Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Break For An Annual Summer Illness

portulaca in the sunshineUgh. I caught a summer cold. It all started Sunday during the Virtual Letter Social. I’ll spare you the details…it was horrible and I’m just starting to function again. I will say that it feels amazing to be able to breathe out of both nostrils again. The drug cocktail of Mucinex and Advil Cold & Sinus is magical. And, Naoto pulled this hot/cold pack thing out of the freezer last night and put it on my neck and it felt so heavenly that I didn’t even question where it came from.

I feel like I’ve lost an entire week, but I guess that’s the way it goes. I’m hoping to jump back on the writing wagon today in between my chores that have been neglected all week. I’m hoping to be back in the groove tomorrow. There’s an eventful weekend ahead and I’m determined not to miss it!

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Japan Does It Better 16: Canned Cocktails

japan Does it BetterDrinking is pretty prevalent in Japan. I’m kind of a lightweight there…especially in Naoto’s family where even his mother could drink me under the table. (And, as you know from my happy hour and cocktail posts, I do enjoy my cocktails!) Most often, the drink of choice is beer, especially for picnics or small parties or in the izakaya. At the izakaya, it was easy because I would order sours while everyone else enjoyed their Japanese beers. But in picnic or small party situations, I was worried that I would be left out because I hate beer. (Don’t give me the whole “acquired taste” schpeal…I’ve tried.)

Then, on our first trip to Japan, his sister took me over to the grocery store shelf that held the canned cocktails. Canned cocktails are just pre-packaged cocktails, often made with shochu and fruit juice. They aren’t as tasty as an Old Fashioned or a Tom Collins but they are good enough for a picnic. They are light and fruity and carbonated, easy to drink (and sometimes they sneak up on you…) Canned cocktails come in all sorts of flavors. Naoto’s sisters sent these home with him to give to me. The STRONG brand one is lemon and it is a potent 9% alcohol (hence the name). The Slat brand one is made with the açai berry and blueberry and it contains orange pulp (according to the red label with the orange icon). Slat is a much weaker 3% alcohol…there’s a little something for everyone’s tolerance!

Maybe the American equivalent of a canned cocktail is a Mike’s Hard Lemonade (gross) or a wine cooler (double gross), but trust me…the Japanese versions are tastier and I love that they include real fruit.

Portable options for non-beer drinkers…Japan Does It Better!!

To see more JDIB posts, go here.

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LWA Virtual Letter Social

#LWAsocialI’m super-behind on my letter responses again. I pretty much haven’t written a letter (just a few birthday cards and thank you notes) since my last catch-up post. So apparently, I’m a binge-letter writer.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to think about mail until Sunday when the Letter Writers Alliance is hosting a Virtual Letter Social. Basically on Sunday (anytime, all time zones) if you are writing a letter, know that there will be a whole community of letter writers writing along with you. If you’re social media inclined, you can share your progress (and “socialize” with other letter writers) on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #lwasocial. I’m looking forward to enjoying a cup of coffee and writing a bunch of letters on my balcony…in my pajamas.

I hope to see you there!

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Scenes from Hasegawa Happy Hours-June Edition

fresh radishes, Hasegawa Happy HourJune is in the books and another month of Hasegawa Happy Hours is behind us. We only had three happy hours but each one was good fun…quality over quantity, right?

To start, we invited our friends Laura and Scott over for mojitos. We know Laura through the community garden, so we met them at the garden and showed off our plots and talked about vegetables. Then we all came back and enjoyed Laura’s first radish harvest and other snacks. We made mojitos with Laura’s mint (my balcony mint wasn’t big enough at the time) and sat outside on the balcony.
Hasegawa Happy HourThe next week the temperatures dropped and the cooler weather called for a cozy cocktail. I found a recipe for Pendergast cocktails (bourbon, Benedictine, vermouth and bitters) and they fit the bill. They are a new favorite, more fitting for the fall and winter though under normal circumstances. Hasegawa Happy HourFinally, last week when Naoto got home, I made us Mai Tais…real Mai Tais, not the sickly sweet ones tiki bars try to pass off as cocktails. The real version isn’t sweet at all, it’s more tart and rummy with a hint of almond. I used this Mai Tai recipe from the New York Times. There are a few different versions of “original Mai Tai recipes” but this one used both dark and light rums and it was well-balanced, so tropical and so delicious.

For the Mai Tais (and some other cocktails I’ve been researching), I made my own orgeat syrup. There are slightly more complicated recipes for making your own orgeat syrup, but most of them made too much for my use. It only lasts a couple of weeks in the refrigerator and I didn’t want to waste anything, so I found this easy orgeat recipe from Craft Cocktails at Home and tried it instead. It worked like a dream and tasted delicious. I’d like to try making my own the “hard way” with whole almonds eventually, but to start, the Craft Cocktails at Home recipe is easy experimentation.

Easy Orgeat Syrup (barely modified from Craft Cocktails at Home)

6.5 ounces plain almond milk (Pacific brand is recommended, and brand matters. See Craft Cocktails at Home for more details.)

~6 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) almond extract

1/16 teaspoon (or 4 drops) orange blossom water

Add ingredients to a jar with a tight fitting lid. It works best if the almond milk is at room temperature (as in, a new carton fresh from the grocery store) so the sugar dissolves easily. Shake vigorously to combine and dissolve the sugar. Mine kept in the refrigerator for a little over two weeks without any problems.

You can use orgeat syrup in many different cocktails. So far I’ve made Mai Tais and Japanese cocktails and I have a few more up my sleeve in July.

For now, I’m trying to dream up something festive for Independence Day on Friday.

For more Hasegawa Happy Hours, go here.

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