Thursday, August 11, 2011

Apple Bones

Apple bones breakfast tart.
Recently I’ve been on a bit of a baking kick; breads and pastries for the most part, with a  primary focus on artisan breads. I’ve had the help of Peter Reinhart’s amazing book Artisan breads Everyday. Now it hasn’t been an everyday thing, more like 3 or 4 times a week, mainly because there is only so much bread I can eat in a given week. A man can only take so many carbs before he explodes into an enormous blimp with a resemblance of a human being. Nevertheless I have been pushing the limits of my carb intake in order to achieve baking mastery, and if you have read my prior post The Muffin Man I'm not doing half bad. This week I decided to venture away from the book to try my hand at my own creation, a trial by fire so to speak. I came up with something with the semblance of a pair of fruit filled thumbprint pastries joined at birth and coated with sugary goodness, I'll call them apple bones. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Muffin Man

Homemade english muffin om nom nom
When I was a child it seemed like I would have english muffins almost daily for breakfast. Not only were they inexpensive (89 cents for a package of 6 if memory serves me well) they were also absolutely delicious.  Filled with a seemingly infinite amount of little nooks and crannies which either by design or fate make perfect homes for butter or jam. With the right topping these were essentially the breakfast food of the gods, delicious, nutritious, and cheap, nothing could match.

That was the case until I moved to Colorado; for some reason english muffins were a rarity in stores there, no matter where I looked they couldn't be found, and if I did find them they were $3.50/6 Thomas english muffins which never seemed to go on sale. Nothing against Thomas english muffins, but that's an awful lot to pay for something which is included in every continental breakfast across America. Seriously there has to be another (more economical way).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Orchids in Bloom

Lady slippers surrounding a rotting stump
The mere sight of a lady’s slipper takes your breath away, but when you become aware of their germination process, and what it takes to produce a plant, they become even more of a wonder. According to Jack Sanders in The Secrets of Wildflowers, the seed of a lady’s slipper is extremely small, and has no food to provide it with sustenance. However, there is a certain fungus, Rhizoctonia, which can digest the outer cells of a lady’s slipper’s seeds. If this fungus and a lady’s slipper seed come in contact with each other, and if the fungus digests the outer cells of the seed but not the inner cells, and if the inner cells absorb some of the fungus’s nutrients that it obtained from the soil then germination may take place. Given all these ifs, it’s a wonder that there are as many of these beauties in our woodlands as there are!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Belgian Delicacies

Selection of Belgian pralines we ate today.
Early this morning I walked the few blocks to London St. Pancras station and departed for Brussels, Belgium. The security at the train station was surprisingly lax, reminiscent of the way airports used to be before everyone became paranoid; metal detector, belt for luggage, and you're finished, bring all the liquids you please. About 2 hours later and we left our first train and boarded a 2nd for Antwerp.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup high power bicycle light.
From time to time I find myself trying random 3d design programs just to play around and see what comes of it. Not sticking to one is somewhat cumbersome because I generally forget most of the workflow and commands from one to the next, however it is fun while it lasts. Yesterday I decided to give Google's 3d modeler a try; Google Sketchup 8. The aim of this program seems to be ease of use over shiny beautiful hyperrealistic models that you see coming out of 3DS Max and Maya, but the end results are still impressive nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Church's Footwear Service

Casual suede Church's brand shoes - The culprit
A little bit of a rant today. During my last trip to London in January I picked up a pair of high end shoes to replace a pair of sneakers that were both out of fashion and destroyed. After a few recommendations from my fiance, who as you all know knows more about shoes than most I decided on a great pair of casual suede leather shoes from Church's Footwear.

Church's Footwear began as a family shoe making business in 1873 and built up a remarkable reputation as  some of the finest men's shoes coming out of England. They received such wide acclaim that they became James Bond's (Pierce Bronsan era 1995-2002) go to shoe. Know for their extraordinarily high quality, and classic men's styling they became a well known gentleman's shoe.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Holiest of Beers

I'm not much of a drinker, but I do enjoy trying new beers from time to time. My most recent tasting was of a very unique beer brewed by Belgian Trappist monks called Achel 8° Blonde. The beer was served in a Trappist style glass (similar in shape to a goblet) and had a huge foamy head that looks like a french vanilla float. Underneath all that foam was a nice dark blonde beer with a wonderfully pleasant rich fruit and floral yeast aroma. The taste is of sweet malt with some hop bitterness, light bodied with creamy texture, just amazing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Moving Picture

