Everything stated on this site is, of course, MY opinion / statement / thought, unless specifically stated otherwise. You knew that.


PLEASE NOTE: I'm *slowly* combining my blogs into this single site. If you are looking for Lotus Notes content from my old site, please EMAIL me at: jrlitton at gmail dot com and tell me the link or the content you were seeking. I will try to email you the content within a day.

- Joe

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Homebrewing: I'm a n00b, but I'm having fun

Wednesday evening, my buddy Crhis and I took the 3-hour "Extract Brewing" class at Southern Brewing & Winemaking. LOL ...we both got hooked immediately and each dropped about $200 on supplies! Please note that it is absolutely NOT necessary to get that crazy; one can brew for a lot less expense than that. But it's easy to just buy all the equipment and supplies and be able to get brewing.

Yesterday we each brewed our first batch. Below are pics (click on a thumbnail image to see the larger pic) and a few comments from the brewing I did here at the Litton house.

Step one was to get everything ready...and clean / sanitize the gear. This was the main lesson from the class: just how critical it is to keep everything sanitized (one the boil is done).

Heating 2 gallons of water to 165F. The gas-fired side burner on the outdoor grill was wonderful!

While the water heated, I continued organizing the equipment and supplies:

Here's the mix of specialty grain ...steeps for 30 minutes (once water reached 165F, turned off the heat, added the grain in a muslin sack, and steeped like tea):

Removed the grain after 30 minutes..Now time to boil before adding the mail extract.

Once the water boiled, I turned off the heat and grabbed the first bag of extract. There were two 3-pound bags of malt extract to add. I started slowly adding / stirring, but it was much easier once we switched to Shirley slowly pouring as I mixed. That helped avoid clumping. It took a few minutes to get it all in there and dissolved:

Then it was time to bring it all back to a boil. Once boiling, I added the first of the hops (1 oz Northern Brewer) in a muslin sack. This was to boil for the full 60 minutes. After 45 minutes (when there were 15 minutes remaining for the boil), the other hops (1 oz E. Kent Goldings) went in (also in a muslin sack).

Just waiting for the boil to complete. The aroma of the boiling hopsreally reminded me of the scent of NW Portland Oregon ...with all the breweries there, it always smelled like hops :) 

When the 60-minute boil was finally done, the goal was to cool the wort as quickly as possible. I put the pot on a tub with some water and ice.

Once the temp was below 135F (did not take long with the ice in there!), I removed the hops bags and poured the wort into the sanitized fermenter (large bucket). I then added 3 gallons of chilled filtered water (thank you Shirley for making a run to the store during the boil!). This VERY quickly brought the temp of the (now) 5 gallons down to 67F (I was simply trying for below 80F). The yeast was poured in, stirred with a sanitized whisk using my sanitized hand and arm (critical to keep everything sanitized after the boil), and the lid and airlock were installed. Using a hydrometer, I tested a sample I'd taken of the wort to check the specific gravity; target was 1.054 and it looked like I was sitting at about 1.055, so that was a good feeling.

This morning I checked on the brew. We've got the fermenter bucket sitting in a blue tub ($8 at Lowe's :) in the guest room closet. The airlock showed that the yeast is feasting away. Sweet! ...I later added some cold water to the bottom of the bucket ...ideally the temperature should be around 60F-72F. We keep the A/C set to 78F, so that's what the temp (on the outside of the fermenter) was reading. I've now got some water bottles in the freezer and will add one or two in the morning to the water in my "swamp cooler". But to make things easier later in this batch (or at least for future batches), I just ordered a Cool Brewing Fermentation Cooler.

Next weekend will be "racking" - switching the beer to a secondary fermenter. Can't wait for the first tasting in a month or so!


