Sunday, August 27, 2006

And the winner is... Me!

Feeling totally retro, I entered the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair in fabulous Gaithersburg Maryland. They had online registration this year (good) so I dutifully filled out all the paperwork in advance and brought it to entry day.

Long lines to register. I was handed number 61. No problem! I thought, I've already registered online and told the number distributer that fact. Number 61 taken away, number 8 handed to me. Ok, now we're getting somewhere!

Wrong. Number 61 came and went. Number 80 came and went and still I sat with my pitiful online 8. A fellow clutching online number 9 started to get angry and I pieced together the situation from the conversation. Apparently online registration is all and good, but there was only one person working the online registrations on entry day. And she was tied up with a scoutmaster who had registered online and was entering pieces for her ENTIRE GIRL SCOUT TROUP. So the entry judge was forced to look up each girl's name individually. Yay Girl Scouts and all that, but after 45 minutes of waiting I was starting to get pissed.

When I did finally get to enter the pieces it took about 30 seconds so online registration is worth it, if you get there when it isn't crowded.

I entered the knitted orange shrugigan and a crocheted blue child's hat. The cat design on the hat is done in tapestry crochet.

First prize! To be clear, first prize in the child's crochet hat category. The shrugigan won third. I received the premium check today, a grand total of $6.50. That almost covers the $7.00 fair entrance fee.

I am totally doing this again next year.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thrift Store Score

Thrift stores are hit-and-miss. They can be a great source for yarn (if you don't mind partial skeins and balls that have lost their band) and needles, especially the old aluminum Susan Bates and Hero variety. Sometimes the store has a dry spell that lasts months.
Other times, JACKPOT!

Believe it or not, my most recent thrift store trip was prompted by a dream. In my dream I was trying to make my way through a sea of people to get to the yarn bin, which was filled with yarn and hooks of every variety.

You know those dreams, where no matter how hard you try you are moving if you are made of molasses, and you can't seem to get to your destination as you watch others paw through the booty. Muuussttt.....reach......yaaaaarrrrrnnnnn......

Then I woke up. I went to the store at lunchtime. Lo and behold, they had set up a brand new box for needlework tools and it was filled- FILLED with needles and rug hook tools. There were also some skeins of yarn on the shelves below.

I cleaned them out. Fourteen pairs of needles including two pair of Crystal Palace and one circular. I left only the rug tools and one pair of bent size 2's. No doubt that pair had been used to hold a project that never quite got done, it's neglected weight sagging lonely until the needles themselves bowed in sadness and shame.

Uh oh. Better check my UFOs.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Science for science sake

“I believe in scientific inquiry for its own sake. I think the history of science gives ample examples that pure investigation has enormous benefit. I can’t tell you what this might be good for, but learning about nature is important. And lovely things turn up.”

--James A. Van Allen (1914-2006), discoverer of the Van Allen radiation belts.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Beer Review: Zwaanendael

In celebration of Lewes Delaware's 375th anniversary (the first town in the first stateTM), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has brewed Zwaanend'ale. This is a limited release beer available primarily in Delaware. DFH describes it as "old Dutch-style Rye Bokbier brewed with honey." I'd describe it as a slightly sweeter version of their belgian-style beer, Raison D'etre. It's wonderful! It has everything Brewgal looks for in a long-drinking beer: slightly sweet, malty, medium golden red in color, low on the hops. We consumed one bottle while on vacation and brought one home for later.

It's Wednesday, and Brewguy and I were out for a swifty. Swifty? It's a term for a quick drink. What were YOU thinking? Imagine my delight when I discovered the Gaithersburg DFH had the Zwaanend'ale on tap! I had previously only seen it in large 750ml bottles in Delaware. Yet there it was, top of the list on the draft brew board. When we inquired, the bartender said they had been sent 15 kegs. Brewguy and I exchanged puzzled glances. This was supposed to be a beer that was only available in Delaware, and then only in bottles. Where had the kegs come from? Had DFH decided to send out the last of the run to the franchise DFH?

It started off well. The color of the beer in the glass was the same golden red, slightly lighter than the Raison. Then the taste. The taste was way off. In contrast to the wonderful beer of my memory, the tap version at DFH had a distinct sour upfront taste, almost as though someone had poured lemon on top. This is a characteristic sign of bacterial infection. Brewguy noticed it as well. We soldiered on, hoping this was just a passing phase. Ugh. The sour taste continued, more pronounced as the beer warmed to room temperature. This is the first beer in a long while I have been unable to finish due to flavor. The bartender deserves kudos for offering us another beer as a replacement and not charging us for the Zwaanend'ale. Well done, sir!

The question is, why? DFH is usually pretty good with quality control. Had the kegs been mishandled in shipment? It has been very hot in DC these last few weeks. Had the beer turned in the barrel prior to kegging? Surely there would have been sampling prior to kegging. More sinister is the possibility that DFH knew the beer was substandard and chose, instead of bottling, to send it to their franchise in Gaithersburg.

My suggestion to DFH: get a bottle and taste the Zwaanend'ale then taste those kegs before you put them on!