Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Culture shock, just a little.

My plane from Tokyo was diverted to San Francisco because of the snowstorm. The pilot came on the mic about an hour before we were supposed to land and said that braking at PDX was nil. That didn't sound so hot, considering what happened in Denver with no ice, so to SFO we went.
As we were waiting in line at the NWA ticket counter to get our hotel vouchers, a friendly woman named Jeanette struck up a conversation with me, engaging the other passengers around us, and talking my ear off. On the shuttle, she gave me $2 to tip the driver, since I didn't have any singles. The driver, grinning, drove us badly to the hotel, stopping ten minutes into his route to fuel up the rig. The clerks at the hotel were brusque, verging on rude. One called Ashika sighed as she checked us in, as if we were ruining her day by taking up rooms.

I waited for 30 minutes in the rain for a bus to take me from South San Francisco into the city. After I got on, a scruffy man with sweat-stained clothes and five-day stubble said "Hey baby, how you doing?" to me. Of course, I immediately gave him my number.
I got off at 20th and Potrero and walked through a fine drizzle to my old neighborhood, the Mission district. I gorged myself on murals and, sated with art, browsed in little shops on Valencia on my way down to my final destination, and the main reason for braving public transportation into the city on this unexpected visit.
I arrived at Papalote, my favorite burrito joint. Every San Franciscan has a favorite spot to feast on Mission burritos; Papalote is mine. The food is fresh, the salsa is spicy, and I don't worry that tongue or tripe drippings are going to sneak their way into my veggies.
At the taqueria, which was filled with the expected Valencia hipsters, I overheard lots of conversations at the tables around me. Topics varied, but not much. They included reincarnation, and, "How are you planning on changing that? Yoga? Meditation?" and "You might THINK you're happy in the relationship, but you're not." It's good to be back.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Limón y Sal

Limón y Sal
by Julieta Venegas

Tengo que confesar que a veces
no me gusta tu forma de ser
luego te me desapareces
y no entiendo muy bien por qué

I have to confess that at times
I don't like the way you are
Later you disappear to me
And I don't really understand why

No dices nada romántico
cuando llega el atardecer
te pones de un humor extraño
con cada luna llena al mes

You don't say anything romantic
When you arrive at dusk
You possess a strange humor
With every full moon

Pero a todo lo demás
le gana lo bueno que me das
sólo tenerte cerca
siento que vuelvo a empezar

But all that aside
The good that you give me wins
Just to have you near
I feel I can begin

Yo te quiero con limón y sal
yo te quiero tal y como estás
no hace falta cambiarte nada
yo te quiero si vienes o si vas
si subes y bajas y no estás
seguro de lo que sientes

I love you with lemon and salt
I love you just and as you are
You don't have to change anything
I love you coming and going
If you rise or fall or you
aren't sure what you feel

Tengo que confesarte ahora
nunca creí en la felicidad
a veces algo se le parece
pero es pura casualidad

I have to confess to you that now
I never believed in happiness
At times it may have seemed like something
But it was pure coincidence

Luego me vengo a encontrar
con tus ojos me dan algo más
sólo tenerte cerca
siento que vuelvo a empezar

Then I came to find
That your eyes give me something more
Just to have you near
I feel I can begin


Sólo tenerte cerca
siento que vuelvo a empezar

Just to have you near
I feel I can begin

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cranberry Noels times two

I started to make icebox cookies to send in packages. I started with this recipe. But as some commenters said, the dough was very dry and unworkable. It was easily remedied by adding two teaspoons or so of soy milk. I was able to crank out a log and a half of cookies. For the second time around, though, I decided to go with last year's old standard, Ms. Stewart's. Which worked great and yielded more cookies.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


This blueberry coffee cake is based on a recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. The original recipe is for a cranberry coffee cake using fresh whole cranberries, which are of course impossible to find in Japan. This got devoured at the Japanese class Christmas party - I didn't even get to have a piece. I guess I'll have to try it again in its original incarnation.

Friday, December 19, 2008

She lives on Drury Lane

I made a batch of nutmeg muffins that I found over at Orangette. I just happened to have some whole nutmeg knocking about on the spice shelf. What are the odds?
I've had a fair number of successes with the girl, I have to say.

These aren't too sweet, but they have an oh-so-lovely aroma and are delightful with morning coffee.

