Weekly Update: July 2, 2019

This was a busy week(end) for me! I hosted a visit from my dad, made some home improvements, put on two new batches of mead, and explored a bunch of local places.

Building a bridge

My house sits above a small brook, maybe fifteen feet across; on the opposite bank is conservation land, with walking trails. When I first moved here in 2006, there was a bridge across the stream. But that bridge washed out in a storm or was dismantled. It was unclear to me if it was built by the conservation group, or by the previous owners, but for whatever reason, it was not replaced. For years now, if I wanted to go walking on those trails, I had to go the long way around, to a public access point.

So finally, with help from my dad, we rebuilt the bridge this weekend.

Well, to be fair… I didn’t help much with the bridge part. I don’t trust myself with power tools. But while my dad and Matt were sawing wood and drilling holes and chainsawing logs out of the way, I blazed a trail though a dense growth of mountain laurel with just a pair of loppers.

And now I can cross “build a bridge for the stream” off my 101 Goals in 1,000 days list!

What a lovely spot for a bridge! If it weren’t for the mosquitos, I’d hang a hammock down here…

Nashua River Brewer’s Festival

I attended this event, hosted by Beers for Good, on Saturday afternoon. After spending much of the morning working on the bridge and trail, nothing sounded as tempting as some nice cold beer.

The event, as suggested by the “Beers for Good” title, benefits a group of local charities. It’s held in Riverfront Park in Fitchburg, MA, right downtown, and on the banks of the Nashua River — again, as the name implies! Admission was $20 at door, which included a commemorative sampler glass. Each sample was $1.

There were soooo many breweries there, and I sampled soooo many amazing beers — and one kombucha! A few that stood out:

  • Both candy-inspired offerings from River Styx Brewing of Fitchburg: Morpheus, a tart watermelon ale conditioned on Sour Patch Kids, and Thanatos, an Imperial stout conditioned on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Pieces.
  • PULP DADDY from Greater Good Imperial Brewing Company of Worcester, MA. I asked them what they had that wasn’t an IPA, and they said, “Well, nothing, but try this.” It did not disappoint! It was kind of like a hoppy orange juice.
  • Lawn Games, a tart wheat (we tried the blueberry lemon variety), and Unplugged, a cream ale, from As Built Brewing of Franklin, MA. Also they were giving out branded sunglasses, which was perfect schwag for a hot summer day!
  • The New City Mule from New City Brewing of Easthampton, MA, a hard ginger beer with a kick of lime.
  • An apricot-mango kombucha from KrafTea Kombucha of Worcester, MA. This was my first time sampling the fermented tea beverage, and I didn’t realize that it can be mildly alcoholic (about 2% ABV).

There were also food trucks at the festival, and I sampled esquites (a Mexican corn salad) from Zapata Mexican Cocina. More about that place later!

We left happy and comfortably full of alcohol! The sample glass didn’t hold all that much, but after ten or twelve of them, I was a little tipsy…

“Should you drink Element beer?” flowchart, from one of the breweries at the festival.

Livin’ La Vida Local

This weekend also gave me the opportunity to try out a bunch of local establishments in Lunenburg and Fitchburg, both individually and at the farmer’s market. Even though I’ve lived in this town for thirteen years (!), I just now am beginning to feel like part of the community.

Lunenburg Farmer’s Market

This was, for example, my first time visiting the Lunenburg Farmers’ Market. It was also opening weekend for the year, but it still had about twenty vendors, live music, and, most importantly, ALPACAS.

Some of the vendors I visited:

  • Shagbark Farm, whose owner, Tom, was kind enough to talk with me for a while about the hickory syrup he sells. Apparently it’s a sort of sweetened “tea” made from hickory bark. Our town is rich with shagbark hickory trees, hence the product and the name of the farm. We ended up buying some Pineapple-Habanero syrup.
  • Cherry Hill Farm, which has just recently gotten USDA clearance to sell their meats. We bought a few pounds of short ribs, which we’ll be enjoying tonight after marinating them in the syrup I mentioned above…
  • Wild Brook Apiaries, with hives all over the area! We bought some dark honey from them (primarily goldenrod), which I plan to use for my next batch of mead.
  • In the Meadow Farm, owners of the previously-mentioned alpacas. They raise alpacas primarily for their fleece, which is spun into yarn. (Adorably, each of their natural yarn colorways is named after the alpaca it came from, like “Phantom” and “Benjamin Buttons”). They’re also big into education, and host a monthly “yoga with the alpacas”, which I hope to get to one of these weekends!

