Don’t Label Me.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Friends,Homebrew,Links,Pictures,Promotion | Tuesday 6 April 2010 10:00 am

As I stated before, I’m homebrewing beer (and mead… and eventually hard cider, hard lemonade, and perry).  Never being one to do anything halfway (or easy, for that matter — not when I can overdo it!), I went beyond the simple brewing process, containing the precious liquid in recycled clean beer bottles.

I have have five distinct styles of beer bottles, each style to define a single batch of beer in matching vessels.  I have not just cleaned each bottle, but eradicated any and all trace of the original labels and packaging.  I stow them in matching boxes, some with custom-cut dividers to keep the bottles from rattling together.  I keep spares of each bottle style in case I break some, or more likely, never get them back after generously sending beer home with friends.  And, I’m making custom labels for each style of beer.

The name of my brewery is “Ol’ Shambler Brewery”, and all the beers are zombie themed (or in a pinch, generally ‘horror’ themed).  I have purchased labels specifically suited to the task of labeling beer bottles, complete with a die-cut neck label.  I then proceeded to enlist my obnoxiously talented friends to help me create not just a simple beer label, but custom works of art.

Martin Whitmore, whom I’ve pimped here many times, designed and illustrated the labels themselves.  Provided with the oddball name of the brew and a few nudges in the direction I wanted to go, he then proceeded to craft the perfect — and I do mean perfect — concept and illustration.  Marty already knows from zombies as they’re his specialty, but he went beyond simply drawing a zombie and brought life (ha!), character and the perfect amount of humor into the design.

Kim Gall — an award-winning pet portraitist — is a dynamite watercolor artist with just as wicked a sense of humor and style as Marty and I.  She brought the perfect atmosphere and tone to Marty’s illustrations, a nice sense of earthy gloom, and a whole new level of depth and spark.

The frames of the neck and main label were drawn separately from the internal artwork so that we could easily and simply draw a new figure for the center of each and add them in later, along with the text.  I was in charge of stitching all the elements together and working in the text.

As promised, here is the artwork for my first two styles of homebrew.

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Belgian Devil

The Belgian Devil is a Belgian golden ale, reminiscent of Duvel (which is Flemish for “devil”).  The idea was to have a guy in a devil Halloween  costume — something akin to a red hoodie with horns — but I had absolutely no way how to make him discernibly “Belgian”.  Marty pulled that big mustache from I-don’t-know-where, but by Jeebus, it sold the Belgian look.  It caught me off guard, and I choked from laughing.  Shambler, who has become the unofficial figurehead for Ol’ Shambler Brewery, is nobly gazing out from the center of the neck label through his milky, bloodshot eyes.

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Bayou Headsucker

The Bayou Headsucker is a kolsch — a German pale ale  — and has recently been dubbed a “lawnmower” beer, an unofficial name to describe beers that are light and refreshing, yet full bodied, without much hop bitterness, that are great for easy drinking on hot days (i.e. when you’re out mowing the lawn).  It was brewed very specifically to accompany this season’s crawfish boils, and is the perfect accompaniment to hot, spicy seafood.

Again, I didn’t have much of a concept for this label other than it really needed a coonass Cajun on there, and a swampy background.  The zombified crawfish sucking on the ol’ boy’s head so hard that his face inverted is sheer genius.  I also believe that the cypress trees hinted at in the background are an inspired touch, and I can’t imagine the piece would be complete without them.

And here are some “action shots” of the labeled bottles in the wild.

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Belgian DevilOl' Shambler Brewery - Belgian Devil

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Bayou HeadsuckerOl' Shambler Brewery - Bayou Headsucker

I look forward to more collaborative labels with these two.  Who knows, we may have some other guest artists chip in on future labels.  It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

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Stars.

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Links,Pictures | Tuesday 8 December 2009 9:00 am

stars_001

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Two Horrible Things That Go Great Together!

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Wednesday 25 November 2009 2:00 pm

It’s well known that I’m a coffee snob.  We’ve covered this already, and it’s one of my most endearing features (why does everyone tell me that in such a strange tone of voice?).  I very purposefully nursed and encouraged this snobbery from the very beginning, from my “awakening” moment with coffee — thank you GonzO for your enlightenment and wisdom… it’s all your fault.

