Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mint as Savory.

You know when you have the ultimate cable television package with a thousand channels yet there is still nothing good to watch?  It seems the more choices you have the higher your expectations which ultimately leads to disappointment because there has to be something better.

Hunting for wine since moving to Japan has been challenging, only because while living in the States I had plenty of access to ample selection.  I was always looking for something better and, in the process, skipped over many suitable options.

Now when I peruse the ten linear feet of wine shelving at our local shop I am frequently forced inclined to grab a bottle never considered previously, loosening many prejudices to sip with an open mind.

A few weeks ago I found a sparkling wine that looked good, a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, at a moderate price, so I picked up a bottle.  I chilled it and brought it to friend's house for her birthday.  Turns out it was surprisingly good, not knock-your-socks-off wow, but impressive.

The next time I was near the shop where I found it (a train stop and a jaunt away) I picked up two more bottles so I could try it in a non-celebratory manner, which can alter the experience and hence the enjoyment of the wine.  And really, why should sparkling wine be confined solely to celebrations?  Live a little.  Later at home I flipped through a couple books and dug around online until I found a recipe to complement the wine, Parmesan-Herb Lamb Chops with Mint Aioli.

My experience with mint has generally hovered in the sweet arena, namely the Mint Mojito, a refreshingly delectable refreshment.  Detaching mint from sweetness seemed strange though I know it is culinarily common so I went with it.

I didn't easily find lamb chops (surprise surprise) so I picked up a package of bone-in pork chops which I use regularly because they are so versatile.  I did, however, find fresh mint at the neighborhood store (surprise surprise) and bought it despite the $4 price tag (more than the cost of the four pork chops).

The recipe is very straightforward and easy to follow.  When I tasted the prepared mint aioli I was pleasantly surprised with how well the mint married with the fresh garlic and the sel gris french sea salt.  While the oven was heating I threw in some olive-oiled potatoes to roast while I breaded the chops.

I am not including a photo of the finished pork chops because it was wasn't pretty.  The panko breading that should have crusted up while baking did not and ended up mushy, even after turning the broiler on for a bit; next time I will pan fry them as I usually do.  Before the chops became too dry I pulled them out and declared them done.

After topping off my flute with more sparkling wine I sat down to test the meal.  While not a home-run I enjoyed tasting mint as a savory herb, a new experience now urging me to learn more.  The mint seems to fall into the cilantro-basil family which moves my creative gears toward combinations or substitutions among them (strawberry-mint salsa, cilantro martini, basil ice cream).  This is why I am writing about the wine and the recipe, not because the dish was a huge success but because new doors are opening leaving me curious about what lies beyond.  Mint as savory, why did I never try?

DIY: Elastic Cuff Links.

Over the years I've discovered that my arms are slightly longer than the average person for my body type.  That or I like my sleeves to fit longer than average for my size.  Two sides of the same coin, I guess.  Nonetheless, when I find a jacket that fits well in the torso the sleeves are too short, and conversely, when the sleeves are correct the body is too loose.

One way to circumvent this is to wear 3/4 length sleeves either by design or, more often, by rolling them up a bit.  I have a few denim jackets that I love with too-short sleeves but folding the cuffs is a problem.  Folding the cuffs up while buttoned makes them too tight on my forearm and cuffing while unbuttoned leaves them loose and falling open.

At first I safety-pinned the ends but found that the pins would pop open, bend, or damage the fabric.  I needed something like a stretchy cuff link and after trying a few types of elastic and rubber bands with various methods I finally found a suitable solution, a hair elastic.  I have a handful of these pony tail holders (the term we used growing-up) from when I had longer hair and now use them all over the house for all sorts of purposes.  They are a fantastic little creation.

Last week when I grabbed my incredibly versatile, white, Levi's denim jacket from the closet I realized the sleeves weren't rolled up and the little elastics I used were not in the buttoned pocket where I like to keep them after washing it.  So I used the opportunity to document the simple process.

First, I cut an average sized hair elastic in two equal pieces and knotted them at the ends creating two loops about an inch long.

Next, I looped it through the button hole and pulled one end through itself.  Apparently this is called a lark's head knot.

Then I pulled that same end and stretched it over the button.  Easy peasy.

Lastly, two folds up of the cuff and it's ready to wear.

I used a brown elastic here because that is what I had laying around.  Someday I'll buy a package of colors or neutral tones but it's not a priority.  The other jackets I've done this with are darker and it's less noticeable, but it's hidden quite well on the back of the forearm.

There you have it, a quick and easy fix for problematic jacket cuff rolls.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Everyday I think about writing for this blog.  But for some reason I just don't.

With all the time I am surrounded with the days pass quickly, unnoticed.  I accomplish very little and don't seem to care.  I have adapted some new, healthy habits which are altering my old ones and I'm unsure of the evolution.  Physical fitness and mental fitness sometimes feel like two magnets facing the wrong sides and won't snap together.  With better time management I could learn to flip them over so they'll connect, but I haven't, though I am trying to learn.

I feel that I tried so hard learning to walk that I never focused on where I was trying to go.  So I now stand directionless.

It's funny how you can listen to the same song for years and never fully feel the story.  R.E.M is on my top five all-time favorite musicians' list, I have almost all their studio albums and then some, but even after twenty-odd years some songs remain elusive.  I kind of like the mystery.

R.E.M. switched record labels in the late 1980's then released the album "Green" which was a defining pivot point in their career.  The album carried a different feel from their earlier work with cleaner sound and a more pop feel which you can love, hate, or just go with (I chose the latter).

"Stand" was R.E.M.'s second top ten single, a bubblegum pop song so different than their earlier work.  The lyrics are easy to memorize and the meaning of finding one's life direction is quite clear.  One line, however, continues to echo through my head, "Think about direction, wonder why you haven't before."  Why haven't I?