Posted on Monday, January 31, 2011 | 0 comments

    Keila has discovered her hands! She actually found them for the first time on the 21st, but I wasn't certain about it, since she was also batting around at her mobile then. I did take some pictures just in case, so we do have the initial moments of recognition on (digital) film. Sure enough, she's been happily staring at them on and off since that evening. They must look pretty appetizing, since the moments of staring invariably lead to attempts to shove both into her mouth at the same time. Go Pooper. Al Perkins would be proud.

  (Who is Al Perkins, you ask??)

                                               Hand, hand, fingers, thumb!


Melty Kiss Goes Nuts

Posted on Friday, January 28, 2011 | 0 comments

     Another new product update: the much-loved and seasonal Melty Kiss chocolates have snuck over to an adjacent line in the chocolate factory, mixed with Meiji's chocolate-covered nuts, and produced some truly incredible offspring!
  A little background: Melty Kiss traditionally comes as little airy cubes that are said to be too soft to be sold in any season but winter (hence the 'Melty' part). These chocolate cubes may contain various flavors such as green tea or strawberry, or they may simply be solid (airy) chocolate. Meanwhile, Meiji Macadamia and Meiji Almonds are usually just covered in regular Meiji chocolate, not Meiji's 'Melty Kiss' chocolate.
  So, you can probably see all this is leading. Yep, this winter we now have the birth of Macadamia Melty Kiss and Almond Melty Kiss. The Almond type is covered in a dark Melty Kiss chocolate, while the Macadamia type is more of a truffle or bon bon shape: bits of macadamia nuts swimming in Melty Kiss milk chocolate.
  Top points go to the almonds. Choice nuts coated in velvetly smooth and rich dark chocolate; buy these now if you can manage to find them! They're a bit elusive, so stock up if you do hunt them down. The macadamia ones are just as hard to locate, but I wouldn't waste too much time trying to find these. They're good if you like milk chocolate, but the overall effect is simply not as stand-out as is that of the dark chocolate/almond combo.
  We did manage to find a pile of these little goodies at Jusco, so I've got 4 boxes of the Melty Kiss Almonds in the cupboard...maybe I'll save one until spring to see if they really do melt when the weather warms up!

                                    You want to buy these. Trust me.

                                          Zelie tasted the almond ones in December. Verdict: great!

Baby Buddha Meets Daibutsu

Posted on Thursday, January 27, 2011 | 0 comments

  After lunch last Sunday, we took Keila aka 'Baby Buddha' to visit the famous giant Buddha statue of Kamakura, Daibutsu (literally, Big Buddha). I had no idea that we'd attract so much attention, but it seemed like almost as many people were checking out our little Buddha as they were the big one! Keila was a champ for pictures, sleeping through most of them...although she did wake up at one point to protest the paparazzi-like flashes coming her way.

                                             Keila and Grandpa impersonating Buddha

                                                 Not a happy Buddha

Incognito in her kitty hood

                                                Peaceful Buddhas

Hachi no Ki

Posted on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 | 0 comments

    Sunday we had lunch at an amazing restaurant in Kamakura, Hachi no Ki. It specializes in shojin ryori, which is traditional vegetarian cuisine for Buddhist monks.
      Hachi no Ki (literally 'potted trees') is divided into 2 buildings: one with tatami-style seating where the shojin ryori is served, and the other with Western-style seating where seasonal (non-vegetarian) Japanese food is offered. Both types of food are absolutely wonderful, but we ate shojin ryori this time. Instead of trying to describe the various dishes, I've gone ahead and posted pictures of them all below. Hachi no ki is definitely the place to eat if you happen to visit Kakakura!

                             Keila opted to forgo the gourmet meal and drink her milk as usual

             Appetizer plate: lotus root, shiitake mushroom, chestnut and tofu square, burdock root, canola blossom, and Japanese mustard, in no particular order.

                                 Fried yuba with Japanese citrus fruit (yuzu) inside. Yuba is the 'skin' that's skimmed off the top of boiling soymilk.

                               Japanese mustard with fresh shiitake mushrooms

                                Okara salad. Okara is soy pulp, which remains after soybeans are filtered to make soy milk. Nothing goes to waste here!

                                   Goma dofu (sesame tofu). It's made from sesame seeds and actually contains no soy, despite the tofu reference.  It's one of the most famous shojin ryori dishes and is quite difficult to make from scratch, as all those seeds must be ground into a very fine powder. Traditionally, this long and tiresome job, said to be good for the character, was given to low-level monks. As for the taste?  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

                       Vegetable tempura: onions, Japanese squash, sweet potato, and sweet green pepper

                                   Tofu, Japanese radish, carrot, shiitake, and peas in broth

                                   Mushrooms and 2 types of tofu (ganmo dofu and ofu) in a miso paste

                                  Kabura mushi: a grated steamed turnip dish that's way better than it sounds

                                      Keila, full and happy

        Taki komi gohan: rice seasoned with broth and then steamed along with various vegetables

                                       Thanks again, Otousan!!!

                                   Fresh strawberries and poached apple slices

                                       Monaka and Matcha. Monaka is a traditional sweet composed of sweet bean paste sandwiched between thin crispy wafers. Matcha is the expresso of green tea.

                           We need to work on those armpit-high pants!

