Giardino Gelato Cafe

Posted on Monday, August 30, 2010 | 0 comments

   Last Sunday, we stopped by a gelato cafe that I'd seen before and had been dying to go to: Giardino Gelato Cafe, in Shizuoka. Now that we finally tried it, I'm kicking myself for not going sooner! They have WONDERFUL homemade gelato. On weekends, they run a special where you can try 2 types of gelato at a discount rate, so Yuki and I each ordered a combo in order to taste 4 of the flavors. We chose cocoa, cookies and cream, kinako (roasted Japanese soybean powder, kind of nutty like peanut butter), and caramel. It's impossible to describe how good this gelato was, but let's just say they definitely put Baskin Robbins to shame. And I've been on a Baskin Robbins' caramel praline cheesecake ice cream kick lately, if that says anything.
  Out of the 4, my favorites were the caramel and the cocoa, although that's probably just personal preference, since the cookies and cream and the kinako were also great. The caramel tasted more like fresh caramels than like caramel ice cream or gelato, and the cocoa tasted more like, well, cocoa. Their gelato also seemed like it had less sugar than most places put in, which was a definite benefit.
  The atmosphere of the restaurant was quite relaxing and fun, too. It seemed rather like a European-style bar or cafe, and as far as I could tell, there was no smoking. Unless we just got lucky and nobody happened to be lighting up at the time we were there. Online reviews state that their food (they also serve lunch and I think dinner) is excellent, although we didn't try anything besides the gelato. Maybe next time!
  Here's the website if you're interested in directions or photos better than the ones we were able to take on our cell phones--unfortunately I didn't have the camera on hand when we stopped by. Obviously it's all in Japanese, but if you're looking for photos only, there are plenty on the main page, and you can randomly click around until you find more.

                                              Caramel on the bottom; cookies and cream on top

More Kit Kats

Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2010 | 0 comments

                  A few more Kit Kat flavors found this summer....salt and caramel, and blueberry. So far I've only seen the salt and caramel in the Yokohama area. It tastes pretty similar to the salt caramel minis they were selling around the holidays last year, although I'd give this one an 8.5 out of 10, mainly because it comes as a big bar and is just too much sweetness all at once.
  The blueberry flavor was surprisingly blueberry-like, although Yuki said this one, too, was too sweet. Probably an 8 out of 10, not bad. 

                         Salt and caramel Kit Kat bar: 238 calories of sugar and fat

                                Blueberry Kit Kats

                                    Wasa-monster attacking the salt and caramel bar

Giant Tissue Box!

Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2010 | 0 comments

            I found another cat toy/house for Wasabi and Sushi that I just couldn't pass up---a giant tissue box! Only in Japan would they make a tissue box cat toy (in case you don't know, napkins aren't used at meals here--tissues are just pulled for a nearby box if you happen to need one for any spills, etc). I personally am not a fan of using tissues as napkins, seeing as they're rather flimsy and it takes way too many to be useful, but then again, perhaps I'm just a really messy eater??
  In any case, I did think this toy was adorable, and after promising Yuki it'd be the last semi-expensive (about $15) toy the girls would get before Sigourney arrives, we brought it home to them on Sunday. The main appeal seems to be the crinkly noise this thing makes whenever they run into it, jump on it, etc, but the mesh 'tissue' part has also shown promise. Now, to remember to put the noisy thing away before bed every night!

                                        Love at first sight

                          Attempting to pull out a tissue?

                            HEY! That's not Kleenex!

