So this priest walks into a hardware store…

So as you may recall my wife and I have gotten really into bourbon.  On our tour of the Bourbon Trail we tasted a lot of different bourbons and ryes and we saw a lot of different bottles.  The coolest bottle by far was from Willett.  Their flagship bourbon comes in a bottle shaped like their still.

My lovely wife and I at Willett

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But what do you do with that very cool bottle once it’s empty?  Turns out they can be made into lamps.  While I’m not a very crafty person I figured it was worth a try.

So here’s how it’s done.

I started with a trip to the local hardware store,  You can get a basic lamp kit most anywhere but I did have to order the bit for drilling the glass.  Once that arrived I assembled all the parts and got to work.

Drilling a hole in the bottom of the bottle seemed tricky.  I practiced on an empty Four Roses bottle just to get the hang of it.  Turns out it’s fairly time consuming.  You have to constantly drip water where you’re drilling to keep things running smoothly.  But eventually the bit went through and the bottle was intact.

This meant it was time to try the Willett bottle.  The long, narrow neck made keeping things steady and level somewhat challenging but just ten minutes later it was all done.

Next came wiring the lamp.  I had spent some time trying to figure out what to do with the wire that would run up the middle of the lamp.  While a nice cloth covered cord wasn’t too unattractive if left exposed I really wanted something nicer.

Here’s a bare bones one I found online. Note the exposed cord- definitely not the effect I wanted!

Thankfully, there’s a whole lot of these lamps on Etsy and Pinterest.   After scrolling through the options I finally found a solution.  I could run the wire inside a slender copper pipe.

So, after drilling through the stopper I threaded the pipe and then the wire.  Wiring up the socket is very straight forward.  Once everything was made snug came the moment of truth.  Sure enough it lit up right away.

With lamp assembled and working, all I had to find a shade.  This was no simple matter.  After a lot of searching  I settled on a smaller shade made of copper colored silk.  A final tweak had to be made because the 10 inch harp that came with the kit was too tall .  One last quick trip to the hardware store and I had an 8 inch harp that worked perfectly.

While it took more than a month to go from the impetus to the final product, all in all it wasn’t that much work.  So next time the crafty urge strikes me I might just find myself walking into a hardware store again.

Show me the way to the next whiskey bar (or not)

 

Well, here we are, one week into Lent.  For the past several years my Lenten fast has been alcohol related. I have alternatively abstained from beer and from alcohol altogether.  As I considered my options I started taking stock of my life.  What habits were starting to trouble me?  What might God be calling me to change?

The answer didn’t take long.  Whiskey (usually bourbon or rye) had become a nightly ritual.  Just a few years ago it was a very occasional indulgence.  Beer was my undisputed drink of choice.  But since our trip down the Bourbon Trail in 2015 that after-dinner whiskey cemented its place in my nightly routine.

Unfortunately, along with that habit came a gradual increase in my consumption of alcohol. Especially when the whiskey isn’t getting measured out by the bartender it became all too easy to pour a double. Add high-proof varieties into the mix (one of my favorites, Old Weller Antique clocks in at 107 proof on up into barrel-strength whiskeys which tip the scales in the 130’s), and suddenly that “one” glass has the alcohol equivalent of one and half all the way up to three regular 80 proof drinks.

Just to keep things simple, I extended the fast to include all hard liquor, otherwise I’d be tempted to start substituting G&T’s or Armagnac which would defeat the whole purpose.

One week into Lent, I pleased to report that I’m doing OK. It’s been interesting to notice that when I am heading into the living room after cleaning up from dinner, my eyes are drawn inexorably upwards towards the liquor cabinet. While I miss it, the absence of whiskey isn’t causing me any existential crisis. And, as I hoped, it has cut down on my alcohol consumption. While I might choose to have a nice quad or Imperial Stout after dinner, I am certainly not temped to go back for seconds.

Of course I still have five more weeks to go and a lot can happen in that time. But I’m not losing any sleep over it. What will be really interesting is how I re-integrate whiskey back into my life once Christ is Risen. But for now, that’s a question for another day and another post.

