Food & Cooking · Summer Bucket List

An experiment and a picnic

I mentioned I’ve started baking my own bread again, but did I also mention we don’t have central air in our apartment? That means it’s not always the best idea to have the oven going (even though I did make a mighty tasty coffee cake the other day in 90 degree heat!). Still wanting to make my own bread as much as possible, I decided to experiment with a recipe from The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day that can be made in the oven OR in the crock pot. That’s right: bread in a crock pot. And here’s the resulting bread, one from the oven, and one from the crock pot. Can you guess which is which? If you guessed that the darker loaf was from the oven, and the lighter one was from the crock pot, you guessed right. I actually put the crock pot one in the oven to get more of a golden crust when it was done baking (the book suggests using the broiler to do so, but I already had the oven on for the other loaf), but it still didn’t get a golden crust as nice as the oven loaf.The bread was made from the same batch of dough, so the taste was the same. As for the texture on the inside, the two loaves seemed quite similar. I cut the loaves differently (the oven-baked loaf was for my go-to breakfast and the crock pot loaf was for a picnic sandwich), but you can still see the similarity in crumb.  For the picnic sandwich, I looked at this recipe for guidance but used whatever I already had in the fridge. Here’s how I assembled mine:

1. I Cut off the top of my loaf, pulled out the inside of the bread (I’ll tell you what I used that part of the bread for later!), and brushed olive oil along the inside.
2. Then I placed multiple layers of raw red bell pepper, spinach, mozzarella, basil, salami, ham, and cream cheese inside.
3. Lastly, I put the top of the bread loaf back on, wrapped the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge weighed down with a full yogurt container for a few hours.

I sliced the sandwich before we left for our picnic and grabbed some watermelon and pretzels, and then we were off to enjoy our tasty picnic.We had a really relaxing time with a great view. Lillian enjoyed looking at the water and playing with daddy in the shade of a nice big tree, and I tried my best not to eat the entire picnic loaf!

What are your favorite picnic foods? Have you tried any kitchen experiments lately?

xx Caitlyn

P.S. Remember these gorgeous picnics?

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Summer Bucket List · Uncategorized

Summer Bucket List 2016

Lately I’ve seen a few blogs with lists of things to try to squeeze in before summer is over. I just keep thinking–but friends, we’re only about a month in! And while I am a bit late in posting this year’s Summer Bucket List, I have a great excuse: I moved countries AND I have a baby. Forgive me? 🙂Summer Bucket List 2016I like making seasonal bucket lists because they help me remember the fun things I do over the seasons. They remind me to do more and to try new things, too. This is my 4th Summer Bucket List on the blog, and each time I’ve made one I’ve tried to add some things I know I’ll do with a reminder (though it doesn’t seem like eating s’mores should need a reminder!), as well as some things I hope to try/do. This year’s list has some tried and true things to check off, like making the watermelon rind pickles enjoyed at the Pretentious Tea Party again or going to the beach and grilling. It also has new things, like lots of fun stuff with our Lily (we’ve already finished the summer reading program at our local library!) and attempting to replicate amazing choux cream pastries I had at my favorite bakery in Japan

Despite posting my list after summer already started, I have started checking things off. I’m looking forward to sharing my summer adventures with you, but in the meantime, what are some fun things you’ve got planned?

xx Caitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Summer Bucket List · Travel · Tried

Summer Bucket List recap

Now that we’re several days into fall I think it’s time for an update/recap on my Summer Bucket List for this year!