Pinellas Trail and Dunedin Brewery

Now that Shirley and I each have a folding bike, we tossed them in the back of my Yaris this morning and met up with our walking (and other activities) group and hit the Pinellas Trail. Although some have biked with us in the past, this morning most were walking, so Shirley and I rode ahead, then popped back and different folks would try her bike, with Shirley walking with the group and me riding with whomever was testing Shirley's Columba 26" (mine's a Columba 20")

When we reached the point where the group was going to turn around and return to the cars, Shirley and I rode back together so that we could stop in for a pint at Dunedin Brewery (Florida's oldest craft brewery :) ...and then joined the others for lunch at Kelly's restaurant.

The pics and short videos below show a shot of the group and part of the trail, several shots of Dunedin Brewery, and a quick view of part of Dunedin - a very cool and quaint little town a little north of Clearwater on Florida's Gulf coast.

A good time was had by all.


Gateway to India - nice little restaurant in Brandon

Last night we finally stopped in at a fairly new Indian restaurant in nearby Brandon: Gateway to India. We've loved Indian food for decades, and have driven past this place several times during these last few months. It's not much to look at on the outside, but the decor inside is fine - not fancy, but quite pleasant, the staff are wonderful, and we loved the food. Being vegan, we always wonder how much explaining we'll have to do to make it clear that we eat only plant-based foods, meaning no butter, no milk, no cheese, no eggs ..."just" the vast wealth of foods that come from plants.

As it turns out, our server knew quite well what vegan means, and made several helpful suggestions. Admittedly, we ordered and ate too much, but hey, we had to give them a fair testing, right? We'll definitely return :)


Going to try something rare (for me): reading fiction...

It's vacation time, so I shall try to allow myself to read a little fiction. Not a tech book / manual, not a periodical focused on current events or fitness, not the newspaper... fiction. I've done this a little bit from time to time, but usually only when on a plane. It's odd that I seem to only allow myself to do recreational reading when in the air traveling; I guess something inside of me feels that this is wasted time and can therefore be spent doing something that part of me views as frivolous.

But I'm not going to take too big of a risk and just grab some random novel. No, instead I've purchased the Kindle version of The Hobbit for US$7 (how can one go wrong for that price?). I read this in the early/mid 70's, and enjoyed it quite a bit. After 30+ years, I have most likely forgotten enough that this easy read will be mostly new and I have full confidence that it will be a most enjoyable read yet again :)


Summer 2012 fitness update...going well! ...

Wow, haven't posted since MARCH!?! Well, I do post regularly on Facebook and at least weekly on Twitter. Anyway...

It's been over 3 years now since I switched to a vegan diet, and I now can't really imagine consuming meat and milk again. Exercise is a definite habit, and I regularly lift weights or do cardio, and hit these workouts hard. I've become hooked on workouts from BeachBody. I've done about 5 "rounds" of P90X (each round is 3 months), a round of P90X2, 2-3 rounds of Insanity (a 2-month program), a round or two of Asylum (one-month program), and I'm now on week 6 of the 3-month Body Beast program.

At my fattest, I weighed 172 pounds, which for my 5' 4" frame was too much. Shirley and I started WeightWatchers online (tracking "points" instead of counting calories), and along with some nutrition suggestions from the Beach Body programs, from The 4-Hour Body, and working out once or twice a day, I dumped the fat, got down to the 30-inch size waist pants that I was 30 years ago, saw better numbers at the annual physicals re heart stuff (lipid panel, heart rate, etc), and at my lightest was 130 pounds.

This morning I weighed 144 pounds. There's a little more fat on the midsection, but I'm not worried. I'm taking 5 grams of creatine morning and night, and that is known to cause a little water retention. But more importantly, our Omron electric bodyfat monitor shows me hanging in there around 13% fat, pants still fit just fine, and the tape measure shows that the biceps are about 3/4" bigger and the quads are an inch larger. I've definitely put on solid mass during the past month and a half of Body Beast. The final 4 weeks of the program is intended to get one a bit leaner. And I can always do a round of Insanity or Asylum if I want to hit the cardio hard.

It feels good to be lifting again!