While I did not take home any yarn — like any knitter, I already have too much — I did buy an “alpaca to go.” This was a tiny Chinese food box containing a tiny plush alpaca, an alpaca coloring page, an alpaca information sheet, and a little metal bucket.

A tiny alpaca and its al-packaging. I have already decided his name is Muchacho.

Restaurants and Cafés

Since my dad was visiting, and he needs to eat, I took it as an opportunity to visit local establishments I hadn’t been to before.

We had dinner on Friday night at Bad Larry’s, a new-ish bar and grill in the center of Lunenburg. I asked what the source of the name was, and told it came from the expression “a bad larry”, which I’d never actually heard. I found the food to be decent and reasonably priced, but nothing particularly special.

Saturday night we dined at the aforementioned Zapata Mexican Cocina, on Lunenburg Street in Fitchburg. While I am still very loyal to my favorite local Mexican restaurant, Mezcal, I liked how light and fresh the dishes here were — lots more vegetables and less cheese.

While we were at the farmers’ market we stopped at the Dragonfly Garden Cafe, a cafe in the center of Lunenburg that’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays. (They do events and catering during the week). The prices are very reasonable, and it’s a nice, cozy place to hang out, so I can see replacing weekend trips to Panera with visiting this place.

Also they do tea parties, too! Next time my birthday rolls around, I think I may celebrate it with tea and alpacas…

Watching

I also had the opportunity this weekend to watch two new Amazon original series — the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book Good Omens, and another series called Hanna.

Good Omens was fabulous, as I expected it to be. To be fair, I read the book so long ago that most of what I remember is the jokes, like the M25 being a giant summoning circle, or the description of Aziraphale as “gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide.” Given that, I really had no remembrances of the book to judge from. But if nothing else, David Tennant is delightful to look at as Crowley, and I loved how they used the music of Queen to complement the story.

I didn’t much care for Hanna; it was kind of generic action-y with characters who I didn’t much care about. (Mostly I was watching it because my dad was interested). Plus they did that thing I hate where they made (one of the) villain(s) a baby-crazy woman, because we all know that not having children makes women coo-coo bananas, amirite.

Reading

I finished reading Walden for a second time. As I wrote on Twitter:

So, uh, that should hold me for another fifteen years or so.

I also read Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism, which I liked. He expands on the theories about social media that he first noted in Deep Work, and offers some solid strategies for mediating our relationship with new technology. I think I may devote August to doing a “digital declutter”, since I’ll be traveling anyway.

I’m currently reading the second book of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, Behemoth. Istanbul at the dawn of WWI is a super fascinating setting, and I’m really enjoying that aspect of it. I’m not sure I enjoy the fact that so much of Alek’s plot is driven by him making poor life choices.

(And omg, they named the loris “Bovril.” I’m glad I had the same reaction to that name as Deryn did: “isn’t that some kind of beef tea?”)

Alan Cumming is really amazing as a narrator for this, because he does every accent, and each one is unique and perfect. Like, he has to switch between Austrian, German, British, Scottish, Turkish, Armenian, and a bunch of other accents, plus he has to represent “genetically modified creatures that can imitate human voices.” Plus there’s that whole “one of the viewpoint characters is a girl pretending to be a boy, who occasionally loses control of the pitch of her voice” thing, which I imagine is an extra challenge. But he is just flawless throughout.

Mead!

As some of you know, I’ve been experimenting with making mead recently, using the recipes for quick meads from The Elder Scrolls Cookbook.

The first two batches of mead I made were Honningbrew Mead and Black-Briar Mead, and they were both successes! I liked the Honningbrew, with its notes of ginger and lavender, the best, but I left the Black-Briar with Alison after our “Skyrim dinner.” (It was good, but a little too cinnamon-y for my tastes).

Early last week I put on two new batches, from the two remaining mead recipes in the cookbook — Nord Mead, flavored with cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and orange zest, and Juniper Berry Mead, with yarrow, hibiscus, and (of course) juniper berries.

I’m excited to see how these turn out; I’ll be decanting them for the two July 4th parties I have this weekend!

Nord Mead on the left; Juniper Berry Mead on the right.

After that… who knows? I might have to go deeper down the mead rabbit hole.

Speaking of which…

Here’s a random bunny I saw this week.

Have a great 4th of July holiday, if you celebrate! I intend to eat lots of strawberries, hot dogs, and potato salad.

Author: Lise

Hi, I'm Lise Fracalossi, a web developer and writer. I live in Central Massachusetts with my husband, three Maine coon cats, and a collection of ridiculous hats.

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