were fortunate to get a parking spot right in front of his place - this was amazing in itself because we quickly learned that a.) cars were still snowed in and no going anywhere soon and hence, not giving up their space and b.) those who had left their spaces "saved" them with chairs and stools and up-turned buckets... you saved your spot.  We met Adam's landlord, who took Adam on a stroll to the nearest grocery store, and Adam and the girls and I unpacked his stuff (Julia was a great help, making sure underwear and socks ended up in the right drawers).
After getting Adam's apartment settled, we headed out to grocery shop and pick up a rug at Target.  Thankfully the Target we found was ALSO a grocery store, because the amount of time it took us to get to Target and then to navigate the crazy busy parking lot of Target and then to actually shop... well, let's just say that we spent about 4 hours our Target Trek to get there, get the stuff, and get back to Adam's apartment.  I can honestly say I've never seen any Target that busy except at Christmastime.  When I refuse to go to a Target.  Ha!
We unpacked the groceries and made sure the girls got a snack and then made snacks for later that evening.  We decided to go to Portillo's in Skokie for a late lunch/early dinner, and thankfully it was quiet and kid-friendly.  We enjoyed our hot dogs and fries and shakes, and I also bought a chocolate cake to share with our Superbowl gang on Sunday. 
After Portillo's, we just drove.  We drove around for a couple of hours finding things and seeing things and generally checking out the lay of the land within a few miles of Adam's apartment.  We randomly drove by Lane Prep School and then read about it on Adam's iPhone because we were in such awe of the place.
This time we headed back to the hotel fairly early and after hanging out in our room for about 45 minutes, we both got suited up and took the girls down to the pool... for about 1/2 hour for Raven and about 45 minutes or so for Julia.  It was enjoyable watching our kids in the water and spending a quiet evening together as family.  After eating a snack back in the room, we put the girls to bed and hunkered down ourselves for a little reading, only to both be asleep by 9:30 pm... oh, well!  It was an exhausting weekend!
Sunday morning we packed up the car, drove to Walgreens to get Adam his CTA pass and some cold medicine, and we dropped him off at the train stop to send him on his way.  It was sad (but quick) to see him go but we'll see him again soon!

Adam will catch you up on his first week of school with a new blog post later this week, and I'll post some pictures later.  If you want his mailing address (please note he will only be in Chicago until March 26th), please let me know!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Guest Blog: A Little About Adam

Adam is preparing for his class at Siebel, which starts next Monday.  He is guest posting on another blog, and since I "review" what he writes often, I asked if I could guest post his posts on my blog as well as a way to keep everyone updated as to what and how he is doing.  Here is the first one!
Guten Tag!  My name is Adam Draeger and this is the first blog in a series about exploring a career change into professional brewing. 
I am enrolled with the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago/Munich from Feb 7th through April 30th.  I wanted to use this post to give you my background and how I decided to take this class.

I grew up in the beer state of Wisconsin and graduated from UW-Platteville with a BS in Engineering Physics (which is a fancy title for a combo of electrical and mechanical engineer).  During my freshman year I met a homebrewer (and future fraternity brother, Tim "Cream" DeTroye), but at that time, the thought never crossed my mind that I would/could homebrew due to the fact that (I thought I) didn't like beer (AKA. Bud, Miller and Coors). 
After I turned 21 my roommate got me to quaff Bud Light regularly, but I didn't enjoy it.   I tried Rolling Rock and Sam Adams with marginal improvement.  It wasn't until I visited a brewpub in Madison, WI, called the Angelic Brewing Company (now closed) that I had my first beer epiphany.  The place had the awesome brewpub atmosphere that I continue to seek and relive any chance I get.  It also dawned on me that this beer was only made in this one location for consumption in this one location.  I was experiencing an unique beverage that was made locally by somebody from raw ingredients, but not just a beverage.....BEER! 

This first epiphany turned me into a beer hunter and I desired to experience as many brewpubs & craft beers as I could find (and as a college student...afford).  I started light with the cream ales and kolsch-style ales then drifted darker toward the pale, red and brown ales eventually making my way to the stouts and porters. At one point my thoughts took me back to my freshman year and Tim's ability to "brew his own."   I'm a creative guy, and I love to make things....why not recreate some of my craft and brewpub favorite styles of beer myself? 

It was 2000 and I was interning at Lands' End when I read John Palmer's (free online) book called "How to Brew". I was so cautious about my descent (errr...ascent) into brewing that I just kept reading and studying for a year before I let myself take the plunge. 
My first batch was made in Freeport, IL, on June 30, 2001, while on internship with Newell-Rubbermaid. It was a hefeweizen extract kit that I called Ninkasi's Sumerian Wheat, named for the first beer goddess. 
After 19 batches of extract brewing, I upgraded my system to all-grain -- mostly to be more creative and save money.  Fast forward 9 years to when I made my 100th batch of beer on Aug 18, 2010 (not counting the many ciders and meads that I've brewed as well).
For the last six years I have lived and worked as a process engineer for Pella Corporation in Pella, IA.  While over the last 10 years I have considered the Siebel brewing course many times, it never seemed feasible for my family and me for me to take the plunge and take off time time from work to do so. 
In October, the company took a look at the bleak forecast for 2011 and decided to offer a voluntary retirement/separation package instead of just laying employees off.  (I have a lot of respect for this company and have no ill will towards my job, manager, or coworkers.)  
My wife and I discussed and saw this as an opportunity to move to (possibly) Colorado, a state after our hearts.  After a lot of prayer and discussion we felt that God was telling us to take the separation package and sell the house, but nothing further was for certain.   So we started putting feelers out in Colorado to see if any of them would be blessed.  I also signed up for the waiting list for the Feb 7th start of Siebel's next program.  I was explicitly told not to get my hopes up as there are rarely cancellations.  I put my energy in to job hunting for engineering positions in Colorado...I even applied to New Belgium as a facilities engineer. 
After a month of searching and praying, I received a call from Siebel saying that there was a cancellation and that I was the first on the list.  More discussion ensued and my wife and I decided that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore a career change and I accepted the position in the class at Siebel.  

Since being enrolled in this course, I have done some preparation for the class.  I am reading the MBAA's practical handbooks and my local brewery, Peace Tree Brewing Co has agreed to let me job shadow their head brewer, Joe Kesteloot.   My wife, Erin, and girls (Julia, 3, and Raven, 1) drop me off in Chicago on Friday, Feb 4th, and classes begin on Feb 7th.  My next posting will be about my first week at school and adjustment to living in the "windy city."  Until next time....Prost!

Brotherly Visit: New Year's Eve

I can only remember one New Year's Eve in the last six... or more... that I haven't spent in Cedar Rapids with our friends there at our friend Angela's house.  This year was no exception.  However, this year Alex was visiting, so we asked if Alex could come along.
I may be biased, but I felt as though Alex fit in well with our friends.  He is a personable guy and everyone was nice to him and seemed to accept him into the group for the night.  However, Alex is ALSO an AMAZING uncle, and he delighted Julia over and over that evening.  One of the ways he did so was by playing his ukulele and allowing Julia to touch it and play it as well.  I'm pretty sure this was the highlight of her night!
(That, and laughing so hard that she peed her pants... and the floor............. ha!)

Another Hat

Here is a hat that I made for my sister on New Year's... it was a lot of fun to make and very quick to work up... I hope she loves it!  :)  (I heard that she does, anyway!)