Keila's Coos

Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2011 | 0 comments

   We finally got some of Keila's cooing on video. She really likes to talk to herself in the mirror, but as for performing in front of the camera, not so much thus far!
 Probably not an interesting video unless you really like babies or are a relative, but here it is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLNiRWpui00

Icchou Revisited

Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | 0 comments

  Seeing as it's an incredibly slow week here at our place (Yuki is confined to the second bedroom with a lovely case of influenza A, which Keila and I have so far avoided), I thought that I'd finally get around to posting some pictures from our birthday dinner in November. Better late than never, right?
  We ate at our favorite restaurant, Icchou, which is pricey but well worth the money. I posted about it once last year: http://tofubunny.blogspot.com/2010/02/valentines-sushi-dinner.html
This time, we again chose the 6000 yen (per person--which is why it's a celebration-only type of restaurant) course menu, and it was wonderful as always...for the most part.
 I do have to admit that this time, one item on the menu threw me for a loop, though...I will try, and usually enjoy, eating almost any food (dolphin, whale, deer, bunnies, etc. excluded) but for this meal, they served us shirako.
   Shirako is a dish consisting of...let me phrase this delicately...the male fish reproductive sack (and its contents). Now imagine me gagging if you're not already doing so yourself. It was pointed out that most people have no problem eating fish eggs, or any type of eggs, for that matter...so what was the difference, exactly? I couldn't argue with that logic, but somehow it just didn't seem like the same thing!
  Well, to cut this short, I did end up eating it. I did NOT, however, enjoy it. Squishy, somewhat rich, and warm, mehhh! Not the worst thing I've ever tasted, but I'm rather certain that I wouldn't have liked it had I not known what it was, either. Good thing the chef at Icchou takes requests, because I definitely have one dish I'm going to ask that we skip next time!

    Icchou. Apparently the sign of a great sushi bar is that they try to hide from the general public: this place is hidden off a side alley.

                                  Me on about 3 hours' sleep

                                Appetizer: leek sushi, awabi, and egg

                           Icchou special: chawanmushi (steamed eggs in broth) topped with salmon roe

                                  Shirasu (tiny local fish) and green onions

                               The sashimi plate

                                The lovely shirako!

                     Anago: a type of eel. It. was. amazing. More than made up for the previous dish!

                                  The final course: nigiri zushi

Ishibashi Unagi-ya (Ishibashi Eel Restaurant)

Posted on Monday, January 17, 2011 | 0 comments

      We tried out a different eel restaurant for lunch yesterday, instead of the one that we tend to frequent. The restaurant, Ishibashi, is ranked #1 online for Shizuoka eel restaurants; our usual one being #2. While an eel meal set at our regular restaurant costs about 2000 yen, the one yesterday was 2400 yen, so we'd been debating on whether it was worth the extra money. Figuring that we might as well try the place at least once, we packed up Keila and headed across town to see what all the hype was about.
  Upon arrival, the place was packed, so we waited about 15 minutes for a table in the tatami section, although seats at the counter did open up faster than that. Ordering was quite easy, seeing as there is just one meal offered: grilled eel (complete with the head!) with rice, soup, and pickled vegetables on the side. The only choice to make was whether to opt for extra rice (50 yen more) or not.
 Our meals arrived rather quickly, considering that the eels are quite fresh and take a bit of time to grill. We were so hungry by that point that we even devised a great way to feed Keila her bottle at the same time: Yuki held her in his left arm while I held the bottle with my right, leaving both of us with free hands to eat. Being left-handed pays off sometimes!
  Sadly though, while the eel looked gorgeous, it just wasn't to our liking. The sauce, which is basted onto the eel during grilling and varies by restaurant, was just too strong and sweet, while the eel itself was somehow too greasy. I'm sure that some people would argue it was delicious, but we were both somewhat disappointed. Not that it wasn't good, but we were expecting 'amazing', coming from the #1 ranked restaurant in the area. I'm glad that we tasted it once, but next time we'll stick with the usual!

                                    Entrance. I love how the う in うăȘぎ is always an eel

                                        Some of the interior decor


                                                 It was William Shatner's lunch-time, too

                                                       On the shoulder again

                                           Lunch set for 2400 yen

                                      It looked really good, at least

                                 The head!!! And no, you don't eat it

                                      Keila and her triple chin

Splish Splash, I Was Takin' A Bath...

Posted on Saturday, January 15, 2011 | 1 comments

   Yesterday was a day of firsts for Keila! I awoke at 6:02 a.m. in a panic upon realization that Shatner had slept through the night! It took a few seconds to process the fact that her sleeping for just under 7 hours was a GOOD thing and not cause for concern. This incident was also the first time that I slept through the night since some point before the third trimester, so we both started the day off well.
  Unfortunately, Keila's other 'first' wasn't such a good thing...yesterday was also our first 'pooping in the bathtub' experience. Which, gross as it was, might not have been quite so horrible...except for the fact that in Japan, it's customary for fathers to take a bath with the baby. Needless to say, thus ensued quite a bit of uproar and laughter (laughter on my part, evil person that I am). I even went so far as to run and grab the camera before we hosed Pooper off. In my defense, I did ask if I could go get it; I didn't just leave the poor guy stranded there. Major props to Yuki for being such a good sport!
  Last night, there was no repeat 7-hour sleep stretch, but at least progress is being made. And if we're lucky, there will be no repeats of #2 (pun intended), EVER!

         Shatner strikes again! Look carefully in the back left corner of the tub...or rather, don't look!

                         She's taken to sticking her tongue out when she's feeling good....note that Dad is NOT sticking his out!