Monday, April 27, 2009

Skytop Sets

For almost two months now I've been playing tennis on a weekly basis far above the ground.

Okay, not quite as high up as that court in Dubai, but it is on the 7th floor of the very posh Hilton

and it does offer great views of downtown Nagoya.

Sadly though, my tennis buddy is moving back to her home country of Australia, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to continue playing, but I've really enjoyed it while it lasted.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Birthday" Performance

Last weekend we went to Toyota City (sister city to Detroit!) with A & M for some Indian food and a visit to Rickey's EuroPub for pricey pints and see the bartender put on a show. The bartender performs for special events, so another friend that we'd met up with told the staff that A & I were celebrating birthdays. Check out A's blog for a clip of the show!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Successful Marketing Ploy

Yes, I totally bought this bottle for the set of chopsticks and case that came with it. I'm just a sucker for a fun gift with purchase.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stovetop Cooking

This was from one of those nights that I had no idea of what I was going to make for dinner, and everything ended up pulling together surprising well. From left to right: bubble and squeak with leftover mashers and garlicy greens, braised daikon, and pan fried tofu in a spicy tomato sauce.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ferny Food

We had a fun surprise waiting for us in our CSA box this week.

I thought the thin stalks looked fern-like, but it didn't quite resemble the fiddlehead ferns I'd had tempura-style a couple of times here. So I e-mailed the very kind Kat at Our Adventures in Japan for assistance. She confirmed that they were indeed fiddleheads, known as warabi in Japanese. Thanks Kat!

They were wrapped up with a little package of baking soda, and after a little googling I learned why. According to this blogger, "a bit of baking soda is used when blanching this type of spring mountain greens, which slightly softens them and also removes more of the traces of enzymes that, given long term heavy consumption of the plant, can lead to some health problems."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stovetop Service Call

We've been having problems with our burners for months now - whenever we're cooking something, the burner will beep and shut itself off. We didn't call for service as I thought we were both secretly hoping the issue would fix itself, but after a frustrating experience of trying to cook a meal with all three burners sporadically going out on me, M e-mailed for assistance.

He went through all of the details of the problem with the relocation company that helps us with anything and everything. They said a repair person would arrive in a few days to help fix the issue, and that he wouldn't speak English, but he would know to call them if there were any additional questions.

The repairman arrived, took apart the burners and started asking me questions. My limited Japanese does not include stove lingo, so he then called the relocation company, and over the next hour I think he called them and passed me the phone about 5 times. Each time the conversation went something like this-

"Well, he says the stove isn't broken."
"Well, it didn't do this when we first moved here, so I think it is."
"He says the sensors are just doing what they are supposed to. They make sure your food won't burn."
"It would be difficult for the food to burn if I can't even cook it before the burner goes out."
"He thinks the problem might be with your pots. Could he look at your pots?"

"Sure, but they are the same pots we've used since we've moved here. It's not the pots."
"Yup, you're right, he says the pots are fine. Okay, he's going to just switch the sensors since you only have a problem with one of the burners."
"?!??!!. Um, no, the problem is with all of the burners."
"Oh, well, let's just have him do that for now, and see if that fixes it."

Our stove is still broken.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stovetop Cooking

I used 101 Cookbooks' Adzuki Butternut Squash Soup Recipe as a starting point for dinner with low expectations. Squash plus adzuki beans plus cinnamon sounded like a combo that would end up too sweet for my taste, but we had a bag of dried black adzuki beans from our CSA box, so I gave it a shot with those and some kabocha squash (and minus the chipotle pepper - they don't seem to exist here) and wow, was I pleasantly surprised. Topped off with some croutons made from a recent batch of rye bread and a little feta, this was delicious!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Photo Fun

As promised, you can see the entire set of K8's lovely pictures here.

This is one of the maybe five photos I took while Kate was here.
My camera was intimidated by her camera.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Car Tattoo

This yellow and green V-shaped symbol is called a Shoshinsha or Wakaba mark, and it must be displayed by new drivers (legal driving age is 18 here) on the front and back of their vehicle for one year. Like the Koreisha mark for elderly drivers, both types of marks are designed to warn other drivers that the marked driver is not as skilled, whether due to inexperience or old age.

(photo courtesy of K8!)

Friday, April 3, 2009

What's In A Name?

A lot.

My maiden name labeled who I was for 24.5 years (yes, half years are worth mentioning and celebrating!). It wasn’t necessarily an easy name, though it was not a particularly difficult name either, and it did cause me some grief from time to time.

For starters, my last name was often mispronounced and misspelled, to the point of almost being comical how badly it could be mutilated. My mother and father divorced when I was little, so I’ve had a different last name from the parent I lived with (my mother) for as long as I can remember, which was strange at times. Probably the worst I ever felt about my name was on a trip abroad with family (mother, step-father, and step-siblings – who are all “step” in definition only). We went up to the customs desk all together, only for me to be separated out and sent back in line. I wasn’t “family” since my last name was different, so I had to go up alone. Of course in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was still a really sad moment for me. I was isolated from my family by the power of a name.

But in the end, it was my name. I still loved it. It was me.

So when I got married, taking my husband’s last name wasn’t a decision I took lightly. He certainly wanted me to, but he is incredibly understanding and open-minded in all things, and I am sure he would have been disappointed but okay had I chosen not to. In the end I did take his last name, because whether you are a child or an adult, I like the cohesiveness of a shared family name. I certainly don’t think that has to be the only way to go about it though for people who want to share a common last name. The husband could take the wife’s last name or both names could be hyphenated. Heck, why not create a new name out of all the letters in both partners’ names? One of the arguments to some of these suggestions seems to be that all h$#% will break loose in trying to track family genealogies. We’re a pretty technologically advanced society. I bet we can handle it.

At any rate, I did not want to drop my maiden name, so I chose to keep my entire name and add my husband’s last name, which has resulted in a mouthful of a full name. However, in deciding to take his last name, I did not at any point agree to have my identity erased. We have received so much mail in the past few weeks to Mr. & Mrs. John Smith that I decided that it was time to address the reluctance of people to reject potentially outdated traditions and practices. (Have you read “The Lottery,” a short story by Shirley Jackson? If not, then pick it up.)

There are so many options for how to address an envelope to partners who choose to have the same last name:
• The Smiths
• John & Jane Smith
• Mr. & Ms. Smith*
• Mr. & Ms. John and Jane Smith*
• Mr. John & Ms. Jane Smith*
*or Mr. & Mr., or Ms. & Ms., etc – I’m just using the examples that fit my own situation.

So why do so many people still chose to use Mr. & Mrs. John Smith, with the only explanation being that it follows “traditional formal etiquette”? I just don’t think that’s a good enough reason to continue doing something. I realize that some women enjoy being referred to as Mrs. John Smith, and by all means, if they refer to themselves that way, then feel free to use that name. But if they don’t, or if you aren’t sure how they refer to themselves, can we please stop minimizing one half of a partnership.

I don’t know who Mrs. John Smith is, but please consider if you do before you send mail to her. All I know for sure is that she doesn’t live here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Look Before You Leap

The lettering above the footprints reads "tomare," which means "stop" in Japanese. You'll see this on the red triangular street signs here, but also on some sidewalk corners, reminding you to stop and look before crossing.