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Home Again, Home Again!

Yesterday I realized that, though I discuss transitions at least twice in the first three pages and posts to this blog, I haven’t given enough thought to the word. What “transitions” actually exist. It’s all been about leaving. I haven’t documented transitioning back to home.

I realized this because I was tucking my beer in for the ride home, and I am sure this is totally normal behavior. So I took a picture. Which is also a totally normal thing to do, I’m sure.

Ok, this isn’t actually even normal behavior for me. But that’s only because I rarely buy a mixed case of beer, so I can usually put the six pack I buy in the shade behind the driver’s seat. I bought a mixed case of beer because I am studying and I need to have a good sense of what a lot of different beer styles taste like.

I do want to experiment with yucky beer for the exam, but I want to do that intentionally. And some of these bottles aren’t brown. So, to avoid ruining the beer, I had to keep it shielded from light.

“Aha!” You say, “But what about heat? That’s a black hoodie you tucked it in with!”

Good point! Heat does increase oxidation. But that’s a much slower process.

And I sought out shade at my next destination. And left the windows cracked. It was fairly cool in the shade.

Car in shade.
Slightly open window. Good for air circulation. Not as good as it good be, but that was gonna lead to beer and/or car theft.

My final destination between the beer shop and home was the grocery store. I deliberately chose the store with underground parking. I’m sure you can guess why.

Underground parking garages are kind of boring looking.

That said, the trickiest part of all was getting the beer and the groceries home from the car lot. For this, I use a cart. But, I admit, I was disappointed to discover my cart does NOT hold a case of beer. Of course, since I almost never buy a full case, this need didn’t cross my mind when I purchased it. Luckily, I had a solution.

The beer is, yes, precariously perched upon the top of the full cart. It's a more careful perching than it looks.

I tucked it in again.

A hoodie draped fully over a precariously perched case of beer. Nothing's skunking on MY watch.

And I have no regrets about my choice to do so. That sun was wholly unavoidable.

Sun beating down on a hoodie draped over a precariously perched case of beer.

But, I will admit one thing to you guys. I took all these pictures because I found the whole thing vaguely hysterical. Who tucks their beer in for a drive? Who parks carefully in the shade over beer?

Someone with only three weeks left before their Certified Cicerone® exam, that’s who. I don’t know if I’m ridiculous or reasonable anymore…

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Getting Ready to Go to Target… With a 1-yr-old.

I don’t have kids, so it’s always intriguing to me how much stuff parents regularly have with them. My friend Jen graciously agreed to write me a post explaining what it takes to just get on the road someplace.

Shopping trips are tougher when you’re bringing along a one-year-old. It’s not as simple as “hey, we’re out of shampoo, I’ll zip out to Target and be right back.” Before I can leave, I have to pack. Even though it’s just Target, it’s just 10 minutes away, and the trip will only take an hour.

I can’t leave home without a stocked diaper bag. I’ve heard of some parents shoving a diaper and a ziplock bag with wipes into a purse or pocket and just heading out the door, but I’m not that brave. I’d probably be fine, and I could buy anything I’m missing AT Target, but I like to be prepared. In general, the bag is usually ready to grab and leave with, because I don’t use everything up every time I go out. But getting ready to go involves checking my supplies and restocking if I’m low.

A diaper bag and its contents, spread out for display. Wubanubs, yogurts, books, and more.

Diaper bag necessities:

Diapers, wipes, and changing pad. I probably won’t ever need more than one or two extra diapers, but I always bring four or five. I dread a poop emergency. Most places have a changing table in the bathroom, but I’ve had to change a diaper in the car or in the grass a couple times, so having the pad is helpful. It folds up pretty flat and doesn’t take up much room anyway.

