Monday, September 7, 2020

Blind Hard Cider Taste Test

My dad had been proposing we do a hard cider taste test for months and finally landed on Labor Day weekend.  We would be able to watch the Kentucky Derby (yes, in September, because, 2020) eat some tasty summer grilling food and drink cider in the name of science!  This is the first event I have been able to get really creative with in quite a while, so I had to get it right.  It was just my parents, Jimmy, John, and Sharon, our friend Laurie's Mom.
We grilled burgers, brats, and asparagus, my mom made potato salad, and we had cucumbers, baked, beans, and chips.  We quickly ran inside to watch the fasted two minutes in sports, then I got our varieties prepped.
I took the hardboard cut off from my other project last week and also used the chalkboard paint on it to make our scoreboard.  I did a bit of research on each brand and went through the list before starting.  I gave the name only and not the specific variety since I didn't want to influence the responses.

Angry Orchard - First launching in 2012 out of Walden, NY.  This is the #1 cider brand in the US.

Ciderboys - Made at the fifth oldest brewery in the US.  This Steven's Point, WI offering was also released in 2012.

Crispin - Founded in 2004 with origins in the Midwest.  MillerCoors acquired them on 2012.

Loon Juice - Began as a seasonal offering in 2012 at Four Daughter's Winery in Spring Valley, MN, just south of Rochester.

Redd's - Also launched in 2012 by Molson Coors Company and brewed in Milwaukee

Strong Bow - The global leader in cider sales has been brewed in England for 60 years

Wild State - Started just last year in Duluth, MN by best friends that met at camp

Woodchuck - Had been produced in Vermont since 1991.  It was the top selling cider in the US before the cider boom of 2012.
I etched numbers on glass stop top bottles to keep the offerings straight without making the variety known by type of container.  We also had fresh baked bread as a pallet cleanser between rounds.
Everyone had a really great time and learned a little something about their personal taste.  There were 3 that tied for third, so we did a secondary taste to break the tie.
Here was how they finished.
Ciderboys First Press - 40 
Strongbow Gold Apple - 37
Angry Orchard Crisp Apple - 27
Crispin Original - 27
Woodchuck Granny Smith - 27
Wild State Semi Dry - 21
Redd's Hard Apple - 20
Loon Juice Honeycrisp - 7
The only surprise for me was the Loon Juice.  I had tried another variety, Extra Juicy, on one of our last pre-pandemic date nights and it was really good.  We moved inside and finished the evening with pumpkin bars and bourbon cream cheese frosting.  We are already dreaming up ideas for taste tests to come!  Let me know if you have any good ideas for us.  Happy fall!


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Staycation 2: The rest of the things

In between our house projects and my golfing, we were able to have a little fun.  Here is some of the highlights.  I removed Parker's training wheels this spring hoping it would encourage him to try riding.  He has been pushing it along working on balance and just started trying to put his feet on the pedals.  Here are a few clips of him working on it.
One of his big interests the last couple weeks has been batteries.  Hide your screwdrivers! He likes to line up all the electronic toys with their batteries next to them.  This was a small line, but he had a huge one just yesterday.  He is pretty good about putting them back in when we ask.  We have stowed all the screwdrivers to deter him a bit, just so we don't have batteries laying all over the house.  We had lots of special treats this week including ice cream sandwiches and "strawberry" pie.  We also had a virtual open house for Esme's preschool.  I was really impressed at the parent turnout and engagement.  We got to hear a little about program specifics, ask questions, and get a tour of the room.  They are usually all in one room, but they are splitting into two this year to try to maintain social distancing.  Parents will not be allowed in school and will be dropping off at the curb outside.  This shouldn't be an issue with Esme since she will be going in with Parker, but I can imagine it may be tough for some 4-year-olds to be left on a curb with a stranger.
We had our first real outing on Friday.  We went to the Mall of America to take advantage of our free birthday offer at Bubba Gump Shrimp company and walk around.  Jimmy has been on a protein shake kick and was excited to get Jamba Juice's version.
I got coconut shrimp and Parker got a pepperoni pizza before walking around and picking up some popcorn for the road.
Parker did a pretty good job keeping his mask on with just a few reminders to keep it over his nose.  The mall was really empty which was great for us.  A lot of store have modified hours and open days, which probably has an impact.
Another big change is coming for Esme.  Friday was her last day at daycare.  We switched providers in February and immediately fell in love with Nellie.  COVID-19 made our time with her pretty interesting.  I wish we would have found her when we were looking 3 years ago, but it was great while we were there.  She helped make grape juice last week by picking the grapes off the vines.  If she had an opening through next summer, we may have opted to stay there instead of doing pre-school.
We ended our week with more treats.  Snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich from Thelma's.  They are nationwide now, but started at the DesMoines Farmer's Market.  I couldn't find the year they started, but we tried them on our trip to DesMoines in 2013.  There were just in a little cart at the time, so I imagine it had to be pretty new.  Just a couple more days off, then back to the grind.