I just had the pleasure of watching a wonderful Japanese movie called Love Exposure. It's a 4 hour long epic about 3 emotionally damaged teens in Japan locked in a love triangle. Yu, the main character, is a misguided son of a priest who is doing anything to find his Mary (read Virgin Mary). The other parts of the love triangle are Yoko; abused by her father runs away with one of her father's many girlfriends, and finally Koike who was brought up by an over bearing father and is now the leader of a brainwashing cult.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Luxury Elven Heels

Frontal view; goat suede on the sides,
sheep leather for the upper and tongue
and rawhide lacing.
My fiance has completed another set of shoes, and this is one of my favorite designs to date.  They incorporate goat suede and leather made from sheep. This is her first boot style heel, but I think it came out great. The first thing that came to mind, much to her dismay, was that they look like elven shoes. I may be a bit biased, but honestly I don't think these would be out of place a shelf at Saks or Nordstrom selling for a few hundred dollars.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

豆苗, Dau Miu, Snow Pea Sprouts, A Vegetable By Many Names

Dau miu: snow pea shoots stir fried with garlic
When I lived in Hong Kong I used to go to many local dim sum restaurants and the people I was with would always order a stir fried green leafy vegetable dish.  It was one of my favorite vegetable dishes there yet I had no idea what it was, and nobody could really explain it in English when asked. Tonight I went to have some crispy duck in London's chinatown...I know, again in Chinatown, I should have rented a place there. There I finally found out that this magnificent dish is actually the shoots from snow pea plants steamed with garlic.

These are one of the most delicious vegetables that can be stir fried and are considered a Chinese delicacy. If you haven't tried this it's a must. I don't remember seeing this on the menu in any Chinese restaurants I've been to in the US, although surely it's available in the Chinatowns of larger cities such as New York and probably available in quite a few places in California. So rather than search through all of the Chinese style restaurants here's a quick little recipe for it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cycling in Belgium

Belgium cycling map courtesy of
This week I've been planning a trip to Belgium towards the end of the month. I haven't been there before, nor do I know anyone who has been or anyone from there so I figured it would be the perfect place to go explore. We'll be taking the Eurostar from central London through the Chunnel, through northern France and into Belgium, stopping in Brussels. A 2 and a half hour journey by train is a lot nicer and more relaxed than 2 and a half hours of dealing with security and customs at an airport for a 40 minute flight.

While researching how to get around northern Belgium I found that they have an extensive cycling network with more then 2500 miles of cycling paths criss-crossing throughout just the northern half of the country. Most of these are long distance routes cutting through most of the major towns and cities, and even crossing borders into Amsterdam and the Netherlands. This is a great contrast to what is seen in the US where you're lucky to have a narrow bicycle lane in a city. Admittedly some cities have nice networks for cyclists such a Denver/Boulder and Portland Oregon, but they pale in comparison to a country wide paved network of paths set apart from the larger vehicles like cars and trucks.

I'll be sure to post a few pictures if I see anything of interest. I'm not entirely sure what to expect from this country other than cycling, chocolate, and beer. Actually those 3 things should make for an exciting trip.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Epic Lunch of Champions

Salmon box from the Hare & Tortoise restaurant
I've been on a bit of a sushi kick the past few days, going to various Japanese restaurants around the area. Yesterday I found myself at a place called Hare & Tortoise. It's more of an Asian restaurant than strictly Japanese with quality Thai, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese dishes filling the menu.

This time I ended up ordering one of my favorite Japanese dishes; a salmon box. It consists of 2 salmon nigiri (salmon laid on top of a ball of rice), 6 salmon maki (the salmon sushi rolls), 3 pieces of salmon sushimi (just pieces of salmon with nothing else), and a salmon temaki or handroll (salmon, cucumber, salmon roe, and rice wrapped in a cone shaped seaweed.) It looked so good that I had to take a picture of it (seen to the right.)

