Lunch in Kamakura

Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2010 | 0 comments

   Seeing as I'll be away from Japanese food for a few weeks, we went out for lunch yesterday at Hatchi no Ki, a restaurant in Kamakura that's famous for its amazing food. (Thanks again, Otousan!) ...I think I've posted pictures of it before, maybe last November.
  There are two buildings, one of which serves shojin-ryori (food for Buddhist monks and therefore perfect for any vegetarian guests), and the other of which serves traditional Japanese food. We opted for the non-vegetarian menu this time since everyone in attendance loves fish. (For those of you who don't already know, traditional Japanese food contains little or no meat per se, just fish). It also tends to feature meals that contain tons of small dishes, so this course would've been pretty much impossible to make at home. I didn't include nearly all of the dishes this time, but here are few samples of what we ate.

My flight leaves tomorrow afternoon, so my next post will be in a few days from the US!

                                       Yuki enjoying some local beer
                             Eel with cucumbers in vinegar dressing, yuba (the top that gets skimmed off when tofu is made), and greens with a sesame sauce

Crab, Japanese pumpkin, and Japanese eggplant in fish stock with grated radish (I will admit that this sounds a lot worse than it was amazing!)

The best sesame tofu EVER

Tiny fish! I have no idea what this type is called...maybe Fred? Ahahaha

Just before digging into lunch

Wasabi's Diet Update

Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | 0 comments

  I think I mentioned a while back that Wasabi is on a diet after having gained 600 grams in about a month. So far she's been doing ok, besides crying incessantly for food and jumping on the counters like an evil monkey. At least, she was doing ok until today, that is....when she apparently snapped after I gave her a piece of hard candy to play with. She carried it around and growled for 20 minutes straight, not letting anyone get near her! The sugar cravings must be really getting to her!
  Click HERE to see (and hear) Wasabi in action. You may/may not have to turn up the volume a bit, but she's pretty loud on our speakers so I wouldn't recommend viewing this at work with the sound on....

                             Wasabi's happy face

Sundried Tomato Chickpea Dip

Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | 0 comments

   I made this chickpea dip for a dinner we had last Saturday, and it was amazing, if I do say so myself.  I'm posting it mostly for my own benefit, so I can remember exactly how I made it for next time! Feel free to try it for yourselves though:

    1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
    3 teaspoons of lemon juice
    3-4 Tablespoons of sundried tomatoes (NOT in oil), rehydrated in hot water for about 30 minutes and then chopped---make sure to reserve the remaining liquid
    1-2 teaspoons of sea salt 
    About 3-4 teaspoons of minced garlic, or to taste
    3 or more teaspoons of dried basil, or to taste

  Put the chickpeas, olive oil, sundried tomatoes, and lemon juice in a blender, then add at least 4 tablespoons of the sundried tomato water. Blend, adding more tomato water if the mixture is too thick. Continue blending until you get a rather thick dip, or to your desired consistency. Transfer dip to a bowl and stir in the salt and garlic. At this point I refrigerated the dip overnight, tasted it the next morning, and decided it needed some basil. But feel free to add the basil along with the garlic; it should turn out the same. Just make sure to taste it an hour or two before serving and add additional spices as necessary. This will leave you enough time to let the dip sit a while longer so the flavors can combine nicely. Garnish with more sundried tomatoes if desired and serve with pita chips or warm flatbread (I made some whole wheat flatbread that you see in the photos).

More Ajisai!

Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 | 0 comments

  This is how the flowers really look, as opposed to the blurry pics in the last post....

                          Overlooking the city from our neighborhood shrine

           Obviously nothing to do with flowers, but she's cute enough to post anyway!


Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 | 0 comments

   Rainy season has officially been going on here in Japan for about a week or more now...and I'm already done with it! Probably not helping my frustration is the fact that for 2 days in a row the weather forecast has called for either a 30% or 20% chance of showers (yesterday and today, respectively)...leaving me to get drenched both times by sudden HEAVY and prolonged rainstorms.
 On the bright side, rainy season means the appearance of ajisai, aka hydrangea. Ajisai are so common during this time of year that they're considered a sign of the rainy season. Their colors range from dark purple through various shades of blue to pinks and whites. Ajisai have two types of arrangements--mophead flowers, which are composed of numerous small blooms and resemble a pom pom or the head of a mop, and then lacecap flowers, in which the fertile flowers in the middle are surrounded by a ring of brightly colored sterile flowers. Thank you, Wikipedia.
  I'll post a picture of each type; hopefully some time this week it will be nice enough out that I can dare expose our Canon to the elements instead of relying on the poor quality camera on my cell phone.
...In other news, I hear that the Vegas casinos would love to host the Japanese meteorologists for a few days of heavy gambling.

