Category Archives: Drinks

Faultline Brewing Company

I’m in Los Altos for the 32nd Annual Arts and Wine Festival this weekend, and got a chance to hang out with my friend Grayson at a brewery that he used to work at (as the brewer’s assistant).

We met in college. Grayson was a senior, living in a house of senior guys. I was a freshman, living in the dorms with my two best friends. Gray and “the Brew” as we so aptly named their house full of boys who brewed beer, basically took care of us the entire  year, and we ended up becoming amazing friends to this day. Gray, have I told you how awesome you are?
We went to Faultline Brewing Company in Sunnyvale.
I ordered a style of beer that I’d never tried before – Best Bitter. I didn’t read the description before I ordered and had no idea it was nitro-pushed until it arrived.
Stupid evil bad camera blurriness.
That’s better! It was so pretty, watching all that gas as it seemed to cascade down the glass, dissolving into crystal clear beer. I have to say, I’ve never been a huge fan of nitro-pushed beers. I’ve found them to be bland and watery when they’re served on nitro, but this was amazing! Beautiful creamy head that lasted the entire glass, smooth body with a slight caramel note on the tongue, and a very mild kick of bittering hops. I have been converted!
Return of the evil, blurry camera. Apparently it didn’t appreciate my selection of food – I got fire roasted veggies tossed in a fresh basil pesto. They came with mashed potatoes, which I requested have tons of garlic and bacon in them. Needless to say, those potatoes were the first to go…
Gray ordered the tri-tip. My camera approved of his selection apparently…
I finished with Faultline’s IPA – very mild on the IBUs (50), but still delicious. I’ve yet to find a hoppy beer that’s too intense for me. Stone’s Ruination didn’t really blow my mind. I actually found Amazon Imperial Red to be more intense. Any suggestions?
Gray, being the genius brewer that he is (and also a Cicerone Certified Beer Server), has been helping me with my studying for the Cicerone Certified Beer Server test. I don’t want to half-ass this thing – If I get a question right because I guessed on a multiple choice, that’s not good enough. This is information I actually ENJOY learning about! Anyway, Gray was incredibly patient last night, teaching me about enzymatic mashes and how they’re needed for converting the long strands of starches into fermentable sugars. He also walked me through decoctions and kegging. Awesome.

Good food, great beer, one amazing friend.
Then I tried my first macaron and almost gagged on the sweetness! I finished it though. I’m not one to waste food.

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Wades Wines New Tasting Room

