Life as a Cocktail: Trying Something New

 

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I had a rough week – the kind of rough week that made me want to re-think several of my life and career choices.  After surviving yet another one, I was trying to put it out of my mind and get to a happy place, as I sipped my vodka lemon drop. My thoughts started drifting off randomly to paths taken, and experiences that shaped decisions made along the way as I felt, figured and clawed my way through this existence. All while trying not to feel completely overwhelmed. Or fall flat on my face.

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I meditated and thought back to choices others I knew have made, and the happiness and fulfillment those decisions brought (or didn’t). It was easy to conclude that making those same choices, walking that same path, would result in the same for anyone else. Treading well-worn paths. But if our lives become all about playing it safe, how can we know there is another path, or level of happiness, that could be more rewarding? One more unexpected, surprising, even exhilarating, and perhaps more fulfilling? We really can’t know until we…pivot.

A great idea or quest for some form of happiness had to start somewhere, and it might have been an amazing journey along the way.

A cocktail analogy.

Pivot. Twist. Zag. Change IS scary, with no guarantees of success. Then again, it doesn’t guarantee failure, either. Think about THAT for a moment!

A well-made cocktail is a thing of beauty and wonder. The balance of ingredients, one in step with another, and that with another, and so on, creating the mesmerizing dance of flavors. But is it a perfect cocktail? That depends.

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On YOU, and if you want to stick with one recipe and be perfectly happy to never deviate from it, or decide that tweaking it a wee bit would make it different, and possibly better. Perhaps the art of the cocktail can be more interpretive dance, than classical ballet – creating your own new combination of moves, instead of following someone else’s footsteps.

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The well-worn paths, the classic cocktails, have withstood the tests of time, but they haven’t always existed. Someone started with a gin, aged and smoothed to perfection, added – just for giggles – a liqueur of 130+ herbs and botanicals whose recipe has been guarded by monks in Europe for centuries, then sweetened it with the fermented juice of a thousand cherries. A few more ingredients and experiments later, one of the most famous cocktails (and one of my personal favorites) was created.

But anyway, back to the story.

One evening at home, I decided upon a vodka lemon drop. Nothing like a sweet, citrusy kiss to smooth out my ragged soul after a long week. A few minutes relaxing in my lounge chair with a cocktail, and the world was slowly obscured by a veil of bliss. I wandered over to the refrigerator to choose ingredients for tonight’s dinner. Deciding on stir-fried veggies, I reached for the fresh ginger and noticed the stalks of lemongrass beside it.

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PIvot.

Hey…what if…?

I pulled out another martini glass and poured in a couple of ounces of vodka.

I sliced off a thick piece of ginger, pounded it with a mallet, and let it sit in the vodka while I finished my cocktail. Later, I put some ice in a mixing glass, and added the piece of ginger I had used to infuse the vodka.

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Zag (Ladies and gentlemen, now for my NEXT trick…).

I chopped some of the lemongrass and dropped it into the mixing glass. After muddling and pounding the lemongrass and ginger on the ice, I added a quarter ounce of triple sec, and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, then the infused vodka.

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I poured in a wee bit more vodka (wink), shook the whole thing for a few seconds, then strained the exciting concoction into my martini glass.

MMMMM!! Ginger lemongrass martini – a delicious vodka martini with a couple of exotic twists. If the ginger is too strong, add less next time. If you like it sweeter, add more triple sec and simple syrup. The idea is to adjust it to your taste. As with life, the cocktail is all about you and your happiness, after all.

Also with cocktails, as with life, you can start over and try again – fix something, make it even better, or try something new. Who knows what brilliant schemes and cocktails you’ll dream up next!

 

Manscaping: Shaved Gorillas and the Optical Inch

Brazilian cocktail caipirinha

While shopping at the mall one afternoon, I came across an eyebrow tweezing shop in the center aisle. Each brow follicle was wrapped by a piece of thread and quickly extracted. The specialist worked at lightning-speed efficiency. And just as notable to me was the fact that the customer was a man.

I love it when a man takes really good care of himself. Spas and salons that cater exclusively to gentlemen clientele have been thriving, and I’ve seen several online magazines that specialize in advising men on grooming products and style. I wondered, how do the other ladies feel about manscaping?

Popsugar.com threw the question out there. Turns out, their readers had some pretty strong opinions (except for the one commenter who thought manscaping was a video game). Shaving, trimming and general cleanliness, including the man bush, was much appreciated and encouraged by the ladies. Waxing anywhere, however, was considered a bit extreme. Someone commented that hairless everywhere was kinda creepy. I can see that, actually. I personally like my man to have some hair in strategic areas that reassure me I’m not feeling up a teenage boy <shudder>.