Snacks. Never ever ever leave home without snacks when traveling with a kid. EVER. I keep a bag of Cheerios, Gerber Puffs, and chunks of rice cakes in my diaper bag or purse at all times. A hungry baby is an angry baby. I also keep a squeezy pouch around in case the crunchy snacks aren’t enough to fill him up. The pouches don’t need refrigeration, and they’re reasonably healthy even if most of them are 75% applesauce. I also bring a sippy cup of water. The Munchkin Click-Lock straw cups are the ones we use most often, because they’re more leakproof than most others we’ve tried, and they’re slender enough to fit in a cupholder or a pocket of the diaper bag.

Toys and books. I keep a handful of toys in the diaper bag and I rotate them every now and then so he doesn’t get bored. I try to pick things I can either clip or tie to the shopping cart or that I can easily wash off (ok, let’s be honest here, it’s more often “blow on them and/or wipe them on my shirt”) if he throws them in the parking lot.

Pacifier. We rely heavily on WubbaNubs. We’ve got 4 of them so we won’t get stuck if one goes missing. It’s half pacifier, half comfort critter, and it quiets him quickly if he starts getting cranky.

Change of clothes. There’s a 99% chance I won’t need them, but I’m not comfortable with even a 1% chance of having to drive home with a puke- or poop-covered baby. I also try to bring a burp cloth in case lunch goes wrong.

Once I’m sure all that is ready, I check my own purse for the presence of a wallet and phone. Then make sure kiddo’s got a clean dry diaper to start the trip with, and we’re out to the car. Strap him into the car seat, make sure he has a pacifier and a couple of toys he can throw onto the floor and yell about, and it’s off to Target we go!

Within this stylish diaper bag is an entire trip-to-the-store waiting to happen. It's amazing.

The links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. Click here to read more about that.

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Retrospective: Getting Ready to Move

You guys have already seen some of what it took to get Bill and me ready to move to Portland, Oregon. Then, moving ate my life, leaving me without time and energy to post here. But, it turns out, the photos of the process document it perfectly.

Joy in a Box; a special case of beer

First, pick up some joy in a box.

Kiki is fucking delighted to be in the car. Happy seems to appreciate his little bed.

Keep practicing car riding with the dogs.

Fill a Route 66 flask with geographically appropriate whiskey (Koval Bourbon), then promptly forget to pack it.

Fill a flask with geographically appropriate whiskey, then promptly forget to pack it.

A fortune from a fortune cookie reading,

Find reassurance in the oddest places.

And see the Sears Tower in it. Miss it before I've even left.

Find a moment to look in a rear-view mirror.

This isn't quite all of my co-workers, but it's most of them. They rule.

Go to the last day of work and share the best beers with the best people.

Some delightful black tea. The leaves unfurl beautifully.

Make some tea even though there’s no strainer at work anymore.

Turns out the box didn't fit in the car, even without all the added stuff.

Try to take my boss & very good friend with me.

A few twenties stuck in a silver money clip set with turquiose. One of two things I inherited from him. It seemed appropriate for the journey.

Gather “just in case” cash in the money clip inherited from my grandfather. Then stash it far from the wallet.

A cooler. A  buttload of boxes. A beer in a not-quite-Solo cup. Orange carpeting with white polka dots.

Organize the stuff that’s riding with me & the dogs while drinking a beer that just couldn’t fit in the luggage.

They make shark & whale stickers for car cargo containers. THIS IS AMAZING.

Make sure “The Shark” is actually a shark.

Poor dogs. They're in the car, but have no idea what's coming.

Give Bill one more chance to pet pups before we all leave.

A map to Lincoln, Nebraska from Chicago, IL. This was my guidance; Lincoln was the first stop of the drive.

Get the fuck on the road.

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Not Packing, But Not Not Packing

So, moving day is almost here. And we’re not packing, the movers are packing. This is GREAT. But it’s also a bit overwhelming, honestly. For the last couple of weeks, I couldn’t even wrap my brain around what to do, unless it was really obvious (get the car in for the body work needed due to a company here in Chicago accidentally damaging it, for example).