I came to enjoy coffee late in life, very specifically because I was born in a town that luxuriates in combining perfectly good coffee with funk-ass chicory — a throwback first to it’s French heritage, and secondly to World War II when coffee was scarce and chicory was used to bulk it out or replace it altogether.  Chicory lends a bitter, eye-squinting taste to coffee, masking or completely obliterating many of the essential and desirable flavors standard coffee offers.  As such, coffee and I never saw eye to eye.

The most popular and well known variety of coffee and chicory in NOLA is CDM, aka Café du Monde, and comes in an iconic golden yellow can that can be found in every grocery store in the South, not to mention in NOLA itself.  It’s the blend of coffee and chicory made famous by Café du Monde’s café au lait that is served alongside yummy orders of powder sugar heaped beignets.

Once I grew to appreciate actual coffee — not the bastard hybrid that almost ruined me for life — I also discovered that I couldn’t abide cold coffee, and more specifically iced coffee.  There was something about how the flavor changed, and the way your taste buds were dulled by the cold that made the taste unpalatable to me… for lack of a better explanation, it “cheapens” the flavor.

After moving to Austin, GonzO — my coffee mentor — decided to blow my mind again by introducing me to my own personal contradiction addiction.

Cà phê sữa đá (aka, Café su da).

It’s a Vietnamese style coffee that is brewed using CDM (specifically in the South due to its availability and similarity to the coffee used in Vietnam) in a specially designed metal drip coffee filter (cà phê phin) that drips into a glass containing sweetened condensed milk, stirred then served over ice.

Iced.  CDM.

I know! Dude… I know, I know, I know.  I have a hard time explaining it other than to say that the sweetness of the condensed milk and the bitterness of the coffee work some kind of voodoo when combined with each other over ice to make a blissful little bit of heaven in a glass.  It’s a bold flavored cup of coffee that will make our eyes pop open with an audible snap and keep you moving for hours.  Combine a glass of that with a huge bowl of phở (a Vietnamese beef and noodle soup), and you have the perfect start to a late, lazy weekend day, or the perfect cure for a hangover (whichever it happens to be, and that’s not to say they are mutually exclusive).

No respectable Vietnamese restaurant would exclude cà phê sữa đá from their menu, and it has become one of the core criteria we use to judge a restaurant by here.  Vietnamese has become one of my staple nationalities when dining out — the restaurants are plentiful, inexpensive, and filling without being horrible for you.  The food is fresh and simple, and let’s face it, they have the miracle coffee.

One of the gifts from Sweets’ for my birthday was a pair of cà phê phin filters so I could make cà phê sữa đá at home.  I promptly went out an bought a can each of CDM and sweetened condensed milk.  The process goes like this:

Pour 3 TBS (50 GR) of sweetened condensed milk into a shallow tumbler.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Unscrew the screen from the inside of the filter, add 2 TBS of CDM coffee, and screw the filter back down, tightening moderately.  Place the filter on top of the tumbler.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Fill the filter ¼ full of boiling water and wait 20-30 seconds.  Unscrew the filter screen at least 2 full turns then fill it the rest of the way with the boiled water.  It should take approximately 5 minutes for the water to drip completely through the filter.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Thoroughly stir the coffee into the condensed milk while it is hot, taking care to scrape the sides and bottom of the tumbler clean.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Allow the coffee to enjoy one last moment of life as a hot drink as it contemplates the glass of ice next to it.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Pour the coffee over the ice, mix, and enjoy.  If this is a new drink to you, you may want to be sitting comfortably, keeping clear of anything that could be kicked when you take your first sip, or knocked over when you stand suddenly, shouting “my god, I can see tomorrow!”

Ca Phe Sua Da

And I can rationalize enjoying this under the umbrella of coffee snobbery as there is special equipment involved, and a whole little ritual to be adhered to.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Roman Black Marble Cake.

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Links,Pictures | Tuesday 24 November 2009 8:00 am

roman_003

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Two New Cakes.

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Links,Pictures | Tuesday 10 November 2009 8:00 am

Two new cakes to share.  Also, switching gears with how cake galleries are being hosted — rather than host the images twice (here, and on Curious Confections) — and waste a lot of space, I’m creating new galleries on Curious Confections and linking to there.  Curious Confections’ gallery is ultimately where the cakes need to be showcased.