Since I’ll be gone for my dad’s birthday this weekend, I wanted to make it up to him a little bit early. Wades Wines in Agoura Hills was having a dark beer tasting – his favorite, and since I just happen to like beer myself, it was a win-win situation.
Wades recently underwent a complete overhaul of the store design in order to make room for their incredible new tasting room. They have 32 beer taps and 32 wine taps. We got there early and the bar was packed, but there were plenty of tables open.
Their decor is beautiful! They have old wine-making antiques lining the higher shelves.
Huge aging barrels rest upon the support beams overhead.
There are mirrors behind the bar, making the room feel twice as big.
They offer 4 tasters for just $5!
First was the Sierra Nevada Dark Lager. It was surprisingly light and had a lot of hops on the nose. It ends with a slight bite of hops at the end as well. If you’re looking for a good summer beer but only like dark beers, I’d recommend this baby.
My mom got the Mikkeller Saison – perfect for those who like wine. The aroma is full of tangy citrus and banana, and it goes down easy. I didn’t detect hardly any hop aroma or flavor in this – a great beer for beginners.
Up next was Firestone Velvet Merlin. This was pretty heavy on the coffee aroma, and had a rich, chocolate essence. I wouldn’t call it “velvet” since it’s pretty carbonated. I think I was expecting a smooth nitro-pushed beer. False advertising! I enjoyed this one a little more than the Sierra Nevada – it was a little fuller bodied and richer in flavor.
Iron Fist Velvet Glove. This is a VERY rich, heavy beer. Here’s the velvet I was looking for! The aroma is extremely sweet and boozy. I don’t like super malty, sweet beers as much, but the warmth of the alcohol at the end balances it out.
A fly plummeted directly into the glass – the sign of a sweet beer. I saved its life and it stumbled around the napkin, completely drunk. I enjoyed the extra protein and finished most of the beer, but couldn’t finish thanks to the super maltiness of this beer. My dad appreciated my selfless gesture of donating the leftovers to him. It was his favorite one.
Last was the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. I’ve been wanting to try this one for quite awhile, so I was happy to see it on the list. I am, however, glad that I didn’t buy the entire bottle. There was no cappuccino essence to this at all. I think my palate may have been compromised by the Iron Fist beforehand – if I try this one again, it’ll be all on its own. There wasn’t really anything super memorable about this beer. I liked it, but I tend to like most craft beers…
After the tasting, we were so close to Ladyface, we just couldn’t resist. They just got their new Chaparral Saison on tap (I’d tried it previously straight out of the fermenter at the second meeting of Ladies at Ladyface). De-freakin-licious. It was served at a slightly chilled temperature, with those lovely tangy wild yeast aromas dancing around the rim of the glass. Happy sigh. My dad got the Bruery Cuir Anniversary Ale, which clocks in at 14.5% ABV, hence the teeny glass.
I stuck with my favorite Ladyface ale – the Chesebro IPA.
My mom ordered the mussels in a chili-garlic sauce. I’ve never tried mussels in my life. I’m not a big fan of clams – fried, chowder, none of it.
I tried to keep an open mind…
Yeah, mussels are not for me. The texture freaks me out! I spent the next five minutes shuddering and sipping my hoppy beer trying to drown out the memory.
Luckily I also had grilled caper salmon with fingerling potatoes and asparagus to help as well.
And dessert! Oh, heavens, the desserts! The Chocolate Porter Cake is to die for! I’ve transitioned from the bread pudding to this slice of joy.
The true star of the meal though? The Orange Crème Brûlée , paired perfectly with the Derailleur. Each bite hits your tongue with a smooth, silky hint of sweetness, kissed with slightly tangy orange, topped off with the delicate crunch of burnt sugar. If, no WHEN, you order this, be sure to get the Derailleur with it! It will blow your mind!
I wish every Thursday night could be as delicious. Happy early birthday, dad!!!

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Breckenridge Brewery

Today I got to check out Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge, Colorado, and got a personal tour from the brewmaster himself, Matt Darling. His first words when he saw me: “Chive on!” Awesome. Just plain awesome.
You can tell the brewers by their epic beards. It’s just a fact.

Matt Darling has been homebrewing since he was 15 years old, starting with vodka and wine before moving to beer. He’s been the head brewer at Breckenridge Brewery for five years after working as the assistant to Drake Schmid for three. He considers John Jordan, the brewer at Flying Monkey who is also a microbiologist, his mentor. I had a mini-interview with Matt to follow:

Becki: What was your “gateway” beer that made you really appreciate good craft beer?
Matt: Probably Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. (Very classy “gateway”, Matt!)
Becki: Of all of the beers at Breckenridge, what’s your personal favorite.
Matt: Our ESB (Extra Special Bitter).
Becki: Ooooh, can I try that one? Is it year round?
Matt: No, it’s seasonal. We make it in autumn.
Becki: *Sniffle* *sad face*

