Olan Suddeth

Dad. Computer geek.
Homebrewer. Disney nut.
Would-be crafty guy.

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HomeBrew Dad

a blog about making all sorts of things while raising a large family

Gaining Fulfillment from Learning Irish

I was always a fairly academically minded young man; I enjoyed learning, enjoyed reading about new concepts, new ideas. It comes as no surpise, then, that school itself is something that I likewise enjoyed. Once upon a time, I assumed that I would one day hold a Doctorate (or at least a Master's). I figured that I would get my degree, then after working for a while, I would perhaps start working on post graduate stuff.

I'm sure that you are shocked to discover that a guy who has worked two jobs while raising nine kids over the past twenty plus years has not, in fact, found the time (let alone the money) to pursue any further education.

2019 was not a great year for me on a personal level. I don't think it extended to a full midlife crisis, but I did deal with feelings of failure due to not reaching various goals, of feeling listless, of being stuck in neutral. It seems like most of my effort is devoted to surviving as opposed to achieving, and that is not the most fulfilling take on things.

Please don't get the impression that I am ungrateful. I have an amazing, talented, loving wife. I have been blessed with a large family full of remarkable children. My wife and youngest child could have both died in 2019, or Kalani could be like some that were born around the same time - we know several families whose children have yet to leave the hospital, many of which will never be fully normal. We have the necessities. We have big birthdays, Christmas is wonderful. We got to take a relaxing, fun trip to the beach last fall. I have a good life.

But I do miss challenging myself, broadening my mind, learning new things.

Today's post is for to tell you that for the past week, I have been scratching...

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Tags for this post: Hobbies

A Preemie Baby at Christmas Time

Gideon, age two
Gideon, ready to open birthday presents.

This past weekend, my little man, Gideon, turned two years old. Those of you who know me personally may recall what a trying time his birth was; for those who don't (or don't know the details), I'll share it here.

My wife had undergone a very difficult pregnancy with liver issues, a tremendous amount of abdominal pain (she literally could not sleep in the bed for the last several months of the pregnancy), and an absolutely traumatic birth experience. Donna's regular doctor had been hospitalized with his own health issues, and was sidelined for several months. She had been passed from doctor to doctor, as they basically just worked her original doctor's appointments in; as a result, the standard of care that we had been accustomed to was just not there. I suspect that they didn't know how tough she was, how little she complained in a typical pregnancy... they just saw "pregnant lady is uncomfortable" and went on.

One doctor did end up listening. She ran all sorts of tests, and while nothing proved definitively wrong, she just had a bad feeling about all of the issues, and kept Donna overnight for observation on a pretty flimsy justification of "blood pressure monitoring", with the plan to deliver the baby early for the sake of the health of both mother and baby. I had intended to stay the night, but Donna...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

The HomeBrew Dad 2019 Gift Guide for Dads

The HomeBrew Dad Gift Guide for Dads

Folks, it's that time of year again. Black Friday is this week, which means that the Christmas shopping season is about to jump into full swing with Christmas only a month away. In response, I've decided to do a few Christmas gift guides, featuring products that I have personal experience with and can heartily recommend.

This first gift guide is for dear old Dad.

Let's face it - gifts for dads can be pretty tough to come by. If Dad needs something, he probably already has it. You'd probably like to buy him something that he will really enjoy and use - and let's be real, a tie or pack of socks or tee shirts or whatever only check one of those boxes (at best). Lucky for you, I so happen to be a dad myself, and can suggest some items that ought to check both boxes - and most of them are VERY affordable.

Trust me when I tell you this - Dad almost certainly isn't valuing your gift based off of what you paid for it. He's valuing a gift based on the thought you put into it, and how useful the gift actually is.

Without further ado, let's get to the list.


Price: $8
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Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Review: Johnsons Curl Defining Shampoo and Conditioner

I have a true curly girly in my house - Wynter's hair falls down in waterfalls of ringlets. Donna has had to educate me that no, shampoo is not just shampoo; certain hair types require different sorts of hair care products than do others. Who knew that shampoo came in different types besides "normal" and "dandruff control"?

After trying different products, we had settled on the Fairy Tales line of products, as they did pretty well. Wynter has always had issues with flyaways and tangles, but these products had been the best we had tried. Yes, the company was proud of them, price wise, but they were worth it.

A couple of months ago, Johnsons launched a new line of hair care products for kids, including their Curl-Defining Shampoo and Conditioner - both touted to be tear free. Donna wanted me to pick some up to try, so off I went on a hunt.

Johnsons Curl Defining Shampoo Johnsons Curl Defining Conditioner
Shampoo and conditioner. Click the images for Amazon listings.

I discovered that the shampoo wasn't too difficult to source locally, but few stores carried the conditioner - and those that did could not seem to keep it in stock. I finally gave up and ordered it off of Amazon (where is was back ordered for a...

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Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Make Your Own Incredible Vanilla Extract

For some reason, I am feeling particularly festive this year. I'm itching to get our tree up, to listen to Christmas music, to get into the holidays properly. Donna suggested that I brew a Christmas beer this year, and the idea captured my imagination. I have already brewed the base beer (a nice British winter warmer) that I plan to add holiday spices to. If it turns out, I'll print up some cool labels, wax the bottle caps, and give them away to spread some holiday cheer.

Holiday beer bottles, labeled and waxed
Holiday beer bottles, labeled and waxed.

To get my spices just right, I decided to make tinctures of fresh spices in a little vodka; this way, I can add drops to a glass of the base beer until I get the spice profile just right. I will then add the correct ratios to the keg, and (hopefully) have a really nice final product.