  1. Read at least three books [√] — Check out this Bookspiration post to learn more!
  2. Do yoga at least 4 times a week [X] —  I thought I was going to be one of those glowing, energetic pregnant women–HA! But I have been walking every day, and I try and squeeze in yoga and other exercise when I’m not dead from work.
  3.  Celebrate our 7th anniversary [√] — We went to Hakone and really enjoyed the Open Air Museum (read more here).
  4. Try paper quilling [√] — I made a pretty sunflower card and really enjoyed the craft (see my card here)!
  5. Eat s’mores [X] — You know, I didn’t get around to s’mores this summer. I did, however, enjoy a lot of early-released fall treats, so I think I made up for it!
    IMG_3204
    Left: sweet potato Kit Kats and chestnut flavored taiyaki; Right: chestnut flavored soft oreos, pumpkin flavored Kit Kats, and sweet potato chips. You can heat up both the types of kit kats. I didn’t try them warm, but they were yummy as is!
  6. Go swimming [√] — I was lucky to go swimming in a hotel pool during our Thailand trip, and then again at Shirahama Beach with Chad and his brother Quint.
    IMG_2974Chad and Quint running into the gorgeous water.
    IMG_3027
    Beautiful mermen!
    IMG_3008
    Baby bump at 22 weeks (about two weeks ago, and already looking small to me!)
  7. Make a hot air balloon craft [X] — I had all the best intentions, really. But I’ll be working on an easy one this week.
  8. Try kirigami [X] — Once again, good intentions on this one. It’s been moved to my Fall Bucket List, though!
  9. Go to Studio Ghibli [X] — Oh my goodness you guys. It is impossible to get tickets on weekends or on any other days we have off. I will keep trying again and again until we leave Tokyo!
  10. Enjoy kakigori (Japanese shaved ice) [√] — I had some lovely strawberry milk kakigori after visiting Sandanbeki Caves with Chad and Quint.
    IMG_3058
                                           Above: One view from the caves.
    The “milk” was actually sweetened condensed milk. Mmmmmmm….!
    IMG_3067
    I also tried a totally different version of shaved ice in Thailand called “Ruam-mit.” My Thai friend says that means “mixing everything together.” Below you can see the stand with choices you can make for your own bowl, and then the four different bowls we sampled with our friends. We liked the ones with coconut milk the best!IMG_2769
  11. Go on a picnic [√] — we went on several 🙂
  12. Have a fancy night dressed up around town [√] — Um, do you remember when we went to Chez Olivier? We actually went back again when Quint was here, too. Still drooling at the thought of both visits….
  13. Do at least 3 Writing Prompts [X] — I did one writing prompt, and really didn’t like it. Time got in the way of trying for another two.
  14. See fireworks [√/X] — So I didn’t actually see live fireworks, but I did do a really cool craft with my students. Here’s the link on pinterest!
  15. Do pirikura [√] — As you know from my last post, I totally got down with this one and used it as a baby announcement!

All in all I’d say I gave this year’s bucket list a pretty good go, especially considering I was primarily in my first trimester for a good chunk of it! My fall bucket list is ready now, too, so I’ll be sharing that soon!

What are some fun things you did this summer?
xxCaitlyn

Pregnancy · Summer Bucket List

A big secret, a little secret, and… where’d September go?

It’s been awhile, but I can explain my absence. I promise. I haven’t been on Little Snail lately because of a big secret we were keeping for several months. Ready for it? You may have heard by now or seen on instagram or Facebook, but…we’re having a baby!babydykehouse1We announced the pregnancy officially a few weeks ago by taking some pirikura shots (Japanese photo booth), which has to do with another little secret: when I put pirikura on my summer bucket list for this year, I already knew that’s how we were going to announce the baby 😉 Checking things off left and right out here in Tokyo!
babydykehouse2And speaking of checking things off different lists, figuring out pregnancy in Japan has been pretty interesting (okay…downright stressful at times). A lot of things work differently here than back home. I’ll be sure to fill you in on some of the differences in future posts. For now, I just wanted to let you know things are healthy and happy so far, despite this mommy-to-be being so exhausted that September flew by and I didn’t have the energy even once to muster up a quick hello here on the blog. I was reading a book that said pregnant women should never, ever feel guilty about being FREAKING TIRED, so I’m working on letting go of the guilt and just trying to rest when I’m tired. (Easier said than done!)
babydykehouse3I must mention that in the weeks that have passed since these were taken, my belly has gotten huge, and our little girl (!) is kicking away like it’s nobody’s business.
babydykehouse4
Due January 25th, 2016. I love how this picture turned out!