            The mophead type...apologizes again for the poor quality and lack of focus...

                                The lacecap type


Posted on Sunday, June 20, 2010 | 0 comments

   It hasn't been a weekend with many photo opportunities, but I did come across 2 great shirts that I just can't resist posting. The first one was on a child who kindly let me take her picture. Some of the best 'Engrish' I've seen in a while!
Who knew that the key to happiness was so simple?? And where can I find a Hummy Waffle??

Secondly, I found an adorable shirt at Uniqlo (wonderful store here in Japan, comparable to maybe the Gap). Uniqlo has somewhat recently started offering t-shirts by various guest designers, kind of like how Target features ever-changing designer clothing.
This particular shirt is loose enough to accommodate my expanding belly yet still has a nice shape, and although I'm not typically a t-shirt girl any more, the cat on the front combined with the Paul and Joe label sold me. Or sold the shirt, I should say. Thanks Uniqlo!


The Halfway Mark!!!

Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | 0 comments

   Today marks 5 months, meaning I'm officially halfway! Sigourney Weaver celebrated it in her usual manner--by kicking up quite a storm around 3 in the morning. She's strong enough now that Yuki has no problem feeling her when she kicks at night, although not quite strong enough that I notice her when I'm up and moving around during the day. According to the guide, my little girl is now as long as a banana (10 inches from head to heel) and weighs about 10.5 ounces. That's approximately 300 grams, so just imagine that I have one of those little white tiny kittens in my belly (see previous posts if you have no idea about these kittens), aiming to get out! Kick. Kick. Kick!

                                 The 5 Month Belly Pic

Bourbon Kuwabara!

Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | 0 comments

   We've been trying to come up with a name for the baby (aside from Sigourney Weaver, that is)...which has proven to be nearly impossible so far. It's especially compounded by the fact that most of the Western names I suggest---we're doing a Western name and a Japanese middle name---tend to bring up negative connotations in Japanese. For example, Yuki refuses to name our baby something that sounds like 'nose', go figure!
 Which, after several long and frustrating discussions, has led us to...Bourbon! The story: At the suggestion of a baby naming website, we started looking through a list of location names in the US. And what did we find, but: Bourbon, Kentucky. Eureka!!! Now see, this name has numerous appealing qualities (Bourbon, that is. I can't think of terribly much that's appealing about Kentucky, no offense to any Kentucky natives):
1. It's unique!
2. It brings to mind no negative images in Japanese. In fact, as far as I know, bourbon is quite popular here!
3. NOBODY will ever forget our daughter's name
4. Opportunities for bad puns and hours of laughs are endless!

  Sigh....the search goes on...hang in there, Signourney....

Tanukiko Picnic

Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2010 | 0 comments

  Yesterday, we decided to escape the heat (the car thermometer read 30 C--86F, but the humidity makes it feel much worse) and headed up to Lake Tanuki with a picnic lunch. Tanukiko, aka Lake Tanuki, is one of Mt. Fuji's 5 lakes, so the area around it is much cooler than Shizuoka. We didn't actually see Mt. Fuji this time due to cloud cover, but it's a beautiful location nonetheless.
 We had a relaxing walk around the lake after eating and then stopped for locally-made ice cream at a cow farm on the way home. And of course, I had to stop and see the cows themselves. There's nothing better than ending a peaceful afternoon with some quality cow time!

    The belly is really starting to show...or maybe it was all the veggies I ate at lunch

                           Rather expensive hotel on the lake

       Unflattering picture of me and the ice cream...only one cone was mine. I swear!

                           Source of the lovely ice cream

                     This kid had no parents to be found, so she adopted us for a while


Posted on Friday, June 11, 2010 | 0 comments

   Seeing as I've been sick with a nasty cold all week and haven't done much of anything interesting, I thought I'd publish another baby post.  This one is from March 29th.  Oh, and I did end up getting my caramel chocolate coconut bars that night, since Yuki is just that wonderful of a husband and went out to buy butter. Oh, and if you want the recipe, look at my posts back around the end of March. These are our new favorite cookie bars!