Don't mind if I do.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My crappy boss told my co-worker not to cross her legs during class, because it's rude.

Be that as it may, considering the number of upskirt views I've been subjected to on the train, I think I'll stick to my culture's version of politeness. I've already had my ass grabbed on a crowded subway; I don't need some perv checking out my undies as well.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kitchen sink

I wanted to make oatmeal cookies, using this recipe as a base.

But frosting? Oatmeal cookies don't need frosting.

Halfway through the mixing, I realized that I didn't have enough oats. I had about half as much as I needed. Well, let's substitute.

In went about a third of a cup of McCann's steel cut oats. It's still oatmeal, right?

After that, I shook in some organic Cascade Valley oat and flake and bran cereal that looks good in theory but is disgusting when it hits the soymilk. The bran squiggles dissolve instantly into a soggy, gluey mess. Bleck.

The cookies turned out well, though, with some chopped up butterscotch chips that were languishing in the butter drawer in the fridge. Except mine's a chocolate drawer. The chips had been semi-melted and re-hardened, and were more a block than chips. I broke off a chunk and chopped them up on the cutting board.

The only thing is that steel cut oats don't work in baking. I'm glad I only put in a third of a cup, otherwise the things would be way too hard and chewy. As it is, these are just a little bit toothy. The cereal, however, is indistinguishable. A great way to use up those flakes that are slowly going stale.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Onion pie

Sweetie pie, Onion tart. Sound like a song to me. This was good.

Smitten Kitchen sez. But I would brush the crust with a bit of olive oil next time, and use fewer onions.

Friday, November 28, 2008


It's been baking central over here lately.

Read food blog, bookmark, make. Repeat.

This one's from Orangette. Truth be told, I like Little Vegan Monsters' banana cake better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The other day I was walking down a street near my aunt's house in Edogawabashi, trying to figure out the way to Ikebukuro. From across the street, I caught a glimpse of a slick glass and wood façade, with red walls and gleaming chrome visible inside. I could see a shiny espresso machine beckoning. I crossed the road.

On the menu they had a macchiato, and it looked like the macchiato I used to drink in Australia, versus the one that they served at the place I worked in Boston. In Australia, it was basically a small, strong latte – a shot, or a double, of espresso, with about the same amount again of milk. In Boston, they just put a little dab of foam on the top, which I've heard it supposed to take off the bitterness, especially if the espresso isn't that good. I much prefer the former.

It was delicious; some of the best coffee I've had in Japan and indeed in awhile.

I was going to post a link to their site and whereabouts but I've lost the card; I'll update when I've found it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Love Songs

More translation practice for me. I miss speaking Spanish.

Canciones de Amor
by Julieta Venegas

Tu me decias que nada te haría cambiar y yo te decía que cambiaste todo para mí, tu me decías que estabas triste con la vida, pero yo, nunca te creí.
You were saying to me that nothing is going to change you, and I was saying to you that everything changed for me,
You were saying to me that you were sad about life, but I, never believed you.

Estoy tan cansada de las canciones de amor ,siempre hablan de un final feliz...bien sabemos que la vida nunca funciona asi.
I am so tired of the love songs, always taking about happy ever after... well we know that life never works like that.

Y te mandaba las señales que se me ocurrían, tu nunca las entendías, no escuchabas bien, un día me cansé y claro está que te dejé no me hacías caso, entonces para qué?
And I was sending the signals that occured to me, you never understood them, you didn't listen well, one day I got tired and of course I left, you never noticed me, and for what?


Habria hecho todo pero tu nunca entendiste nada,nada de nada la vida siempre tiene que seguir aunque mi corazon se parta y no quede nada por eso
I would have done everything but you never understood anything, nothing about nothing, life always has to go on though my heart is broken and nothing remains of it. 


Saturday, November 22, 2008


I love David Lebovitz's blog, and his recipe for hummus was really yummy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I made bread, using this recipe, and it was good. Except it needed a LOT more than six cups of flour. Try ten. Or more.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Universal Suffrage

Vote. Vooooooote. Vote vote. Please.