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Articles have been written about manscaping, assuring men that being de-gorilla’d does not leave them emasculated. In the New York Times piece “A He-Wax for Him”, salons catering to men have a growing number of clients requesting bikini waxes and Brazilians. Other than The Male Brazilian, popular areas men want serviced include toes, butt, back and chest.

hairy and bare

For pain management during these waxing procedures (let ‘er RRRRIIIP!), male clients could clench a rubber ball or take a painkiller beforehand. The obvious question becomes, why would guys endure these excruciating treatments? Reasons ranged from “maintaining yourself and keeping things clean” to the illusion known as the “optical inch”, where the “main attraction” appears larger due to the less obstructed view.

Less hair down there makes your penis look bigger?? If that ain’t a powerful enough motivator, I don’t know what is!

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According to one article in MensFitness.com, “More men are becoming open to getting waxed because their girlfriends and wives are encouraging them to clean up…usually men come back after the first time because waxing makes you feel more confident by eliminating a 5 o’clock shadow on your back or groin area, and helps relieve ingrown hairs caused by shaving. Plus, it saves time since you don’t have to shave daily, and eventually hair starts to grow back thinner so you don’t need to come in as often.”

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If guys feel a bit skittish about dropping trou in a salon treatment room, there are at-home trimmers on the market designed specially for the hair down there – Philips Norelco Bodygroom Pro, the Gillette Mangroomer Essential Private Body Shaver, etc. Also, techniques on getting that close (and relatively painless) shave in the nether regions can be found in the Interwebs, such as MadeMan.com’s “How to Manscape Below the Belt”, with helpful, detailed instructions like establishing the outline, preparation, and stretching the shaft as you shave.

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Jordan Schlansky explains his Philips Norelco BodyGroom to Conan O’Brien (see video)

As for you cavemen who crave pain and danger, but not when it comes to your genitals and body hair, there’s always the natural option. On an episode of Conan, Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) offered up this brawny argument against manscaping:

“The lower pudenda region is mother nature’s billboard. It should say “Ready to F—.” Not only should you not be trimming and shaving, you should be maintaining a swampy atmosphere that’s just shy of growing fungus. This is where life is born. You should be giving off a hot musk that you can almost taste.”

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Caipirinha

In honor of the Brazilian, the inspired cocktail of the moment is a popular Brazilian concoction – the Caipirinha!

1/2 a lime cut into 4 sections (you’ll just need 2 sections)
2 TP baker’s sugar
2 1/2 ounces cachaca

Fill the shaker halfway with ice cubes. Squeeze juice from the lime sections into the shaker. Add the sugar, then muddle the lime sections on the ice. Pour in the cachaca, shake, then serve the whole thing in a rocks glass, or neat in a martini glass with a slice of lime.

Cheers!

Sources:
Esquire, 2014. “Watch Nick Offerman Explain Why Manscaping is an Abomination”. http://www.esquire.com/style/grooming/videos/a30210/nick-offerman-conan-manscaping/

MadeMan, 2011. “How to Manscape Below the Belt”. http://www.mademan.com/how-to-manscape-below-the-belt/

Mens Fitness, 2015. “Manscaping: A Guy’s Guide to Getting Rid of Body Hair”. http://www.mensfitness.com/styleandgrooming/fashion/manscaping-guys-guide-getting-rid-body-hair

New York Times, 2012. “A He-Wax for Him”. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/fashion/men-turn-to-bikini-waxing.html?_r=4&ref=style

Video of Jordan Schlansky and Conan O’Brien courtesy of youtube.com

Photos:
Caipirinha – JE Alexandria Julaton
Open shirt – igibertoldi/morguefile
Hairy man, barechested man – kconnors/morguefile and igibertoldi/morguefile
Statue – clarita/morguefile
Squint and Shaver – mantasmagorical/morguefile and marykbaird/morguefile
Gorilla – lemai13/morguefile

Soul Rejuvenation: Life Has More Flavor with Friends

drinks with a friend

I was getting ready to tuck into my favorite chair with a cocktail (well, maybe two) within reaching distance. It’s nice to have these quiet moments to yourself, a bit of meditation and Zen in one’s hectic life.

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However, one can have too much soul-searching solitude, and feel a bit cut off from the outside world. So I texted one of my girlfriends, and we checked out a fairly new bar downtown.

Lady Asya at Paymaster Lounge

The Paymaster Lounge in NW Portland successfully pulled off the “we’ve been your favorite neighborhood bar for years” feel, with edge-y posters, comfy leather lounge seats and turned-down lights, but was too clean and new to be dive-y. We explored a bit and came across their vending machine, filled with a nice selection of lip gloss, condoms, fangs, old movies, and packets containing info on finding your spirit animal.