So my quotes aren’t quite exact, but all the information in them is! (At least I think it is. Correct me if anything’s wrong, Matt!)
The brewery is located just south of the busy part of Main Street, nestled in between dozens of aspen trees.
When you walk in, you’re greeted by the entire brew system. It’s laid out behind the bar in all its glory. On brew days, you can actually sit at the bar and watch them go through the entire process. You’d be pretty trashed by the end though – on brewing days Matt is there from 9am to 6pm with only his assistant, Jimmy Walker, to help. That mash tun has to be filled twice in order to fill one fermenter. That’s a crapload of brewing!
The entire brewpub is bigger than it appears from the outside. The second floor that’s not filled with fermenters is used for seating, with lovely views of the brewery.
Oh, and the mountains. Those are lovely too…
Excuse the following blurry images – macro in dim lighting. Upstairs they have the specialty grains in the mill room. All the regular grains are located in a silo behind the brewpub.
Once all the ales are fermented, they’re transferred down to the refrigerated basement into gigantic kegs where they’re siphoned up to the brewery until they’re empty. It doesn’t take too long. They brew about four days a week during summer to keep up with demand here. In winter, it’s up to six times a week! Them snowboarders get thirsty!
Delicious Cascade hops! They use pellets instead of whole leaf hops to avoid clogging their brew system.
Back up at the bar I got to try the beer from the “brewer’s handle”. It was a Belgian pale ale with Trappist ale yeast pitched in – beautiful golden color with slightly fruity esters. I was too busy drinking it to get a picture. The beer above is their seasonal brown ale that had been run through the brand new lines in order to allow the hoppy aroma to really come out. They have a barrel that they got from Breckenridge Distillery filled with this brown downstairs, absorbing all the intense bourbon flavors. I wish I could be in town when they open that one!
Here’s the wonderful, big board full of all of their brews, excluding the few fresh seasonals they have out now: Lucky “U” IPA, Oatmeal Stout, 471 Double Hopped IPA and Baldy Mountain Brown (I think that’s what I tried above).
Of course, since it is a brewPUB, I had to try their food! I got the grilled vegetable sandwich – portobello mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheese topped with fresh spinach, piled onto fresh ciabatta bread and covered with pesto sauce. Holy frick, this was amazing. Even better was the beer they suggested I pair with it:
Vanilla Porter. Out of this freakin’ world! Seriously, I can’t fully describe the awesomeness of this beer. There are no aroma hops used in this, so the vanilla and malt smell comes through cleanly. The first sip is slightly sweet with a warm vanilla flavor rounded out with a full mouthfeel and faint touch of hop bite that lingers on your tongue after you swallow. Only 4.7% ABV, but since I just came from sea level, that was enough to make me feel it!
Thanks again to Matt for letting me barge in and giving me all the info! I’ll be back tomorrow to try a few more beers – gotta try them while I can since they don’t distribute to California. *Sniffle* *sad face*

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Beer Tasting: German Pilsner

Just so you know I’m not a beer expert! I’m in the learning process and absorbing as much alcohol…information as I can. Last night I had lots of studying to do – namely tasting two separate German Pilsners and taking notes on the appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel and overall impression. I picked up two bottles from the Total Wine import section and got to work!
First up, EKU Pils. This one didn’t get great reviews on BeerAdvocate (which I didn’t look up until I got home. Whoops…) so I decided to taste the “bad one” first.
Appearance: Pours a straw yellow color. 1 inch of head that dissipates almost immediately.

Smell: Clean, slightly grassy/earthy flavor.

Mouthfeel: Medium-high carbonation. Rolls nicely on the tongue. Zesty.

Overall: This beer is very light, bland and clean with a mild hops bite at the end. I’m not a fan of light beers in general, and this one goes on the list of “never try again”.

Lammsbrau Organic Pilsner
Appearance: Pours a clear straw yellow. 1/2 in head that retains.

Smell: Herby (marijuana/skunk) essence on the nose. (This can be due to the use of hops or lager yeast (good) or attributed to the green bottle which allows UV rays through and makes the beer “light-struck” and therefore skunky (bad)). From what I’ve read, the majority of Pilsners do have a slightly skunky essense that’s desirable for that style.

Taste: Very light sweet malt. After the initial maltiness, there’s a hint of lime.

Mouthfeel: Lively, medium carbonation. Allows for the lime to come through at the end.

Overall: A very pleasant session beer. Light and clean but not underwhelmingly so.

As you can see, my reviews aren’t quite up to “beer expert” standards, but that’s the point of learning!
LEARNING IS GOOD!

After those light beers (I had 1/3 of each), I needed something a little more full bodied to end the night with.
By “a little more” obviously I meant “a beautiful facepunch more”. Uinta Brewing Company Seventeenth Anniversary Barley Wine Ale.

A beautiful facepunch indeed.

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Beer Clean

I’ve been doing lots of studying on the beer front lately. Yesterday, I learned how to tap a keg (no, I never learned how to do that in college. I’m a late bloomer when it comes to beer…) and how to ensure that a glass is “beer clean”.

