Food & Cooking · Seen

I Spy…

Spring!

It may still be cold, but I’ve been finding bits of springtime (or creating bits of it!) all around me ūüôā Firstly, I’ve been spying it outdoors…

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Is that water? Oh my gosh, that’s water! THE ICE IS MELTING in Grand Haven! HURRAH!

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This ice was melting from the inside out, creating a little cave!

20140408-191233.jpgBright skies = happy days

Secondly, I’ve been creating a springtime atmosphere to “spy” indoors…!

20140408-191325.jpgNothing like whipping up some Lemon Poppy Seed Scones for a nice spring day. I made my first-ever batch with a nice (cute!) mug of coffee nearby.

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The recipe said to cut the scones into twelve triangles, but I chose to cut the twelve in half again because they were so big. The scones were fantastic!

20140408-191341.jpgI may not be able to start a garden just yet, but I was able to make a cute radish needle felting craft with one of my Whimsey Box kits. I had never heard of needle felting before, but now I’m in love with it. I can’t wait to show you a tutorial featuring the other needle felt cutie I made!

20140408-191348.jpgThere was invigorating spring lemon scent in another of my Whimsey Box kits: homemade lotion and hand scrub.

20140408-191356.jpgI also decided to make some Vanilla Pistachio Cream Puffs because I thought the bright, pastel green color created a nice, light spring feel.

20140408-191403.jpgThe cream puffs were yummy, too, so I decided it would be best to get them out of the house and bring them to work ūüôā

Where have you spied spring?

Food & Cooking · Seen · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Week in Pictures

This week was one filled with lovely nature, marketplace excursions, culinary delights (such as that jambalaya we tried for Fat Tuesday!), and a pattern search in and around our house. (Anything to keep us busy and keep our spirits up ūüėČ )

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Rosy Mound #1

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Rosy Mound #2

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Rosy Mound #3

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Goodies from our Asian Market trip (some of which were used for our Hina Matsuri dinner)

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Bubble Tea at a restaurant next door to the Asian marketplace

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We tried pho for the first time!

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Pretty flowers sent to us

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My favorite beer

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Nutella French Toast #1

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Nutella French Toast #2

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Patterns #1 (Don’t the knots in the tree look like eyes?)

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Patterns #2

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Patterns #3

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Patterns #4

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Patterns #5

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Patterns #6

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Patterns #7

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Patterns #8 (Okay, so maybe I just wanted to take a picture of our kitties because I love them…)

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Goodies from a trip to The Cheese Lady in Muskegon (We tried the Vanilla Balsamic drizzled over fresh strawberries!)

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I made homemade Crab Rangoons and Gyoza…

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And Chad made amazing homemade ramen!

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Dinner party dishes #1

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Dinner Party Dishes #2

I wonder what the weekend has in store for us! What have you been up to this week?

Seen

Walking on ice

Today I got to see the frozen lake at the Grand Haven beach first-hand. We walked from downtown all the way to the pier, and then walked straight out onto the ice. It was so amazing to see the way the lake froze, especially when we took a chance to look over at the lighthouse and see how far out on the water we actually were (admittedly, it was also a little scary!).

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The sunset was gorgeous. Nature so often leaves me in awe.

Seen · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

A busy Saturday & changes in October

Over the weekend I had a very full Saturday! The day started with waking up around 6 and heading with Chad to Grandville for the Race for the Cure. There were over 5,000 people walking or running to promote breast cancer awareness!

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With such a large crowd, I would never want to run this 5K for speed, but to be honest, I didn’t care about speed that day anyway. What I¬†did care about was doing something that means a great deal to me, as Breast Cancer runs in my family (my mother is a survivor). For the past couple of years I did a 10K Pink Ribbon walk in Kobe, and while I wish I could be there this year, too, I was happy that I was able to raise over $200.00 through the Race for the Cure last weekend with generous donations from friends and family.

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Panera Bread gave out delicious ribbon shaped raisin bread after the run!

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Chad and I after the run.

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My numbers.

After the race, we went to my Grandma’s and had lunch with her before heading to the Oktoberfest in Grand Rapids in the late afternoon to meet my brother and sister-in-law.

This video shows Chad doing the Keg Toss at the event:

And here’s my brother, who was clearly waiting for some kind of signal to start and then finally just went for it:

And here’s both of them doing a one-handed keg roll. They would’ve won if it hadn’t been for two beef cakes who entered the very last minute, but the important thing, as my brother mentioned, was that “no one was really as in sync as [Justin] and Chad.”

After keg-rolling glory was taken right out of the hands of my husband and brother, we headed downtown for Art Prize. It was pretty crowded, but it was fun to look around. I kept hoping for the exhibits to be like the tents in The Night Circus, but unfortunately that dream was not fulfilled.

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My favorite exhibit out of what we saw that day was this work of Buddha. 

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It was a gorgeous day for walking around downtown.

