It’s been a while since I’ve done some writing. Frankly, stuff like this ebbs and flows for me and as always: things have been busy. Here are just a few of the things going on in my zen little corner of the world.

Started some serious remodel work on my house. This included taking out a wall on my main level to open up a view between the kitchen and the living area (i.e. open concept). I finally got the livingroom and upstairs portion painted and organized. The kitchen and dining area now need to be painted.

My newly opened wall. On the floor you can see the section I removed. I then had to splice the header and make it look liveably nice.

Ultimately, I’d like to remodel the entire kitchen. The cabinets are still the 1967 originals from the house and, while functional, are rather tired and I’d like to change the configuration to help with the more open concept. The mica countertops also could use a refresh.

However, before that occurs I need to finish reworking the family room and extra room portion of my basement. After years and years of foul smelling worn out carpet and original 1967 basement paneling I decided to start anew. I ripped them both out and now have a classic “unfinished” basement. It’s cold and unwelcoming.

Getting the dungeon updated is becoming the primary task. It will give the kids more room to spread out. I’m hoping to make it more of a multi-use space. Some nice couches (okay, the living room couches are slated to move down there), tv/entertainment center, a little “studio” area where anything from playing guitar and drums to exercising, to maybe even a folding table tennis set can be used.

The extra room (which I already framed out and rerouted) will be study/office space and perhaps serve as a guest room. Additionally, the laundry and basement bathroom will be redone to insulate the cold/exposed block walls. The main feature of the bathroom will be a large soaking tub. My intent is to make the basement an escape for hobbies, projects, etc.

Brewing beer.

Starting with the “can Joe follow basic instructions” version of brewing. I made a stout and am now racking an Octoberfest.

I love making things. I make complex magnetic sensors for work. I love cooking and making new foods. I grow a garden. I make a little music. I also like the multitude of small craft breweries and distilleries around town (shout out to the gf for facilitating this). It’s only natural that I would eventually become interested in producing my own beer or spirits. Over the last few months, I’ve made my first couple batches of beer.

Like any new “brew bird” (I made that up) I have to learn to fly. So I’ve started with the Mr. Beer kits. These kits have a decently flavored wort and are really a test in being able to maintain basic cleanliness and following instructions akin to making Campbell’s soups to result in something that tastes like beer.

I received the first kit as a gift from my ex-wife and kids, an Irish Stout. It turned out really well. So well that it was gone within a couple weeks of finishing. I wanted to make sure my decent batch wasn’t a fluke. Being around the holidays I requested another starter kit, and my gf delivered me an Octoberfest. I bottled it last weekend and is now in the racking/carbonating process. The plastic bottles are firming up nicely, indicating the carbonating process is going well.

I also added a few new glass bottles to the stack. I’m finding that almost better than drinking the beer is sharing the creation. Much like having a potluck. Thus I went to liter glass bottles so I could amply share.

My next step here is to make a more complicated recipe. Again I’m starting with the Mr. Beer kit, but they have add on ingredients such as various malts, and hops and other things to add to customize the experience. I will soon be making this next kit called “sticky wicket”. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The entrepreneurial aspect of this endeavor has not escaped me either. I have a high school classmate/friend who owns and runs a brewery outside of Seattle and there are many small breweries here in town and there seems to be no stop to the growth. So I may look to increase the volume I produce and at least do a little market research. Right now I’m only making two gallon batches. I hear for the hobby brewer that five or six gallons is common (5 gallons is the capacity of a “corny” keg). There are also a lot of homebrewers who are over the fad and there is a lot of second-hand equipment available, so the cost of increased production can be low. Already, my gf is getting me a stock of glass bottles from her former boss. Part of the basement remodel may be some stainless sink/counter space for this project.

Christmas. Christmas was good this year. It’s a little sad to say, but my kids are now in that middle-schooler mode. They’re a little harder to buy for. Moving forward I’m thinking I’ll be doting experiences on them. Be it travel or lessons or other things to give them a life full of perspective and inquiry. This year I decided to take them skiing to someplace bigger than the hills around the Twin Cities.

My kids atop Lutsen. Lake Superior in the background.

Still on a budget I chose a weekend package at Lutsen Mountains along the north shore of Minnesota. The ski area overlooks Lake Superior and there is at least 3x the vertical feet of the areas here in town. My kids fell in love with the place. My gf came with as well and we made for a good group of moderate ability skiers.

The weather was great for the trip. We stayed at a local AmericInn as part of the package with a bunch of other skiers and snowmobilers. In fact parking that first night was a pain on account of all the snowmobile trailers!

I am very happy the trip worked out well and look forward to the next holiday experience.

Coaching Basketball. Of the things I did not intend. I am wrapping up a season of coaching my son’s in-house basketball team. The city athletic association is in great need of volunteers. Many are busy and some are squeemish. I’m not a knowledgeable basketball guy, nor am I any good, but I do know how to yell at kids and be an administrator of sorts. I am an assistant football coach and love working with the kids. So I took the plunge. For me it has been a lot of fun and house league really means “just let the kids play”. So it turns out to be very low stress, but very fun to watch.

This is also my son’s first year playing organized basketball. He’s still growing into his athletic self, but he’s big for a 13 year old (5′-9″) and has learned how to set a mean screen. He admits he’s learning and despite only having gotten one shot off. he is fun to watch play because he is thinking of doing the other things that help the team score whereas the other kids are often just looking to get the ball and shoot. He said one year of playing was good enough for him and I’m just proud of him for trying. Hopefully, he finds some other things to keep him active during these winter months.

Well. That’s been a bit of my winter in a nutshell. Hopefully, I’ll find some momentum for writing. There’s much to tell and much to sort out from my thoughts.

Take care!