It makes for a very fresh and filling lunch which doesn't leave you feeling stuffed and bloated afterwards. Even for those who haven't had sushi before it's a good starter dish.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ghost Bike

Ghost Bike in London
Wandering around in East London today and spotted this fitting reminder of a fallen cyclist; a ghost bike. I've seen these in a few other cities such as New York, and even Denver and they're always a chilling reminder of the constant danger of being a cyclist in a major city. Be safe out there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

School of Life

Near where I'm staying is a little store front near Russell Square called The School of Life. The shop sells a small number of books and gifts and also displays information about all The School of Life's services and programs. Beneath the shop is a classroom where small classes are held. According to the "school's" website the school offers a variety of programs and services concerned with how to live wisely and well, addressing such questions as why work is often unfulfilling, why relationships can be so challenging, why it’s ever harder to stay calm and what one could do to try to change the world for the better.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's Good Enough

Spotted this today while wandering around. If it's good enough for them then it's good enough for a post.
Goodenough College: Central London

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chop Chop Redux

In a previous post (Chop Chop) I detailed a bit of Chinese chop stick etiquette. This post of course left out a huge portion of the chop stick using population; the Japanese and Koreans. Today I am comparing three countries, Korea, China, and Japan, each of which have their own style of chopstick and different etiquette.

Chinese chopsticks are the longest of the 3 styles of chopsticks and have a square end. The material they are made from is typically wood, however they have been made of many different materials from ivory to plastic. There is no definite answer to why they the are longest, but it is said that it is because the Chinese typically share their food. When they sit at the table there are many dishes in the middle and each person pulls a bit of food rather than piling everything they will eat onto their plate as in other cultures. The wider and longer chopsticks make it easier to move food from a bigger serving dish to a smaller eating dish.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shoe Making Part 1 - Pattern Cutting

Shoe making primer through photos.
My fiance has been kind enough to share some of her footwear making notes with me. She documents every part of the process of making a shoe so this will be the first in a series of posts about the art of shoe making. The process involved in making proper footwear is quite complex so I'll be doing my best to outline the majority of it through captioned photos. In order to get the form of the shoe and start cutting the pattern the process starts out with the use of a shoe last made of wood, plastic, or in rare cases iron. For most modern shoes these lasts come in pairs; one left and one right.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interesting landmark in central London

Entrance; which is under a hotel in central London.
There is an amazingly fun venue near where I'm staying called Bloomsbury Lanes. It's an old American style bowling alley with old time American eats. They offer a few different menus all with traditional bowling style fare; burgers, pizzas, wings, classic ice cream milk shakes served in a glass with 2 straws. I know I should be eating more traditional British cuisine, but I'd be hard pressed to find a place like this even in the US.

It's more than just a restaurant though. They offer 8 lanes of large ball 10 pin bowling at a rate of something like £4 per game. Apart from the bowling they offer private karaoke rooms suitable for groups of 6-30 people (haven't experienced this however as I'd rather not break their equipment with my terrible singing. )
Equipped with state of the art old skool bowling shoes.
Add all this together with live bands 4-5 days per week and this is the place to be if you're bored with the London pubs which fill up as early as 4pm and generally have the same feel no matter what part of London you're in. If you ever find yourself in central London this place is a must to balance out the regal tourist destinations of the city.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crispy Ducky in Chinatown

Crispy duck and some fixings
Whenever I travel to London I always make it a point to visit Chinatown. The restaurants there are very authentic and reminiscent of the local restaurants of Hong Kong and China. My trip wouldn't be complete without having my favorite Asian appetizer; crispy aromatic duck. This time I stopped at the Four Seasons restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, who are said to have the best in all of England. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but they do make a really tasty duck.

This dish is very similar to Peking duck for those who are familiar. The duck is first marinated with spices, then steamed until tender, and finally deep fried until crispy. This leaves an amazingly low fat and deliciously crispy skin on meat. In most restaurants here the server brings the duck (whole, half, or quarter size) directly to the table on a platter and uses a fork and spoon to shred it into chunks. Accompanying the duck is a bamboo steamer filled with thin flour pancakes similar to soft tortillas, fresh cucumbers, and a plum sauce similar to but a bit sweeter than hoisen sauce. You're basically left to the task of assembling the given ingredients to your liking, like a make your own taco night. Spread the sauce on the pancake, add a bit of duck and vegetables, wrap and enjoy a mouthful of bliss.

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Barefoot Kicks

On days when I have to do a bit of walking or hiking my dressy Chruch's brand shoes however fashionable don't quite cut it in the endurance comfort department. Just the other day while doing a bit of shopping I spotted the Merrell Trail Glove at a local outdoors store.