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Staycation 2: House Projects

This week's projects weren't quite as intense as our week off in June where we did our deck and fence.  Our biggest project of the week did involve quite a bit of debris with a variety of material types, wood, sheetrock, and brick.  We decided this would be a good opportunity to get a dumpster not only for the small construction project, but also to clean out some other large items and stuff we just haven't thrown out.
Our big project was removing a closet in the basement.  You can see its location circled below.  We have long ago removed the sliding doors and attempted to use it for toy storage.  The kids just dumped out the baskets we tried to organize them in and it was just a mess. I decided to just seal it up and remove the framing to gain a couple more feet in our storage/utility room.  
I used a thin hardboard to cover the opening since I wouldn't be able to match the paneling.  I will be finishing it with chalkboard paint and trim to create a fun art space.
The walls came out easier than expected, but I did have to remove some sheetrock I wanted to keep in order to fully remove the floor.  There was also a line of bricks at the bottom of the walls that I fears would be hard to remove, but they were already a little loose one the weight of the walls was gone.  The extra space we gained will be really nice for winter projects.  I still plan to go through all our storage totes to consolidate and streamline things, but it already looks much better.
As a replacement for toy storage, I converted the existing firewood cabinet.  The left side was open all the way to the floor, so I used some scrap wood to build a platform for reachability.  I lined it with some felt I had on hand and removed the heavy door to make sure no appendages got smashed.  Not perfect, but an easy solution that will work for now.
Another project I made more progress on is our faux ribbon board on the soffit in our "sports bar" area.  I used putty to fill in the paneling grooves then finished with chalkboard paint.  I will be able to update them with current sports news and headlines.  I also put up the fill vikings schedule for quick reference.  I just need to paint the new trim, install, and this one will be finished.
Finally, we spruced up our bathroom.  The shower had one of those wand style heads which I don't really care for.  We also have poor water pressure in the shower and I was hoping to get something to help with that.  I found one that specifically mentioned low pressure.  It lived up to the hype and offers improved pressure with better coverage.  We also added a cabinet over the toilet.  A friend gave it to us last year and I finally got around to painting it black.  I am not typically a fan of them, but this bathroom is very small and we really needed the storage.  No more toilet paper stacked on the tank!
Our house is a bit more organized and less cluttered than it was a week ago and I am looking forward to continuing the progress.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Staycation 2: Golfing

Jimmy and I have another week off before "school" starts.  We used it to take care of some home projects and have some fun.  Since Esme's daycare was on vacation last week, we sent her this week to make sure she maintained a bit more structure.  We gave Jimmy a morning to himself yesterday and went golfing with Grandpa Buxton on Jayden.  Parker served as my caddy and seemed to enjoy rolling my clubs along.
It's been close to 2 years since I last golfed, so I was very rusty.  I had a few good shots, but most of mine were worm burners.
We picked up some free kids clubs from a neighbor last summer.  I brought a couple along to see if Parker would try them out, but he was much more interested in getting back to the clubhouse.
Can you count them all?  He spotted these on our way to the first tee and was itching to given them a good inspection.  6 different units, he was in heaven.
Thanks for inviting us out dad, it was so much fun!