The term beer clean refers to a glass that is free of oils, dust particles or other impurities that would disturb the look and flavor of the beer. I set out yesterday to find a glass that was not beer clean so I could demonstrate for you.
I did this for YOU.

We went to Andres Wine and Tapas Bar over in Ventura Harbor yesterday to enjoy the gorgeous weather we’ve been having. I ordered a Widmer Hefeweizen with NO lemon or any kind of fruits on top. The citric acid and oils in the peel kill the head retention of the beer and also masks the true aroma and taste. Not the greatest (nor the worst) beer around, but it’s perfectly light and refreshing on a warm day!
In the glass above, you’ll notice that there is a rim of bubbles close to the top of the glass, and not much head for a hefeweizen (a hef should have a fairly thick head that sticks around for a while). When a glass is not beer clean, the bubbles that cling to the sides will show you where any impurities are, and the head will not last as long as it should.
In a beer clean glass, there will be an even ring of lacing down the sides as you drink the beer. Above, there are only a few random spots with any remnants of lacing.
I got another, just to make sure that it wasn’t a random attack of regular dishwashing detergent. It wasn’t. The other glass did the same thing, but you can’t say I didn’t give them a fair shot! Again, I did this for YOU!

To get a beer clean glass, don’t even think about using detergent or regular soap. There are a few steps to ensure that you’ll pour a perfect pint every time.
1. Wash your pint class thoroughly with a sudsless soap and a clean bottle brush.
2. Dunk the glass in a sanitized sink full of cold water, making sure to put the bottom of the glass in first so you don’t get an air bubble in the glass which will prevent it from getting truly clean.
3. In another sink full of water and sanitizer, dunk the glass one more time, putting the bottom of the glass in first to ensure that all areas are being touched by the sanitizer.
4. Dry the glass upside down on a well aerated drying rack.

Seems easy enough, right? Here are some tests you can do to see if you’ve truly made that glass beer clean.
1. The Salt Test – rinse the clean glass in cold water and sprinkle table salt around the inside. Anywhere the salt doesn’t adhere to is not beer clean.
2. The Lacing Test – This is the test I chose. Pour a beer into a glass, drink that beer and see if there is any lingering lacing around the sides. If there’s not an even lacing from top to bottom, the glass is not beer clean.
Salt Test on the left, Lacing Test on the right.

OKAY, enough learning for the day? I’ll finish up my recap.

After my study session at Andres Wine and Tapas bar, we sauntered over to Andria’s for some fried fish ‘n chips!
Nothing like deep fried fish with an ocean breeze on the harbor on a warm summer day!
We also found the time to traumatize my dog. C’mon, how could I not???

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LazyChiveFace

I have no idea how or why, but I was featured on TheChive yesterday amongst their Daily Afternoon Randomness (Check out number 26 to see ME! And ignore all the semi-nude pics surrounding it. Unless you’re into that sort of thing… I ain’t judgin’!). Not sure who put me on that, but THANK YOU! I’m enjoying all the lovely comments and views from fellow beer lovers! NOW onto today’s post!

I was out of town for Fathers’ Day this year. It’s completely impossible to make it live up to last year’s anyway, but I did my best!
We began last night at Lazy Dog Cafe. Yes, it is a chain, but they serve Firestone beer, so I’m willing to let the whole “chain” thing slide on this one.
We also had to take our own Lazy Dog with us. She enjoyed her complimentary water and $3.95 (!!!!) hamburger patty.
I started with the sampler. They had a blonde, American hef (which they served with a lemon slice – destroyed any semblence of head and overpowered the true flavor of the beer) , Bavarian hef, pale ale, red ale, and the seasonal – Somersault from New Belgium. My personal fave was the Bavarian Hefeweizen – a slightly smoky aroma with sweet aftertastes of banana and vanilla. I liked it so much, I ordered a FULL glass!
Yeah, you could definitely say I liked it…
We split the Mediterranean Pizzetti, which is something I get every single time I’m at Lazy Dog. Make me ANY dish with goat cheese and balsamic syrup and I will fall in love with you… It’s just a fact.
The celebration carried through into today. Originally, we were going to gorge on Indian food in Ventura and hit up the local Irish pub, but plans fell to the wayside and we decided to stick with some local eats. First  up: Karma Indian (owned by The Taj Cafe in Ventura) and then…

LADYFACE.