El Día de los Muertos SkullRainbow Cherry Blossoms

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This Was Halloween… Halloween, Halloween!

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Domestica,Friends,House,Links,Party,Pictures | Monday 9 November 2009 4:02 pm

Halloween 2009 has arrived, then expired. The decorations are once more banished to the attic, and the house has been cleaned — again! — from top to bottom… and oh, what a relief to have the house back in order again!

This year marked the return of the annual Halloween party to my home — the first time since the move to Austin — and I’m thrilled to have been able to host it again. Sweets finds it amusing that we have more containers of Halloween decorations in the attic than we do all the other holidays combined. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, maybe, only a quarter of those containers has stuff that can be put out for generally decorating for the Halloween season.  All the rest is geared toward hosting a kick-ass party. And we added to it this year.

Every space is different, and the house in Austin is no exception. Different lighting needs, different party layout, different decorating styles. We made an investment in some new lighting options for the yard and house, and making the foray into colored CFL bulbs that will last us for years to come (in addition to just having better color output that tinted incandescent bulbs). CFL bulbs also come in true UV blacklight format too, so we can now “light” smaller spaces with individual bulbs rather than big fixtures. I also had need to start replenishing my inventory of heavy-duty extension cords, as they all went glub-glub in NOLA. I believe we created some interesting lighting atmospheres in and around the house.

We resurrected some old party traditions: the bar was a “blacklight” room, and I built a themed entryway for the guests to come through, as well as having heir pictures taken in front of (having your picture taken when you first arrive is your “price of admission”, and also guarantees that we have at least one picture of everyone that is taken while they are “fresh” and in costume).

We laid out a good spread of food, and Sweets went all out on sweet treats and the cake, which was fashioned after the skulls of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It was a delicious butter cake with black raspberry filling.

We had a houseful of costumed revelers, with very few uncostumed (shame-filled) miscreants — whom we love very much, but obviously are numskulls for not bothering to put any effort out, even though they were invited to a party being held for the express purpose of being a goofball in a costume, and their gracious hosts went though a hell of a lot of effort to decorate the house, and to feed and water them lavishly. And no, carrying a plastic bat does not constitute a costume, you slacker (yesI’mlookingatyouGonzoyoubastard *grins*).

Ahem.

What else can be said… it was a party, and parties are what they are. Food, drink, good company, fun.

To see the rest of the pictures, I direct you over the the Halloween 2009 gallery. If you like, you can read Sweets’ telling of the Halloween tale.

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Eeenvites.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,Friends,Party,Pictures | Friday 9 October 2009 8:00 am

We are hosting Halloween this year.  It’s the first Halloween part I’ve thrown since 2004.  I’m very excited.

Sweets and I wanted the invitations to be very special, so we set out to design our own — simple, stylish and attention getting.  A black outer card with an orange inner card, the invitation printed in Gothic script and a jack-o-lantern face hand cut from the facing page.  The invitation was sheathed in a black envelope and sealed with burgundy wax using a Celtic knot-work imprinted stamp.  The invite was then tethered by rough twine fashioned into a noose to a miniature pumpkin inscribed with “A Summoning…”


We also wanted to  arrange a special delivery for our friends in town, so we took one evening after work and drove from house to house.  Sweets would sneak up and deposit the envelope with the pumpkin resting atop it on the doorstep, then we zoomed off.  Once clear of the delivery zone we texted: “You may want to check your doorstep, we saw some shady characters about, just a minute ago!” Only two of our marks were baffled enough to respond with confusion… admittedly, they weren’t home a the time.

The best part, we managed to have 100% success making the deliveries undetected — with he exception of the one person who we didn’t trust leaving the invite on her apartment doorstep, so we hand delivered that one to her at work.

A fine start to the Halloween season, I’d say.

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Yet Another Gardening Update.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Thursday 1 October 2009 11:22 am

So, yeah, apparently I can’t stop talking about my garden.  Suck it up, this is my blog and I’ll talk about my dry elbow skin if I feel the desire to.

I’ve been moisturizing… so there.

Anyway, I had the presence of mind to bring out the camera this morning while the pumpkin blossoms were still open and looking beautiful.  They are the most shocking shade of yellow-gold contrasting against the greens and browns of the surrounding yard, and they are HUGE.

