The Kasagi from Hachinohe

It’s taken longer than I planned to finish this post, partially due to sickness, and partially due to the emotional nature of the subject. I wanted to write the post with sensitivity and compassion, so I put it off a bit, got sick, wrote some, waited, wrote some more, and finally edited it. Hopefully I met my goal and you readers can share a moment with me about this amazing story. On the 2nd, my partner took me to the viewing of a pair of kasagi at the Portland Japanese Garden. It was a humbling and somewhat surreal visit to the garden, the bustling sale in the main pavilion and vibrantly healthy koi (a welcome sight after the previous koi were lost in the winter of 2009), juxtaposed with the solemn serenity in the viewing area behind the pavilion. Here, overlooking the city and Mt. Hood were two sea-worn kasagi, the lintel of a torii gate, resting peacefully on top of carefully carved wood blocks with small offerings of rice and salt water beneath them. Nearby was a table covered in pens and origami paper for people to write wishes to be folded into cranes – blessings from Portland toContinue readingThe Kasagi from HachinoheContinue readingThe Kasagi from Hachinohe

Tea Review: House Blend Oolong

Tea Name: House Blend Oolong Type: Blend of light-roasted and medium-roasted (floral & roasted mix) Region/Elevation: Taiwan, low elevation Company: The Jasmine Pearl Tea Co. Brewing Style: 1 tsp/8 oz of water, 3 minutes, ~190°F Aroma: Even split of roasted floral scents Appearance: Medium amber gold Taste: Leafy, reminiscent of a warm summer evening under trees with a strong floral note. Aftertaste: Leafy notes fade quickly into the background with floral tastes lingering more and changing slightly as they fade. Flavor is very persistent. … Continue readingTea Review: House Blend Oolong

Tea Review: Misty Mountain Oolong

Tea Name: Misty Mountain Oolong Type: Shan Lin Xi (Winter 2014) GaoShan Cha Region/Elevation: Taiwan, high elevation Company: Beautiful Taiwan Tea Brewing Style: 1 tsp/8 oz of water, 3 minutes, ~190°F Aroma: Leafy oolong and wet forest scent, very faint floral. Appearance: Pale amber-green. Taste: Light body, no tannin. Clean leafy taste with buttery notes and a hint of kombu. Refreshing. Aftertaste: Short-lasting, leaving almost no lingering taste. Buttery notes linger longest. … Continue readingTea Review: Misty Mountain Oolong

Tea Review: Shan Lin Xi Premium

Something I’ve wanted to do for some time is review teas, both my personal favorites that I keep in my cupboard and the occasional new tea I experience while out and traveling, as well as the differences between styles of brewing and the occasional piece of teaware. My Instagram account was started with this thought in mind, but I also wanted to add them to the blog for those who weren’t on Instagram or preferred reading about them in greater detail here. With that, enjoy my first tea review! Tea Name: Shan Lin Xi Premium (Winter 2014) Type: Premium GaoShan Cha (high elevation oolong) Region/Elevation: Taiwan, high elevation Company: Beautiful Taiwan Tea Brewing Style: 1 tsp/8 oz of water, 3 minutes, ~190°F Aroma: Lightly floral with notes of freshly wet leaves Appearance: Pale yellow-green Taste: Floral with flavors of fresh green leaves, yet maintaining the semi-fermented flavor present in oolongs. Body is light but full with no bitterness/tannin. Aftertaste: Flavor intensifies briefly before fading, with light floral notes lingering the longest. Aftertaste is persistent. … Continue readingTea Review: Shan Lin Xi Premium

Comfort Food

Normally I’m not a huge chocolate person, so most of it goes to my partner (he is a true brownie connoisseur). However I periodically go through periods of enjoying or even craving it, but my tastes are incredibly picky. Cheap chocolate isn’t worth it to me when I can find Belgian or other truly delicious cacao creations. That being said, I have a weakness for a good, hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie, which is why yesterday while cooking dinner and in the throws of a major chocolate craving I clicked on a new cookie recipe called a brookie – half chocolate chip, half brownie. With a kind, dough-rolling assist from my partner,  we emerged from baking with some of the most delicious cookies – both chip and brownie variety – that I have ever had. They’ve easily taken the top rung from our previous chocolate chip cookies, and will without a doubt be made far more frequently than is probably healthy. … Continue readingComfort Food

Artist Appreciation: Harry Clarke

I’ve been laid out with a cold today, and mostly sleeping rather than creating. As fever dreams are rarely coherent, I thought I would share one of my favorite influential artists, Harry Clarke. I first encountered his work while reading and reading about the story of Faust. This image of Mephistopheles and Faust caught my eye, as it was both intricate and beautiful, and emanated a captivating intensity and air of Art Nouveau with a personal twist. When I looked into the image further, I found that Clarke was a book illustrator and stained-glass artist whose work graced the pages of Hans Christian Anderson, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Perault, and Goethe’s Faust, among others. His intricate work was present in his stained glass windows as well, creating rich and detailed pieces, most of which can still be enjoyed where they were installed after commission. I highly encourage anyone to visit a work of his (if they can) or to view the many examples of his illustrations available online if you cannot find a print. They are enjoyable down to the tiniest of details and gave me a new appreciation of what can be done to make even the simplest ofContinue readingArtist Appreciation: Harry ClarkeContinue readingArtist Appreciation: Harry Clarke