If you didn’t guess that right off the bat, then you just don’t know me…
I tried the firkin of the week: Vitamin C. This is the Chesebro IPA infused with orange peel. Now, I LOVE IPAs, but I think the orange peel took this a little TOO much into the bitter side for me. Ugh, never thought I’d say that.
I told you guys earlier this week that I’d like nothing more than to enjoy a chilly glass of Derailleur on the patio while reading a good book. Which I kind of did… To be fair, we STARTED on the patio, but since I was the generous one who offered to sit in the only sunny spot, we soon moved inside. I’m a big whiner when it comes to skin cancer. My Derailleur was enjoyed in the air conditioning instead.
It’s in print, therefore it’s official: Next month at Ladies at Ladyface: Janelle and my suggestion! Bottle sharing and glassware! Every lady will bring in her favorite bottle of beer, or personal homebrew, along with the glass it’s meant to be served in and we’ll be learning the purpose of specific glass shapes.

Oh yes, and there will be FOOD.
GET PSYCHED!
For now, I have some Twisted Sisters Zinfandel that needs to be enjoyed in this beautiful 75 degree weather.
Happy Makeup Fathers’ Day to my wonderful, youthful and handsome pops!!!

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Happiness is…

Happiness is…
Officially becoming a member of the American Homebrewers Association.

My number is blurred so you don’t steal my beer identity. I take beer identity safety very seriously…

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Ladies at Ladyface: 2

Last night was the second monthly meeting of Ladies at Ladyface: The Fermentables & Comestibles Education & Tippling Society. Our first month was a tasting of their beer selection. Last night, we had a brewery tour.
Of course we had to pick up our beer beforehand! I got a taster of their seasonal release: Derailleur, a biere-de-garde aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels. This beer clocks in at 8% ABV and IBU 28. This is the perfect summer ale – mildly carbonated, slightly sweet with fruity notes of apple and pear from the wine barrels. I can envision myself sipping this on a warm weekday back on the Ladyface patio, re-reading Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto while I wait for her newest novel to go through the cycle of holds at the library before it finally lands in my hands. In fact, I can see myself doing just that this week!
For last night, however, I went with the Ladyface IPA. A lot of their beers were sold out because of the AHA Conference in San Diego last week – quite an acceptable excuse! Quite a few of said beers even placed in the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition! The list of winners can be seen here.
They recently got a huge shipment of grain in preparation for new brews, but there was still plenty of room to gather around. Cyrena even provided kegs as seats!
We started off with an overview of the brewing process, and passed around jars of different malts and hops to smell (and taste in the case of the grains) the differences.
We got a peek inside their mash tun which is just begging to be put to use again. Well, I’m begging them here to put it to use to make my old favorite beer of theirs from last year, Ladyface Weizenbock.
Cyrena also passed around other flavor additions that they use – bitter orange peel, coriander and chamomile.
We also looked at yeast cells. By this point, I had finished my Ladyface IPA and was a quarter of the way into sipping a glass of Port Brewing Anniversary Ale (10% ABV) so please forgive my lack of description of this particular segment…
We got to try a little of their Saison that was still in the fermenter, hence the ridiculously cloudy, yeasty cup. It’s been fermenting for about three weeks now, and will be racking it off in about a week. The essence of banana and light citrus fruits make you feel like you’re back on the farm in Belgium, relaxing after a hard day herding sheep and working the fields. Ahh, the simple life.
After the brewery tour, fellow Lady at Ladyface and beer enthusiast Janelle and I stayed to talk with Brewer Dave and Cyrena, and figured out what to do for the third ever meeting of Ladies at Ladyface: a beer tasting/glassware education and tippling. Everyone will bring in a bottle of their favorite beer, or a personal homebrew, as well as the glass that is traditionally used for that specific style.

It should be a fun, tippled night, just like our previous meetings!

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Green Flash Brewing Co.

