The Sick Days

Being sick really sucks.
I missed work, missed the beautiful weekend weather, missed an improtant meeting for my friend’s wedding party next Saturday, and also missed having my sister over for the weekend. So that made me think that being sick really really sucks.
But then my best friend came over with homemade cream stew and shoga-yu (a ginger drink that warms up your body like no other). We call this O-mi-mai (お見舞い) in Japanese, to visit someone who is not well. And usually in Japan, when you visit someone it’s considered polite to bring something with you.
Needless to say, this cheered me up quite a bit. I’m definitely feeling very lucky that I have such a good friend close by. And even though my runny nose and cough still hasn’t gone away, I’m ready to start the new week at work tomorrow.
With a mask, of course. x

The Picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen

Ever since I got my hands on this fabulous picnic blanket, I’ve been a picnic addict!
So last Saturday, my bff and I had a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The great thing is that she just moved into my neighborhood (whoop whoop!) so we just met up at the corner of the street and walked to the park together. I love that we can do that now!
We stopped by Freshness Burger to grab lunch for our picnic. Have you tried their vegetable burgers? They are so good. They have a bean burger and a mushroom burger and I am SO happy they are back on the menu. I think they are popular among non-vegetarians, too. This time I went with the mushroom burger set. 
We spent the whole afternoon just laying around and relaxing. There were a lot of families with children also doing the same thing and we ended up chatting with a few of the little people. So cute. All in all it was a great afternoon, especially since the typhoon came and it was all rain the following two days.
Do you have a favorite picnic spot? x

The Blueberry Kakigori

Kakigori, which is what we call shaved ice, is my favorite summer dessert. Cold and refreshing, it just hits the spot during our hot and humid summers in Tokyo. I could eat this morning, noon, and night.
Well, if the blueberry picking didn’t tempt you enough to go to the blueberry farm Myrtille Moriyama (ミルティーユ毛呂山), I’m pretty sure this will.
There was a little cafe/shop on the side of the farm called Hatofura (はとふら). They have a lovely terrace outside under a roof of grape vines. Perfect spot to enjoy the ice cream and kakigori we ordered while taking a break from blueberry picking!
The shop sold various jam, tea, and even fresh vegetables. It was one of the sweetest shops I’ve ever been inside and reminded me of the shops you see in the Anne of Green Gables movie (which, of couse, I love!).
Don’t you wish you were eating kakigori here right now? 😀
The entrance to the farm and cafe.

Handwritten menu.

Fresh vegetables for sale, too!

Couldn’t resist buying homemade jam!

Jars of herbal tea.

I love how this little shop is set up…everything looks lovely.

Blueberry Ice Cream

Blueberry Kakigori (it was delicious!!!)
Isn’t this an amazing place? 😀

The Rosemary and Parmesan Popcorn

Sometimes I have a craving for popcorn. Especially when I know I’m having a movie night. It just seems like the thing to do.
So, since I hadn’t made much use of my rosemary plant lately, I decided to make something along the lines of the rosemary and parmesan popcorn introduced on A Cup of Jo. I didn’t have parmesan cheese so I just used Kraft’s parmesan grated cheese. I also didn’t have time to make rosemary oil, so I just cut them up in tiny pieces and let them sit for a bit in the oil. And since I had a lemon laying around, I added the lemon zest, too.
It turned out really delicious and made my movie night all the more fun! And how can you not have fun when you’re watching Burlesque (I’m a sucker for musicals)! 😀
What is your movie night snack?
Rosemary and Parmesan Popcorn
1 tsp  lemon zest
2 tbs  extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs  parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp  rosemary, finely chopped
pinch of black pepper
pinch of salt
Add chopped rosemary in to the olive oil.
Let it sit while you pop the popcorn.
Once the popcorn is done
pour the oil all over the popcorn.
Also add the parmesan cheese,
black pepper, and salt.
Mix in the bowl.
And enjoy!
*Black pepper and salt is optional. 

The Little Garden Plants

Only grow plants that I can eat.

This is my motto regarding my little garden outside my window. Actually it’s always been my motto when it comes to any type of plant around my apartment. I tend to kill most plants because I’m not at home most of the time and sometimes forget to water it until it’s too late. Or the summer heat kills it while I’m at work.

But when given a motive such as you can eat it!, it triggers something in my brain and I don’t forget to water it as much. This is how my basil, rosemary, shiso, and okura plants are still alive and well outside my window. Good deal, right?

My favorite lately is this bagel with  mozzarella, tomato, lettuce, and of course, basil 😀