Sunday, I finally caught my groove. Started getting things together, started being more with it on what I need to do and what Bill and I both will need to do once he’s back for a short time. Like, two days in total before the packing crew arrives.


Piles of boxes and other things that need to be sorted before the 27th of August.

This is a microcosm of everything I need to get done. I have books, gifts, and more to ship to friends and family members. Saturday is likely to be my big shipping day, because hopefully I will have my car back by then. I have things to donate. I have things I have to remember whether they’re designated “donate” or not. I have things to put back in the appropriate boxes (the menorah, dreidels, and candles definitely should find their way back into the “holidays” boxes).

A menorah, three dreidals, and an ice scraper. I'm probably not keeping the scraper.

I have to figure out donations; this ice scraper is likely one of them. I asked on twitter if I was going to need it. The answer seemed to be that I’d need SOMETHING to scrape ice off a windshield, but not something enormous. But I should keep my winter coat in case I decided I want to go play on a glacier. Which, I admit, sounds pretty bad-ass.

Anyway, my biggest conundrum right now is our extra freezer. It needs to stay in Chicago with a household who will love it. And so after I post this, it’s going on Craigslist. I’d hoped some buddies would be interested, but alas. It’s an awesome, big but not huge freezer. Someone will love it.

A very full freezer. It's not nearly so full anymore.

The soon-to-be biggest conundrum will be what to make sure the movers do NOT take, because I’ll need it for the drive or Bill and I will need it before the movers arrive and the unpacking is done. That’s been a hard one for me, because most of it seems pretty much like, “Wellll…. we probably just need clothing, right?”

It helps that Bill’s been living there for a bit already, so we have some sense of what we’ll need to take/send. Like, how did we forget to send him towels? We’ll make sure to pack some of those as he heads back. And I’ll still take your advice on what I should have on the drive. Or will want to drive because I’ll want it right away, but it’ll be too heavy to send with Bill. (I’m thinking our air mattress, for example.)

The other thing I know I’ll need? Books. Very specific books.

I have some studying to do. Kiki needs more training in her life, if only to stimulate her little brain1, and I desperately need to know as much as I possibly can about beer by 15 October 2015.2

1 No one ever tell her we moved to a city where she could have had her own pet ducks, chickens, and goats to herd, okay?

2 If you’re curious, the books are everything I could get my hands on from The Certified Cicerone Program, as well as The Oxford Companion to beer, Love Has No Age Limits and Ruff Love. The last one was a gift from my mom, who says it’s been recommended to her several times. Please note all these links are affiliate links.

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Blogging Highs and Personal Lows

How do I plan to leave the house for one of the coolest blogging-related opportunities I’ve ever had knowing it’d be immediately followed by a trip to the funeral home to pay respects to a friend I just lost?

In my case, the biggest problem was clothing. Maybe it wasn’t really a problem, but it was totally a problem.

The blogging-related opportunity was an invitation to join four other people on a beer-tasting panel for All About Beer Magazine. Tasting beers, and giving my thoughts on it? This is something I could do, and I enjoyed the heck out of yesterday.

A glass of some sort of pale beer on top of All About Beer Magazine's logo.

But I had long ago decided what to wear to the tasting, and I sure as hell didn’t want to wear the same thing to the funeral home. Even if beer adventures were part of the ties I had to my lost friend, I couldn’t bring myself to be that casual. Nor, frankly, that optimistic and joyful as I went to see him off. I considered wearing the funeral garb to the tasting, but not only was that too somber (and hot), I was sure I was going to be distracted if I thought about why I was even a little dressed up. Distraction was going to lead to crying, and crying wasn’t going to lead anywhere good.

The answer ended up being the t-shirt about adventure I’d planned on, a hanger carrying a button-down shirt until it was time to switch, and a camisole to keep it all together.

A folded t-shirt that says

Adventure is out there. And I wish I could share more adventures, beer or otherwise, with my pal. But since he’s gone now, I pay my respects and will remember him fondly with a toast to the joy and sense of adventure he brought to me and others.

