Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chocolate | Single Origin vs Blended

So what's up with "single origin" chocolates that you hear about once in a while?

Different soil compositions is the main reason why beans from different countries/regions/plantations can taste very different, or have different flavor notes. This is also why single origin, meaning that the beans used in that chocolate are all from the same region (usually country) chocolates have become popular. Single plantation, are a type of single origin chocolate where all the beans have actually come from just one plantation. They allow you to really understand the beans (and thus the soil tendencies) of that area.

On the other hand, blended chocolates are usually more balanced, and often have more flavor notes, with each flavor more pronounced than the flavor notes of single origin chocolates.

So which is better?
Depends on what you like.

I like both.
Single origin chocolates can be really great if the beans are really high quality and the resulting chocolate has been carefully blended and crafted within the confines of a region so that one flavor note isn't overpowering. I also think that they are great when making hot chocolate. It gives you more control over the resulting flavor of your beverage.

Blended chocolates are more of a guarantee that the overall flavor will be balanced.

Chocolate | Flavor notes

I love chocolate.

There are few who would not agree with this phrase.

However, I am a little weird (okay, some call this particular) about my love of chocolate. I'm not a huge fan of things that taste like chocolate and currently prefer eating chocolate in bar form over confections because I feel that adding too many ingredients can mask the different chocolate notes that make chocolate tasting so fun. That's not to say that I don't like confections, it's just like mostly drinking black coffee, but getting a milk-sugar-and-flavor infused espresso drink one in a while.

So what are these flavor notes?

  • Nutty 
  • Roasted 
  • Red Fruity 
  • Citrus 
  • Floral 
  • Earthy 
  • Chocolaty 
  • Acidic 

Okay, so these will differ a little depending on who you talk to, and many of them can be broken down into more specific flavor notes. These are just the ones that I personally look for. I'm also going to emphasize that these are flavors that you can pick up from chocolates that have been made without additional ingredients that will skew the flavor. For example, chocolate with raspberry filling will obviously taste like red, ripe fruits and chocolate with nuts mixed in will obviously nutty. The thing that absolutely fascinates me, and the reason I love chocolate so much, is that you can achieve similar flavors without these extra ingredients. Crazy, right??

PS- high quality beans are necessary to pick up these notes, as well as a high cacao percentage, so please don't go out and purchase some Hershey's or Dove chocolate bars and tell me that I'm crazy. I'll be introducing some of my favorite chocolates here soon!

Until then, what are some of your favorite chocolates? I'm always on the look out for some tasty treats!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

On Work

I absolutely adore that Yogi Teas are not only organic, but come with a short, yet sweet quote. 

"Work, but don't forget to live"

This quote is kind of funny to me right now because I'm currently funemployed (except for the occasional translation) and in general, looking back at how I've lived my life since graduating from university, you'd see that the advice that this tea should really be giving me is "Live, but don't forget to work." 

Though working contract and/or volunteer positions are not the most stable or lucrative, I must admit that I've loved every job and I'm very grateful for the opportunities (especially the opportunities to travel) that these positions have given me. This doesn't mean that I never doubt this path. AT ALL. Especially when I'm funemployed. During these periods of no paycheck and a future that's completely up in the air, I spend every waking half-moment doubting every decision I've ever made concerning my career. 

I was recently at a dinner with some friends (one old, one new) and we were talking about our current anxieties when it comes to our professional careers. From my point of view, they are very much on track for a successful career and I really admire them for the work that they've put into getting where they are now. What absolutely blew me out of the water, was hearing them say that they really respected how I currently choose to travel and take opportunities that allow me to work on personal development through seeing the world. I think that my favorite was when they described me as the grandmother who would round up her grandchildren and say "when grandma was 25, she took up sword fighting with baguettes and rode only camels as a source of transportation." Ok, so neither of those are true, and they didn't say that exactly, but it was along those lines. 

Sometimes I have doubts about choosing this road (still often less taken) so I'm especially grateful to have friends both old and new, who remind me that it's a good one, and one to be grateful for. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Met

The Metropolitan Museum is known to be a must see for anyone visiting New York City,
but it's also a great place for people who live here, too.

Especially when the temperatures are well below freezing.
And our noses are about to freeze off. 

If I need to clear my mind, I like to relax in the gallery that houses the Japanese art.
They have pottery from the Jomon Period (approximately 10,500-300 BCE)
and always have some breathtaking folding screen called "byobu."