Pumpkin Blossom

Pumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomsPumpkin Vines

Also, our seedlings are doing very well.  The broccoli and Brussels sprouts are growing like weeds.  Meanwhile the tomatoes are filling out nicely and growing more true leaves.  Another few weeks, and they’ll be ready to plant outside.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato SeedlingsBrussels Sprouts SeedlingsBroccoli Seedlings

My constant, obnoxious companion while I work in the yard is the neighbor’s dog — a pitbull mix — named “Noisy Bitch” (ok, more like I named her that, but it has stuck).  From the moment she hears me open the patio door she starts barking incessantly.  I’ve tried making friends with her, to no avail.  She will stop barking as long as I bribe her with homemade treats — which she will happily and gently take from me through the fence — only to have her start yapping again shortly thereafter.

She has had some training as I can, most of the time, get her to sit on command in exchange for treats.  When she does sit, or otherwise obey a command, it’s like I’m using some sort of mind control to forcibly make her obey… the look on her face speaks volumes, as if to say “I’m sitting, but I’m doing so against my will, and I’m getting no pleasure from this humiliation at all… now give me the goddamn treat.”

I have on occasion used negative reinforcement on her when she barks or lunges, such as a quick shot of water from a spray bottle while I said “no” in a stern alpha voice.  Oh, she REALLY doesn’t like that, but she backs off and barks, growls, snarls and looks for all the world like she’s gonna jump the fence and go for my throat.  It got to the point where all I needed to do was show her the bottle and she’d back away noisily.  Now, I’ve abandoned the bottle, and when she won’t obey a command or barks viciously at me, I toss the treats earmarked for her over to Killer (again, our nickname for her), the other neighbor dog that went from barking at us from a distance, to practically hopping the fence to have us pet her.

I don’t think I’ll ever gain her confidence and make peace, but we’ll see.  For now, here’s a picture of that loving, gentle creature known as Noisy Bitch.

Noisy BitchNoisy Bitch

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Gardening Update.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,House,Pictures | Wednesday 30 September 2009 1:01 am

Well, the bell pepper plants which had been threatening to pop open all those flower buds have followed through, and we’ve got some actual peppers growing on them.  As with the jalapenos, the first round of flowers opened up and fell off without pollinating, regardless of all my efforts to diddle them into submission.  Shortly after, though, the flowers actually stated producing fruit.

Bell peppers, unlike the jalapenos which grow through the withered flower (and wear them like a sad little tutu for a while), just pop the flower off and grow from there, looking for all the world like a miniature green little fat dude backing through a tiny round doorway.  I swear, the metaphor doesn’t stop there… as the tiny bell pepper continues to grow and bulge from the crown on the end of the stem, it looks for all the world like a green baby’s butt.  Sadly, I have no pictures of that, but I do have some of the bell peppers looking a bit more bell peppery.  The current batch are all a little larger than my thumb, and growing visibly every day.

Baby Bell PepperBaby Bell PepperBaby Bell Pepper

The jalapenos have gone nuts, and each of our five plants have at least a dozen or more maturing peppers hanging from them.  We decided that we’re going to let them continue maturing until they make it to the red stage, making them a little sweeter. We’ll harvest them then, along with any of the larger green ones, and do what we will with a good sized batch all at once.

Jalapeno PeppersJalapeno Peppers

Last week we had a ton of rain.  In the words of my family matriarch:

Shouldn’t you be blogging about all the rain Austin is getting, rather than about zombies?  If I got more rain for my drought-cursed area in one day than in the past 5 months, I’m sure I’d want to shout about it.

Here I am, mother-of-mine, talking about it.  We had so much rain over the span of three days that the ground stayed happily saturated for a week, the weather dipped into the 60’s during the day (and started to feel all Fall-like), and my previously-thought-to-be-dying pumpkin vines took off and grew like kudzu on amphetamines, and started flowering.

Sadly, I have no pictures of the gorgeous, gigantic, vibrantly yellow-gold-almost-orange flowers in bloom, as they open early in the morning and don’t stay open long, and my brain being deprived of caffeine doesn’t process things like “go get the camera, numskull” very quickly at such an early time of day.  Suffice to say, I do have pictures of the post-coital male flowers, and some that have yet to pop their cork — all taken quite artfully, so as to distinguish it from common garden-variety porn (I made a funny!).

