Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to describe wine: Help with a Wine Aroma Wheel

Welcome to another week of Wine Wednesday! This week, I'm going to talk about tasting wines. When tasting wines, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what flavors you are trying. At the same time, if two people try the same wine at the exact same time, they can come up with totally different flavors based on their taste buds and differences in what they've recently had to eat/drink. Because of this, today I'm going to share a great tool to help you describe wines as you taste them- a Wine Aroma Wheel! If you search online, you can certainly purchase one. However, I feel that there is no need to do this whatsoever.

As you can see from the above wine aroma wheel, there are tons of different descriptors for wine. Start your description at the beginning of the circle with aromas: when you smell the wine, what do you get? Is it a fruity or floral scent? From there, work your way outwards in the circle. For example, perhaps you are smelling a fruity white wine. You can then determine if it is a citrusy scent, a tree fruit scent, or a tropical fruit.

Once you have determined these initial scents and flavors, move on to more complicated areas (the bouquet or faults section). Reading the label of the wine, discover more flavors based off how the wine was aged (if at all) and other tastes. The 'faults' section is where you should look if you are not a fan of a wine because it has a fault with it- for example, a corked bottle will not taste well because of the presence of tricoloroanisole. 

Thats it for this weeks version of Wine Wednesday! As you are enjoying your next bottle of wine (perhaps tomorrow, for Thanksgiving!) what do you taste? What are the tastes from the best bottle of wine you've had?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Street food in Thailand

Hello! Today, I am linking up with Travel Tuesday and talking about some of the best meals I've experienced while traveling. Of course, it (almost) goes without saying that the best meal I've ever had while traveling has been at Lo Zodiaco in Rome. However, today I'm going to talk about a whole slew of meals: Thai street food.

Now, you may have heard some bad experiences with street food. However, if you are smart, and follow a few basic tips, you should be just fine! Two quick tips: if you have a sensitive stomach, I would perhaps avoid anything except for the fresh produce. Otherwise, feel free to go at it- just avoid the raw meat, as you never know how long that has been sitting out in the blistering heat!

Throughout Thailand, there were various street markets operating at all hours of the days and nights. Of course, with the markets also came delicious street food! Above were delicious chicken kebabs with onions and peppers. The flavors all sizzled together perfectly for an appetizing treat!

Of course, being in a tropical area there were also tons of stands with coconut milk and coconut ice cream! Here's Nick looking super happy before getting some coconut ice cream. Check out all of the pictures below for some more of the street food offered!

fresh grilled corn on the cob!
grilled octopus for 10 baht= 35 cents
some scary looking grilled fish!
raw seafood…I'd stay away from this!
fresh pad thai for 50 baht= $1.50

Quail eggs, a plate of 6 for 20 baht= 60 cents
fresh crab, 100 grams for 30 baht= $1
some mystery food
All of the street food in Thailand was relatively cheap, with smaller snacks usually being anywhere from 10-40 baht (between 25 cents and $1.25). Of course, there was also tons of fresh produce, especially while we were in Bangkok. One of my goals for the trip was to find deep-fried scorpion, which is considered to be a delicacy in Thailand. Unfortunately, we never found it- or Nick never pointed it out to me! In any case, the street food was always delicious and fresh. Nick and I never had any issues with eating it, but then we also didn't try any of the more exotic items or things that were uncooked. When eating in Thailand, as long as you are smart about what you are consuming everything will go smoothly for you! What is the most exotic thing you have ever eaten?

Monday, November 24, 2014

7 Gift Ideas for Athletes

Yesterday, I posted about 7 gift ideas for men who travel. With a lot of great feedback and interest in the post, today I'm going to post 7 great gift ideas for athletes or sports players!

EMS/ Stim Machine
Last year, Nick received a HealthmateForever 6 Mode EMS stim machine. This handheld machine offers 6 different massage modes and up to 20 speeds, allowing athletes to determine the exact level of pressure and stimulation they want. For this model, there are two output sources, allowing you to have four pads placed wherever you choose. As an athlete, this will help with any sore, cramping, or tight muscles whenever you need it.
rubber wedding rings
Another item purchased last year for Nick are rubber wedding rings. Many athletes don't wear their wedding ring while working out, so the process of constantly taking a ring off, putting it back on, and yes-keeping track of where it is put- is a long one. Now that Nick has both a black and silver rubber wedding ring, he is able to work out with his ring on and not worry about safety or losing it.

G-Shock watches another great gift idea for athletes. The watch is shock resistant and water resistant up to 200 Meters, so your athlete needn't worry about damaging the watch. Additionally, it has an auto LED light and a stopwatch as well. These watches are incredibly durable and are offered at a terrific price point. Nick has the G-Shock GA100CF-8A in both black and red.