30 Weeks...About 10 To Go!

Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 | 0 comments

            Here's the 30 week belly doesn't seem all that huge in this pic, but I'm really beginning to feel like a heifer...or a circus monkey. Especially on walks, when I half-expect drivers to crash due to the fact that they can't stop staring at me. Or at the grocery store when old men openly gawk at my stomach, mouths agape. Too bad they don't sell maternity shirts with little eyes on the belly, since most people seem to look there first instead of at my face any more!
  In terms of Sigourney news, we are still breech. I was positive that she'd flipped at around 4 am one night last week, since I awoke to an awful stomach- AND back-ache that was accompanied by various punches, rolls, and kicks. The doctor confirmed last Saturday that Sigourney did indeed shift positions....only, she shifted from the right to the left, not from top to bottom. Gotta work on those directions, kid.
  Finally, since I don't seem to be getting as much time to post as usual lately, I'll put up a Miso Kit Kat review too, while I'm at it. This particular Kit Kat is supposed to be a Nagoya-area souvenir, since Nagoya is famous for miso, among other things. We found a box for all of ¥200 at Donki (an insanely trashy discount chain store); they usually sell for at least ¥800. That should've been a clue in and of itself! I'll just say this: we couldn't taste even a hint of miso. Nothing. If you're hoping for a nice white chocolate Kit Kat, then buy these. Otherwise, I'd give them a 1 out of 10; the one point being awarded simply on the basis that they are actually Kit Kats. Disappointing, but I'm glad I didn't spend more on them!

                                         30 Weeks

                               Don't waste your money

Crow Cat Update

Posted on Saturday, August 21, 2010 | 0 comments

           For those of you who've been following along since at least this past May, you'll likely remember me talking about the rescue of 2 tiny abandoned kittens from the clutches of an especially nasty crow. If you have no clue as to what I'm referring to, then you can view the original post by clicking HERE.
  We've kept in contact with the non-profit cat society woman who took the kittens (in exchange for giving us Sushi), and she just recently sent us a few new pictures of the crow kittens. She informed that they're doing quite well, and she's going to try and have them adopted out together as we'd originally requested. A happy ending for all! Except maybe that stupid hungry crow.

                           Getting bigger...

                                   This lady has a TON of cats

                                    Most recent pics...I think this one's the male

                              'Screw you, Mr. Crow, Screw you!'

29 Weeks: Goodbye, Stomach as I Knew It

Posted on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | 1 comments

  Today is 29 weeks, and you'd think I'd be used to the burgeoning stomach by now. But...I was quite unprepared for my abdominal muscles to so obviously and so suddenly start coming apart! The day before yesterday, I tried to do some basic ab exercises (approved for pregnancy)...and to my horror, I realized that my stomach was bulging out in a vertical line through my belly button! I guess the official term for this condition is diastatis recti, or in layman's terms, abdominal separation.
  While I have yet to be diagnosed by the doctor, I'd say it's pretty obvious that's what's going on. Apparently a small amount of separation at the midline is quite common during pregnancy, but I have no idea whether mine is a 'small amount' or not. And considering that I've still got over 2 months' to go, it's likely only going to get bigger!
Ah, beginning of the third trimester: harbinger of exhaustion, heartburn, and now, the end of my stomach muscles. I keep telling myself that it's more room for Sigourney to grow...right??
   PS If you're squeamish, I'd avoid the second picture! If you want to know what diastasis recti can look like, go ahead.

                                      29 Weeks

                          It only looks this lovely if I flex it (and yes, that's my belly button)

Enoshima Aquarium

Posted on Sunday, August 15, 2010 | 0 comments

    As I mentioned before, we visited Enoshima Aquarium last Wednesday. For those of you who don't already know, Enoshima is a small island in Sagami Bay. The island is part of the city of Fujisawa and is next to some of the closest beaches to Tokyo and Yokohama (and therefore often jam-packed). It's linked to the mainland by a 600-meter-long bridge, so you may drive onto it if you feel up to battling the crowds.
  We chose to head to the aquarium via train and then monorail, which took about an hour and 15 minutes, more or less, from Yokohama.
  The aquarium itself is located on the mainland, quite close to the island. It has a pretty impressive collection of ocean wildlife, including over 8,000 sardines in the Big Sagami Bay Tank. We missed the sardine show (where they swim together in a tight spiral formation) but were able to get an idea of how it would look just by viewing them in the tank.
 I was also really impressed by the Jellyfish Fantasy Hall, said to feature one of the world's best collections of these rather amoeba-like little creatures. I probably could've spent a few hours in there had we not been trying to find seats in time for the show at the Dolphin Show Stadium. While I had to admit that I've seen much better shows at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I also realize that I've been spoiled growing up near one of the world's best aquariums, and this show wasn't half bad.
  The only downside to our visit was at the penguin exhibit, where we and a bunch of other patrons unfortunately witnessed an awful keeper kicking one of the penguins out of his way. There were quite a few gasps when this happened, and I was so angry that I came close to tapping on the glass to get the jerk's attention. Unfortunately, there weren't any other workers around to complain to, although I'm still contemplating emailing the aquarium and telling them about the animal abuse we witnessed. Poor penguin!