The Bary-san Chocolate

We seem to love mascot characters in Japan.
We pretty much have a mascot for everything. The most popular ones of late are the mascots of various cities throughout Japan called Yuru-kyara, which means something like loose characters in Japanese. Not sure whether they are called that because they aren’t official city mascots or because the characters are quite casual and quirky, but they are popular.
There’s even a Yuru-kyara Grand Prix every year, where people can vote for their favorite mascot. Last year, 880 mascots entered the contest. Told ya. I wasn’t kidding when I said we really love our mascots.
Imabari City, where my parents live, also has their own mascot character. His name is Bary-san (his profile in Japanese is here). He’s a pretty cute mascot, in my opinion.
Imabari is known for their yakitori (skewered chicken), so the mascot is a bird. His crown is the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, which is a bridge that connects the main land to the Shikoku Island (which is where Imabari City is located). It’s also apparently the longest suspension bridge in the world.
It doesn’t stop there. He is wearing a haramaki, which is a cloth that wraps around and warms your stomach, because Imabari is famous for their towels. I hear they make about 60% of the towels in Japan. Also, the little ship he’s carrying is a wallet, representing Imabari’s shipping industry.
Don’t you love the details and the story behind the character? I love it. Probably because I’m Japanese. Ha.
Anyways, Bary-san is not only my favorite…(drum roll please)…he was the winner of last year’s Yuru-kyara Grand Prix! Whoop! It’s pretty huge considering a lot of Japanese people don’t even know where Imabari City is.
But they are taking this chance to promote their city and Bary-san has even made his way into convenience stores all over Tokyo. He has his own Chiroru Chocolate (pictured), which are bite sized chocolates that come in many flavors. The Bary-san chocolates are orange flavored because the whole prefecture of Ehime, where Imabari City is located, is famous for producing oranges called Iyokan.
I found this chocolate at my local convenience store and had to get it. I loved the packaging with Bary-san saying different things in the local dialect. Too cute.
Doesn’t he grow on you? 😀
You can get Bary-san PC backgrounds for free here!

The Okinawan Dishes by Grandma

My mom is an amazing cook.
I think she gets it from her mother because my grandma is also an amazing cook. She spoils us with our favorite Okinawan dishes every time we come…and so I thought I’d share some with you.
Fresh Aosa Soup (above) is delicious. We had this in the mornings instead of miso soup. Aosa is a type of seaweed and fresh Aosa can be found in Okinawa, although you can find dried Aosa even on the mainland. But it’s really good. And it’s also good for your body as well because it includes lots of fiber and vitamin C!
My absolute favorite dish is made from a type of potato called Tahnm (ターンム/田芋). I think the closest type of potato may be Sato-imo (里芋), which is called Taro in English. It’s only produced in a couple of places even within Okinawa, so you can only find them in stores around certain holidays, like New Years or other Buddhist holidays. What I think is interesting is that the Tahnm are sold in stores already steamed (below). So cooking it is really simple.
Tahnm can be used in a variety of ways. The two popular ways to cook it in our family is Dingaku (ディンガク), which is a sweet paste-like dish, and my absolute favorite, Kara-age (above). It’s basically deep fried Tahnm but you pour sweet soy sauce over it to add flavor!
This time we actually found Tahnm being sold in supermarkets so I bought a whole bunch, froze them in my grandma’s fridge, and actually brought them back to Tokyo with me. My grandma also taught me how to make the two dishes so I’m really happy I get to eat them in Tokyo, too 😀

Nanto-mochi (ナントウ餅) is a type of mochi (above) made from kokuto (dark sugar), miso, and peanuts. It’s not too sweet as it has a little kick of long pepper (called pipa-tsu (ピパーツ) in Okinawa) and ginger, too. It used to be a special dish for New Years but it’s become popular enough that you can find it all year long in Okinawa now.
And last but not least, is possibly the most famous Okinawan snack, Sah-tah-andagee (サーターアンダギー)! (below)
In Okinawan (they used to be the Kingdom of Ryukyu so they had/have their own language), Sah-tah means sugar, anda means oil, and agee means fried. So it’s pretty much a doughnut! My grandma always makes the Beni-Imo (紅芋/purple yam) flavor. I love how purple the doughnut gets on the inside. Isn’t it pretty?

Well, we ate much much more but that was all that I was able to take pictures of.
The others? We scarfed it all down before I could even reach for my camera. haha. Okinawan food is so simple yet so delicious. And even more so when you’re in the company of family you love!
So now you know what to look for when you go to Okinawa! Happy eating! 😀

The Bread with the Awful Name

Spotted Dick…that’s right, this lovely bread is called Spotted Dick in Ireland.
According to the recipe I used, it seems that sometimes it is also called Spotted Dog. But it’s really hard to get over the original name. I just couldn’t get my mind around it but according to Wikipedia it seems that “spotted refers to the dried fruit (which resemble spots) and dick may be a contraction or corruption of the word pudding (from the last syllable).” 

What do you think? I can under stand how spotted refers to the raisins but the word pudding? That story sounds kind of spotty to me.
But enough about the awful name. The bread was delicious. And quite simple, too. You can probably tell from the pictures that I added a just a liiiiiiiiittle more raisins than the recipe called for. But I love raisins and I couldn’t help myself. And it turned out just how I like it, crispy on the outside and munchy on the inside. Yay!

The Colorful Pancakes

What is there to do on a rainy day
but make colorful pancakes?

I used this recipe to make the pancakes.
Then since it was suppose to be special rainy day pancakes
I put smashed bananas in the yellow pancakes
and strawberries in the pink ones.
And I put in both in the orange ones.
It was pretty good.
So good, I actually made a gif for this post!
(did you know you could upload gifs on blogger now?)

Happy weekend!!!

The Dinner at La Cocorico

Three of my very first coworkers when I came to this company
always return my Valentine’s Day presents with a White Day dinner.
I love going out to dinner with these guys.
We’ve all moved to different departments and don’t interact on a daily basis
but once a year we get together to catch up at this dinner!

This was my first time here but everything was delicious!
They’re special was the rotisserie chicken.
It was so good that the guys literally fought over it.
You can tell from the pictures that
one of them is not good at this game. haha!
Anyways, I had a great night out with the guys.
Already looking forward to next year!

GEMS Shibuya 5th Floor
3-27-11 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo