I’ve been struggling the last couple of months with writing; I just can’t find the focus and creativity to articulate my thoughts. I get bursts of ideas and they seem to fizzle in my mind rather than provoke a train of thought. And now I’m doing the most cliche thing,in that I’m writing about not being able to write. Perhaps it’s more interesting to write about how I think I can solve the problem, and that’s finding a muse.
Repetition is the death of creativity. When you repeat the same tasks day after day, travel the same routes, eat the same foods, have the same discussions about the same topics, it’s easy to get into a rut. Where does creativity come from? It’s a question that perhaps will never be answered sufficiently. There is a mystery in the art of creation that I’m not sure will ever go away; part of the allure of art is that it’s seemingly formed out of nothing. It’s that magical feeling you felt when you first saw your favorite movie, or heard your favorite song. I once heard someone write that if they could be given one wish, it’d be to see their favorite movie again for the first time. No matter how much you love something, that first experience with something new is unique. This is what drives romantic comedies. The power of love at first sight, and first kisses, are powerful and captivating emotions. So where does that magic come from, and when you’re struggling to find any, what do you do?
Certainly, you write about not being able to write. I’d wager 99%, or more, of blogs that touch on anything of a personal nature have a post somewhere that laments the author’s struggles with the creative process. I’ve been thinking I need to get outside of the house to write, to get away from the same walls and the same desk I do everything else at. Clear my head of all the clutter and daily tasks that invite themselves into my brain when I’m in the familiar surroundings and focus on what I want to be doing. One day I hope to have a dedicated area, and computer, for writing. No bills waiting to be paid, or amazon.com gifts waiting to be cashed. In the meantime, on my way to and from the kitchen to refill my coffee cup today I remember I needed to add eggs to the grocery list, put some groceries away that were sitting on the table, checked to see if any of the plants needed watering, and noted that I needed to clean the litter box. By the time I returned to my computer, my train of thought had gone off in a billion different directions, which caused me to think to check Facebook and Twitter rather than returning directly to the post I was writing.
I find outside stimulates me more, but as much as I enjoy cold weather it’s not comfortable to sit outside in it for the period of time needed to write anything useful. So this week I’m going to take the netbook out to a Starbucks or a food court and try to focus on writing without distraction. It’s not my usual computer so perhaps I can avoid checking Twitter and other time-wasting activities and concentrate. Perhaps the flow of strangers and activity around me will break me from my rut and provoke that creative spark. Hopefully it’ll put me in the path of new experiences and new thoughts that will then flow out of my brain and into cohesive sentences. Wish me luck!
You see those silly stickers, the white ovals with the black writing, all over the place. There is a marathon one, simply saying 26.2. I mocked up this 25.6 one, which is a common size for a bottle of beer. It is also the amount of ounces in a fifth, or fifth of a gallon. This was a common size for liquor in the United States, until regulations changed it over to metric fifths; 750 milliliter bottles, which are 7 ml smaller.
Beer is not subject to the same sort of regulations as distilled alcohol, which is perhaps why breweries occasionally make fifths of beer. Between this and pints, beer has retained much of the English system of measurement. One day the world will be fully metric and my proposed 25.6 sticker will be a quaint bit of nostalgia.
I had the chance to get out to Astoria to visit Singlecut Beersmiths this weekend and check out the beer. I was not disappointed. I don’t have to tell you how craft beer has taken off over the last decade or so, and like so many other tidal waves of change, it washes up a lot of muck along with the gems. We’ve all tasted those craft beers that are merely “Not Bud” or simply ordinary, so when a new brewery opens up it’s not uncommon to meet it with a little skepticism and wait to see if they’re going to do more than create pale imitations of the popular craft beers already in the market. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with Singlecut.
The beersmiths put care and effort into crafting these delicious beers, and it shows. They had four on tap when I got there, and they’ve got two IPAs coming very soon. Forward to back is the 19-33 Lagrrr!, the Jån Olympic White Lagrrr!, the John Michael Dark Lyric Lagrrr!, and the Dean Pacific Northwest Mahogany Ale. The 19-33 was a crisp Czech-style pilsner, enjoyable although basic. The Jån is described as a uniquely hued and flavored Lagrrr! and you can see it’s opaque like a hefeweizen. Their blog says it’s brewed with Matzoh Meal. It was delicious, and the one my three companions enjoyed the most. It’s still a lager and enjoys all the qualities of a lager, but with a richness and flavor akin to a wheat beer. Next up is the Dark Lyric, which was my favorite. I’ve been on a black lager and black IPA kick for a while though, so perhaps that swayed my vote. Dark Lyric did not disappoint, providing a moderately hoppy beer with a gentle roastiness to it. Lastly, for now, was the Dean Pacific NW Mahogany Ale. This one was extremely hoppy, perhaps too much for the style, but I like hops and don’t care about defined styles so I’m not complaining. The bitterness masks some of the other flavor you’d expect so it trended more towards an amber than a brown, but the Pacific Northwest is known for hops so it’s not unexpected.