Three men in hard hats, holding beers. One in safety goggles. One has since passed away, and the rest of us are pretty devastated.

I hugged two of these men while we paid our respects to the third. We miss him.

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I Need Moving Help, Please.

I’ve mentioned previously that Bill and I are moving. Bill’s already gone. I miss him a lot.

But that’s not the part I need help with. The part I need help with is some fuzzbutts and travel.

Kiki asleep and Happy looking out the window as we drive around. Practicing for the big drive ahead.

They were getting car practice.

So, the good things:

  • I probably don’t have to pack us
  • I don’t have to drive a moving van
  • I’m going to have company for driving the car
  • The fuzzbutts, my company, & I have places to stay for three of the four nights of travel
  • It’ll be over with soon

Bad things:

  • One pup occasionally gets carsick
  • I have nearly no idea how to prepare for this move

Really, it’s that last point pushing me to turn to you guys. It’s been nearly eight years since my last long-distance move, and I wasn’t moving any pets at that time. Further, it wasn’t four nights on the road. Finally, I had all my stuff with me. I’ve never moved without all my stuff with me.

Bill will have already settled into our new home a little. His family out there has said they can loan us a few pots, pans, plates, etc. But it’ll be pretty barren until the truck arrives. And Labor Day is the weekend the truck should arrive, if all goes according to plan. Except it’s Labor Day weekend, so it actually will not.

So, in this one, I turn to you guys. What should I make sure is in the car with me, my company, and the fuzzbutts? I drive a Subaru Impreza hatchback, and I have one of those cargo containers on top. I know I need clothing, toiletries, meds, dog crates, and dog food.

What else do I need to take? Is there anything Bill should be sure to purchase once he gets into our new place?

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Improving My Coffee Kit

Advising folks on how to improve their travel is what this blog is for, but I admit I didn’t expect to have to revise my suggestions so quickly. However, I was gone for four mornings, and our coffee set up failed me every single morning.

This will not do. Being under-caffeinated, particularly after insufficient sleep, is a recipe for disaster. Or, at least for having to go to bed long before the day/night is over.

I solved my problem in stages. First problem was, “I forgot the scoop. Again.” That was easy to solve, because the first hotel room had a tablespoon measure. I know the scoop is two tablespoons, so I measured that into my hand for future reference on how much of a handful that is. (My whole handful, for what that’s worth.)

Second? “Great, I have an immersion heater, but I never can manage to heat enough water for coffee with it in a normal coffee mug.”

Immersion heater in a 16 oz travel mug, hand grinder, Aeropress with ground coffee waiting for water.

Cool. Cool. Things are going well. Until…

Third problem was, “This hotel room doesn’t have any coffee set up of it’s own. I have no spoon or stir stick to break up the coffee raft with.” This I solved with re-purposing the removable handle from the hand grinder into a stirring implement. I felt very proud of myself for this.

Until I finished rinsing the handle back off, when I realized no hotel coffee set up means no mugs, and I’d already found out the hard way my travel mug is too narrow for my Aeropress.


Time's a-wastin'! Coffee's brewing!


Eventually, I solved that one too. Or, rather, Sierra Nevada and Brauhaus Riegele solved that for me.

Yes, I am about to aeropress some coffee into a half-litre beer stein. I WAS DESPERATE.

Thank you, Sierra Nevada & Brauhaus Riegele!

Thank you, Sierra Nevada & Brauhaus Riegele!

However, since I don’t want to have to do this every time I pack:

Packing bubble air in the stein and in the handle thereof. About to be wrapped in a big sweatshirt.

I’m going to start packing this in the future:

A titanium mug from REI. I've owned it 13 or so years now.