Vending machine of oddities at Paymaster Lounge

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We made our way to the patio, where we enjoyed our cocktails and ordered from a menu with an impressive array of tater tots options. For the rest of the evening, it was all about girls gabbing happily and frivolously about boyfriends, family, fashion, cocktails with herb infusions, trips we wanted to take, etc.  The hours flew.

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For me, friends (and cocktails!) are good for the body and the soul. They remind us what are most important in our lives. Friends not only help us feel like we’re not alone in our burdens, but they also enrich the greater, more meaningful portions of our existence, as well as the quality of our lives.

When I look back at my life, I want memories of adventures and mayhem I shared with friends, not just the sacrifices to my time and life I made so I could work more and harder, until I woke up old and alone.

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Now get out there, call a friend, and share a cocktail moment with them. Cheers!

The Whiskey Library

Originally posted in Ladies Chillout Lounge over a year ago. Here it is for you to enjoy all over again. Cheers!

Ladies Chillout Lounge

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“Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” (Haruki Murakami)

I waited in line to get into the fairly new, and already very popular, Multnomah Whiskey Library one evening. According to the other customers I chatted with, there’s always a waiting list. If you wanted to make reservations and skip the lines, you’d have to purchase membership, and currently they’re full. The Library was a high-ceilinged, chandeliered modern pub of dark wood, leather and exposed brick, with two of its walls covered by shelves showcasing whiskies from around the world, along with other choice hard liquors. Jaunty Scottish and Irish instrumental classics played in the background, and yet the noise level was comfortably moderate; it never got so loud that you couldn’t hear what the person was saying to you from across your table, even with all the hard surfaces.

The Library made…

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Soul Rejuvenation: Spring!

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It was early Sunday morning. While filling the coffeepot, I was hazily trying to decide if I was still dreaming. Eventually, my first cup of coffee and I vaguely decided to go for a wander in the garden.

As I slowly stepped outside – it was still many minutes before I’d remember to infuse caffeine into my bloodstream – the world suddenly doused me with all the signs of life and gifts of a gentle, early Spring. The crisp air made my cheeks tingle and smelled of fresh greens; the cloudless blue sky was bright and captivating – at 8 a.m.!

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Forms of life once hidden away, protected from the harshness of winter, were shooting up from the dark, cold ground and from stark, gray branches. Young plants I didn’t think would survive the winter flashed their bright new petals in defiance. Older plants I thought were on their last gasp were boldly unfurling, with the promise of a comeback stronger and bigger than ever.

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It was growth, rebirth, and rejuvenation all around me. And it was exciting!

I eventually took my first sip of morning coffee.

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It was a bit early for a cocktail at the time I wrote this post, but later I had the Aviation Martini, which is beautiful to look at and tastes sweet like Spring rain, fresh like a Spring morning.

Aviation Martini

2 ounces gin
1/4 ounce Crème de Violette
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice, serve neat in a martini glass. and sip while dreaming of possibilities.

Valentine’s Day

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“I took my troubles down to Madame Rue,
You know that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth.
She’s got a pad down on 34th and Vine
Sellin’ little bottles of Love Potion #9” (The Clovers)

Valentine’s Day for Her – A Recap and Reality Check

That time of year again. This afternoon I walked through the shopping mall and spotted that familiar long line of anxious-looking gentlemen, staring nervously at their watches, spending their lunch breaks at the See’s Candies store. On the way home, the usual quick stop to grab a gorgeous flower bouquet.

flowerstand

So what should a lady get her man on Valentine’s Day? This is actually a two-part answer. With the male libido, it has to be a mind and body experience. The good news is, their needs are much simpler. Men are not nearly as complicated as us ladies.

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Guys Like Stuff

Men love getting gifts that they can have fun with, and make them feel good about themselves. This can be

  • The newest, coolest Xbox game, if he’s a gamer
  • A subscription to a wine club, if he’s a wine enthusiast
  • A gift certificate to a men’s spa, where he can sip craft beers during his pedicure
  • Elegant grooming kits for his beard or nails – there are online subscriptions where he can get a box of manly goodies to try out every month, and keep just the items he wants
  • A finely tailored dress shirt that he’d look great in at his next board meeting.

You ladies should certainly be amply rewarded with more than their happy, excited smiles. Which brings me to the next answer.

The “Meat” of the Issue

Now that you’ve gotten your man feeling special and more than a little…excited, the question is how to maintain the momentum. There is no shortage of online advice about which aphrodisiacs supposedly fan the flames of male desire. A recent Men’s Health article (“The Aphrodisiac Myth”) subjected many of these supposed aphrodisiacs to “the harsh light of science” and found them sadly “flaccid”.