I can’t wait to update you more on how things have been going with both baby and with life as of late (like more bucket list updates, etc.!). Hope you’ve been taking care of yourself and that you had a lovely end to summer!

xx Caitlyn

Projects · Summer Bucket List · Tried

Summer Bucket List: Paper Quilling

Remember when I tried making Matryoshka at a meetup a while back? Well, a couple weeks ago, I attended another meetup for Paper Quilling. This time of year in Japan a lot of summer greeting cards are sent, so the leader of the group thought it would be a fun time to teach basic quilling techniques. I wanted to share this with you sooner, but I decided to give the card I made to my mom, so I wanted her to be the first to see it. Now that she’s gotten it, here it is!IMG_2188
Of course, it’s not perfect, but nothing handmade is! I really enjoyed making my first project. One of the coolest parts was that the group leader taught us the basic techniques using toothpicks to roll the paper! She also gave us a tip for getting strips of paper without spending much money: just use a paper shredder if you have one! I loved that we could try the craft without having to invest a ton–especially as these days paper quilling is starting to get quite popular again.IMG_2191Did you know that paper quilling is actually quite an old craft, and that even back in the Renaissance the strips of paper were trimmed from gilded edges of books? IMG_2189Here is one of the example cards the group leader made. Isn’t it fun?  IMG_2192Here is my card with some of the cards the other girls made. I loved the idea of making a cat face (top left)! IMG_2194This was my favorite card. I was so jealous of the girl who made it!

I’d like to try quilling again sometime–I think it’s something I could get quite good at and enjoy. Tomorrow I’m off to another meetup for needle felting. I’ve done some needle felting before (remember this cute onigiri?), but I think it will be fun to try it with some other girls and hopefully learn some new techniques!

What kind of projects have you been working on lately?

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking · Seen/Heard/Tried · Summer Bucket List · Tried

French Restaurant Chez Olivier

On my Summer Bucket List (and bucket lists past, for that matter), when I wrote “fancy night around town,” I generally meant that I wanted to dress up for no reason at all and do ordinary things–just for fun. But as I was researching dinners for our anniversary weekend, I came across a perfect reason for dressing up and NOT doing an ordinary thing: Michelin Star-Rated restaurant Chez Olivier.