                                           Beautiful jellyfish

                                At the dolphin show

                             The famous sardines

                              More jellyfish

                               The Big Sagami Bay Tank

Kaigun Kare (Navy Curry) Ice Cream

Posted on Friday, August 13, 2010 | 0 comments

   This past Tuesday, we drove down to Yokosuka, which is about an hour from Yokohama. The main point of the trip was to take Sushi in for her spay/declaw, but since we had about 5 hours to wait during her surgery and recovery period, we toured the downtown area. (Side note: I REALLY wish that vets here would keep pets overnight for observation after surgery!).
  Yokosuka is famous mostly as a Navy base: it was a port  for the Imperial Japanese Navy, and now some of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force facilities are there, along with a rather large US Navy base. Going along with the Navy theme, Yokosuka is also known for its curry: Kaigun Kare, aka Navy Curry.
 The Japanese Navy adopted a variation of the British navy's stew in the Meiji era after many Japanese sailors came down with beri beri (caused by vitamin B1 deficiency) during long voyages, due to their diet of mostly miso soup, white rice, and pickles. The stew was thickened and adapted to fit Japanese taste, and thus Kaigun Curry (Kare) was born. It was served over white rice, forming the basis for the still-popular 'kare-rice'. Even now, Fridays are curry day at the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force cafeteria.
  In 1999, as part of an effort to increase tourism in Yokosuka, city officials began promoting Yokosuka Kaigun Curry (many areas of Japan are well-known for their speciality foods). About 60 restaurants and shops now serve Kaigun Curry, curry bread, packaged curry, etc.
  We stopped by Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Honpo, one of the main souvenir shops/restaurants. And, lo and behold, they were selling CURRY ICE CREAM!!! Now, admittedly, while I will try just about anything, this sounded like it could be either pretty good or else really gross. I prepared myself for the worst and decided to taste it anyway. Just in case it was really awful, we got a curry/chocolate swirl cone so that at least half of it was guaranteed ok. After staring at the curry-yellow swirls for a minute, I took a lick....and it was GOOD! Mildly sweet but with a kick of curry spice at the end. I really loved it, but Yuki was definitely not a fan, sadly. He did at least get to enjoy some of the chocolate ice cream before me and my pregnant self scarfed the rest of the cone down.
  On a final note, Sushi's recovering ok, although I personally spent a sleepless night on Tuesday, checking on her constantly and worrying about when her anesthesia would wear off. She's been resting a lot but also jumping around like a monkey since yesterday afternoon though, so I'm pretty sure she's on the mend!

                                             Outside Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Honpo

                               The curry/chocolate swirl cone

The Little Blue Yokosuka Mascot

Napping With Sushi Today...28 Weeks And My Energy Is GONE

7 Months and An Eel!

Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | 0 comments

   Today is the 7 month mark of Sigourney's gestation, and she once again celebrated another milestone by kicking me all. night. long. This kid is going to be one serious soccer player! Next on her agenda, besides continuing to grow and mature, is turning upside down. The doctor informed me last week that she's currently in a breech position, and judging by the location of all her kicks thus far, she has yet to flip. I can't say I blame her (who wants to be upside down for that long?) but hopefully she'll get around to it before I'm forced to do various random exercises that really don't look all that appealing.
  To celebrate the 7-month mark (any excuse for a date while we can still easily take one), Yuki and I went to Enoshima Aquarium, about an hour's train ride from here. More on that in another post, but I'll put a preview pic below!