For that one, of course.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Had a chance to go down to Shimoda for an overnight. I stayed at the White Beach Hotel, a converted love hotel owned by some folks I know. The hotel is seconds from the beach, and it really is beautiful – not at all like the beaches you find near Enoshima or Kamakura. The sand is clean, the water is clear. The beach is riddled with huge rock formations poking up here and there and hollowed with caves. The water was warm and swimmable, even in late October. I stuck my feet in the sunburned sand and the waves lapped at my toes.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I had a week off, but couldn't get it together to take the whole time and do something with it. Mostly, it's because of laziness, but also because of the cats. With Pudgy having died so recently, I don't want to entrust the little darlings to a stranger, and it's hard to ask a friend to look after them.

Anyway, I decided to go to Mito for a night. K would feed the munchkins, and I thought it would be a good idea to check this town out. I'm generally down for random towns, so off I went. I input a few geocache coordinates into my GPS, and I hopped the train north.

After checking in to the Toyoko Inn, I went and found a cache on the Sakura River, an uninspiring concrete lined trench cutting uniformly through town. The cache was well hidden, though. The second one was more interesting - it was at the site of a former water tower, and looked transported from a Disney fairy tale, all pastel and obvious decoration. I also walked past some nice red brick buildings, and a big prefectural library.

Then I went to the movie theater and watched Wanted. Truly horrible. Skip it.

Thursday, I went to check out Kairakuen, which is supposed to be one of the top three classical gardens in Japan. There was a cache there that I couldn't find, but it was nice to walk around the grounds. Truthfully, though, the garden was a little boring. I preferred Ritsurin Koen in Takamatsu on Shikoku. Perhaps if I went during plum season I'd feel differently.

After the garden, I had a stroll around Lake Senba. Track team junior high schoolers were training, running the lake course. A few older folks having an amble. Maybe the best part of the trip, this just walking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Me Voy

When I was in Spain, my friend Fran would stop in at the house between deliveries (he drove for a fabrica) and drink a cup of coffee and then leave again. He always said, "bueno, me voy", as he was leaving.

"Me Voy" felt a little difficult to translate. It means "I'm off", but that seemed a bit too flippant when looking at the rest of the lyrics. More literally, it means "I go", but that sounds a little strange in English.

by Julieta Venegas

Porque no supiste entender a mi corazón
Because you couldn't understand my heart
lo que había en él
And what was in it
Porque no tuviste el valor de ver quien soy
Because you didn't value seeing who I am
Porque no escuchas lo que está tan cerca de ti
Because you don't listen to what is so close to you
sólo el ruido de afuera
instead only the noise from outside
y yo que estoy a un lado
and I am off to one side
desaparezco para ti
invisible to you

No voy a llorar y decir
I'm not going to cry and say
que no merezco esto
that I don't deserve this
porque es probable que
because probably
lo merezco pero no lo quiero por eso
I deserve it but I don't want it, that's why

Me voy
I go
Que lástima pero adíos
What a shame but goodbye
Me despido de ti me voy
I'm leaving you and I go
Que lástima pero adíos
It's a shame but goodbye
Me despido de ti
I'm leaving you

Porque sé que me espera algo mejor
Because I know something better waits for me
Alguien que sepa darme amor
Someone who knows how to give me love
de ese que endulza la sal
which sweetens the salt
y hace que salga el sol
and can bring out the sun
Yo que pensé
I thought that
nunca me iría de ti que es amor
I would never leave you, that this love
del bueno de toda la vida pero
was good enough for a lifetime but
hoy entendí que no hay suficiente para los dos
today I understood that there's not enough for us both


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

interlocking hearts

Once upon a time, there was an evil five headed dragon who terrorized people with violent storms and earthquakes. One of these quakes shook the seas and created the island of Enoshima. Shortly thereafter, the goddess Benzaiten appeared in the sky. Enamored with her great beauty, the dragon fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. She demurred, citing his bad behavior. Or so the story goes.

Today, Enoshima is a beach destination for the denizens of Tokyo, who flock to the area for the surrounding sand and surfer-chic cafés.

The island is also replete with temples, shrines ,and sightseeing spots, many dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten and her would-be suitor. Inspired by the dragon's love and the beauty of the island, many couples in recent years have been professing their own love here with a visit to Lovers' Hill.
Walk on to the island - there's only one land route. Travel along the road that rises straight in front of you, running the gauntlet of seafood and sweets vendors giving way to pretty shops and restaurants. Soon, you'll pass through a great torii, a gate marking the entrance to a temple or shrine. This is Enoshima Shrine.

