Saturday, February 27, 2010

Seeing Japan with Lowell Thomas

You might have noticed the cover of the Seeing Japan with Lowell Thomas book in my Gifts post last month. It was an especially thoughtful Christmas gift from an aunt and uncle. They found it for us in an antique store, and it appears that it was a Christmas gift in its first lifetime too, as there is a yellowed piece of tissue paper between the pages that reads, "Merry Christmas Gordon - From Eric and Shirley." I love it when used books have little glimpses of previous owners! The book also has this little airplane cutout stuck in it - it has been there for such a long time that it has stained a 'shadow' of the plane onto the pages.

The book was published in 1937, and it made for a really fascinating read, as a lot about life here has changed, but a lot is still very much the same. One thing that has apparently changed is the location of Nagoya...

(Kidding. The map is just incorrect in a couple of spots.)

There are a number of interesting passages, too many to share, but one of my favorites referenced torii, the gates you see at the entrance to a Shinto shrine (although you sometimes see them at Buddhist temples too). According to Wikipedia the true origins of the torii are unknown, and although there are a number of theories, none of them have been universally accepted. The kanji characters for these gates literally mean "bird perch," and as a bird lover, I love the explanation in the book, that torii "were originally perches for song birds where they might sing for the gods at sunrise" [p26].

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Salad Pizza


Depending on your point of view, this might look like either a) a hot mess or b) delicious. I can assure you that it was the later. The base of the pizza was a white bean and roasted garlic spread topped with mozzarella (the cheese was surprisingly extraneous, I think I'll omit it next time), and baked until melty. Then a salad of greens, roasted red peppers, green olives and pan-seared cherry tomatoes and avocado chunks were all tossed with a little lemon juice and olive oil and were layered on top of the pizza just before serving. Yum.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Basil Infused Olive Oil Cupcakes with White Wine

I'd promised Mike awhile ago, okay months ago, that I'd try and start baking something once a week. Let's just say that I haven't stuck to that commitment very well, but when I stumbled upon Cupcake Project's blog this weekend my motivation quickly returned. How could it not with gems like Absinthe Cupcakes, Tomato Cupcakes (prize-winning!), and Basil Infused Olive Oil Cupcakes with White Wine?!

The cupcakes I decided to try first certainly didn't disappoint. The basil flavor didn't shine through as much as I'd hoped, but I think that was just due to the sad and droopy state of my basil. The wine flavor was subtle but nice - it was the olive oil that really was the star of the show, and since I love olive oil I thought they were really tasty!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Corecolle is an antique store/resale shop nearby our home that we've driven by a number of times, and had been meaning to venture into for quite some time.

(photo from their website - the USA is now gone, but it looks just as funky! 
At least I'm fairly certain it is gone - could I possibly have missed a giant USA due to the huge quantity of stuff outside...?)

Two weekends ago we checked it out, and were almost overwhelmed. The store has two floors, both of which are just packed to the brim with furniture, knickknacks, pottery, artwork, clothing, and even a large selection of English books, all packed into little segmented spaces and rooms. It is one of those places that we wish we'd discovered earlier so we could have shared it with guests, because I think it is almost impossible to leave without finding something you'd like to take home with you, and the items are much more reasonably prices than other resale shops we've been in. We did find an item that we were both pretty taken with, but decided to sleep on it and come back if it was still talking to us. It did, so we went back on Friday afternoon to rescue it.

 (photo from their website)

This is one of the most interesting rooms in the shop, an all white "upside down" room, that we'd noticed on our first visit (how could you not?). While there this weekend, we (really just Mike) chatted with one of the employees, and he asked us if would be willing to pose for a shoot in their upside down room. We said that we would, and arranged to come back the following day when their photographer would be in. The room was cleared of merchandise, and the photographer told us that the photos would be "free style" - we could pose however we wanted to. Although we were both initially a bit unsure of what to do, we loosened up and had more fun as we went along, and each came up with some fun ideas. Mike posed us for a timing shot, we both sat on the floor (ceiling) and he tossed a ball up (down) in the air as the photographer captured it, and I posed us on our hands and knees looking down (up) at the floor (ceiling). Anyway, it made for a fun afternoon, and the final results will be posted in the shop for other Nagoyans to enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sending Smiles

Winter can be be a tough time to stay upbeat, especially after getting to spend the holidays with friends and family, and then knowing it will be months before you get to see them again. So you can imagine how awesome it was to get a package this week with loads of sugary goodness and a gorgeous handmade scarf! I've been wrapping myself up to stay warm and to surround myself with the love and care that went into making it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gorgeous Getaway

This past weekend we enjoyed a night at Sugishima onsen in Itadori Village in Gifu. Our first trip there was in June of last year, and one of the staff recommended that we return in February to enjoy the snow on the mountains. We obviously followed up on her recommendation, and I'm so glad we did. It was the perfect way to beat the winter blues.