I've been keen on the "barefoot running/walking" fad since the release of the Vibram Five Fingers shoes. Unfortunately my footwear design studying fiance considers them the most hideous footwear on the planet short of anything made by Crocs. Luckily there exists a few alternatives; the Nike Free shoes, Vivo Barefoot shoes, the Feelmax shoes. The pair I've been sporting are the Merrell Trail Glove in the ninjaesque black/molten lava color scheme.

It does take a while to get used to the way you walk/run in them, it shy's away from the heel toe action we're all so used to and encourages a more flat running stance, which should help lessen impact injuries and improve your posture. The whole concept of barefoot running/walking is to go back to a more natural running style, which makes you feel more at one with your surroundings but also helps take the strain off your leg muscles.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The strawberries taste like strawberries, and the strasberries taste like strasberries, and then pineberries taste like....umm pineberries?

In my previous post (strasberry post) I wrote about a limited edition Dutch fruit called the strasberry sold in Waitrose stores across the  UK. I arrived in London yesterday and visited a Waitrose on my way from Heathrow. To my dismay according to the grocer at that particular Waitrose they have discontinued the strasberry. Apparently Waitrose likes to feature only one designer fruit at a time this time of year.

Like the strasberry mentioned before the pineberry has the same genetics as the common strawberry. Also like the strasberry it was rescued from near extinction by a small group of Dutch farmers within the past few years. It seems these dutch farmers have become quite bored with the common strawberry and need to experiment a bit.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Raw pre-processing

Portland Headlight - Portland, ME
When traveling I generally take pictures in raw format, in my case Nikon NEF. I shoot raw for a few different reasons; higher dynamic range, full control over the picture, post exposure error correction, the list goes on. It does come with it's disadvantages though, one of which being that my underpowered travel netbook bogs down to a crawl when processing them. There is however a bit of salvation. Since I use linux on my netbook I have access to the powerful command line and a little program called ufraw.

By using this program I can convert all of my raw images from my memory card to jpg format for easy and quick review. I can review all of my photos and prune out the duplicates and bad shots. The whole process is incredibly easy and only consists of 1 line of command-line-fu.

ufraw-batch --out-type=jpeg --out-path=/home/Pictures/export --compression=85 /media/memory_card/MyPics/*.NEF

This leaves you with jpg files in a separate folder for reviewing so you know which of your raw files you should keep and which you should delete.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I'll be traveling a bit over the course of the next month or so. Today I made the 6+ hour drive north to the Canadian border for my sister's nursing school graduation ceremony. On tuesday I'll be boarding a virgin atlantic flight in Boston destined for London where I'll be meeting my fiance for our impromptu mini-vacation to the Isle of Wight off England's south coast. I'm not exactly sure what's going on after that, it's kind of up in the air at the moment, but I'll be sure to document my adventures thoroughly.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Antler Ring

Polished antler ring with antler behind.
As some of you may know if you read my previous post "Snowy Adventures" I came across a deer head with antlers still attached (see post for photo of antlers.) Well I actually carried the antlers with me back home, and I've been meaning to do something with them for quite some time. After a few hours of browsing the interwebs for ideas and coming up with nothing but hat racks, and gun racks I decided to go it alone. I finally decided on a ring for my fiance (not engagement, she already has one of those, an antler engagement ring would be kinda tacky I think.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Privacy Policy

As per Google policies, here is the privacy policy drawn for my blog:

Footwear design.

 My fiance is currently studying footwear design, and recently had a project working with a prominent UK sporting good company. The project was to design an outdoors shoe for the teen Asian market. Quite a lot of research goes into all of her projects, and makes a shoe takes a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately I can't detail the entire process here, so here are the basics.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Strasberries..not strawberries, strasberries

I spent about a month in London last year in May. I spent some time seeing the usual sights such as the London Eye, Big Ben and various other touristy things. One of the most memorable aspects of my visit however were the strasberries. Shown at left they have the shape of a raspberry, but the texture of a strawberry.

It's a bit difficult to explain the taste of these little fruits. The best way that I can think to explain them is that each one is like taking a bite out of the most perfectly sweet strawberry you've ever tasted with just a hint of tartness. It's like an explosion of amazing flavor in every bite.