Some Fun Facts: 
The pottery during this time was made by rolling clay into ropes and the coiling it on top of each other. Actual rope were then pressed into the finished product to give it some designs. This is also the period during which they created haniwa, clay figurines that were often buried with the dead, especially the leaders of the period, who were buried in huge graves called kofun. I find it quite interesting that burial rituals in ancient Japan and ancient Egypt are so similar. I wonder what other cultures have similar rituals.

Ogata Korin is the artist from the Edo Period that belonged to the Rinpa school of art in Japan. Though I do love the irises in this screen below, I especially like his screens that depict rivers. I absolutely love the texture that he puts into the water. 

Have you been to the Met before?
What's your favorite gallery (if you can even choose just one!).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How To | Origami Crane Box

Simplicity is Beauty. Origami is the Japanese papercraft of folding delicate pieces of colored paper to create various objects simply by folding it. This tutorial is how to fold a crane box, as seen in my last post. OK, so after looking at all these steps, you may say "hey! I don't know about you, but some of those steps don't look so simple" and you would be right. But it's made out of one piece of paper! Entertainment that ends with a fancy box doesn't get any simpler than that.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Origami Container

I recently found a book that teaches you how to fold delicate and beautiful boxes out of colorful Origami paper. This crane was the perfect size for konpeito, a traditional Japanese rock candy. How cute would this be with a tea set, the konpeito instead of sugar cubes!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thick or Thin?

If you asked me before, I would have told you that there was nothing better than a chewy, thick crust pizza with a pint of a local brew, but I'm starting to really like this thin-crust business in New York, NY. 

But who are we kidding? I just like pizza in general. 
Except pizza in Japan. 

Nothing makes mayo on teriayki pizza acceptable.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Started Knitting Again

After reading Erica's post on an amazing cowl she crocheted recently and finding myself browsing through knitting books in bookstores, I decided to pick up my knitting needles and give knitting a whirl. Why not crochet? For the simple reason that there weren't any crochet hooks stashed away in the back of a drawer at the place I'm staying. I feel lucky that there were knitting needles at all since the people I'm staying with right now don't knit. I've heard of some pretty hilarious attempts, though.

Inspired by Erica's cowl, I wanted to make one myself and started knitting a simple purl stitch, but found that the knitted portions curled- a lot. After a quick google search, I found that this was due to the stitch, so I undid everything I'd done and re-knitted this, with a simple pattern using just the purl stitch. Is it obvious that this is the only stitch I can manage?

I just finished knitting all the yarn I had, but hopefully I'll be able to show you a completed cowl soon.
Or I'll give up and turn it into a bag. I have a weird habit of turning everything into bags, like when I turned this part of my halloween costume into a pouch I now use to store charging cables when I travel or, more recently, this pencil pouch made out of a place mat.

Do you have any crafting habits?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

the Direction of 2013

While I have come up with some New Year's Resolutions to jump on the bandwagon, my resolutions are always similar, especially in regard to their never being accomplished. The only one I managed to accomplish was "floss more," but I think that was more out of a fear of getting a cavity in Japan than it was determination to live the phrase "new year, new you." 

I may not have high hopes for accomplishing these (I know, I really believe in myself), but I did try to think of what direction I would like to take in 2013 to hep me think of (hopefully) more realistic resolutions, which are:
  • Have better posture
  • Stop eating when I'm full
  • Buy less, Spend more
Have better posture: I don't have a problem with my posture when I'm standing or walking, but the second that I sit down, my shoulders round, leading to really cramped shoulders and headaches. Typing on a computer, using my smart phone, and even reading doesn't help. It just looks better to have better posture, too. 

Stop eating when full: We've all been there. You're not stuffed, but you're full... but that cookie just looks so good. Just one more can't hurt... and then we get into what I've been doing since I was a child, trying to convince my parents to read just one more bedtime story. Dieting's great, but learning when you have enough is probably more effective and a better habit than overeating and then trying to run it off. At least it's more efficient. 

Buy less, Spend more: In a consumerist society, it's hard to not want new things. That's also how we ended up with shows like "hoarders." After traveling and living in a different country for a bit, I've come to realize just how little I can survive off of. I found myself wanting, but then not, as I found a way to tweak what I already had to fulfill the role of the wanted item, or would find myself surviving just fine without. On the other hand, the things that I constantly find myself packing to take are my sturdier items, which often times comes with a higher price tag. While more money does not always mean it's a higher quality product, I'm going to make sure that this year, I treat all purchases like an investment. We've all heard of "investment" pieces, right? What if all of our pieces were investment pieces? 

Are you someone who likes to make new year's resolutions?
What are some of yours?