I’ve owned this mug for about 13 years now. It’s been on another continent with me. It’s lightweight, and the moveable arms make it easier to pack. I don’t see it on REI’s website these days, but if I had to replace it, I’d probably buy this one. The other collaspable handle one I see there is not coated with anything to reduce heat transfer. This mug, the scoop from the Aeropress (which will both measure and stir well), and the kit I have already built will do me for the most part. I have NOT yet decided if I will always carry a travel mug as well; I’d love your advice or opinions on that.

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Dirty Secrets of a Travel Blogger

Maybe it’s too early in our “blogger-reader” relationship to be this honest, but I hope not. I hope you all will appreciate the truth.

As you all know, Bill and I are moving to Portland, Oregon. You may have also deduced that, like Matthew and Molly of Bub Gourmand, I’m headed to Beer Bloggers Conference. This means I am “getting ready to go” on more levels than I can quite keep track of.

Please, allow me to show you what I’ve packed so far:

An table showing everything I've packed for my trip at 6:45 am tomorrow. Which is to say, an empty table.

Now, let me show you my packing list:

  • Smittytown
  • Moody tongue
  • Earplugs
  • 2 water bottles
  • Snacks

I’d love to tell you this is abnormal. I can’t tell you how much saying such would make me happy. But another thing I can’t do is lie to you.

And that’s my secret. I have all these travel tips, but they come about because I am about the most disorganized traveler in the world. And Bill? He’s not any better. He was, but then I finally adopted his tendency to make lists in Evernote1. That made my packing better.

Faded teal hair being clippered short.

I did, however, do one important thing to get ready for Beer Bloggers Conference. I changed things up. I went from shaggy and faded to trimmed and bright.

Purple, short hair and a big smile!

Now? I’m ready for anything. Including packing and writing you all a post about what that looked like, if you are interested. Please let me know!

Edited 2015-07-16 6:05 am: This is what my table looked like around 6:00 or 7:00 pm last night.

Yes, that table is on a single side.

1 I can’t sing the praises of a premium Evernote account to share notes with friends/partners/colleagues you’re traveling with enough. It makes coordination SO much easier. And, no, this isn’t a paid plug. I don’t even know if they do that. I just love it and want to share the love.

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Moving to Portland, Oregon

Five weeks ago, I wrote the my very first post here. I tried to explain what “Getting Ready to Go” means for this little blog. I talked about walks and guest posts and said, “Were we to move, it would show what preparing for that looks like.”

I admit, when I wrote that, I was thinking about our lease being up in April 2016. Not moving across the country in August 2015. Yet, the move I’ll be writing about for the next two months or so is that second one. Bill, the dogs, and I are moving to Portland, Oregon (PDX).

It’s been seven and a half years since I moved across the country. Last time I did, my goal was to fit everything I owned into a cargo van. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on a truck rental, nor did I have much driving skill. I had to leave my cat in the care of a man who loved her to pieces, my ex-husband Ryan. It was winter, and I was coming here to Chicago.

Kiki loves the car. So much she falls asleep. Happy? He's learning to love it. Thankfully.

Kiki loves the car. So much she falls asleep. Happy? He’s learning to love it. Thankfully.

This move, in most ways, couldn’t be more different. Coming here, I knew exactly what my goal was. Going there, I’m following Bill. I get to keep my beloved pets. The weather’s far better; both for the drive and the living. We’ll have movers.

But there’s ways that it’s the same, and I laugh at how much those are in the getting ready to go. We’ll have movers, but we still want to go through and make sure not to have them haul things we don’t want or need across the country. There’s food to be eaten, given away, shared. Friends to connect with, and more.

And this time, I get to document it and share with you guys. Thanks.

I ran out of onions. Not sure how that happened. But instead of running to the corner store for one, I grabbed some frozen chives for my mirepoix. It's not the same. But it's getting ready to go.

I ran out of onions. Not sure how that happened. But instead of running to the corner store for one, I grabbed some frozen chives for my mirepoix. It’s not the same. But it’s getting ready to go.

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Bub Gourmand Packs for Beer Bloggers Conference!