I’ve tried one beer from Green Flash Brewing Co. prior to tonight – the Barleywine. I wasn’t a big fan, seeing that I’d never had barleywine before and had no idea what to expect. Since I’m working down in San Diego this weekend, and since the brewery recently moved to a new place mere minutes from my hotel, I decided to check it out.
It was such a gorgeous day out, I decided to walk to the brewery.
The building is HUGE! I walked into this ginormous cavern that was jammed with people and beautiful beer.
They recently made the move to this building, so there are huge tanks and fermenters that are essentially empty. These casks and the fridge are all that contain beer here so far.
They had 15 beers on tap here. I waited in a loooong line, got my ID checked (really? ME?) and ordered four tasters.
San Diego Saison – A REALLY good saison (and I’m a great judge of those, seeing that I’ve only had one before…). It had a very nutmeg-y essence and reminded me of pumpkin ale – no wonder I liked! Le Freak – A Belgian-style IPA. VERY hoppy, but finishes with a sweet malt. It made for a happy Becki. Hop Head Red – This clocks in at only 45 IBU… Not sure why they’d call it Hop Head. Still, not bad, but not what I was hoping for after reading the name. Double Stout – A rich, smooth, toasty stout. I finished with this one which allowed it to come closer to room temperature, and really warmed up the aromatics. Stouts aren’t my favorite, but this one was luscious!
Respect the lacing.
I hung out at the bar and took creeper pictures of people and the tanks behind them.
There’s still a lot of work to be done here, construction-wise, but their beers need for nothing! I can’t believe I’ve never experienced Green Flash before, but I’m so glad I was able to experience it straight from the mothership.
Then I wandered to the strip mall across the street and had Indian fast food. Frightening? Yes, but so worth it.
Dare I say the best chicken tikka masala I’ve ever had? BEST CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA I’VE EVER HAD! This arrived at my table sizzling hot, rich and full of creamy, smoky tomato flavor, tender bites of chicken and a zesty spice that made my nose run. Indian Tandoor – unassuming, kinda nervewracking to order from, and delicious. C’mon, live dangerously! It’s worth the risk.

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Homemade Almond Milk

I’ve been posting and enjoying LOTS of brews lately, so I decided it was time to switch it up.

Recently, my household has switched over from soy milk to almond and coconut milk. After finding three pounds of almonds for sale at Costco for only $9.99 (GEEZ I love that place), I decided that it was time to take the plunge and make my own, guar gum-free almond milk.

I based my recipe off of THIS website, but simplified it times a zillion.
First, I soaked 2 cups of raw almonds in 4 cups of distilled water.
Before…
Eight hours after. They recommend soaking it 4-12 hours. I was planning on doing the bare minimum, but simply forgot that they were sitting there on the counter.
After 4-12 hours, put the entire concoction (I used the water I soaked the almonds in to get as many of the nutrients as possible) into a high-powered blender and blend until creamy.
Like that. Yeah. Afterwards, pour the almond smoothie through a cheesecloth (which I had on hand thanks to my homebrewing hobby) and squeeze the bag until dry.
This is the first run-through. I didn’t plan ahead and realized that taking pictures with gritty almond meal-covered hands wasn’t a smart idea for the health of my camera…
Spread the leftover almond meal on a baking sheet covered with foil and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour until dry, then let cool and store in a glass jar or canister.  You can use this leftover almond meal as flour or crumbly topping to an apple cobbler, or for other brilliant and delicious dishes. I’m planning on a fruit cobbler myself…
Since I used a MUCH smaller amount of water than they recommend, I put half of the strained almond milk into a small jar to use for creamer for coffee in the mornings. With the rest of the almond milk, I re-cheeseclothed (it’s better to strain it twice to get rid of any potential grainy bits) it into a large jar, then filled the rest of the jar with more distilled water to dilute it into more of a “milk” consistency.

It’s not very scientific, or precise, but from what I’ve tasted, it seems to be delicious. I’ll let you know for sure tomorrow, once I’ve poured myself a gigantic mug of coffee using the new creamer!

On a side note, here’s what distracted me from my soaking almonds – While packing up some boxes, I found these:
My expired “licence” that my brother gave to me when I first learned how to ride a bike. It expired 7-8-95. I should probably get that renewed… “Basic and advanced bike maneuvers” are important skills to have nowadays…
My art: 1995. I really don’t think I need any more words for this.

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