Freshening up…

As I go about my day-to-day life, I’m often asked “How’s the book coming?” Since my last post on this book blog was almost 18 months ago, it is a fair question. I continue to research and write most every morning (striving to get up by 5am, so I can write for a couple of hours before work) , and progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction that would make an estimated completion date predictable.

My knitting/beer book project hit a speed bump in the last couple of years when my body started complaining when I drank beer or wine too regularly…typically in the form of aggravated Rosacea symptoms, increased challenges with dry eyes, and excessive nighttime thirst. I do better when I limit my consumption to once or twice a week at the most. And yet, when I talk to people about my book project, it’s natural to want to do so while sharing a pint.

As I began looking at what would be needed to promote my book once it was finally finished, I determined it would be really hard to talk about and promote my book without a glass of beer in hand. And so, a quandary. Ignore my body for the sake of the book, or adjust the book for the sake of my body. Since my body and I are stuck with each other for a good while longer (hopefully!), I decided to opt for the latter course of action and have adjusted the focus of the book.

By keeping beer in the picture, but also adding the subjects of medicine and bare feet, it calms the beer-focus and hopefully will allow me to promote the book without feeling compelled to drink more than my body cares for. The medicine angle will be a discussion of things that aide and promote wellness and healing, which mostly rules out pharmaceuticals. The bare feet focus will introduce readers to the rebel act of kicking off one’s shoes, and the health benefits of doing so.

Another factor that slowed my progress was the health decline and eventual passing of our family dog, Booboo. He died in June 2013, just a couple months shy of his 15th birthday. That experience impacted my life far more than I had ever expected it to, in both good ways and challenging ones. It sparked an idea for a second book project…currently titled, “Lessons From Booboo About Life & Death.”

A third topic that has been bubbling up on my priority list is the need for schooling to be non-compulsory. Radical idea, I know, and yet quite important. I’m planning to dabble in that subject here and there, and hopefully get some writing done for that as well.

So…with renewed focus on my original book and two more book ideas that are demanding some attention, I decided it was time to refresh my web presence. I’ve established a website……that has links to my book project blogs. As I get some writing done on one of the three topics, I will post some or all of it on the relevant blog. I would thoroughly appreciate any and all feedback…what you like, what you don’t like, what interests you, what doesn’t, and so on.

I have my website mostly up and running, although there are a few pages that just have the comment “Coming Soon…” My first priority will be to get those webpages completed, and then I’ll get back to the book projects themselves. Progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction originally envisioned. And yet, isn’t that the way life tends to work?

-Jenne Hiigel


Working Through A Quandary…

What’s a person to do when her current book project benefits from the regular consumption of beer, for research and inspiration, and her health condition is greatly improved by avoiding alcohol altogether? Hmmm…

I’ve had Rosacea for years and have learned to just accept my bright red face as an unavoidable side effect of my enjoyment of beer and wine. For those of you unfamiliar with Rosacea, the red face is not related to the amount of alcohol consumed. Some red wines will turn my face red after ONE SIP.

In December, however, my Rosacea developed into Blepharitis (a form of Ocular Rosacea) where the constant inflammation of the facial skin starts to affect the eyes. The dry-eye symptoms became difficult to just shrug off. It was clearly time to take my Rosacea more seriously and work towards improving my condition, rather than just managing my symptoms.

I have a great¬† appreciation for my eyesight and would prefer to not have it deteriorate… at least no more than age is already doing. I decided it was time to see a doctor to get a professional diagnosis and opinion. The ophthalmologist confirmed my Rosacea/Blepharitis diagnosis and offered me an ongoing prescription for tetracycline to help manage my eye symptoms.

Enduring the side effects of life-long antibiotic use for the sake of symptom relief just didn’t sit right with me, so I thanked him for the diagnosis and declined his prescription offer. I then went home and dove deeper into my research for alternative treatments to reduce my symptoms, rather than just mask them.

I’m now working at this issue from several angles including diet changes, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, herbal supplements, digestive aids, healing skin-care products, organ cleansing, and…¬† alcohol avoidance! Argh!!

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on my mood at the time), the alcohol avoidance is helping to improve my condition. I’ve limited my beer consumption to Beer & Knitting Classes (once a month) and Beer & Knitting Nights (approx every six weeks). It is my hope that as my Rosacea improves, I’ll eventually be able to enjoy a beer more frequently than once or twice a month.

On the plus side, the one beer that seems to aggravate my Rosacea the least is my current favorite… Firestone’s Union Jack. I’m not sure why this is, but since Union Jack has a massive hop content and hops aid digestion and Rosacea is related to digestive problems, then maybe that connection has something to do with it. Whatever the reason, I send thanks to Matt Brynildson for creating such an awesome beer!

My health is very important to me, but so is this book project. I will continue to work towards making progress in both areas.

-Jenne Hiigel

Porter #2 is Tasting Darn Good…

Sorry about my being such a blog slacker, but I’ve been a bit busy celebrating my 50th birthday and learning about Traditional Chinese Medicine so I can start enhancing my Qi (vital energy) before menopause kicks in. In spite of all this, I have not neglected my homebrewing – I’ve just neglected writing about it.

To catch up, Porter #2 is an extract/grain clone recipe of Fuller’s London Porter. I brewed this batch on April 27th, transferred it to the secondary fermentor on Mother’s Day (not a bad Mother’s Day activity!), and bottled the beer yesterday (May 25th).

Before adding the priming sugar my hubby and I tasted the beer. Wow! It was really good. I even refilled my glass. This is a beer I will enjoy drinking! I’m already planning to brew a second batch of the same recipe, because I know that this batch won’t last very long once it’s done. The flavors were clean and the malt and hops came through very nicely. This is going to be a darn good Porter.

Now I’m in a quandary. I hesitated to give out my first beer because I didn’t want to impose my weak brewing skills on others. If I was going to share my beer, I wanted it to be worth drinking. Now that I clearly have a good beer, I have this strange impulse to horde it! I’m starting to feel stingy with this beer and it’s not even finished yet. What’s going on here?

I didn’t care for my first batch of Porter. I was able to identify a few positive qualities in it, but had no desire to drink much more than a partial bottle. Fortunately I found a few people who loved my beer, so was able to be generous with it so it didn’t go to waste. There was something in the aroma that I didn’t care for and I concluded that it was from the dry yeast I used.

While looking for advice to improve my beer, my brother-in-law told me to use liquid yeast and change the recipe. What a difference those two suggestions made! The aroma and flavor have improved tremendously with the liquid yeast, and the hop and malt balances in this new recipe are much better than the previous batch.

Two weeks of bottle conditioning and “Jenne’s London Porter” should be ready for a taste test. I’m actually excited this time and will look forward to cracking open my first bottle of Porter #2.

-Jenne Hiigel