A path branches off to the right. Follow this winding road up, up. On your way, check out the remarkable views across the water, and stop to nicker at one of the cats that wander the island. You'll soon start to pass a few locks fastened to the railing, attached by lovers in a rush to profess their affection.

You'll pass a temple festooned with the likeness of the fierce dragon. You may want to stop and pay your respects to the lovelorn monster.

Continue up the hill. The locks fastened to anything viable along the way will multiply until they reach a critical mass. You'll find yourself at the lovers' bell, looking out over the ocean.

Write your message of forever togetherness on your lock and cinch it tight amid all the others. Ring the bell to profess your devotion, seal it with a kiss.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pudgy lovely

She was a lovely, darling girl, with beautiful eyes and beautiful coloring and a sweet nature. She wasn't very cuddly but sometimes, just sometimes, she would jump up and sit on the arm of the worn old easy chair next to you, and prrr.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


One of the nicest things I did this summer was an impromptu camping trip with Birch and Cory.

We packed a haphazard assortment of food, coolers, tent, sleeping bags, and flashlights, and drove west out of Corvallis toward Sweet Home at 8:30 p.m.
After 45 minutes of highway and another hour, almost, of bumpy, unmarked, potholed dirt road, we turned off at the pine tree and parked in a little clearing.

I had never been to this place before, but B. had been with Tyler, and was going by memory. We collected all our gear (oops! too bulky and heavy) and set off galumphing into the night. After about fifteen or twenty minutes of wandering through the woods (me with my GPS), we decided to pitch camp in a clearing that was - we thought - near the trail. A creek tinkled nearby, though we couldn't see it, and we put up the tent by flashlight. Luckily for us, it was a very easy tent to pitch, a pup tent belonging to Birch.
We made a fire and roasted taters and ears of corn with lots of Earth Balance margarine, and had chips and salsa and juice. Girl Scouting came in handy here, as we foraged for firewood and I made layers of tinder, kindling, and big log pieces for fuel. Then we tied the food up in a tree, just in case.

Snuggled up we three in the pup tent, we all slept til mid-morning.

Vietnamese coffee boiled on the campstove and granola with wild blackberries tucked away, we zipped up the tent and tromped down to the lakes.
The lakes were nearly deserted, save for a lonely fisherman on one shore. We beat our way through the brush, jumping over fallen logs and swatting away spider webs. Finally, an out-jutting log was pronounced a satisfactory swimmin' base, and we hung our bag on a tree and teetered out over the clear water. From there, we slathered on the sunscreen, sharing the space with curious swimming salamanders and skating water bugs. Plop! went C., into the lake. Splash! followed B. I eased into the water slowly, then all at once.
I dropped my camera in and it fell all the way to the bottom and I had to go under and retrieve it, and I didn't even care.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I AM: U.S.American and Japanese. The 'merican side is Irish-German-France-NativeAm-etc.

I WANT: café con leche and fruit.

I WISH: I could quilt.

I HATE: intolerance and pomposity.

I MISS: my mom, dad, and sister.

I HEAR: coffee percolating, the shower showering, the shutters rattling.

I WONDER: how Scooter is doing.

I REGRET: regretting; it's a waste of time.

I AM NOT: as decisive as I'd like to be.

I DANCE: in the living room and on the train platform.

I SING: all the time. Loudly.

I CRY: at the news, reading books, watching movies.

I AM NOT ALWAYS: proactive.

I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: baked things, like cakes and muffins and cookies. And bottlecap magnets.

I WRITE: less than I should. For a dinky newspaper. And a few ballogs.

I CONFUSE: myself trying to speak two foreign languages at once.

I NEED: to procrastinate less.

I SHOULD: get back to a lot of people.

I START: retiling the bathroom floor. Sort of. Well, we bought the tiles.

I FINISH: things long after I start them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

oh shit! i saw Beat Takeshi on Basha-michi today in Yokohama!

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's a bit of a tempest in a teapot, but I'm glad some folks are paying attention.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Censorship all around

What the hell? We all can look at nekkid girls til the cows come home, but post a (limp) dick and people start freaking the fuck out.

This isn't even porn, people. There's nothing dirty or wrong or even sexy about it.