Apparently it was a near extinct type of wild strawberry which was discovered by a Dutchman a few years ago. I spotted them at Waitross (a midrange UK supermarket chain) during my stay. According to the grocer they are only in season and on sale between April and July which makes it a fairly short time for them to be available. They weren't the cheapest fruit on the shelves either at something like $6 for 1/4 lb. I'm heading back across the pond soon just in time for strasberry season, if any of you are as well I highly recommend trying these amazing little fruits.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blue Gnocchi

While in Hong Kong I did a bit of work at an Italian restaurant/deli/grocer as a marketing coordinator. Seems a bit strange; an American in Hong Kong, working for Italians, with a client base who is 50% French. This gave me a great chance to experience many cultures in one place. One thing which I was happy to learn was the many great Italian dishes and wines. The Italians posses such a great variety of cuisines and wines that it's astounding. Each region of Italy seems to have their own dishes of which they defend to the death.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chop Chop!

Beautiful set of carved hardwood chopsticks
The Chinese were taught to use chopsticks long before spoons and forks were invented in Europe. The knife of course is older, but as a weapon, not a dining utensil. Chinese people living under Confucianism considered the knife and fork as weapons of violence, and chopsticks reflecting benevolence and gentleness; the main moral teaching of Confucianism. Therefore, instruments used for killing must be banned from the dining table, and that is why Chinese food is normally chopped into bite size portions before it reaches the table.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Man Made Sheep

MG 1/100 Gundam shown for scale.
My fiance, being asian, is a bit crazy for stuffed animals. She's always insisting that I provide her with a stuffed zoo. Being the ambitious DIYer that I am I decided to try my hand at making one myself. Not really adept at sewing it'd still be a bit more special than a store bought animal made in mainland China by a 5 year old with no toys of her own.

Armed some sheep themed flannel laying around, and my great grandmother's Singer sewing machine collecting dust. After a few days, and 4 horribly disfigured cloth sheep later I came up with this; a sheep in sheep's clothing. It needs a set of eyes, a nose, and a stomach staple, but I think it will suffice. (Gundam not actual size)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet and Sour Pork

During my time in Hong Kong I found that it was much cheaper to order or prepare foods which the locals eat. Also it added a bit to the adventure to be sampling the local cuisine not commonly found in the west. One dish I found myself eating quite often was sweet and sour pork. Quite similar to it's western counterpart sweet and sour chicken, only a bit healthier and doesn't leave you hungry 30 minutes after eating it. It's one of the few dishes I could serve to my family without them experiencing culture shock

The recipe does include a bit of frying which can be done using a wok or if you have one a fryer. I find the wok works just fine, and you only have that to clean when you're done cooking. There are a few substitutions in this recipe as a few of the ingredients are a bit difficult to locate here in the west.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Shave by Electricity

Occasionally I like to browse old Popular Mechanics magazines, it's such a treasure trove of information covering the past 100 years or so. It's also wonderful for comparing the "most technologically advanced product to date" with products from a century ago. It seems many things aren't really new at all, they're only rehashed ideas with a fancy new package and time appropriate buzz-words.

Today I stumbled upon the advert to the left; what appears to be an early model electric razor. The basic principle of this system is that it vibrates the blade in a slight horizontal motion similar to that of a jigsaw, only a bit less severe of course. I imagine putting a vibrating razor blade to bare skin would lead to a rather red result however. "No more pull, no irritation, thousands sold" these words are as at home then as they are now. It's quite amazing how little has changed from the advertising speak of then and now.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trees for shoes

Temporary Image
Footwear is often a neglected piece of a person's wardrobe. Sure people spend time choosing a pair of shoes which suits their needs, but that's the extent of it. It's typical to buy a new pair of shoes every 2 or 3 years. That's fine when you're rocking a pair of Chuck Taylors, or a pair of glued together faux-leather oxfords that you picked up at Target for $20, but if you have a quality pair of leather dress shoes then trees are important.

Their most important feature is maintaining the original shape of the shoe; especially where it bends as you walk, and especially when it has been raining. Also, most quality trees are made of cedar which aids in deodorizing, so even if you have the funkiest feet in the world your shoes don't have to be funky as well.

Look for a set of shoe trees made of cedar because of it's natural deodorizing ability. Also ensure that the heel is wide and the general shape of a shoe heel as a wire heel will do more harm in deforming the heel than good. Your shoes will make or break any look so make sure you treat them right and they'll do the same for you for a lifetime.