   Well, so far I thought that I was doing ok with the whole morning sickness/cravings issues that are always talked about during early pregnancy.You always hear those stories about women wanting one thing and one thing only to eat, and they'd better have it asap! Yuki has told me countless times about his tiny mother polishing off a whole roll cake in one sitting, and my own mom mentioned how she once ate an entire jar of sauerkraut when she was pregnant with one of us. (Sauerkraut??).
 Me? Nothing, really. I mean, yes, I've been feeling queasy off and on, almost to the point of getting sick but never actually there, and random foods just don't seem appealing. For example, the broth that udon noodles are served in has made me gag a couple of times. I think it's the fish smell emanating from it. And salad, of all things, is no longer really appealing. So it's been more aversions than cravings. Although I will admit to being on a pineapple kick lately. I ate half of one on Friday night and would've likely finished it off had Yuki not stopped me. In my experience that's not entirely uncommon though, and it wasn't like I HAD to have it.
  Today, however, is another story. I got back a few hours ago from a rather large lunch at a former student's house, and all I can think about this afternoon is eating some kind of gooey caramel cookie bars, preferably with toasted coconut and chocolate chips included. I've just spent the last 10 minutes looking up recipes online and cursing the fact that we don't have enough butter in the fridge to bake anything! And I will not, will NOT, go to the store to get any butter, since I'm pretty sure that if I do bake these evil little treats, I will eat the ENTIRE batch. All at once. While they're still hot and gooey and lovely. GRRR.
  So, instead I'm going to try to focus on making a nice, healthy dinner of wasabi mayonnaise baked salmon. And try not to be too cranky about not having caramel anything in the house, let alone some delicious caramel layer bars. Wish Yuki luck tonight. He's probably going to need it!

19 Weeks!

Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2010 | 0 comments

  We're almost at the official halfway point: today marks 19 weeks! Sigourney Weaver was definitely up early and celebrating it, too---I could feel her kicking away around 4 a.m, more so than she usually does around that time. (For about the past week, I've been waking up between 3 and 4 a.m., no idea why but I wish it would stop!). She was going at it so strongly that I put Yuki's hand on my stomach, and he could also feel her quite easily.
 ...Sigourney's been making herself known since early last week, but last night's activity was something else. I'm in trouble if this keeps up. One would imagine that Monday evening's garlic/broccoli/seafood combo pizza would've sent her into a frenzy (it definitely sent my stomach into one), but all we had for dinner last night was chicken and mushrooms. So much a logical cause/effect explanation. Guess I'll have to wait and see how tonight goes.
  Here's the 19-week belly shot. I still can't tell if passerby think I'm just getting fat or am actually pregnant, although it was encouraging when one college-age student hesitantly asked 'Kristel...are you going to....(long pause)....have a baby?' on Monday. Bless him for not assuming the former!

        Not all that much different from last week, but it's getting harder to suck it in!

                           And, a cute kitten shot, just for your viewing pleasure

Wedding Loot!

Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 | 1 comments

   I'm not sure if everyone knows this already or not, but Japanese weddings are some of the most expensive in the world....for not only the bride and groom, but also the guests! It's standard practice for each guest to give 30000 yen in cash as a wedding gift (roughly equivalent to $300). If a married couple if attending, then 50000 yen is acceptable, since 60000 isn't allowed due to the fact that you're not supposed to give money in numbers that can be split in half (bad luck for the newlyweds).
 In any case, while the weddings here are magnificent, they can also be rather painful financially if you've got more than one or two a year to attend. Yuki just had one this past Sunday in Hiroshima, a 4 or 5 hour ride on the bullet train from here. Thankfully, the bride and groom were kind enough to cover travel and lodging expenses (this is usual but not always the case). And, the bag of wedding favors he brought back partially explains the extremely high price that each guest pays...about half of that money is returned in the form of pricey favors, usually gourmet food, dinnerware, or a combination of the two.
 In this instance, we got: 1 chocolate almond torte that would've served 8 easily; 6 new and rather pricey pasta bowls; assorted small cookies and mints; a canister of gourmet tea, and an iPod Shuffle. Yuki won the Shuffle, but I'll consider it part of the favors since it was supplied by the bride and groom for whatever games that were played at the party following the wedding dinner. We did not receive a partridge in a pear tree, but I'm eagerly awaiting its arrival in the mail any day now.

                           The torte box, a work of art itself

                              Said torte

                             One of the set of 6 pasta bowls

New Kit Kat Flavors!

Posted on Sunday, June 06, 2010 | 0 comments

  We found these at 7-11 on Friday: Bitter Almond and Aloe Yogurt. The bitter almond was wonderful: dark chocolate with a nice almond-y aftertaste mixed in. 9 out of 10 on that one. I was especially amused by the collaboration with TBC (Toyko Beauty Center), a Japanese aesthetics company. The back of the package says something to the effect of: 'Don't give up beauty or chocolate. You have individual beauty'....that's a really rough translation since my Japanese is awful, but you get the idea. Kit Kat still needs to work on their philosophical statements a bit, apparently.

 Next: the aloe yogurt...hmm. Props to Kit Kat for actually giving it an aloe taste...but then again, it's...aloe! Enough said. I was kind of excited to see it, though, considering that I'd just been talking with someone about how Westerners don't usually EAT aloe; they use it in skin products.
 I've had real aloe yogurt here too; it's ok but nothing to go out of your way for. Which is the same for this Kit Kat. Worth trying because it's kind of weird, but probably not worth a buying a second one. Maybe a 5.5 out of 10?
They're only selling mini-sizes...apparently Kit Kat wasn't expecting big sales on this one, either

                     Sushi had a great time tossing it around, though

Less Than 12 Hours To Go!

Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2010 | 0 comments

   Assuming that our baby cooperates, we'll know within 12 hours if it's a boy or a girl (or an alien, as my brother continues to predict). I'm so excited that it's going to be hard to fall asleep tonight! Well, that's probably a blatant lie, since I'm also so exhausted that it's hard to keep my eyes open right now. I've been waking up around 4 am the past few nights for some reason, and then our howling little she-beast of a kitten does her best to ensure that I stay up. I have the feeling that tonight she's going to behave though, since I threatened her with solitary confinement in the garbage can if she acts up again. (Just joking...kind of).

                                    The 18 week baby bump
                              She's lucky she's so cute!

It's NOT Heartburn!

Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2010 | 0 comments

   Today marks 18 weeks (that would be 4 and 1/2 months of those of you who aren't pregnant). I always swore that I'd never be one of those people who tells how far along she is in weeks, since it always left the other person desperately trying to figure out the due date without seeming like a math-challenged fool...and then I got pregnant. I think that pregnant women's brain chemistry changes in a way that they MUST start counting anything and everything in weeks instead of months. At least, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. 18 week belly shot to follow later after Yuki gets home from work and can take one. For now...

This pregnancy post was written on March 13th...

   So, I have figured out that this weird 'heartburn' sort of feeling that's been going on for about the past week is, in fact, morning sickness. It's gotten stronger in the past couple of days, which is why I've finally realized what it is. And yes, I will admit to feeling rather stupid for not knowing right away that I was experiencing morning sickness. Although in my defense, 'heartburn' was listed as being separate from, not a subset of, 'morning sickness' as a list of potential symptoms in my pregnancy book.
This is really just the oddest feeling overall, though. I haven't been gagging at the sight of food or anything, but recently it doesn't always seem all that appetizing, and my stomach keeps growling like a mad demon all day. Oh, not to mention the hiccups and burping that are going on. Lovely! Within the past couple of days, there's also been a very slight bit of nausea that I'm hoping doesn't get worse. I always swore that I'd be a puker though, since motion sickness inevitably attacked me on trips as a child. (I remember once on the bus going to tell the teacher that I was ill...only when I opened my mouth to let her know, all that came out was a giant BURP...she caught on pretty quickly. Smart woman).
 Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens in the next week or so! Oh, and as an aside...I found it rather ironic this morning that both Wasabi and Yuki were puking, yet I, the one who should've been, wasn't! Yuki had too much liquid fun at a company party last night, and Wasa apparently had too much fun licking fur off her body. Blehhhhh!

  Finally, we had another check-up today. Yuki got to come with this time, and we saw Sigourney Weaver's even-stronger heartbeat. She's a little fighter, I tell you. And she's almost double the size that she was 2 days ago--this morning, she measured in at 5.6 mm. Go baby, go! Finally, the second best news of all (second to Sigourney's happy progress) is that I'm no longer on house-arrest! Tomorrow morning's agenda includes a nice half-hour walk (still less than my usual hour or more of jogging/walking, but I'll take anything about now)!

                              Sigourney Weaver is growing rapidly!

Sushi's Squeaks

Posted on Tuesday, June 01, 2010 | 0 comments

  We've been calling Sushi 'Squeak' lately due to her cute little cries...which, as I likely mentioned in the last post, have ceased being cute now that she HOWLS for her cat food. See the little piggy in action by clicking on the following: