Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jazz and John

These are a few photos that I have been meaning to put up for some time now. They are from way back in September from a great little jazz bar in Saitama City...about an hour and a half away from our place by train.

This guy here seemed to be the guy in charge at the bar.  He was nice.  After the music was finished he came over to chat with Karl and me.  He told us that we looked like a "very nice couple." It was sweet. Plus, he gave us cookies. Win!  The lady is a singer/pianist.  She did a great rendition of The Beatles "Oh! Darling," off of the album Abbey Road.

This photo was also taken at the jazz bar.  Three things you will always find in a bar in Japan: beer, cigarettes and edamame (soy beans).

I mentioned The Beatles above...Japan does have a thing for them, especially John Lennon.  Yoko Ono is a pretty good explanation for that.  We were lucky enough to be very close to the one and only John Lennon museum.  Even more so because after a ten year run, the museum was closing its doors on September, 2010.  Almost one month to the day after I arrived in Japan.  I was elated! Karl took me for my birthday, September 24th. *whew* Barely made the cut.

Unfortunately-but not surprisingly-photos were not allowed. At all. Period. No questions.  I was irritated, naturally, but I got over it and simply reveled in the moments I had in the presence of so many amazing pieces of musical history. Seeing John's childhood diary, his guitars, his Beatles outfits-including his Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band outfit. Zomg. (I am a huuuuge Beatles fan/geek.) But the highlight of the tour, I would have to say, was being able to sit at his white baby grand piano...the very one on which he recorded the song "Imagine."  I could run my fingers across the keys, but couldn't actually play as the action had been disabled. Understandably.  Despite that, it was a beautiful experience.  Really amazing.

I know this post is mostly about music, but I simply have to share some photos we took at the place we ate before enjoying the museum.  We happened upon this fantastic Italian restaurant.  How can I explain my love of Italian food...Well, my favorite Italian restaurant of all time-Va Bene-catered my and Karl's wedding. How's that for love? :) They did an absolutely outstanding job! If you are ever in the area (Duluth), go there. Seriously. You will not be disappointed. Anyway! We found this Italian restaurant that was very tasty...but here's the thing-the reason why it was so good was that it was actually Italian.  It didn't have raw eggs or seaweed on the pasta-as most Italian (Japanese) places do. I was delighted.  Plus the location was so much fun! We wanted to be seated in the non-smoking section so we were led to our own teeny-tiny private alcove...it was positively charming.

Delicious Pizza!

Me being absolutely delighted in the cute alcove. :) Isn't it adorable?!

Oh-and we had a view. So much fun!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011


Beef and Peppers with Oyster Sauce
This is a recipe out of the Asian cookbooks China section. It was really tasty, and so simple!

Huevos Rancheros
When Karl and I were on our Honeymoon in Glacier National Park, we ate at this great place called the Park Café at least four times. Huevos Rancheros for breakfast was our favorite thing. I attempted to replicate it here...yum! No sour cream or olives...but hey, I am in Japan. Not Montana.

Sushi-California Style!
I am in Japan, so what do I do in Japan? Make American style sushi, naturally. Really, though...I will eat the real Japanese sushi and sashimi with raw fish...I just can't bring myself to "make" it at home.

Angel Hair with Scallops and Sun Dried Tomatoes
From Chinese, to Mexican, to Japanese, to Italian! Delicious Italian.  The best thing about this kind of dish is that it only takes twenty minutes to make.

Broccoli Cheese Soup
And then...there is comfort food. Seriously, what is better then a simple, seven ingredient broccoli cheese soup?! Nothing. Absolutely nothing. This soup was really tasty and absurdly easy to make.

I took two heads of broccoli and put them in a pot with two cups or so of chicken broth. I let them get nice and tender while I melted 2 T. of butter in a frying pan, added 2 T. of flour, stirred over high heat till bubbling and turned it to low and added two cups of milk and some freshly ground pepper. Brought this to a boil and turned it down to low while constantly stirring.  The broccoli was nice and tender by this time. Usually these types of recipes ask you to transfer the veggies to a blender or food processor to puree them. I am not the biggest fan of that technique, so I simply took a potato masher to them and that worked out perfectly. After that, I poured in the milk mixture and stirred in two cups of grated sharp white cheddar cheese. Delish!