But hey, it’s still kinda fun to look at corny, eye roll-inducing online images of whole bananas shown with a couple of scoops of ice cream on either side, ripe figs (I’ll let you guess what they’re suggestive of), and all matter of foods that are longer than they are wide.

I have my theories on what makes for an effective aphrodisiac, of course. In my opinion, aphrodisiacs should be chosen from a nutritional standpoint, not a visual one. It’s all about strength and endurance, ladies. Oysters, steak and other foods rich in protein and zinc. Get them feeling energetic, then keep that energy flowing.

It’s not completely self-serving, since your man gets a nice meal out of it. But even if it is, whatever! It’s Valentine’s Day!

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On that note, I will leave you with this short video clip from the 1994 movie “Sirens”, and what one of the artist’s models says about ambushing men and feeding them sea slugs.
Hint: Lots of protein in sea slugs.

Cheers!

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Love Potion Cocktail
(Courtesy of Sandra Lee from FoodNetwork.com)

2 shots cognac-based red passionfruit liqueur (recommended: Alize)
1 shot red cranberry juice
1/2 shot half-and-half
Whole strawberry, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes.

Shake vigorously and strain into rocks glass with ice. Slice halfway up middle center of strawberry and slide onto glass edge to garnish.

Sources:
The Aphrodisiac Myth
http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/aphrodisiac-facts
Video clip and screenshot the movie “Sirens” (1994)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2bK5pmX4A8
Photos: Cocktail and oysters, flower stand by JE Alexandria Julaton; Box of chocolates by rosevita; Grilled meats by ardelfin; Men with wine by GaborfromHungary

Cocktail Etiquette: Surviving a South Korea Drinking Party

Soju

South Korea has really got it going on.

After spending the past four decades integrating with the high-tech industry on a global scale, it succeeded in becoming a major player. Currently the world’s 12th largest economy, it has joined “the trillion dollar club of world economies”, according to Forbes.com.

South Korea’s capital, Seoul, is one of the most visited cities in the world. Downtown is a hodge podge of working stiffs, captains of industry, hipsters on their smartphones at cafes (ironically, of course), and some of the wildest, most creative fashion trends in clubs throughout the city.

With the Seoul train just zooming along, who wouldn’t feel like livin’ it up Gangnam-style?

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Video “Gangnam Style” by PSY

But before you start throwing back shots of soju – the local liquor and focus of this post – there needs to be precautions and proprieties  in place prior to partaking (yes, I did have fun saying this out loud five times). These just ensure that, even if you wake up in a pool of your own urine wearing someone else’s underwear, you’ll have a shred of dignity left after last night’s booze binge, knowing you adhered to proper drinking protocols. Well, for the most part, anyway.

Just a few rules. It’ll be painless. Trust me.

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One of my girlfriends, Jessica, had recently visited relatives in South Korea and received an education in the local drinking culture from her cousins. Soju, she explained, is a rice-based liquor similar to China’s firewater, baiju, and is cheaper than buying water at grocery stores. As for drinking etiquette, when someone pours soju into your cup, you have to pour some into their cup in return. Be sure to use both hands when serving the drink. Also, the drinking cheer is “Gunbae!”

According to my brother, Mac, who lived in South Korea for a couple of years, when soju is offered by a host who is older or in a more senior corporate position  than you, it is very impolite to refuse. You must accept the drink with both hands, then acknowledge the toast and drink the entire shot in one go, but only after they have chugged theirs.

He also says five glasses is the “proper” amount to drink of any Korean hard liquor served (which is usually soju). Three glasses is too little, and seven is too much. This applies to dinner parties, formal events and evenings out with business colleagues.

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In conclusion, whether it’s with friends or during a hoesik, which is networking or dining with co-workers, drinking is a “social glue” used to really get to know someone. Refusing alcohol not only makes you a buzzkill, but also rude. If you’ve reached your limit, your best strategy would be to accept the soju, then discreetly pour it into a water cup or under the table.

Now that you’ve got these rules down and are ready to join the soju-guzzling party crowd in downtown Seoul, you’ll soon find there are few laws in South Korea against public intoxication. With convenience stores selling cheap hard liquor at all hours, try not to trip over passed-out co-workers on your way to the next bar tonight.

Cheers!

Sources:
http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/2012/11/29/as-south-korea-tackles-drinking-culture-samsung-sets-guidelines/ http://travel.cnn.com/seoul/drink/business-travelers-guide-drinking-korea-213012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/10956078/The-worlds-most-visited-cities-in-2014.html?frame=2421807 http://www.forbes.com/places/south-korea/
Photo credits: Seoul aerial view by Jessica Chang; Downtown at night by stickerstack; Soju by imagesbykenny; Drinking two bottles by kconnor; Shot glass by hilarycl