What about you?  Do you fast for Lent?  If so, what do you give up?  Have you ever fasted from alcohol?  How did it go for you?

“Where have you been?”

downloadI stopped by my local beer distributor and those were the first words out of their mouth. “Where have you been?”  After thinking about it for a moment I realized he was right.  I hadn’t dropped by more than once the whole summer.  Of course some of the time I had been away, but the real reason for my absence was that this summer I fell in love with bourbon.

It started out innocently enough.  About five years ago my aunt brought us a bottle of Blanton’s and we were immediately smitten.  This will come as no surprise to most bourbon drinkers since Blanton’s is pretty high up the food chain selling for $60 or more.  To put it in beer terms it’s kind of like starting out with a St Bernardus 12.  Of course we didn’t know any of that at the time.. we just knew we liked it.

In time we started to try other, less pricy bottles like Four Roses and Jefferson’s.  It wasn’t long until you could find a bottle bourbon in our cabinet all the time.   In time rye joined the party as well.

IMAG00177By 2014 that gift of a single bottle had ballooned into a regular part of our routine.  But beer was still far and away my go to beverage.  All that changed this August.  In the course of a single week bourbon managed to eclipse beer as my evening libation.

So what lead to such a radical conversion?  The answer was an amazing six day trip to Kentucky.   With some expert guidance from the great Lew Bryson, my wonderful wife managed to map out a way for us to hit 11 distilleries in 5 days plus squeeze in a trip to Mammoth Cave to boot.  I’ll go into more details about where we went and what we learned in a future post.

But this brings me to perhaps the most ineffable, yet also most important, reason why that week altered my preferences in a way I would have never thought possible… namely that the love of bourbon is something my wife and I now share.  Don’t get me wrong- she likes beer just fine.  But in over 25 years together she has never, and I mean never, showed the kind of enthusiasm for discussing and analyzing beer that she does for bourbon and rye.

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Said lovely wife dipping her finger into a fermentation vessel at Buffalo Trace

That added value is what finally toppled beer from its long held zenith.  That few minutes of discussion about which of the now many different bottles we’d like to share that night or the enjoyment of trying something new together… well it really enhances the experience and makes an already delicious beverage all the more enjoyable.

I confess that I am still getting used to this new order of things.  At times when I go to the liquor cabinet for a night cap, it feels like I am cheating on my poor beer fridge out in the garage.  And who knows?  In time beer might just climb its way back to the top.  But for now both my beer fridge and my local distributor will have to get used to seeing less of me.

Whoah oh. We’re halfway there!

halfway-218 fast days left and counting.  That’s more than halfway through my forty day long fast.  I suppose that actually counting the days could be construed as a sign of desperation.  It’s true that at times (like last Wednesday night when my computer completely crashed requiring a full system restore) I have really had to struggle not to go and pour a double bourbon.  Or this past Saturday, at a wonderful Irish Dinner and Concert at church, I really wanted to celebrate a great night by cracking one open and drinking with the parishioners who worked so hard to make it possible.

Of course these are not the only occasions when I have faced temptation.  I have even once or twice really found myself thinking “Well what’s the big deal? You could break the fast and have a beer or two and no one would have to be the wiser.”  I have even thought that if I stumbled it would make for something more colorful to write about.  But I knew as soon as I thought it that this was a pretty desperate and pathetic justification to reach for.  And so I have held on.  I have walked away from the beer fridge or the liquor cabinet and I have made it through.

I realize that there is still a while to go.  But I am gaining confidence and it is getting easier.  More often than not I get through the night without even thinking about grabbing a beer.  It’s been interesting, that’s for sure.  I’ve had to find alternative beverages besides water- seltzer or tonic with lime seems to be my new drink of choice.  Beyond that, I am still processing my experience to see what more meaningful insights this forty days in the desert of temperance may yield.

But for me the good news is that the end is definitely in sight.  In less than three weeks it will all be over and I will be able to have a drink whenever I like once again.  No doubt that reentry period will pose challenges of its own, but I’ll deal with that in April.  Until then, I find hope in knowing that I am more than halfway there.