Allen Edmonds Men's Combination Cedar Shoe Tree

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Canadian Delicacies

Yesterday I found myself at the very northern most part of the US route 1 highway, where nothing but an icy river and a set of train tracks separates the US from it's friendly neighbors to the north. This area consists of border towns powered by paper mills, and logging and is unlike any place I have visited. The language is a mix of French and English, the people are shaped by the forestry and mill jobs available to them, and the landscape is remote and wild.

When traveling I always make an effort to speak to the locals and to sample some of the local cuisine. During this trip I had a chance to try an eastern Canadian delicacy; poutine. This is a strange dish I haven't encountered before, it's basically thick cut french fries covered with a dark gravy and cheese curds. Upon receiving my order I felt I made a huge mistake, it had the look of something you pull out of a clogged drain pipe. After the first bite however my mind was changed. As you would guess the french fries and gravy compliment eachother beautifully; akin to mashed potatoes with gravy. Add to that the fresh cheese curds and it's a wonderful dish. It's not something I'd eat everyday, it's far too heavy for that, but it makes a great treat when visiting the frozen north.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prosciutto Goodness

Throughout my travels I've had the chance to sample many dishes from many different cultures. Today I'm going to share a few recipes from Italy, each utilizing the delectable prosciutto di Parma,  or Parma ham. Prosciutto is made from the hind leg of a pig or wild boar which has been cured for between 9 months and 2 years. This creates a wonderfully balanced cured meat which practically melts in your mouth. The first dish is wonderful as an appetizer or first course even.

Prosciutto Calzone with Sage Scented Tagliatelli
3/4 lb tagliatelli (substitute with any wide noodle pasta such as fettuccine)
12 slices Prosciutto
8 sage leaves
1 cup butter
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano flakes (real parmesan cheese)

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water.
  2. In another pan melt the butter with sage leaves, then add the pasta and toss for 2 minutes.
  3. Lay the Prosciutto slices evenly on a serving dish so they are overlapping eachother.
  4. Place the prepared pasta on the Proscuitto, top with flakes of Parmigiano Reggiano and wrap closed.
  5. Slice into 4 and serve.
Next on the menu is a wonderful appetizer or finger food which is extremely easy to prepare, but tastes like it belongs in a 5 star restaurant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Despite spending just under a year in Hong Kong I regretfully didn't learn much of the Cantonese language. Apart from basic phrases related to food, and the occasional confirmation there really wasn't much more that was required of me as a considerable portion of the population had a basic mastery of the English language. Apart from the taxi drivers of course, most of the time I was lucky to not end up on the other side of the island in an alley.

Now that I actually have the time to learn the language I'm left with limited learning resources. No local universities have a good course, Rosetta Stone only carries Mandarin, and Pimsleur is archaic and overly formal. I have found one Popup Cantonese however. It's more of a daily podcast than a structured lesson, but they do provide documents explaining the podcast for download. This is one of the first language resources I've encountered which teaches the language as it is used today on the streets, not how it was used 70 years ago. Given the fact that my Asian fiancé no longer laughs hysterically when I speak Cantonese, I'd say it's worth a look.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Snowy adventures

Recently I embarked on a solo backcountry snowshoeing trip in the woods of northern Maine. Given the amount of snow which has fallen this year this was a great time to do some bush whacking and possibly find some hidden gems off trail. With me was a topo map of the area, a compass, 2 days worth of supplies, and a pair of wooden snowshoes made by my great grandfather when he was my age.

It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid twenties without a cloud in the sky; perfect for making good time through the forest. I headed north in the direction of a stream which snakes down a mountain with plans of following that up. With the sun at my back I embarked, easily floating over what would be waist deep snow. The scenery was pretty constant for most of the journey; dense pine cover with a thick underbrush, and the occasional game trail which consisted mainly of deer and coyote tracks. After nearly an hour my course intersected with the stream, just 2 miles from my starting point. The majority was frozen, but it is a very wild stream being fed from at least 2 mountains so there is enough turbulent water to keep the ice dangerously thin.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Introduction to the shaving brush

Since I started wet shaving one of the most enjoyable aspects of it has been the use of the shaving brush. Having warm thick lather on hand throughout the entire shave has made the process less of a chore and more of a treat, akin to a relaxing facial. A good badger hair shaving brush is the most important aspect of getting the perfect shave. You'd be astounded by the fact that this is all it takes to make all aspects of your shave more enjoyable.