Pumpkin Vines And Flower BudsPumpkin Vines And Flower BudsPumpkin Vines And Flower Buds

Our herbs are doing well… so well in fact that I think we’re about ready to do a second harvest of both types of basil (pictured below on the right) for dehydrating in a week or two.  They’re also contributing to the beautification of our little DeJockamo garden shrine, but I think that next season we’re going to have to move them into larger planters to give them space to continue growing.

DeJockamo's Garden

The last thing we have in the actual garden (rather than in planters all around the yard) are our peanuts… the great peanut experiment of 2009!  We planted four seedlings to see how they’d fare in this environment, and they grew admirably… at least above ground (we’re about to dig them up and see what’s been happening in the soil).  They have done so well, in fact, that they didn’t die off when they were supposed to — which is an indication that they’re ready to dig up.  They just kept on going, producing more flowers and sending more shoots into the soil.  The flowers, by the way, are gorgeous.

Peanut Flower

And finally, a picture of the plant we’ve finally managed to keep alive in Persephone, a wall-mounted planter that has the soil capacity of the average mouse’s bladder, and also lives outside in partial shade and extreme heat condemning any living thing planted into it to a life of Lazarus-like death and revival every few days.  Except for the aloe we planted into it four months back.  It likes drier soil, heat… and apparently being root-bound, as it has not only survived, but thrived in the pot, easily doubling its size since being planted there.

Persephone

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Swashing A Buckle.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Tuesday 29 September 2009 1:01 am

September 19 was International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and in honor of the esteemed occasion, our friends over at Team Dandy threw a party.  The dress was, as you may have guessed, thematic.

Since all of my costuming perished in the flood, I’ve been sorely lacking the last few years — most notably around Ren Faire time.  This seemed like an opportune moment to start building the collection back up, for both Sweets and myself.  We could get good mileage out of the costumes this year, both for the pirate party and for Ren Faire.

Sweets has written an nice account of the costume making adventure HERE.

What I want to add to the overall experience are the following things:

Yes, I sew.  I can sew quite well — granted, I’m inexperienced at making complex things straight out of my head, but I am a masterful operator of a sewing machine and can follow a pattern (that isn’t written by cracked-out retards) with the best.  It’s a skill I acquired as a part of my “figure out how things work, and be creative with what you’ve learned” mentality.  This is a skill you learn quite rapidly when you are a die-hard Halloween/Ren Faire/Special Effects fan, and don’t have the money to buy pre-made stuff.  Additionally, in my case, I am exceptionally picky about the quality of what I buy, and the overwhelming consensus amongst commercial costume manufacturers is that everything must be made cheaply, lightweight, and temporary.  I call bullshit on that, and make my costuming out of heavy, long wearing material that both lasts forever and looks and feels like the era or theme I’m aiming for.

Yes, I’ll still kick your ass for sincerely mocking me for knowing how to sew — because no, sewing has not diminished my masculinity one bit.  *grins*

Enough people asked the following question that it’s worth mentioning: “where did you get that outfit from”, or more specifically “you MADE that?” The Captain’s jacket elicited the most surprise — not so much that it was me that made it, but that the jacket wasn’t professionally manufactured.  I’m flattered, I really am.  I made the shirt, jacket and pants… the sash too, but that’s really just a swag of fabric, as are the wraps around the boots.  All told it took 2 weeks of weekday evenings and one weekend, and the occasional need to share the sewing machine with Sweets.

I’ve swiped pictures from Sweets to show off here, and my only comment is: sofofabitch, I look huge!  I mean, I’m a stout guy, but the loose billowy shirt coupled with my “manly hero poses” makes me look like I need to start jogging the decks during voyages.  I wish I had a few regular poses to salve my wounded ego.

The next foray will be into leather working so I can make pouches, belts, hats and boots.  I’ve purchased quite a number of pouches over the years to go with my Ren Faire costumes, all the while griping about the prices.  Mind you, these were all hand made, and of exceptional quality, but it’s almost cost prohibitive to satisfy my tastes and needs.  I can make these myself, keep the cost down, and build to my specifications.

Maybe for next year.

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