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Japan Likes to Run

One of the most popular sports in Japan seems to be running.  Ogawa Machi has a marathon, Yorii has a marathon, Higashichichibu hosts a 5K...the list goes on and on. Last weekend Yorii hosted a relay race.  Karl and I went to check it out. Yorii is a pretty small place, so it was no Grandma's Marathon, but it was still fun. A bunch of my students, friends, and even my fellow teachers were running!

Ready for the start...
One of the schools I work for, Yodo Elementary school (用土小学), had a whole relay team of teachers-including the principal! They were very excited that I came and especially excited I brought my husband with to meet them. It was a fun day. :)

Team 用土!

The principal was particularly excited because he noticed my camera...he has the exact same model-a Nikon d5000. A Japanese brand.

Watching the relay was fun...next year I will try to be even more involved and run!
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Projects, Books and Blooms

When I was a little girl, I remember asking my mom what she wanted for her birthday, Christmas or Mother’s Day.  The answer never changed. “Time! I want time. It’s the only thing I need.” As a small child, I was a) completely mystified by this answer, and b) still didn’t know what to get for her.  How annoying.  Now that I am a young adult who has gone through college, is now married and working a fulltime job, I completely understand this request. My understanding will continue to grow as I reach further stages in life.

I love free time. Who doesn’t?  Time to do whatever your heart desires.  I suppose some people get bored and would rather be at work.  Not me.  I work hard and I play hard.

It is so great not dreading my weekday occupation as a teacher. I love it. (I seriously can’t believe I am getting paid for this kind of work!)  The only time I wish I didn’t have to go is at yikes o’clock in the morning when an absurdly irritating noise jolts me back to reality from my cozy slumbering.

But my free time…oh! The fun to be had! I am so blessed to have this kind of schedule in my life; it allows me dive into my creative spirit. Or just simply relax. Whether it be playing the Wii with my husband, knitting, crocheting, writing letters, cooking, embroidering, studying Japanese (I am not a masochist, honest!), watching TV, blogging, reading, or surfing the interwebs; my free time is always satisfying.

Knitting and crocheting is something I wanted to learn how to do since I was a little girl.  My Grandma Mallory was a pro at it: as was my Great Grandma White. (She quilted and crocheted lace that was unbelievably gorgeous.)  I was always impressed with the things my Grandmna Mallory knit.  Afghans for every grandchild, Christmas stockings for every grandchild, hats and mittens for every grandchild…She knit everything from sweaters to dish clothes.

Grandma Mallory taught me how to knit when I was little. But I was quite young. Probably seven or eight. I tried to pick it up in high school without much success. Finally, in college, I got my knitting game on and made some scarves, a couple hats and (the big kahuna!) socks.  But I was crazy busy with my studies and jobs that I only finished a handful of projects throughout college. Pretty pathetic.

Now that I have significantly more free time, I knit or crochet almost everyday.  Here are a few of my recent projects. 

My mom taught me how to embroider when I was ten or so. For some reason, I really got into it. I made samplers and everything. This is a quilt square I am working on for one of my sisters. (It’s been a work in progress for far too long…sorry Erin!) 

Reading usually happens right before going to sleep. I just finished reading Julie and Julia. (The book the movie is based on.) It was a fast read. Very fun. I love reading cooking memoirs. In fact, I just plain love reading. I usually have a couple of books going at the same time. That way, I can choose a book based on what I feel like reading. Typically one of the books is an easy read. (ei. Julie and Julia) The other tends to be a bit more…mentally demanding, let’s say.

Herman Melville is extremely verbose. I have been trying to work my way through Moby Dick for the past few months.  I like the story well enough.  But one can only take so much philosophical talk about whales, boats or ropes for so long. The protagonist -Ishmael- is constantly having very deep and profound thoughts on those extremely stimulating topics. You should read it. Force yourself to appreciate and enjoy (and sometimes suffer through) great literature. It’s very enriching, I find.  Although I think I need an Austen for my next serious read. You know, balance the literary testosterone and estrogen. It’s only fair. 

One other thing I love to do in my free time is garden. In fact, during cleaning time at my schools, I usually try to go outside and water the plants or weed the flower beds. Just to be outside! Plus it is fun to say I have gardened in February. Tulips are just coming up now. Crazy. 

Well, we don't have a yard at our residence. Hail indoor plants! I have a nice collection of six potted plants. Here are a couple:

I have a couple of bonsai tree...this is one of them. Cute, huh? We are in Japan, having bonsai trees is mandatory. 

This is a gorgeous hyacinth I picked up last week. They are blooming and so fragrant...absolutely divine! I couldn't resist...
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