After perusing the bilingual website and reading about Chef Olivier’s history and approach to his restaurant, I was especially intrigued by the presentation of the meals in the pictures, and at how the menu is always changing with the season based on what is available. Ever since watching The Hundred Foot Journey (a great movie, if you haven’t seen it!),  I’ve been curious about restaurants with the coveted Michelin Star, so I have to admit that was part of my reasoning for wanting to go, too. Since we went to Hakone on our anniversary weekend, this weekend was our chance to visit Chez Olivier with a Saturday night reservation for 6:30.IMG_2324Weeeee! I was so excited! IMG_2325Here is our table set for two before the meal began. This was the stage at which we learned our first lesson: be sure to specify you want TAP water if all you want to drink is water. The waitress (who was truly quite friendly) opened a bottle of Evian with a charge of 1100 yen and I think our hearts broke a bit with each pour. IMG_2326We chose a dinner course with a starter, main and dessert. Before the starter there was a little complimentary appetizer of bread with bits of bacon and other flavors, a drop of soup, and a mussel with hazelnut and herb butter on salt. The waitress recommended we start with the soup (which was on the spoon in the middle), and it ended up being a delightful surprise. We wondered how it could be soup when it looked like a little mound of cheese or something, but upon putting it in our mouths, it burst open and filled our palette with really smooth flavor. So sorry I can’t remember more about the description of each item on this plate as she just told us briefly as it was served. The mussel was my favorite little bite. IMG_2327Next came our appetizers. I chose the Gazpacho jelly with mozzarella, tomatoes, shrimp, and avocado, and it was just fabulous. The little swirls of green were the avocado, which really smoothed out the tanginess of the soup. We were also served complimentary bread (warmed) with fresh-made Hokkaido butter. We may have eaten nearly all of that butter by the end of the meal because it was so creamy yet light, and I have no shame about the matter at all. IMG_2328Sorry this picture is blurry, but this was Chad’s appetizer: Pressed chicken meat, rhubarb, acidulated red onions, and cooking juice. He gave me a bite, and his was also quite nice. IMG_2330Next up was our main course, and both of us chose the roasted duckling fillet with cherry sauce and a creamy polenta. (Chad paired his with a nice red wine.) The duckling was imported from France and was just divine with the cherry sauce. And the polenta! It just melted in our mouths. Absolutely delicious. IMG_2331At this point, depending on how you look at it, we learned our second lesson of the night. We were brought a cheese platter and asked if we’d like some cheese. Chad chose a really nice blue cheese, and I chose Gorgonzola. Our slices were served with a bit of dried fig and a couple drops of balsamic vinegar. The lesson? Each serving added 800 yen each to our bill! On the bright side, we definitely enjoyed the cheese. IMG_2332Next up was a complimentary pre-dessert of assorted cheesecakes. There was rare cheesecake, some cheesecake ice cream with a small bit of lime zest, a raspberry cheesecake, passion fruit sauce, and a couple other little logs of cheesecake. Each bite was soooooo delightful. If only I could just send you a bite or two! IMG_2333Next was our dessert. Both of us chose the Creamy Chocolate ”Caramelia,” mascarpone and maple syrup espuma (a gourmet foam or whip), crispy praline,  and milk ice-cream dessert. IMG_2334The dessert was layered, and I enjoyed trying each layer individually, and then altogether.  IMG_2335See the layers? Don’t you just want to dive in and disappear into chocolate caramel heaven? IMG_2336Before our meal was complete, we were given two cannelés to share, a small sweet which actually originated in Olivier’s hometown of Bordeaux. The outside was crisp and honeyed, and the inside was soft and spongey with egg and rum-flavored crumb.

Overall, our experience at Chez Olivier was delightful. The courses themselves were 4800 yen each, but with the added expenses of the Evian water, Chad’s glass of wine, the cheese and a 10% service charge, we felt a sad little pang when receiving the bill. BUT! Here’s what we thought as we left: we learned a bit about dining fancy, we had an amazing time (we were there for about 2 1/2 hours talking and dining), and the food was just awesome. The staff was pretty friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere was nice. We definitely enjoyed our time, and will be trying more fancy places once in a while in the future.

Have you eaten anything amazing lately?

xx Caitlyn

Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List

I know we’re already a couple of weeks into summer, but I’m finally getting around to sharing this summer’s bucket list with you. I noticed there are surprisingly fewer items to be checked off this year than in years past, but I think part of that is because I won’t be getting to make jams or pickles and that sort of thing while here in Japan (I just don’t want to invest in all of the necessary supplies when I’m not sure when we’re moving back and I’ve already got all the supplies all in Michigan). Nevertheless, I think I’ve still got some fun things/goals to check off my newest list.

Summer Bucket ListI’ve already finished my first book of the three I’m aiming to read: The Miniaturist. The book was given 4 out of 5 stars, took place in Amsterdam, and seemed really intriguing, so I decided to read it. During the first half of the book, I couldn’t put it down. All I wanted to do was read more and more. However, the second half of the book just led to one depressing turn after another, ending in nothing but unresolved mysteries. I felt almost cheated by the lack of any resolution! Perhaps my next book will give me more satisfaction–I’m just beginning to dig into Keys to Good Cooking (I know! An entirely different genre entirely. I like to change things up from book to book).

Anyway, that’s my list for this summer. Have you got anything fun or new you’ll be doing this summer? I’d love to hear about it!

xx Caitlyn