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

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Amazing DIY book

Having recently stumbled upon this book I felt the need to share it with anyone possible. It's kind of a DIY reference manual of sorts called "Making Things Move" by Dustyn Roberts. This book is a great way to understand basic machines and mechanisms to intelligently incorporate them into your projects.

I have no idea why they don't make this required reading for all high school physics classes because it goes above and beyond what was taught in my class, and does so in a fun and easy to understand manner. If you have even the slightest interest in figuring out how your window blinds are able to move, or why the big gear moves the little gear which turns the screw then this book is definitely for you. I found that the first chapter was available freely online, so here it is embedded below. This will probably get you hooked. If you decide to buy it's cheap enough at $18 or so over at Amazon.