Dealing with those fresh spices got me wishing that I had some homemade vanilla extract again, so I decided to whip up a batch. While it sadly won't be ready in time for the holidays this year, it's still a lot of fun to do - and is a stupidly simple process. I thought that I'd share it with you folks here in a post.

First things first - to make good vanilla extract, you need Read More
Tags for this post: Cooking

Beard Lights and Manliness

This morning, I saw a Facebook friend posting about how cool it would be for bearded guys to put lights in their beards. Now, as you may know, I decorate my beard for Christmas every year - as a matter of fact, this is what led to me growing it out longer in the first place, so as to showcase the glitter and/or ornaments. Donna and I have been talking about me getting some lights this year, so this was a timely reminder for me to stop procrastinating.

Olan with beard glitter
A little fun beard glitter!

That said, I saw a guy in the comment feed make a statement that made me laugh - he didn't have a beard, he explained. But if he did, he wouldn't hang lights in it, since they wouldn't go with his dress.

The comment reminded me a lot of a guy on reddit last year that went out of his way to try to convince me why I shouldn't decorate my beard with glitter or whatnot. You see, this gentleman explained to me in all seriousness, that beard decoration was a trend that THE GAYS started, and people might get the wrong idea about me if I did this!

So this morning, I felt compelled to reply to the Facebook guy in much the same way that I did the reddit guy last year. I thought that I'd...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

HomeBrew Dad's Award Winning Chili

This past weekend, I whipped up a batch of my chili, then put it into the crock pot to be ready for us after we did our wet outing to the Halloween event at Tannehill State Park. Now understand, Donna does the lion's share of cooking in our house, but I have a few specialties... and chili is one of them. I can guarantee that I will be asked to bring it to various family functions, I've been asked to bring it to work, I've won a couple of competitions with it. Yes, I'm a little proud of my chili... but I'm happy to share the recipe. Before I get into the recipe, I want to cover a few bases.

Yes, I understand that some people believe with religious fervor that "real" chili contains no beans. That's fine... but mine does; it has three kinds of beans, as a matter of fact. If that bothers you... well, this isn't the recipe for you.

This chili is rather spicy; I feel like if you don't get a bit of a runny nose when you eat it, then it's not hot enough. If you prefer for you chili to be milder, cut down on the peppers and the seasonings.

It should be known that I learned to cook from my mother, who does not believe in measurements unless they are absolutely vital; she is an old school, "pinch of this, dash of that" kind of cook. This was her... Read More
Tags for this post: Cooking

An Easy Trick to Make Holes for Holiday Yard Decorations

Yesterday - in spite of the fact that here in Alabama, we are still in the mid-nineties, temp wise - I started pulling fall decorations out of the basement. These decorations include a half dozen scarecrows mounted on bamboo stakes.

Now, I'm sure that some of you live in magical places with soft dirt that allows you to just press these into the ground, where they then stay in place without issue. I, however, live in the South, with dirt that has a consistency similar to concrete for a few inches until it gives way to hard red clay.

In the past, I would struggle with the stakes, managing to work them a couple of inches down - ensuring that the first decent storm would invariably blow the scarecrows over. I tried various method of digging them out, but no matter what I tried, I was constantly fighting with scarecrows that would lean to one side of the other, fall over time and time again, and so forth. Hammering them into the ground was not an option; not only do the tops of the stakes sit inside of the scarecrow (so that you can't reach them with a hammer), the fact is that a decent hammer blow will likely split the bamboo stakes and ruin them.

Last year, Donna came across a trick for these, and it was an absolute revelation... so I figured that I would share it with you.

Step 1: obtain a short...

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Tags for this post: DIY

Making Our Old Maytag Clothes Dryer Work Like New

my old Maytag dryer
Our old electric Maytag clothes dryer.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is in fact an old electric clothes dryer. It has been well used, as the scratches and such on top can attest. If you look at this picture and think something along the lines of "old piece of junk"... well, I can both understand and forgive that.

We've had this dryer for at least ten years, now... it may actually be closer to fifteen. We did not purchase it new; this was a newspaper want ads special (which should help date its age) that we bought when our first dryer died, and we simply did not have the cash to spring for a brand new one.

It is, however, a Maytag, and has been very reliable for the time we have owned it. I think the worst problem that we have dealt with for most of the time has been an odd propensity to toss lint inside of our laundry closet. Donna used to bug me about fixing that; one day, I replaced the flexible exhaust vent ducting and put proper hose clamps on, and that helped a lot.

Over time, the dryer has lost some power. It's been a slow creep, where loads weren't all the way dry, so we'd run them again. Heavy loads like towels would take even longer... but much like you slowly raise the temperature on the frog...

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Tags for this post: DIY

Auburn Oktoberfest 2019 Was a Blast!

I don't write much about brewing beer in this blog; I choose to focus on other subjects here and leave my brewing stuff to other channels (like my BrewUnited website). But the fact remains that I *am* HomeBrew Dad, and brewing is my biggest hobby... so every now and then, you get to hear about it. Today is one such time.

kids stirring the mash
Silas, Wynter, Elowyn, and Gideon stir the mash for my Kentucky Common beer.

A year ago, Rob (a homebrewing buddy of mine) reached out after one of his other friends had backed out at the last minute. He had a tent at the Auburn Oktoberfest and needed someone to come and help him set up his gear, pour the beer, etc. I agreed, and ended up having a great time helping him out. In my experience, craft beer people tend to be super polite, friendly folks, and that definitely held true here. I left the festival that day thinking that I ought to reserve my own tent the following year... and when the time came, I did just that.

I won't lie, I looked forward to the event for pretty much the entire year, though at several points, I had serious doubts that I would make the festival this year.

While it is possible for one person to do everything, it's far from ideal. Admission includes a helper, as the...

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Tags for this post: Hobbies
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