Monday, March 29, 2010

Plum Perfect

It's not unusual to spot older women here that have purple hair, and whether it is intentional or accidental, from subtle shades to more vibrant hues, I find the look striking and fantastic.

P.S. Everything worked out okay with the meeting today regarding Mike's accident, so we are still headed back to the States on schedule. Yay!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


It's been a challenging week. Mike has promised to fully cover the drama over on his blog very soon, so the abbreviated version is that Mike got into a small car accident this week, he has been shamed in a variety of ways by his company, and as a result our stay could be extended into the summer. Needless to say, we've both been grumpy and anxious, but there is nothing we can do other than to wait, we won't know more until Tuesday when the police decide the outcome of the case.

So to cheer ourselves up this weekend, we decided to have a slumber party. We made a big bed in the living room, and have spent most of the weekend camped out with books, movies, and popcorn. Nothing like embracing your inner 7 year old to help cheer you up a bit.

And hugs and positive thoughts from friends near and far certainly help too!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weekend Travels

This past weekend we went to the city of Ise to visit Ise Jingu (the Ise Grand Shrine), which is arguably the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan, because it is said to contain a sacred mirror - one of three sacred items given to the first emperor by the gods. The grounds of Naiku (the Inner Shrine) were really lovely, but it was extremely crowded everywhere we went. I apparently still have not learned the lesson that it is better to avoid traveling during Japanese holidays unless you are a fan of massive crowds and seemingly never-ending traffic jams.

This was the line to get up to the main buildings of the Inner Shrine, but since it is such an important and holy site, visitors are not allowed inside. So all of these people are waiting to get up to the gate to pay their respects and pray. You really can't see much more than the roofs of the main buildings from the gate, they are mostly hidden behind tall wooden fences. Despite the crowds, we did manage to do a little shopping. We picked up the two organic beers (on the right) on a little winding shopping street that led to and from the Ise Grand Shrine.

From there we headed to Biyagura, one of Ise Kadoya Microbrewery's restaurants, where we had dinner and then stocked up on a few additional beers to take back with us (the other five on the left). We were lucky to meet the owner, because after we babbled on about our favorite craft brewers in the States and our love of IPAs, he deemed us worthy and brought out one of his Imperial India Pale Ales for us to purchase from his secret stash!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Spring Spring

I am giddy from sunshine and blossoms!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kraut Konvert

I finally got around to making reuben sandwiches again (last time wasn't an overwhelming success), and this time the vegan corned beef turned out really well. What really made the sandwiches though was the sauerkraut. I've never been a huge fan of sauerkraut, even my husband's Polish heritage and my increased exposure to it didn't help.  I just didn't understand the big draw. That is until I made my own using this recipe, and I realized how good it can be! I'll still pass on the stuff from a can or jar, but the homemade kraut was so good, I made it again the very next day. Now I just need to figure out how to liven up cabbage rolls...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The shipping company dropped off a number of boxes and packing supplies this morning. We have less than a month and a half left here, and the countdown is feeling more and more real.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Baird Brewing Company

This past weekend, to celebrate Mike's 30th birthday (!), we went to Numazu to visit Baird Beer's Numazu Fishmarket Taproom. I first learned of the craft brewery and pub from this blog, and their rave reviews were spot-on. Microbrews (especially good ones) aren't always easy to find in Japan, and even though it was a bit of a drive to get there, it was completely worth it, Baird Beer is fantastic!

They have a huge selection to choose from, and I liked every one that I tasted, but my favorite was probably the Morning Coffee Stout. So good. I also loved the beer descriptions, particularly the one for the Obatarian Strong English Ale. I laughed out loud in the pub as I read it. And if you are in Japan, but can't make it to Numazu or Tokyo, you are still in luck. They have an on-line shop where you can order their regular and seasonal beer selections and get them shipped right to your door!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Missed Opportunities

There are a couple of spots in our neighborhood that I pass by on a regular basis, and at every passing I've thought that I should get a picture of it, but haven't. Either I didn't have my camera with me at the moment, or thought that I'd wait until the sun came out, or I was in a hurry, or whatever other excuse struck me at the moment.


One of these spots was this set of stairs. They belonged to a nearby empty apartment building that had been abandoned for so long the steps were completely covered by a thick layer of ivy. I loved it. It was like nature was reclaiming a few square feet of her territory. But the building was slated for demolition, and was wrapped up like a package with white tarp (pulled apart here for me to snap the photo), and the ivy was stripped away. Now the building is completely gone, and after letting countless opportunities go by to get the image I wanted, I've (hopefully) learned my lesson, and will remember to snap a picture the first time I see something that strikes me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Garbanzo Bean Cakes with Caper Yogurt Sauce


This recent dinner featured stir-fried lotus root with a recipe for garbanzo bean cakes from Jessica at the Seaweed Snacks blog. The cakes paired with the caper yogurt sauce were really tasty, and the only change I made was to use two cups of carrots instead of a mix of carrots and fennel. She has so many fantastic looking recipes, I only wish I'd been introduced to her blog sooner. Now I'm actually hoping for more turnips in our veggie box so I can test out her caramelized turnip tart next!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Working on a new line of cheeky cards, starting with these. They cover all sorts of oopses, from a missed birthday, to a "gee that stinks" moment, all the way up to a "gosh, sorry I was an idiot" occasion.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ginger Quinoa Muffins

This was an emergency breakfast - emergency as in we had absolutely nothing in the house suitable to eat for breakfast and I had to make do with what we had. So I made these muffins. Next time I think I would use only all-purpose flour, as the gritty whole wheat flour I used made them taste very healthy (too much so) and they got a little crumbly after a day or two. When topped with a generous dollop of homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam (thanks to my fabulous foodie aunt and uncle) they were a satisfying start to the day, and good enough to make again even on non-emergency days!

Ginger Quinoa Muffins
Adapted from Everyday Food
(Sharing the recipe exactly as I made it, but would recommend using only all-purpose flour)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup yuzu honey
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup soy milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, nutmeg and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, soy milk, honey, egg, and fresh ginger. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.

Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tofu Pudding & Package Exchange


This tastes like you'd expect it to - the first bite anyway is definitely an "Oh! That sure is tofu!" taste sensation. But with every subsequent bite I enjoyed it more and more, enough so that the following day I polished off the second cup in the package that I had meant to save for Mike....

And if you aren't familiar with oh, hello friend's blog, you should check it out, especially because right now you can sign up to participate in 2010 lovely package exchange. Danni's description of her exchange "i started the lovely package exchange as a way for the blog community to get involved with one another. my hope in the exchange is for you to make new friends with fellow bloggers and express creativity in sending a really thoughtful lovely package." The participate limit is 350 and it is already starting to get pretty close to that, so head on over and sign up right now!