Note: Two guest posts in a row! That’s because Beer Bloggers Conference is coming up, and I want to gently nudge folks who are attending to think about what they’re bringing. Matthew, one of the two minds behind Bub Gourmand, wrote me a small piece to confirm that even if others don’t know what they’re bringing, Bub Gourmand does!

Head and shoulders shot of Molly and Matthew, respectively.

This will be our second trip to the Beer Bloggers Conference (BBC). It will also mark the first anniversary for our blog. When we started Bub Gourmand a year ago, we were living in the Bay Area of California. When we moved back to Western Massachusetts we truly found the niche we thought Bub Gourmand could serve. We share the things that make this area special.

The Pioneer Valley is a string of small communities each doing their own thing, and these itty-bitty towns are making some of the most exciting stuff around. There’s an informal craft brew potluck at BBC called “The Bottle Share,” where participants get to show off some of the more obscure beers from their local brew-geniuses.

We can’t wait to hear what people think of these:

The People’s Pint
(Greenfield, MA – population: 17,000)
Hope Street Amber

This is Molly’s favorite ESB and I love it too. It’s got a unique character, but still respects the traditions of an English bitter. Our only regret is that we can’t bring The Pint’s kitchen with us, because their grub is as good as their beer.

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
(Somerville, MA – population: 78,000)
Jack D’or

Like the American spin on the traditional ESB above, this is a hybrid saison with a lot of hoppiness that doesn’t lose a molecule of saison’s crisp character and drinkability.

Berkshire Brewing Company
(Deerfield, MA – population: 5,000)
Farmhouse IPA

Unless we can find another bottle of it before we leave, this one we’ll be trying for the first time with everyone else at The Bottle Share. I love Berkshire’s beers most for their signature accents. Like a good hot sauce, you can often tell when you taste something of theirs, no matter what the style.

Left to right: Ginger Libation, Fire Cider, Spencer Trappist Ale, Berkshire Farmhouse IPA, People's Pint Hope Street Amber, and Pretty Things Jack D'Or

Spencer Monastery
(Spencer, MA – population: 11,000)
Trappist Ale

This is the only certified Trappist Ale made in the United States. It’s the real deal: unpasteurized, unfiltered, carbonates naturally in the bottle, and made by bonafide Trappist Monks (no shit). It’s flippin’ delicious.

Artist Beverage Cooperative
(Greenfield, MA – population: 17,000)
Ginger Libation

This is really its own thing, but still technically within the realm of beer. It’s a local favorite that
is catching on nationally. In the last couple years Ginger Libation has made its way to select locations in California, Florida, Missouri, Maine, Rhode Island, and Texas. It’s pinchy, tart, and at 9% it makes instant fans.

Fire Ciderpopulation 44,000)

This is a New England folk remedy that these folks in Pittsfield have bottled for themselves since the nineties and have been selling locally since 2010. It’s not intended for large quantities. It’d be easier to do a shot of moonshine than a full shot of Fire Cider, but it grows on you. A couple tiny sips and your palette will be reset to zero (your sinuses will also be clear and your eyes a little watery).

Other Important things we’re packing:


We’ve already got our Nalgenes lined up and ready for action. We’re even contemplating bringing our SodaStream. The organizers last year provided pitchers of water on the tables, but it was far too little compared with the beers. We want to go the distance without going into kidney failure, so water is important!


Palette cleansers. Last year there was an abundance of great beer, but not even a stray peanut to nosh between sips. We’ll be stocked and ready for this. We’re bringing raw and roasted nuts, dried fruit, every nonperishable counterpoint we can think of for the styles of beer we’re sure to taste.

That’s our Go Bag for BBC!

11 Jan 2017 Note from Natasha: I had forgotten that Matt and Molly had brought beer from Pretty Things Brewing. Unfortunately, Pretty Things has since gone out of business and removed their website, so I’ve edited the link to show an archived page.