Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happy Anniversary...

to my partner in love and in life.

Here's to four years of marriage, one year in Japan, and whatever the next adventure may be!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tiny Tremors

I experienced my first earthquake yesterday, which you'd think would have trumped me talking about a goat on the beach, but apparently not.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the magnitude was 4.0 and the JMA seismic intensity was 3 if that means anything to you. To me, it just meant that I was mildly freaking out because the door wall behind me was shaking.

Burn Baby Burn

Yesterday we spent the day at Utsumi Beach with some of M's soccer buddies. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and after liberally spraying myself with 50 spf, I read on our mat for about an hour, and then spent the rest of the time under the umbrella that M had rented. I am crazy about sun protection, with light skin, freckles, and cases of skin cancer in my family, I think it's extra important to be. I will also harass others around me to make sure they have sunscreen on, so with how fanatical I am about spf, I can't tell you the last time that I had a sunburn.

Or I couldn't have anyway. Because I am sporting a vibrant shade of tomato over almost the entire front of my body. I say almost, because there are a few streaks of white patches where the sunscreen did its job. I thought I had given myself a thorough application of spf, but it was a really windy day, and lotion would have been the better option. My spray seemingly sprayed away from me instead of onto me. Lesson (very very painfully) learned.

We packed up to leave as the clouds began rolling in, and we heard thunder back towards Nagoya. But before we left, we were all delighted to see this man taking his pet for a walk.

Seriously, when is the last time you've seen a man walking a goat on the beach?! Loved it.

It turned out that the thunder we'd heard was connected to some pretty heavy downpours in Nagoya. Enough to delay and then cancel multiple trains, resulting in an interesting and lengthy trip home - but we made it, and it was a memorable end to a memorable day.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Charmed I'm Sure

Phone charms are extremely popular here, almost everyone has one, and a lot of people have multiple. Sometimes the amount and size of the phone charms result in a blob of cutesy stuffed animals and doe-eyed figures larger than the phone itself. I've caved to the craze, but am sticking with one phone charm, a little owl we picked up in Kyoto.

And although I do like orange, this isn't my phone. After my champagne colored phone met an untimely watery end in the kitchen sink, this was my loaner phone until my original phone was officially pronounced DOA.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Name That Leaf - Mystery Solved

Early this month I was trying to figure out what the leaves were in our CSA box (7 July post). This week when they showed up in our box again, I did what I should have done the first time, and just brought them inside to ask the staff what they were. In Japan these leaves are called moroheiya, which borrows from the original Egyptian Arabic "malukhiyah," and it has been a staple of the Egyptian diet since the time of the Pharaohs!

Wikipedia noted that it has a somewhat slimy texture when cooked, so I can't say I'm all that surprised that moroheiya is popular here. There are a lot of slimy foods like natto, okra, yamaimo, taro, sea vegetables, etc etc make regular appearances in Japanese cuisine. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of natto and okra, but yamaimo gives me the willies, so I wanted to prepare the moroheiya in a hopefully unslimy way.

I tossed it in a pan with a bit of butter and garlic, and then added eggs and feta. Served with some crusty bread and broiled tomatoes, it came close to one of our favorite dishes - Turkish Eggs at Cafe Zola. Mmmm

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar Eclipse

There was a solar eclipse earlier today, and although it wasn't a total eclipse where we were, it was still cool to see. M was able to step outside of work, so he was able to see it as well.

I darkened my original photo for a clearer view of the eclipse.

Expats in Japan

When you think of expatriates living in Japan, what nationalities do you think of?

According to the Kyodo News, there were 2,217,000 foreigners registered in Japan at the end of 2008, and the top five spots go to:

- Chinese (655,000 residents)
- Koreans (589,000 residents)
- Brazilians (313,000 residents)
- Filipinos (211,000 residents)
- Peruvians (60,000 residents)

US citizens only make up about 2.5% of the foreign population in Japan.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Galette

Last week we got one of these fun little yellow guys in our box o' veggies. I had assumed it was a type of squash and based my dinner plans around it,

only to cut it open and see that it was in fact a melon.

