Friday, October 30, 2009

Osu Kannon Temple

The pigeons were soaking up the sun while we were busy soaking up the finds at the temple fair!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ginger Ale Kit Kat

As has been mentioned before, Kit Kat flavors here vary by the season and by the area of the country. I do think that is a really fun marketing scheme, but since I'm not a huge Kit Kat fan to begin with, I mostly prefer to read about other people's adventures in taste-testing. A tried a fair amount while she was here, and now I taste vicariously through Jen Ken's Kit Kat blog. She has even gone so far as to order from the company in order to try Kit Kats from other regions (like soy sauce!), very impressive.

But I do like ginger ale, so I got sucked in and decided to try it. Sadly it did not taste remotely like ginger ale, the outer coating had an offensive lemon-lime taste that was really overpowering. Bleah.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Miso Hungry

It's apparent that fall is here, not only from the cooler evening temps, but also from the shifting contents of our veggie box, lately we've had a lot of root vegetables!

I was in the mood for a galette, so for the filling I roasted two Japanese sweet potatoes with a little salt and olive oil, and combined them with sauteed white onions, green onions, and a couple tablespoons of white miso. The pastry is my standard favorite from Smitten Kitchen.

And on the side we had Japanese turnips with mushrooms and the turnip greens, based on this recipe.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Attention to Details

Whether in a department store or at a tourist attraction, I love how coordinated the uniforms are, from the gloves to the matching hats.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Etsy Excitement

Some of my cards were recently featured in an Etsy Treasury - thanks to Forrest Concepts for including them! Forrest Concepts is Grand Rapids based (how's that for small world?!) and turns vintage books into journals - fun eco-friendly gifts!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spicy Eggplant, Garlic Soup, and Lotus Root

I was really excited to try this eggplant recipe with a spicy peanut topping, it sounded great, but it turned out just okay, definitely not the highlight of the meal. The garlic and white bean soup is from Vegan with a Vengeance, and was very tasty. But the stir-fried lotus root with green onions and sesame seeds? Soooo good. After dinner I was already eagerly anticipating getting to eat the leftovers for lunch.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


A little quirky thing that I love here - often times at bus stops people will have donated chairs when it is too small of a stop to warrant a shelter with a bench.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apple Spice Muffins

Although I love a good crisp apple on its own or in a salad, I'm not a huge fan of apple in baked goods. Apple pie, tart, or cake? Generally I'll pass.

Except that I've really been hankering for an apple orchard visit and some apple cider, which I think is making everything apple-related sound wonderful to me. These muffins are based on this recipe with a few modifications. I only had all-purpose flour on hand, and I added vinegar to soy milk for the buttermilk. In addition to the cinnamon, I added a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and a full teaspoon of ground ginger. Not quite the same as sipping a fresh cup of cider at the local mill on a crisp Saturday morning, but a delicious taste of autumn all the same.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Last weekend we visited Yokohama, and one of our stops was Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan. You reach the observation deck by riding on one of the world's fastest elevators, but what really caught my eye was the spiral escalator. I'm a sucker for spiral staircases, and my first spiral escalator was no different. I just had to take it to see where I'd end up.

(and that ended up being in front of an H&M store)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crabcakes and Kinpira

Even when I'm happy with how a meal turns out, I almost always think of a way that I'd like to tweak it the next time I make it. So I was excited that the components of this dinner produced a rare no-tweaks-needed meal. Top center is a roasted Japanese sweet potato with miso scallion butter, to the right is a mock Maryland crabcake served with wasabi mayo, and on the left is carrot and burdock kinpira.

Kinpira is a Japanese cooking style that is basically just sautéing then simmering. After making this dish a few times, my favorite version is a slight modification of the the one Gweneth Paltrow shared in her ever amusing GOOP newsletter. If you can't find burdock root, try this with any other root vegetable you fancy.

Carrot & Burdock Kinpira
  • 1/2 T oil (I use olive or sesame)
  • 1 burdock root, peeled (or scrubbed really really well) and cut into thin matchsticks (keep in a bowl of cold water until cooking it)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2/3 C water (or dashi if you're not a veggie)
  • 1 1/2 T soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 T mirin
  • one 1" knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Drain the burdock and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Adjust the heat so that it's high enough for the burdock to sizzle, but not so high that it scorches. Add a bit more oil if necessary to keep the burdock from sticking. After 5 minutes of stir-frying, add the carrot and enough water (or dashi) to come half-way up the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir in the soy sauce and mirin, cover with a drop lid (a lid that’s slightly smaller than the pan so that it sits directly on top of the vegetables), and turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat to high and cook until the vegetables are glazed, about 2 minutes. Put the kinpira on a plate and squeeze over the grated ginger—essentially you are ‘seasoning’ the kinpira with the ginger juice. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hole in 6...or so...

As I mentioned before, playing golf in Japan can be expensive. M has played a couple of times though, because one of his friends introduced him to a course that is pretty reasonable, only about $35 a person on the weekend for 9 holes.

I haven't picked up a club in 5 or 6 years, but decided I was ready to try and (re)learn the game. When we went out recently to play, I was happy to learn that it was basically a par-3 course. It was a nice sunny day and I enjoyed getting to walk around on grass again (it had been awhile!). I'm already looking forward to our next outing!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I recently developed a nickel allergy - which manifested itself as a bright red itchy peeling angry mark under my wedding rings. You can faintly see the remainder of it on my finger below.

It's healing now, but it is still frustrating to have to resort to wearing my rings around my neck. I know I can get my rings rhodium plated and that will fix the problem for a few years at a time, but that could be a translating nightmare to try and accomplish here, so it might wait until my next visit stateside.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Reading Material

Last week I realized that I'd read almost all of the books we brought with us, and running low on books is a scary situation when a paperback can easily run you $18 USD or more here. Thankfully I'd just heard about Mondo Books, a new multilingual used bookstore (Nagoya's first!).

A used bookstore was exciting enough itself, but they also offer trade-ins! We brought in a stack of books we were ready to be done with and were able to pick out a good sized stack of different ones to take home. Woo hoo!

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Before moving to Japan, I had never ventured beyond the doorway of a LUSH store, and honestly that was only because I found the mix of aromas wafting out overwhelming. But once here, I decided to give LUSH another chance, because it is important to me to know what I'm putting on my hair and skin, and attempting to translate the back of a shampoo bottle here could very well be a half-day endeavor.

I had a general idea that LUSH was eco-friendly and animal-friendly, so we started off by trying a couple bars of soap. We both liked them a lot, and the scents are actually quite nice once you're only sniffing a single bar instead of an entire store worth of products.

Since then we've expanded from just soap, and I'm now a fan of their lotion (black tub) and bubble bars, and M likes their solid shampoo (tan disk in the front) and conditioner (green cylinder in the back). It nice that you can get tins for the shampoo and conditioner bars too, because it makes them really easy to take along for travel. I like that living here gets us to try new things, and in this case we could have tried the same thing back in the States, but we might never have without the language barrier to prompt us.

If you're wondering just how eco and animal-friendly LUSH is, their products are 100% vegetarian (and over 70% vegan), they use fresh natural ingredients, and little or no preservatives. Products are made in small batches by hand, and they never test their products and ingredients on animals, or engage with third-party suppliers to test on their behalf. You can buy about 70% of their products naked, and when they can’t get rid of packaging completely, they use post-consumer recycled, recyclable and biodegradable materials whenever possible.