CCM baseball hat
This CCM baseball hat is another great gift idea for an athlete, specifically a hockey player. On the front, it has the classic CCM logo, and on the back either the Canadian or US flag. With mesh lining for much of the hat, it allows easy breathability.

The next gift idea for an athlete is a GNC Membership. At only $15 for the year, a GNC membership allows athletes to purchase GNC products for up to 50% off, both online and in the store, year-round. 

Another gift idea for athletes is a subscription to either Men's Health or Sports Illustrated. Both options are great and will be exactly what athletes are looking to read and learn about.

Mio Alpha 2
While not yet out, the Mio Alpha 2 heart rate watch is at the top of the list for athlete gifts this year. It is expected to be released this month. This watch does not need a chest strap, and accurately tracks your heart rate as well as calories burned. For the fitness conscious, this is bound to be a great product!

There you have it with the top 7 gifts for athletes in 2014! On a side note, if you are looking for a great gift for a hockey player, check out this hockey chair. If you are an athlete, what is at the top of your list for 2014?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: 7 Presents For Men Who Travel

With Thanksgiving almost here and Christmas right around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to talk about gifts for men!

gifts for travelers
world scratch off travel map
The first gift on my list is one that can be meaningful in many ways: a scratch-off travel map. I have already purchased this for Nick, and he claims it is one of his all-time favorite gifts ever. If you are giving this to the traveler you love, it can be one of many things: places you have been together, places he has been, or even places that you both have been and future destinations. Whatever the case, this scratch off travel map will be sure to please!

The second item is a sturdy carry-on suitcase. This suitcase may be (and, probably is!) too small for most women- but for men, it is perfect. The bag will fit under your airplane seat, and also has a separate  frontal compartment for your laptop or iPad. With this, you won't have to worry about the hassle of removing electronics from your bag- as they are in their own compartment, no worries!
iPhone Power Bank…Give the traveler you love a little boost of power, anytime they need it! Power banks usually give you at least a few hours of extra battery life, if not an entire day. No matter what, the banks are easy to pack in your bag and take with on your travels, guaranteeing you connectivity, whether you need it for photos, maps, or communication! The highest ranked on Amazon now: Anker.

Noise-cancelling headphones are another great gift for men who travel. The most popular and top-of-the-line are Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. However, if the retail price is a little high, personally I purchase Skullcandy headphones for both Nick and I, which work great for what we need!

This USB Travel Shaver is another great option for a guy who frequently travels. It is easily portable, as it is smaller then a smartphone and charges with a USB cord. This is the perfect gift for a guy on the go!
There isn't much that is worse than arriving to your travel destination and discovering wrinkly clothes from being packed away. Fortunately, with this portable steamer, the problem is now solved! Of course, wrinkle-free shirts are always a possibility, but even those may come away with a wrinkle or two.
The last item on my list today is this compact, portable down jacket. When traveling towards cold weather, it is often difficult to pack warm clothes. Fortunately, this jacket stuffs into a small pouch, taking up a minimal amount of room and allowing your traveler plenty of space for other items.

So there you have it with 7 great gift ideas for guys who frequently travel! When you are traveling, what is your number one must-have item?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Viktualienmarkt: a day at the Munich Farmers Market

maypole at Viktualienmarkt
When my family and I visited Munich for Oktoberfest, we spent two of our days doing "non-Oktoberfest" activities: visiting Füssen and the Neuschwanstein Castle, and spending the day at Viktualienmarkt: a German farmers market!

Viktualienmarkt is located just a few hundred meters from Marienplatz, the central square of Munich. Originally, the market was located in Marienplatz until 1807, when King Maximilian I determined the market was too large and moved it to the present location. Over the years, numerous buildings have been added, including a butcher's hall, fish hall, and many stands for bakeries, cheese shops, and sausage shops. In the picture above, you can see the Maypole located in Viktualienmarkt. In the old days when the market was first formed, water played an important role to the market square as seven brooks flowed across the square. The Maypole shows various figurines that display the trades and crafts of this part in Munich. Maypoles date from the ages of overall illiteracy and used to signal a village or a market to traveling salesmen or craftsmen. Maypoles are most common in Celtic and Germanic countries and throughout Bavaria, as well as parts of England.

If you are looking to spend a relaxing day in Munich, I would definitely check out Viktualienmarkt. We roamed the various shops, and left the day with full stomachs and much less empty wallets. Viktualienmarkt has many cheese shops, sausage shops, bakeries, flower stands, tourist trinkets, fresh produce shops, spice stands, and many more. Currently, the market takes up a space of over 22,000 square feet with over 140 stalls and shops.