To get the most out of a shaving brush you should look for one made purely from badger hair. Badger hair is the best known brush material due to its water ability to retain water. It is a natural product that is shorn from farmed badger, similar to the process done with sheep. Expect to spend anywhere from $25 to hundreds on a quality badger brush which will last for years if properly cared for. This may seem costly at first, but when you factor in the fact that you will use much less shaving cream or soap overall it's actually a worthy investment.

The process is quite simple and doesn't add much to your routine. First soak the brush in hot water in your shaving mug. Dump the water out of the mug and add a pea size portion of shaving cream and proceed to lightly whip up the cream using your brush in a circular motion. Once you reach the desired consistency that's it, just brush the later onto your face in a circular motion to stand your whiskers up and exfoliate your skin. This should provide enough warm lather for 2 or 3 passes. It may seem like a bit of work but it will give you a better shave while reducing irritation and ingrown hairs, as well as looking great in your bathroom.

Here is a highly recommended brush on Amazon for a reasonable price:
Silvertip Badger Hair Brush

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


On a cool Sunday morning this past fall while adventuring in Hong Kong my fiance and I decided to experience some of the more remote aspects of the country. We boarded a boat in Central for the 1 hour ferry ride to Mui Wo located on the southeast side of Lantau Island; one of the country's less inhabited locales. This location provides a stark contrast to the busy life of Hong Kong with it's long sandy beach, vast forests, and relaxed lifestyle.  Upon reaching the island we caught a nearby bus to the 2nd stage of the 43 mile trail which travels roughly around the south side of the island. We had planned a 7 mile day hike traversing the 2nd and 3rd highest mountains in the country, Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gaffing Craziness.

About 30', not bad for a first day.
So today I decided to try something I've never had the chance to do before but always wanted to; today I climbed a tree without branches. Given it did have branches, but not until about the 30 foot mark.

Now I'm not a lumberjack, or a linesman, or signal operator or anything of the sorts; this is just something I decided would be a great idea at the time. A few years ago I happened upon a set of pole gaffs at a flea market for $15; they looked quite old and a bit rusty, but still appeared to be functional so why not. Now if you're not familiar with pole gaffs  they basically look like the leg braces that Forrest Gump had on his legs as a child.  Attached to these braces are gaffs: small, sharpened metal spikes. These spikes stick into the bark of the tree and stick into the outermost layer of the wood and allow you to easily (subjective) climb up.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Award Winning Merkur

Apparently my current razor, the Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Classic, is a pretty good razor, winning the 2011 Readers’ Choice Award for best razor.  This is incredibly surprising considering it was stacked up against the likes of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide, Gillette Mach 3 and Shick Hydro 5. These "shaving systems" are a common sight in almost every store, with the Merkur only available online and in shaving boutiques. I guess people are finally beginning to value function and form over marketing hype.

From About's site - “Sometimes you hold a razor in your hand and it feels just right. The chrome finish 34C is one of those razors. The combination of weight, craftsmanship and looks make it the perfect entry into double-edged razor shaving. A true heavyweight classic!”

This is no surprise to me, the Merkur Classic HD has been around for nearly 100 years and is still a top seller. Check it out if you want to start shaving like a man and spend a total of $15 a year on razor blades at most.  Merkur Heavy Duty Double Edge Razor #34C + 5 Free DE Razor Blades

English 101 - Lesson Three

Another day, another Oatmeal English lesson. Hopefully this has an affect*(effect)* on some of you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

English 101 - Lesson Two

Sadly this is also needed for many on the internet, learn it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

English 101 - Lesson One

Sadly this is needed for many on the internet, learn it!

New Straight Razor

New razor coming in the mail soon as a gift from my fiance. This will be my first time giving a straight razor a try. About 5 years ago I was given a shave by a barber wielding one, and it was probably the best shave I ever received.

It sounds a bit crazy to hold one of the sharpest blades available to your face on a daily basis, but a hospital visit is still cheaper than a month's supply of the 5 blade only good for 1 shave razor systems they have on the market today. Besides there's just something about the whole ritual of old school shaving with the hot towel, making the hot lather with a badger hair brush and soap dish, the concentration needed. The whole thing really wakes you up in the morning.

Pick it up at Amazon if you're jealous - Edwin Jagger Cut Throat Razor