Talk about a double standard.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

AtoZ café

Patrick and I went to AtoZ café in the Omotesando area of Aoyama last week. This café was imagined as a collaboration between artist Yoshitomo Nara and interior designers graf. There is a workshop built inside a little shack in the middle of the café where, supposedly, Mr. Nara himself comes to work sometimes. He wasn't in evidence this day, but it was still neat to peer inside and have a look at some of his sketches that were messily (and probably artfully) scattered about.

The food and drink are average to slightly high-priced, and the atmosphere is nice: on the 5th floor of a posh alley building with a rustic theme, like rough picnic-table-esque wood and corrugated tin ceilings. I enjoyed my coconut latte and Patrick had a fried rice dish.

A nice pit stop for Nara fanatics or if you're in the neighborhood.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pee pee

My first class of the day is a quintet of rambunctious four and five year olds. They have boundless energy and love to do flying leaps. Nothing is quite as interesting as hiding under a table, behind a door, or balancing a cushion on their heads for the sheer joy of it.

Entering the classroom, I noticed something. A funky smell, if you will. A nose-crinkling odor. A slight and sickly stench. How now? I inspected the premises. No wet spots on the carpet. No puddles in the trash bin. No soggies in the tox box.

Unable to pinpoint the stink, I cracked a window, shrugged my shoulders at my awesome office manager, and commenced the class. "OK, class! Take out your crayons~ very good! Write your name. Use ONE PENCIL. Okay, what's this?" (Pointing to a picture of a carrot.) "Is it an apple?"

Me: "Is it an elephant?"
(Shrieks) "Nooooooo!!!!"

Me: "Is it a cucumber ice cream cone?"
(Howling now) "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

"Okay, then, what is it?
(Thunderous) "IT'S A CARROT!!!"

Me: "Very good! It's a carrot! What color is a carrot?"
"Orange and green!"

"Okay, please color your carrots orange and green."

As they color, I surreptitiously walk around the room, sniffing the kids. Inori? Smells clean. Emi? Smells clean. Towa? Um, he's ok, I think. Teru? He's got a huge bandage on his forehead. What happened to him? He's not telling. Probably cracked his head balancing a cushion on it whilst hiding behind a door under a table and taking a flying leap from the spot. Also smells ok... I think. Aoi? Smells a little sweaty. Hmm. I can't tell. But if it's anyone, it's definitely this side of the table.

After our veggie worksheets, we stood up for a little song and dance. Shake Your Silles, sung by a charming British guy... wait... googling... The Wiggles! That song is a crowd pleaser. We shook our sillies out, nodded our naughties out, clappled our crazies out, jumped our jiggles out, and wiggled our wobbles away.

This is the class that loves to perform flying leaps, remember. So about halfway through the song (maybe about the time we were jumping our jiggles), the whole class decided to do a spontaneous group flying tackle. Suddenly, there are monkeys clinging to my knees. Hanging off my shoulders. Swinging from my elbows. Dangling from my midsection. I'm still trying to jump and wiggle. But they will not relent. One of them grabs my hands. It's Aoi. I hoist her up.

Hold on... her hands are wet. OK...

Finally, after a stretch and a yawn, the song winds down. I'm able to disentangle... and sniff my hands.


Pee-pee. Urine. Shikko. Tinkle. Mellow yellow.

Got the culprit. Or rather, she got me.

Class dismissed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ian's mom Maria sent me this. What a cool moving illustration. And so exactly like my little monsters. I don't know who the artist is although I'd love to give credit.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Quote of the week

From my Singaporean classmate in Japanese class at the volunteer center, on the occasion of my teacher's birthday, for which I made her a coconut-lemon cake and brought in a can of whipped cream:

(holding the whipped cream and squirting some on her cake), "Americans would spray this into their mouths, right?"

Why yes. Yes we all would.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

hakone in the open air

Although I have been to Hakone several times before, we got to check out some new things when D&M came to town.

Let's take a moment first to talk about the Hakone freepass and its wild inconvenience. The literature and information on it is pretty slim, and wholly neglects to give timetables or let you know that if you don't avail yourself of all the expensive local transport by 5pm, you'll be stuck on the bus and will have wasted the several thousand yen that is only worth spending if you get to ride the pirate ship and the ropeway both. Get an EARLY start or don't bother buying the pass.

The best thing about this time was the Hakone Open Air Museum. As the title suggests, this is a sprawling open-air sculpture garden with fabulous art spilling down the side of the hillside and sweeping mountain views.

Definitely recommended.