                                             7 Months and There's No Hiding the Bump Any More

Why yes, that is a rubber eel wearing a lei

Thai Food and Pregnancy DON'T Mix!

Posted on Monday, August 09, 2010 | 0 comments

          We had some wonderful Thai food for lunch at a restaurant in Yokohama station today...while I personally loved it, my already-squished stomach really didn't appreciate the spice. And apparently neither did Sigourney, who proceeded to abuse me with rather hard kicks for about 4 hours afterward. Next time I think we'll avoid the tom yum kung and stick with just the veggie spring rolls!

                                    The Offending Tom Yum Kung

27 Weeks, aka, 3 Months To Go!

Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2010 | 0 comments

    Today marks 27 weeks! And I realized that yesterday was exactly 3 months from my predicted due date. Exciting and terrifying all at the same time! I say terrifying because I made the mistake of reading in-depth about the labor process today and then for more mental torture followed that up by watching a natural-birth video. Let me just say this: if you are pregnant with your first child, do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch any videos of women giving birth! Just don't. I like to think that I'm rather strong (seeing the blood/mess didn't bother me), but the sheer pain this woman was going through isn't really something I want to think about until I've got to get through it myself. Just me, myself, and maybe an epidural, that is!
  In other news, it's time to start gaining a bit more weight. I'm only about 10 lbs up so far, although the amount of ice cream I ate last night should help things along nicely (thanks again, Otousan!). We're aiming for 2 more lbs by next week's 7-month shot!

                                  The Belly, 27 Weeks.

                       This stuff is AMAZING. Imported from New Zealand...they must have very happy, well-kept cows!

                            Fresh caramel bites

                               The two combined

Alien Invasion!

Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2010 | 0 comments

   You know that the rainy season is over and what I like to call the Hell Days of Summer have officially begun in Japan when it becomes impossible to walk by any cluster of trees without going nearly deaf. The reason? Cicadas, or 'semi' (pronounced not like a truck but rather with a 'me' as in..well, me), shrieking out their desperate attempts to find a mate before dying.
 Those of you in the US may well have heard cicadas before, but not to this extent. These guys put American cicadas to shame. It's really an amazing sound, kind of a sharp alien pulsating that threatens to take over your brain if heat stroke doesn't do you in first. If I get the time and energy to record them, maybe I'll post a follow-up later this week.
  As for the Hell Days of Summer...I'm told that this extreme heat is supposed to last longer than usual this year...and of course it's already been hotter than the past few years, too. At first I thought it was just me with my increased BMR as a result of being pregnant, no such luck. I get to deal with the increased body heat AND the heat wave, too. What a bonus!

                                    This one was already dying, poor thing

                                  Sad, ugly puppy face

Sushi and Shirataki

Posted on Monday, August 02, 2010 | 0 comments

            After a massive cleaning spree this morning, Sushi decided to give me one more thing to clean up...a package of shirataki noodles I'd stupidly left out on the counter.
  Now, Sushi KNOWS she's not supposed to get up on tables or counters, as evidenced by the way she tends to flee when caught in the act. Either that, or she just knows to run when she sees the squirt bottle aimed at her; I'm not sure which really, now that I think about it.
 Whatever the case, since there was so squirter in sight this time, she made one of her own: I came into the room, yelled at her, grabbed the shirataki package off the floor where she'd knocked it, and was promptly squirted in the face via one of the holes she'd chewed in the plastic. Thanks, Sushi. Perhaps she's actually a bit smarter than she seems.

                                    Sushi and the offending package of noodles

                         In case you've never seen shirataki noodles

Here's the Wiki link to shirataki noodles if you want to know more about them: Click Here