Viktualienmarkt cheese shops
some of the delicious cheeses at Viktualienmarkt
Viktualienmarkt cheese shop
more amazing cheese!
My favorite shops at Viktualienmarkt were the delicious cheese shops. Each of the cheese shops had hundreds upon hundreds of different cheese flavors, soft and hard, to purchase. Of course, before purchasing, the vendors will certainly let you try out a few flavors! I loved to try new varieties of cheese while shopping about the market. Tourist tip: go to Viktualienmarkt with an empty stomach! You'll be able to sample many different foods, and if you are still hungry there are fresh meals available.

flowers at Viktualienmarkt
gorgeous fresh flowers!
Of course, being a farmers market, there are tons of fresh flower shops and stands! These stands all had stunning flower arrangements, and definitely hosted the biggest roses I have ever seen. If we had not been leaving the next day I would have certainly purchased some fresh flowers to brighten up our hotel room!

Throughout the market, we kept seeing these strange 'flower' plants…they looked like mini pumpkins on the leaves, but they were actually hollow on the inside! Would have loved to bring home one of these.

produce at Viktualienmarkt
fresh produce
Of course, being a farmers market, there was tons of fresh produce all throughout the market! It was refreshing to see some business people and natives of Munich shopping the market, likely getting their meals for lunch or dinner all planned out!

wood carvings at Viktualienmarkt
cute little wood squirrel guy!
 Throughout Viktualienmarkt, there were also tons of great wood carvings/projects and trinkets for around the home. I thought the above guy was pretty darn cute! While I didn't purchase him to take home, I did find a great looking heart sign that says 'willkommen' to hang in our apartment here. The rest of my family all bought a similar sign as well!

olives at farmers market
some of the different olives!
 While I'm not an olive person, I was astonished at how many different olives one of the stands had. There had to be around 100 different types of olives- regular, stuffed, you name it!- to try out and purchase.
spices at farmers market
some of the spice varieties!
The spice selection at Viktualienmarkt also surprised me. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of different spices to purchase. I ended up getting a yellow curry to take home to Nick- reminds us of our honeymoon in Thailand!

Overall, Viktualienmarkt was a great-and free!- way to spend a day in Munich. One of my favorite things to do while traveling has been to check out various farmers markets or other markets and see what they have to offer. Thus far, I've been to the markets in the US, Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark and Thailand, and each has been impressive! Viktualienmarkt impressed me based off the sheer size of the market, as well as how many great things they had both for native Germans and for tourists looking for souvenirs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Recommendations

what wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner
red, white and sparkling wine recommendations!
One of my favorite holidays of the year, Thanksgiving, is almost upon us! As I mentioned a few days ago in my homemade apple pie recipe, I have already been busy preparing for the holiday. To me, Thanksgiving has always been about getting together with loved ones and enjoying the time spent with them. The more the merrier! Of course, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, we have a pretty standard menu: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, apple know the drill! However, for many- the challenging part is the wine pairings! Today, I'll break down a little wine pairing information for you so you know exactly which wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal!

When serving wine with Thanksgiving, there are two general things you will want from your wine:
  • Versatility: You will want a very versatile wine that can go with many flavors and tastes. Because of the many different dishes served on Thanksgiving, a wine that paris well with most things and does not overpower the dishes is essential.
  • Energetic: Because your guests will be eating a large meal with turkey (which we all know makes you tired!), you will want a wine that is refreshing and energetic. Ideally, the wine will be slightly acidic and promote salivation. Wines that are lower in alcohol content are also a good idea- highly alcoholic wines may just put your guests to sleep!
When you are selecting wines, I would recommend not overwhelming your guests and simply picking both a red and white (or sparkling) wine. Here are some great recommendations I have!

Red wine pairing for Thanksgiving
Apothic Red 2012 Blend
Apothic Red is a California blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is very fruit-driven, with dark fruit flavors and hints of spice. With the fruity flavors, hints of spice, and soft taste, Apothic Red will pair well with your Thanksgiving meal and can be served with just about anything.

If you don't have Apothic Red available, most California Pinot Noirs or grenache-based blends will go well with Thanksgiving. These wines tend to be fruity enough to complement the food, yet light enough not to overpower it. 

Lurton Les Fumées Blanches 2012 Sauvignon Blanc
Lurton Les Fumées Blanches is a very traditional Sauvignon Blanc produced in France. It is smooth with citrus fruit flavors and a high level of acidity. The acidity is a perfect pairing for Thanksgiving meal, as it will complement the flavors, making your mouth water and you craving more. 

When pairing white wine with Thanksgiving dinner, I would look into either Sauvignon Blancs or German Rieslings. Each of these acidic wines will refresh the palate and leave a clean finish. 

Mionetto Prosecco grapes are grown in the Veneto region of Italy, harvested in September, and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The crisp wine offers slight frizzante, golden apple tastes, and acidic flavors. Mionetto Prosecco is dry but fruity and fizzy, pairing very well with Thanksgiving menus.

For other sparkling wines to pair with Thanksgiving meals, I would recommend brut or extra dry (slightly sweet) sparkling wines. I tend to lean towards extra dry Proseccos, as they are slightly bubbly but not overpowering.

And with that, there you have it for wine recommendations for your Thanksgiving meal! What will you be serving on Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Koh Samui, Thailand: Grandfather & Grandmother Rocks

Koh Samui, Thailand honeymoon
views of the ocean in Koh Samui, Thailand
The weather has certainly started to cool down here in Västerås! Whenever winter starts to hit, I always feel slightly nostalgic and look back on warmer days. Today, that is bringing me back to Nick and I's honeymoon in Koh Samui, Thailand. We spent three weeks in Koh Samui before going to Bangkok for a few days. Each day in Koh Samui was terrific, with perfect (albeit, HOT, weather!). Because we were on our honeymoon, we truthfully just relaxed the whole time. However, we were able to catch a few of the "sights" to see while in Koh Samui. One of the attractions that we visited were the Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks on Lamai Beach.

Grandfather Rock
Grandmother Rock
As you can see, the rocks are…well, rocks. Use your imagination to determine what they look like and how they were named the Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks. Truthfully, we were glad that this was just a short stop on a day tour of the island we had planned, because as you can see…a rock, is a rock. The best part about our trip to the Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks is that we got to visit Lamai Beach, which was stunningly gorgeous. We spent most of our time on Chaweng Beach, so it was nice to explore another beach.

Nick and I on Lamai Beach!
Lamai Beach Koh Samui
Lamai Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand
As you can see, Lamai Beach was fairly rocky out into the ocean. We loved Chaweng because of the sandy beaches. However, the contrast between Lamai and Chaweng was nice to experience. Lamai is the second-largest resort area on Koh Samui after Chaweng, so we found it to be slightly more laid-back. However, because we spent most of our time on Chaweng at First Bungalow Beach Resort, we were away from the crowds most of the time, yet close enough to enjoy the nightlife.

Overall, when it comes to Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks- go to check out Lamai Beach, but the rocks are nothing too special!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Homemade Apple Pie Recipe

homemade apple pie recipe
My homemade apple pie!
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I am already busy at work planning our Thanksgiving menu! Last year, Nick and I were fortunate enough to have 12 guests from 6 different countries join us for our Thanksgiving celebration. This year, we are quite looking forward to it again, and I have already begun writing grocery lists and shopping for the holiday! One of the items I can't live without for Thanksgiving is a nice homemade apple pie. Growing up, we would always take the day before Thanksgiving as our pie-making day, and between making the crust, the filling, and actually baking the pies, boy was it an event! This year, I'll be doing the same, and spending the day before our Thanksgiving celebration making this homemade apple pie.

Without further ado, here is the pie crust ingredient list:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cup softened shortening (smör)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 5 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
Mix the first three ingredients in one bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the final four ingredients. Once finished, add those to the previous mixture and stir. Roll out thinly for crusts. Once you have the crusts rolled out, place one crust in pie tin. You have several options for the second crust- you can simply roll out a top crust identical to the first, or choose to spend some extra time to "make your pie look nice". For this recipe, I created a lattice crust and braided edge. You can find instructions from Martha Stewart herself here

braided edge pie crust
For the braided edge, you take three thin
pieces of dough and braid it.
braided edge pie crust

Now that we have the pie crusts made, it is time to whip up our apple pie filling! Here are the ingredients for the apple pie filing:
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (taste for sweetness)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 6-7 cups sliced apples
My advice for this portion is the mix the sugar and cinnamon first, then sprinkle on top of the apples and mix. This way, you will ensure an even distribution of cinnamon and sugar on the apples. 

Once you have your filling is completed, fill your pie tin with the filling. Place the second crust over the filling, pinching the crust edges together. Finally, if using a solid top crust, using a fork or knife, create slits in your pie crust. The slits allow steam to escape while the pie is baking. Chill the entire pie for 20 minutes until top crust is firm. 

Finally, bake your pie at 425F for 50-60 minutes, or until crust is evenly cooked. If your crust edges are browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil to avoid burning. For my lattice crust and braided edge, I placed aluminum foil over the pie for almost the entire period of baking.

lattice crust homemade apple pie recipe
my completed apple pie!
The total time for the pie was around 4.5 hours. Prep time=3.5 hours. Cooking time= 1 hour. I noticed that (unfortunately) my braided crust fell down slightly into the pie, so the finished picture isn't quite as pretty. Fortunately, the looks of the pie did not affect the taste!

lattice crust homemade apple pie recipe
perfect apple pie slice
lattice crust apple pie recipe
top view of the lattice crust & braided edge
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