Wabi Sabi, a Philosophy in a Teacup

When I first took a course on chado (the way of tea or Japanese tea ceremony) I was introduced to the concept of wabi-sabi (侘寂), a Japanese aesthetic or world view. The core of wabi-sabi are the concepts of imperfection and impermanence, derived from the Buddhist three marks of existence, but it is harder to describe than experience. It is a very beautiful aesthetic, with a great amount of philosophical and spiritual thought and meaning in physical expressions. I say it’s difficult to describe mostly because it is a uniquely Japanese aesthetic with little homologous to it in American culture. While there are certainly items we appreciate with a wabi-sabi element, we tend to describe them as “rustic”, “reclaimed”, or “natural” and they lack a lot of the deeper meaning (or hold a different one altogether). The philosophy of wabi-sabi, in contrast, carries into a way of looking at the world and experiencing life, or at least contemplating or appreciating it, which I have not found in Western thought (although would welcome knowing about, if it exists). This philosophy has had a profound effect for my appreciation of the world as well as my relationship for the things in it.Continue readingWabi Sabi, a Philosophy in a TeacupContinue readingWabi Sabi, a Philosophy in a Teacup

Marquam Trail Mini

Trail Review #4 – Marquam Trail Mini Time: 30 mins to 1 hour Difficulty: Mild Wilderness: Medium As with the best of plans, life sometimes happens and throws a stick in your spokes. You’re all getting this post a few days late due to the fact I poured boiling water on my right hand while in the editing phase. Thankfully it only put me a little behind, and with minimal lingering injury. That said, let’s hit the trail! We’re mixing it up a bit with a trail divided by a fair distance of roads and greenbelts, and I’ll be reviewing Marquam Trail in two parts. The ‘mini’ version will be first, and covers the smaller self-contained stretch to the south of SW Capitol Highway and the ‘full’ section of trail that leads up to Council Crest Park. The smaller trail is accessible along SW Terwilliger Blvd just off of SW Barbur Blvd near I-5, nestled along the edge of Burlingame and some of its homes. The trail doesn’t seem like much, and is ultimately quite short and rarely out of view of glimpses of the road above, but due to it’s steep nature, it makes for a pleasant, if simple,Continue readingMarquam Trail MiniContinue readingMarquam Trail Mini

Pittock Bird Sanctuary

Trail Review #2 – Pittock Bird Sanctuary Time: 30 mins to 3 hours Difficulty: Mild Wilderness: Medium Along NW Cornell Road, and not much further than the top of the Lower Macleay Trail you will find the Audubon Society of Portland. A small area consisting primarily of a gift shop and their wildlife care center, it is also the entrance to the Pittock Bird Sanctuary, a hilly but gentle loop of multiple trails winding through a wide range of bird habitats and along the upper portion of Balch Creek. After parking along the road or in the small lot, your make your way to a path by the care center (Which, I should add, is a great place to call should you find an injured bird. I’ve brought them several over the years. If you choose to stop in, they have smaller educational birds indoors, all with short bios about their personality and history and often details about their species.). As you pass the buildings there are enclosures housing larger birds of prey, also equipped with bios and species information. On this particular trip we met Ambrosious, a common raven. We paused and watched him for a while, which wasContinue readingPittock Bird SanctuaryContinue readingPittock Bird Sanctuary

Plant Profile: Salal

NW Plant Profile #2 – Salal (Gaultheria Shallon) In my previous Oregon-grape post I briefly mentioned another berry native to the Northwest called the salal. Salal (gaultheria shallon), also known as shallon, is a perennial shrub native to the west coast of America and Canada, ranging from California through British Columbia and Alaska. In the Northwest salal was eaten by the native Haida people after being mixed with Oregon-grape, salmon eggs, or dried into cakes, while today it is used in preserves, jams, or pies. Salal berries, while referred to most commonly as such, are actually sepals, a type of leaf that grows at the base of the flower. In most plants the sepals will wither, but in some species they instead swell into an edible fruit-like form. In the case of salal, the sepals ripen in August and September into a shape and color that resembles dark blueberries. Fans of foraging find the salal in abundance in Oregon, and describe the taste as similar to blueberries yet unique. In the spring, before the berries have formed, young leaves will be available that are also edible. Just like the berries, the young leaves are an appetite suppressant, and make forContinue readingPlant Profile: SalalContinue readingPlant Profile: Salal