The inn is really lovely. The halls are lined with antiques, and the complex seems to go on and on, with twisting hallways leading to rooms and private dining rooms. The inn has newly opened public baths, as well as 2 private baths that can be reserved, and a couple of the rooms have their own private bath as well. In the winter (from early December to mid-March) there is a free shuttle bus from Gifu station, which is a really nice option. It was less than $5 (USD) for each of us to get from Nagoya station to Gifu station on the train, and then with the free bus ride we were able to relax and read for the hour and twenty minute ride instead of worrying about whether we'd need to put snow chains on our tires.

The staff is really friendly, and some speak English, so it is pretty easy to call and get a reservation. They also sent us a map in the mail ahead of time showing us where to find the shuttle bus, and it was covered with English notes - really thoughtful. They are happy to accommodate different diets, so I didn't have to worry about whether any of the dishes are vegetarian, and the food is fantastic and plentiful - worth the trip for that alone in my opinion. So if you are in the area, take a holiday at Sugishima onsen!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Olympics

We watched the opening ceremony yesterday and were struck by the Japanese competitors carrying both the Japanese and the Canadian flags. It seems like such a nice message. Showing pride for their own country, but also acknowledging and showing respect for the host country.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Simply the Best

My husband is so fantastic. He has dubbed this "Valentine's Week" (kind-of like "Birthday Week" - why limit the festivities to just one day!) and has surprised me with a fridge full of good beer one day and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers the next. Is there a better combo for professing your love? I think not. Swoon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV

I tried again (unsuccessfully) this year to watch the Super Bowl, but M was able to watch the highlights after work, and I did find USA Today's Ad Meter which let us watch all of the commercials. I have to say though, I wasn't really blown away by any of them this year. Were there any that you really liked?

The Betty White Snickers ad was pretty cute, and the Doritos one with the dog putting the shock collar on the owner was amusing, but that was pretty much it for me. However I am getting excited for the Alice in Wonderland movie to come out, and I really really really excited about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. Yes, I am fully aware of my nerdiness, and completely embrace it, thank you. Mock me all you want over a Butterbeer.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

It's been snowing off and on all this past week (?!?!), which means we've been holing up and craving warm comfort foods (again).  I noticed this mac 'n' cheese recipe on The Kind Life, and adapted it slightly to round it out for more of a complete meal.

The recipe called for a lot of oil, so I reduced that to 2 tablespoons. I used penne noodles, and I also added in a few handfuls of chopped greens to the pasta right before I drained it, and then tossed it with the sauce and some white beans, and sprinkled a few pine nuts on top. Obviously since it is vegan, it isn't going to taste like "regular" mac 'n' cheese, but if you are already a fan of nooch (nutritional yeast) or are up for trying something new, I'd recommend it. And yes, we really did eat our mac with chopsticks. Nom nom nom.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Fish" Tacos - Take Two

I knew it would be hard to top the "fish" tacos I made last summer with tofu (although honestly I think almost anything beer battered and deep-fried would be good), but I was intrigued by the Chubby Vegetarian's take on "fish" tacos using king oyster mushrooms. Their texture is definitely chewy and meaty (in a good way), and although they were tasty pan fried, I'm looking forward to trying this again when we have access to a grill.


As a funny aside, after moving here M and I discovered that we both really like these mushrooms, and I cook with them pretty frequently. In Japan they are called eringi, and since we first had them here, I never knew the English name for them until I read the Chubby Vegetarian's post and had an ah ha moment of "so that's what a king oyster mushroom is!" Hello.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ginger Cranberry Bread

M and I were craving some freshly baked bread, so we had fun prepping a ginger cranberry loaf together to toss in the bread machine. Only somehow we messed up the settings and our little 1 pound loaf ending up cooking as though it were a 2 pound loaf. Which meant that we were left with a very burnt lump of bread.

 Despite its charcoal appearance, it still smelled quite good, so I sliced off all of the burnt exterior and made "fronch" toast (vegan version of french toast found in Vegan with a Vengeance that uses chickpea flour instead of eggs). It was delicious and breakfast was saved!