Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adventuring my way through a cookbook

Have you ever watched the movie Julie and Julia? I watched it last winter and I must say I was inspired.  Not only to start cooking and be more adventurous with my cooking, but also to start a blog. This one as a matter of fact!

So this blog is about living in Japan, learning to cook amazing Asian cuisine, learning how to use my fancy new camera, and also starting out as a newlywed. :) So while Karl goes to work every day I busy myself with studying Japanese, playing with photography, planning what to have for dinner and grocery shopping, to name a few of my activities. I am also hoping to find at least a volunteer position teaching or tutoring English around somewhere. 

But now back to the cooking adventures! Karl and I received the sweetest cookbook as a gift for our wedding.  It is the perfect cookbook to learn how to really cook authentic Asian food. It is called The Essential Asian Cookbook.  It has a picture glossary of ingredients if you aren't sure what something is, big color pictures and very clear step-by-step directions. The other really neat thing about this cookbook is that is has a special section on each Asian country. So Karl and I can cook our ways through Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and so on! How fun! たのし!(tanoshi-fun!)

The other cookbook in the picture we got from Karl's mom.  It is also a fabulous cookbook! As the cover says, it is a cooking class cookbook.  This means that each recipe has step-by-step instructions with pictures! SO nice. We really enjoy cooking from both of them. 

Here are some pictures from this past Monday's dinner.  California すし rolls and teriyaki chicken drumsticks.  I made the California rolls up myself. The teriyaki chicken was out of the Essential Asian cookbook.  Both turned out great! The teriyaki did call for sugar; however, I ended up using some of the maple syrup which I has mailed to Karl before coming to Japan.  The reason is that we had thought we had purchased sugar...but (you guessed it!) bought salt instead. Oopsies! The syrup worked just fine though.  照り焼きは おいしい です!The teriyaki was delicious!

In other news: On Monday three of Karl's supervisors came to meet me! They took us out for coffee and also asked Karl and me to join a choir. How exciting! So we have our first rehearsal next Monday at 7:30 pm.  I will report back on what it is like being in a Japanese choir.  I am looking forward to it!

Till next time! さようなら!
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Orchids, Birkenstocks, and a fancy new Phone

Last night was the first night that Karl and I went out on the town.  After applying for my がいじん カ-ド (Gaijin Card of foreigner card) we hopped on a train and headed to かわごえ(川越)or Kawagoe。 This city is about a 45 minute train ride from おがわまち(小川町)(Ogawa Machi, which we found out yesterday means brook town. Brook as in river.)

We were heading to かわごえ to pick up our new cell phones.  The way it works here with cell phones is you go sign the contract with your はんこ (hanko stamp).  Karl was given a はんこ、so he signed that contract and then we had to wait a while for the people there to set up the cell phones with the server.

This is a shot of the shopping area in 川越。
Since we had some time to kill we decided to stroll along the shopping district where we were. 

Earlier that evening I had made an observation.  What I noticed was that Birkenstock shoes are extremely popular in Japan.  Karl and I decided to keep out eyes open for them just to note the price comparison.  Well, we walked by a shoe store and there they were.  The cutest sandals. They were 53% off the regular price of 1100円 (approximately, which is comparable.)  Anyway, so they were on sale for the equivalent of about $60.  I tried some on...they magically fit...Karl bought them for me! :)

Yay! :) 

After the Birkenstock adventure we continued on to a darling little flower shop.  We wandered our way through the sweet smelling blooms to the back of the shop where I found these beauties. I would have bought them all and shipped them home to my darlings Rachel and Yvette if I could have! Take a look...

Aren't they lovely!? And yes, they are all the real deal.

When we were done gazing at the gorgeous flowers we meandered our way to a place to eat.  Karl took me to a すし(sushi) place.  It was very fun!  You didn't order your food at this type of すし bar. Instead, there was a tiny little conveyor belt going around in front of all the customers.  We were seated in a horseshoe shape.  So the conveyor belt went by everyone then back to the kitchen were the cooks put more すしon it.

So the way it works is the plates are color coordinated to a certain price and the examples are displayed on the wall so you know how much each thing costs.  When you see something you like pass by, you simply grab it and chow down! As you eat, you stack up your plates and when you are finished one of the workers comes over and counts the plates and then you pay accordingly.  What a neat system!

After our すし bar adventuring we strolled around some more until we decided we weren't quite full.  We popped into a cute little place that had pictures of amazing looking dumplings outside.  We were right! The dumplings were to die for!  おいしいです!(Oishii desu!) They were delicious. 

We wandered out way back to the cell phone shop, e-Boom! Yes, that is really what it is called. The cell phones were almost done! I was amazed at how fancy the phones are.  Usually, cell phones will cost around $1000.  That is correct. A grand. Before your jaw drops to the floor, let me tell you that Karl worked with a friend and found a deal.  :) We got them for free with our plan (which is not a bad price.)

Pretty fancy, eh? As you might have guessed, the prices are so high because of the fact that this also happens to be a 12.2 mega pixel camera.  Holy smokes. It is also a mini computer, television and oh yes...a phone.  Karl has a dark purple one and mine is teal as you see here. How fun!

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

So long Mid-West! I am heading to the far east.

My family brought me to the airport at yikes o'clock in the morning on Tuesday, August 17th.  The parting was sad, but I was so excited to reunite with my new husband that I couldn't be anything except thrilled to go.

The flights from Minneapolis to Chicago and from Chicago to Tokyo/Narita were not bad.  The first little flight had a fair amount of turbulence but the second one (which was 12 hours) was the smoothest flight of my life! Not a speck of turbulence the whole way.

I was fortunate enough to have window seats for both flights.  This was especially fun during the long flight when we flew over the Apostle Islands and Highway 61 going up the North Shore at 35000 feet.  It is so interesting and fun to see familiar places from such a different perspective.  I had just driven up the North Shore three days before I found myself flying over the same area.  I will miss Lake Superior...

Karl was there to meet me at the airport in Narita.  My flight was an amazing 40 minutes early and he still made it on time! Perhaps it will be possible to break him of his habit of showing up everywhere late. :) One can hope.

After a car ride, two plane rides, a bus ride, a train ride and a taxi ride,  we finally made it to our new apartment in Ogawa-Machi.  I was so exhausted but Karl made me stay up and eat dinner so that my body would acclamate to the new time zone better.

My first impression of living in the land of the rising sun has been good.  On our first full day together in Japan, Karl and I walked all around town and he showed my many important places.  Like the grocery store, いなげや (Inageya).  We popped into the sweetest little pottery shop to take a look around.  Two sushi plates (slender, rectangular plates) caught my eye and we bought them.  The little Japanese lady was adorable.  She picked up a plate full of little cell phone charms and told me (in Japanese) to pick one out for a present. So sweet!

One funny thing happened yesterday while we were out walking.  And I suppose it will happen every day at noon.  I am not sure from where the chimes come, but at noon everyday chimes ring out a tune many people know.  Edelweiss. You know, like from The Sound of Music?  I was delighted! An Austrian folk song somehow made it out here to the little town of 小川町。(Ogawa-Machi)

Karl is in 東秩父村 (Higashichichibu-Mura) right now picked up his first months pay.  I am currently waiting for the rice cooker to ding and tell it is done so I can continue making rice balls. :) Delicious rice balls!

Fun fact before I leave...every time a write something in にほんご(nihongo or Japanese) you can read the characters by putting one syllable  to each one.  I have to do all I can to learn this language!

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