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I got a Jones Soda while we were walking around downtown, and the bottle cap said, “The coming month shall bring winds of change in your life.” I can’t give anything away just yet because I don’t want to jinx anything, but I have a feeling the prediction was on to something! Do you foresee any big changes in your life this month?

***My busy Saturday was really fun, and allowed me to cross three things off my fall bucket list in one day!

Heard · Seen · Seen/Heard/Tried

Falling from a Height, Holding Hands

About eight years ago, I had the fortune of being able to meet my favorite poet, Gary Snyder, in person at a reading he did at Grand Valley State University (one of his poems is actually responsible for the name of this blog). He read several poems from his book Danger on Peaks, and afterwards he did a signing. When we met, we talked briefly about how I had studied in Japan and how I was going to go back one day (he lived there for some time, too). I wanted so much to explain how wonderful his poems were to me, and to talk for him about nature and Asia and life. But, the line of his fans had to keep moving, so I tried my best to express as much as I could with a “thank you.”

Though I had read several other books of Snyder’s poetry before going to see him read that day, I hadn’t read Danger on Peaks. It was exciting to hear him read poems that were new to me, and I sat fully focused the entire time. For his final reading, Snyder decided to close with a poem called “Falling from a Height, Holding Hands.” He explained that he wrote it after watching a news story on 9/11, and as he read the poem aloud, everyone listening seemed to hold their breath. The poem was so simple, and yet–like so many of his poems–captured so much. His explanation and reading was so moving that I was brought to tears, and like the rest of the audience, couldn’t manage to speak. He must have gauged the effect the poem had, because–suddenly–he decided to read just one more: “To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then.” Our hearts lifted in laughter, and I felt so inspired. What an amazing talent he has–he can bring people from tears to laughter in just moments with his writing.

I know that without actually being there to hear him speak it may be hard to fully grasp the emotions in the room that day, but I still feel a stirring in my heart when I read “Falling From a Height, Holding Hands.” I’ve included the poem below, along with “To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then.” These poems remind me to remember the tragedy of 9/11 and to avoid becoming desensitized. They also remind me to focus on the importance of growing, learning, laughing, loving, and cherishing life.

Falling From a Height, Holding Hands

 

What was that?

storms of flying glass

& billowing flames

 

a clear day to the far sky–

 

better than burning,

hold hands.

 

We will be

two    peregrines    diving

 

all the way down

 

To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then

for Maggie Brown Koller

(among others)

 

Sometimes we remember that moment:

you stood there attentive with clothespins

dangling, setting a bloodless dimple in each lobe

as I searched for a cork & the right-sized needle

& followed the quick pierce with a small gold hoop.

The only guy with an earring

back then

 

It didn’t hurt that much

a sweetly earnest child

and a crazy country guy

with an earring and a

gray-green cast eye

and even then,

this poem.

Food & Cooking · Learning · Seen

Lunch in Paris

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Paris, March 2012

So this post isn’t actually about a time I had lunch in Paris (like we were about to in the picture above!), but about the book Lunch in Paris, by Elizabeth Bard. I mentioned my sister-in-law Ariel and I have started our own book club, and for our first book we chose this “love story with recipes.”

20130818-100402.jpgWith Lunch in Paris open on the countertop, I gave one of Bard’s recipes a try!

Ariel and I¬†decided to try out some of the recipes in the book to eat way too much of nibble on while we discussed the reading questions, so I chose¬†to make the yogurt cake (recipe after post). I stuck with the recipe’s directions and used apricots, but Bard also suggests using other seasonal fruit, like raspberries or blueberries mixed with a little brown sugar (and to possibly add¬†a streusel topping!).

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I thought the cake turned out quite well–it was sweet without being overwhelmingly so. I mentioned to Ariel that¬†the¬†cake’s flavor¬†reminded me of Japanese sweets. American sweets tend to¬†have intense bursts of flavor all at once, while Japanese sweets have a subtle sweetness that makes you feel as if¬†there is a secret you want to take bites of to discover more.¬†Ariel and I¬†talked a lot about similarities between France and Japan, and how¬†meals in Japan & France¬†contrast with those in America–specifically how Americans tend to favor convenience, speed and overindulgence over the¬†preparation and enjoyment of each meal (meals which in France and Japan–also contrary to the typical American meals–tend to last over an hour or more).

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Ariel made delicious Coconut Macaroons

Ariel and I both feel like we generally try to combat that stereotypical “speed and convenience” attitude when it comes to food–that we try to recognize that when we make a meal, we are working to produce something that is shared together in an intimate, familiar place. Sitting together¬†at the table allows us to focus on each other while connecting over good food and possibly sharing symbols of our family “culture” or our culture at large.