We visited at four on a Saturday and the place was pretty crowded. It was a neat little place that seems to be drawing a lot of interest. They had barrels stacked in the fermentation, and I’m told they were a Bock being aged in rum barrels, so I’m excited to try that in the future. They framed some of the bags of malt they used in the beer and hung them on the walls, which was a neat idea. The record player and records for music was a nice touch as well, and fitting with the music theme. I appreciate the quirky descriptions of their beers (check the list on the website) but could’ve used some more basic tasting notes, beyond just IBU and ABV, both on the website and at the tasting room. I overheard some talk about a homebrew club on weekends and noticed one of the guys behind the bar with a Brewstoria shirt (who is also the foursquare mayor), and although I’m not going to go over the bridge for such a thing, it’s a good idea.
All in all I enjoyed my visit to Singlecut and recommend checking it out. Particularly if you’re a Queens native looking to support local businesses. (especially if you’re say, a professional baseball team?)
I apologize if someone has thought of, and done, this already.
More and more we’re getting some terrific beers aged in a variety of wine and alcohol barrels. (And certainly there have been plenty that aren’t that great and the barrel is just a gimmick, but you tend to get that in any popular technique) These vary from whiskey, rum, bourbon, etc. Often these barrels are near the end of their life cycle, which is part of what caused them to make their way to breweries in the first place.
What I’d like to see is a partnership instead of acquiring cast-offs. I’d love to see these barrels alternated between beer and spirits. Obviously this will be tougher to do for some of the longer aging spirits, but there are some that have shorter aging periods. Age a rum, then age an imperial stout in that barrel, and then age the rum in the barrel again. I think the right beer could add an interesting twist to the rum, and the alternating nature of the aging process might create some intriguing tastes.
Our second day in Amsterdam started with a hop-on, hop-off Museum line canal cruise. We rode the canal boat to the Van Gogh museum, enjoying the view and the automated audio guide along the way. Between the hotel and the boat pick-up location we picked up coffee and liege waffles to eat. This was our first encounter with the reluctance Europe has with the eat on the run mentality that’s so prevalent in New York. We saw a shop with a display case of baked goods and figured that’d work, but the waiter seemed like he kept expecting us to sit and relax and kick our feet up. Awkwardly, we departed with our goods.
There are many terrific places to drink beer in Amsterdam, and I was barely there long enough to sample very many of them, but one of the ones that really stood out was Arendsnest. This is a beer ‘bar’ (they’re called cafes in Amsterdam) on a quiet street specializing in Dutch beers. As of this posting Google maps is suggesting it’s closed, but I promise that’s not the case.
Arendsnest has quite a selection of beers written on chalkboards on the walls. It seemed they had a decent bottle selection as well, and some of them looked liked they might be extremely local, sporting simple white paper labels that looked like the product of a small outfit, but alas there was no bottle list.
Now, it would’ve been helpful to have some styles listed next to the beers. I’ve taken for granted how much I know about US beer sometimes, and being able to recognize beers and styles. In Amsterdam I was barely able to pronounce most of the beers on this beer list. I had three.
First I had an Ongelovige Thomas by Jopen. It looks like that means Pagan, or unbeliever. It’s listed as an American Strong Ale and at 10% ABV. It struck me by the way it was listed as a limited release type beer, so I selected it. It was good but not great, a little too strong on that intense alcohol taste for me.
For my second beer I selected an Xtreem Centennial by Bierbrouwerij De Eeem. Much like I did at Brouwerij ‘t IJ I was drawn in by the hops name that I recognized. This one was clearly an IPA. This was probably the best beer I had in Amsterdam, although I’m clearly partial to India Pale Ales. It had just the right amount of spicy bitterness and was a very well executed beer.
Shortly after I ordered that one, the guy next to me asked the bartender for advice and he happened to mention a rye ale. I tend to really like rye beers, so I resolved to get a third beer, and for it to be the Den Dorstige Tijger by Ramses Bier. It’s a cool name for a beer anyway, which translates to the thirsty tiger. Of course, both untappd and ratebeer list it as an IPA, with no mention of rye so I must’ve have misunderstood. I was particularly disappointed by this one anyway, which tasted pretty watery and weak to me with a sort of blah bitterness to it.