So there went my dinner plans. I decided to go with a galette, and empty the rest of the veggie drawer into it. So it had carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and peppers in it, and it was okay, but it was much better the second night when the leftovers were turned into shepherd's pie with a thick layer of mashers on top.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summery Kabocha Soup

I realize that I posted about another yellow-ish soup not too long ago, but this one is different enough to warrant some love too. We had a kabocha squash in our CSA box that I just stared at for a few days. Kabocha feels more like fall to me, so I wanted to try and lighten it up a bit. I cooked it with onions in a veggie broth, and after blending it all together added some cumin and a lot of fresh lemon juice, and then topped it off with a few pepitas. It was tangy, light and tasty, and just as good cold the next day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fanning Away the Heat

Uchiwa are flat, non-folding Japanese fans. They are a symbol of summer, and are certainly nice to have around in this heat and humidity. Plastic ones are a popular marketing tool and are frequently given away at events, and they are then tucked into the back of one's kimono or yukata for easy storage when not in use.

We're gathering quite a selection! From the left these are from - the sumo tournament, the Okazaki fireworks festival (a nice bamboo one), Central Fitness (my gym), and Softbank (our phone company).

On a sad note (for us, not her), A moved back to the States yesterday - she'll certainly be missed. We had a great last night with A & R, and A treated us to her own send-off bottles of champagne. Thank you! (Is there a limit to how high you can price a bottle of Cook's? I think $38 might be over it....)

(photo courtesy of R!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Take That Paris and NYC!

If you read Business Week, or like me, Nomihodai, you'll have already seen this, but for those that haven't, Business Week recently published a list of the World's Most Expensive Cities. Four of the top five were in Japan, and yes, one of them is Nagoya. We're at #3, up from a measly #20 last year! Oh yeah!

Soooo who's excited to come for a visit?!?!?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lemony Zucchini Goat Cheese Pizza

Yes, it is another smitten kitchen recipe, and yes, it was really good. Of course since I'm dealing with the Easy Bake Oven, it had to be adapted into two smaller pizzas, but oh were they tasty little buggers!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fallen Barriers

My uber-talented little bro has his first single available for purchase on iTunes - check it out!

Gift with Purchase

After a recent purchase at Valor, we were given this pile of string at check-out. What was it for?

It was an extra-special carrying contraption for our watermelon!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cornmeal Crunch & Blue KitKats

This morning I woke up at 4:30, paranoid that the inkan we'd just attempted to have made last night for my card line was going to turn out all wrong (and I still think it is, although we're going to try and get it sorted out tonight). M convinced me to go back to sleep, but even after a couple more rounds of sleeping and waking up, I was still extremely groggy.

I started in on my morning round of blog reading, and somehow stumbled across this one, which then led me to this fun blog about all of the KitKat flavors Japan has to offer. One of her posts was about the same blue "ramune" KitKats that we had tried with A and debated the flavor. M had read the Japanese as "lemonade taste" - but after reading Jen's post about them, and then the comments on A's post about them, it finally all came together in my brain that they are named after a specific brand of soda. (Like I said, I was groggy and my brain was working slowly.)

I decided that I needed a big breakfast to pull me out of my fog, and toasted last night's leftover Cornmeal Crunch and topped them with a poached eggs and some tomatoes. I was pleasantly surprised last night by how good the cornmeal crunch was, and I think it was even better today.

Breakfast and a lot of caffiene did help to wake me up, and while I munched, I scoped out more info on Ramune soda. Thanks to the Wikipedia entry on it, I learned that the name 'ramune' is indeed derived phonetically from the English 'lemonade,' (So you were right on that part M!) and the regular flavor is lemon-lime. And both fizzy lemonade and the unique bottles were imported from the United Kingdom at the same time, so they became associated with each other. Now I need to go out and try some for myself!

Eggplant Caviar

This is the recipe that convinced me that I might have to pull my own Julie/Julia Project (now a book and soon to be a movie too) with every single smitten kitchen recipe. I can see that the name "eggplant caviar" might not win you over, and the spread probably won't win any beauty contests, but wow is it tasty. Deb's recipe is here, and you should make it as soon as you can get your hands on an eggplant. Like now.

Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament

Yesterday M and I joined two friends for the first day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three are held in Tokyo, and then one each in Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyushu. Sumo dates back 1500 years, and I was really excited to see something that is so tied into the Japanese culture - in fact, according to a Japanese legend, the very origin of the Japanese race depended on the outcome of a sumo match!

I was also excited that we decided to splurge on "box seats." In my mind, I was thinking box seats like at American sporting events, or at the theatre maybe - a nice private area for the four of us. In fact, I was so excited about our posh seats that I ignored my standard rule of dress for Japanese outings. If I don't know much about where we are going, I always wear pants and shoes that are easy to get in and out of, since often times you'll end up barefoot and cross-legged on tatami mats.

And that's exactly what happened, only I decided to dress up and wear a short skirt. Lesson learned. Below you can see what our box seating looked like - maybe a 4 ft by 4ft area with a cushion for each of us, all partitioned off with metal piping. And yes, you did have to take your shoes off. Honestly, I don't think there is way that this seating arrangement could have worked comfortably for four average adult Americans, it was really tight.

The tournament started at about 8:30 am, but our companions recommended that we go around 1:30 pm, as the morning was only the lower ranked competitors. The hall was still fairly empty when we arrived, but it filled up quickly as the higher ranked rikishi (literally "a gentleman of strength") began to compete.

With each match, there are a number of ritual movements they go through before they begin the match, and the highest ranked rikishi are allowed up to four minutes to ready themselves - usually a much longer time period than the match itself. The last match ended around 6 pm and aside from the numb legs, it didn't seem like we'd been there for over four hours. It was really entertaining and a great experience.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Neighborhood Lovelies

I love this tree, and how it seems to adorn itself with spiky little baubles.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Confessions of a Former Cilantro Hater

Yes, I used to be one of those people that thought the taste of cilantro was about as appealing as a mouthful of dish soap. Thankfully my taste buds realized the error of their ways, and I love it now, but it isn't the easiest herb to find. I've found one international store that carries fresh cilantro and it is in downtown Nagoya (20 minute subway ride away) - not the most convenient option. As you can see, the cilantro is packaged with its roots intact, so twice now I've tried planting my purchase to see if I could just grow my own. Well twice now my cilantro has been destroyed by heavy rainstorms. I'm off to go plant this batch in a more protected spot - third time is a charm, right?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Creativity, Love, Happiness...

This just made my week.

Thank you so very much!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

Oh how I love summer! Fresh tomatoes, cucs, and summer squash with just a bit of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Yum.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Name That Leaf

We got a lot of greens in our CSA box last night - namely two big bags of leaves.

I know the ones on the left are shiso, but I'm stumped with the ones on the right - any guesses?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Roasted Summer Veggie Soup

Our CSA box of veggies was huge last week and due to a couple nights of no cooking (one of them being our last dinner with A before she moves back to the States - sniff) we were rapidly approaching the end of the week with a refrigerator full of veggies threatening to turn. Combined with the fact that M was feeling under the weather, I decided that soup was the best option. So I took a cue from my slacker of a blogging cousin and roasted everything I could get my hands on.

That ended up being 3 carrots, 2 Japanese eggplants, 1 zucchini, half of a huge white onion, a few garlic cloves, and the kernels off of 3 ears of corn - all drizzled with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. All of that got tossed into the blender (in batches) with four cups of my favorite veggie broth and then warmed back up on the stove. Delicious.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Star Man

I love seeing this statue when we go for an evening run. He looks like he's so close to stepping out of the box to join you. Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Neighborhood Walks

During A's mom's first trip here, she spotted this map near our subway station. We had fun walking the course together, and I have since walked it a few more times with guests. These little neighborhood spots are lovely and peaceful most days, but are fun to see on holidays too when more people are visiting them.

This walk goes around a nearby park - quite different from the above pockets of green found within dense neighborhoods - Heiwa Park covers almost 400 acres. For some reason it has proved to be much more difficult to accurately follow, although I've enjoyed seeing new areas of the park every time I've walked it. For being such a big city, Nagoya provides a lot of green space to enjoy, from small spots to large areas.