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This wasn’t a competition, but I would say the macaroons won! ūüėČ

One passage that really struck a chord with me in Lunch in Paris was toward the end of the book, where Bard wishes there were an “in-between” place in which she could experience the things she loves about each of her cultures, leaving the not-so-good stuff behind. I could completely relate to that feeling: I want ramen and tonkatsu, but I also love a good roast or having turkey on Thanksgiving. I love all of the kawaii¬†stuff everywhere in Japan, but I also love the convenient, cheap toiletries, makeup, lotion, art supplies, etc. here! I love crazy Japanese fashion, but I also enjoy the practical styles (that I can fit into!) in America. I want the Japanese transportation system, but sometimes nothing is better than going for a car ride with the windows rolled down. I love the focus on presentation and tradition in Japan, but sometimes it’s better to break rules if they don’t make sense and to live a little out of bounds. I’m forever homesick for one place or the other.

We had a lot of fun with our first book, and have decided that we’d like to try recipes out with future books, too! You can look forward to more recipes in the future, but for now, see the recipes we tried below. You can also find the reading guide we used here.

YOGURT CAKE

G√Ęteau au Yaourt

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup sugar

A large pinch of sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 2/3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Zest of 1 lemon

One 16-ounce can apricots, drained and quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 10-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, salt, and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking to combine. Add the eggs one by one, whisking to incorporate after each addition.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda; add to the yogurt mixture; whisk lightly to combine. Stir in the lemon zest.

Transfer the batter to your cake pan; top with the chopped apricots. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and slightly risen. A toothpick in the center should come out clean.

Lift the cake by the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. This cake actually gets moister with age, so it tastes great the next day. Simply cover the fully cooled cake with aluminum foil; an airtight container or plastic bag will make it soggy.

Yield: Makes on 10-inch cake

*I adapted the recipe slightly by flipping the cake over after it cooled to make a little dome shape, and by dusting powdered sugar on top. I think the presentation would be even prettier with a couple of fresh apricot slices placed in the middle!

*Recipe originally posted here.

AUNT JOYCE’S COCONUT MACAROONS

2 2/3 cups grated coconut (the fluffier the better!)

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Extra grated coconut to finish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a medium mixing bowl, gently combine 2 2/3 cups of the coconut, the condensed milk and the extracts. Using 2 teaspoons (or even better, a melon baller), form into 1 1/2 inch balls. Work gently, as you would making meatballs; you don’t want your macaroons to be too dense.

Bake in a slow oven for 15 minutes. Depending on the absorbancy of your coconut, the macaroons may ooze a bit; pat them gently back into shape and roll them in additional grated coconut.

Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. These are more like candy than cookies, so serve them sparingly, with good strong coffee.

Yield: Makes 20 macaroons

*Ariel said her macaroons oozed a bit as the recipe predicted they might, but they turned out fabulous. We sampled our desserts with peppermint tea.

*Recipe from Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard (pg 314 of our edition).

Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to suggest? What recipes have you tried lately?

Friday Five · Seen

Friday Five: On The Wolverine

(Mini spoiler alert! Though if you haven’t seen the film, most of the things I’m going to mention are pretty obvious/predictable right from the start.)

2013 Movie Preview: The Wolverine

(Is anyone else kind of freaked about by his crazy muscles? Picture source)

Last weekend, Chad and I went with my brother, sister-in-law, and friend to see the new Wolverine movie. My brother was telling me that Hugh Jackman said in an interview that The Wolverine was supposed to give fans the Wolverine they deserved, and one of my coworkers told me the film was mostly set in Japan, so I was excited to see it. Here are 5 things I noticed throughout the film:

1. I was really excited to understand all of the Japanese without subtitles! When the subtitles came on I needed them a few times because they were talking so fast and angry-like, but for the most part I could understand a lot, which made me happy. At the same time, it made me miss Japan tremendously (like I didn’t already, haha).

2. While understanding the Japanese made me happy, I’d have to say a good 30% of the un-subtitled Japanese was just the word¬†gaijin, or foreigner, being thrown around as angry Japanese mafia chased and confronted Wolverine.

3. And speaking of gaijin, Japan is notorious for Japanese women falling for even the nerdiest, jerkiest, weirdest foreign guys, while foreign women tend to loom in the background, feeling like ogres. So it came as no surprise when Mariko slept with Wolverine. Gaijin  guy strikes again!

4. And while we’re talking about Mariko, I was surprised no one sat down with the non-Japanese actors to talk about how to pronounce her name. I heard everything from Marko to Mary-ko.

5. Lastly, the bullet train scene was pretty fun, though hardly feasible. I mean, maybe somehow Wolverine’s extra strength and mutant awesomeness allowed him to get by, but how about the mafia guy? Unless he had some super physics-defying powers hidden in his tattoos. Which would be an pretty cool revelation to everyone who knows anything about¬†yakuza.

Two more final notes: 1) What was the point of Viper shedding off her skin only to basically lose her hair? She looked way cooler with reptilian skin, in my opinion. And 2)The after-credits scene starts off really cool with Wolverine and Magneto, but when Xavier comes rolling through like he’s on a game show my brother and sister-in-law just about lost it. We all decided that was probably the best moment in the movie.

Did you see the movie? If so, what did you think?