So that was Arendsnest, a very cool cafe in Amsterdam specializing in local beers. In retrospect I could’ve chosen a better subset of beers, but I’m still glad to have checked the place out and recommend it for any beer fans heading to The Netherlands.
We arrived in Amsterdam on Friday afternoon, after taking a Red Eye from New York. First impression: Yowzah that’s a lot of bikes!
Amsterdam is a pretty cool city. We started the afternoon after checking in by walking around the place and checking out the canals. It was a little quiet at first, once we walked away from the transit hub at Centraal Station near where we were staying. Friday afternoon is not a place you expect to be bustling with people necessarily, but when you’re used to New York City quiet streets in the middle of the day are odd.
Last time I was in Las Vegas I had a discussion with a friend, and then again with my mother when I returned, about whether or not Las Vegas is a place for everyone. I love Vegas, I think it’s a great thrill all around, and I contend that it really is a place just about anyone can have fun.
Can kids have fun in Las Vegas? Certainly. Obviously the trip is not going to be a gambling one, or a nightlife one, but that’s okay. I think people underestimate how much kids loves looking at big, flashy, grandiose things; think about how much most kids love trucks and skyscrapers and big bird. These large things seem even more massive through the eyes of a child. Depending on who you bring with you, it’s still possible to get in some gambling or other adult activities. Maybe you go with another couple and take turns baby-sitting, or bring the grandparents. Maybe one parent takes the kids to dinner while the other spends a couple of hours at the poker table. There’s plenty of areas to compromise to accomplish everything you want to do while you’re out there.
Translate that to the over-indulgent culture of Las Vegas and you get plenty of sights to see that kids will get a kick out of. The fountains at the Bellagio or the Volcano at the Mirage. The half-size Eiffel Tower or the soon to be built observation wheels. Giant chocolate fountains, amazingly decorated lobbies, expansive buffet tables, flashy neon lights, characters from movies and cartoons on every corner, and pirate shows. That’s all without even mentioning the dozens of kid-friendly shows from Cirque Du Soleil to Penn and Teller.
You can’t forget the day trips either. There are bus trips if you don’t feel like driving, but Las Vegas is within reach of Death Valley, The Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon. All three places are family friendly locations and landmarks worth seeing. They contain historical and cultural value but are also cool places to visit. There are other interesting places as well closer to the strip like Red Rock Canyon, and Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. There are art galleries and museums all over the place.
Kids can certainly have fun in Las Vegas, and Las Vegas has things to offer beyond what it’s typically known for. Don’t let kids keep you from a Vegas vacation if that’s what you have your heart set on. There are plenty of opportunities for a child to have a very memorable vacation there.
Here’s a link I saw about beer ice cream. It’s the perfect summer treat. There are a couple of professional pints, but also some tips to do it yourself. None of the places mentioned are local to New York or New Jersey, but I’m sure someone out there must be mixing beer and ice cream this summer.
I’ve got an ice cream maker, so this is definitely something I’m going to give a try at one point this summer. One thing I do like to do is use beer in milkshakes. Adding a nice rich stout to some ice cream (And some whiskey if you like) makes a delicious treat. The roasted, bitter taste of the beer goes very well with the sweet cream. It’s like an Irish Car Bomb Milk Shake. Adding Bailey’s seems redundant here since it’s basically cream and whiskey, but feel free to add it in if you feel like it’s not a true car bomb without.
Fairway is a grocery store orginating in New York City but recently has expanded to the suburbs. From Wikipedia: “Fairway Market’s stores balance their presentation of everyday must-have staples, signature Fairway brand items, specialty foods and popular consumer brands”. The newest one just opened in Woodland Park, NJ, which is really close to where I work. I noticed they were including a beer, wine and spirits section so naturally I was intrigued. I’ve always been a fan of Fairway, finding they often have fun and interesting things as well as the staples I need. So let’s see how their beer selection holds up.
This is the main aisle. The entire aisle is beer except for the 2-3 sections you can see in the forefront. I’d describe the section is good but not great. You won’t walk away empty handed, but nothing will wow you. You’ve got some of the locals, but not that many, and not the smaller ones. They had a pretty good selection of the belgians, particularly the single bottles. The Chimay’s and the Lindemans were there, as well as most of the other common ones. Nothing rare or unique, but maybe that’s fine for a grocery store.
It’s certainly not a small display. Beer has a pretty good representation and there should be a variety for every beer drinker. That’s probably perfect for a beer selection in a grocery store, a nice selection that everyone will be able to grab a 6-pack of something they want to drink. They have a decent amount of the beer in the fridge for the crowd that is bringing it directly to the party. It’d be nice to see some more local flavor, but for now I’d give this store a solid B rating.