Learning

It’s been a good day…

Today I went out to lunch with my mom and grandma (we went to Olga’s–yum!), got groceries and hung out doing laundry at my mom’s (and ate some of the amazing chocolate chip cookies she made!), leafed through a Taste of Home magazine my mom is lending me with way too many delicious looking recipes to try, and bought a new bike!

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I am really excited to have a bike to get around town with, and already rode about ten miles on it today alone! I was especially happy about the color. Chad suggested I get a brighter, bolder color, but the maroon color of this bike was the same as the first bike I ever had when I was in Japan. I feel so lucky to live in an area in which I can bike to the grocery store, the library, and the beach–the latter two of which I biked to today with Chad!

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When we stopped by the library, I dropped off two books and got them marked off on my Book Bingo card. I primarily started the bingo because if I finish it I have a chance at winning a gift certificate to Grimaldi’s Chocolates in Grand Haven, and we all know how obsessed I am with chocolate! Additionally, the Book Bingo sort of goes in line with another of my Summer Bucket List points: join a book club. I know it’s a little different, but it’s a step in the right direction!

So far for the bingo I’ve read Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Seriously, I’m KiddingYoga Bitchand Other People We MarriedI really enjoyed Yoga Bitch. Do you have a suggestion for a good mystery? I usually don’t like mysteries very much, so I am totally up for suggestions. As for now, I’m starting one of the “groundbreaking” reads about archaeological adventures, and putting a close to a very nice day.

What are some good things that happened to you today?

 

P.S. I have been enjoying playing around with the BeautifulMess app, which I used to decorate my pretty bicycle picture above! Have you tried it out yet?

 

Seen

Lately I’ve seen…

Pretty whisky glasses at the Yamazaki Distillery…

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The Yamazaki Distillery…

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Some new buddies at Suntory Brewery…

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These cool glasses we got for free on our tours…

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My favorite ramen in Kobe: Tarou Tomato Special Ramen…

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And my favorite ramen in (Nagoya) Japan: Hongo Tei Paitan Ramen.

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I also saw a mobile shrine with sake inside…

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Some pretty candies shaped like Totoro and Rilakkuma (among other characters) at a festival…

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Custard Taiyaki

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Some Nutty Honeycomb chocolates:

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Some lovely pink flowers from an old friend at our Mie farewell party…

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And of course some old friends!

Seen

Seen: Pretty Heart Chocolates

I think I mentioned the Chocolate Wonderland I experienced a couple weeks ago. When Chad and I went in search of Koyama chocolates that day, I had commented on a few of the other pretty chocolates on display for the event. I don’t know what it was, but I felt elated to walk by all of the glass cases filled with artisan chocolates, imagining their tastes and textures. Have you ever felt that way?

I was brought back to the feelings from that day on Valentine’s Day last week. After a special surprise from me, Chad gave me a little surprise of his own:

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    Chad remembered me commenting on these pretty hearts at the Chocolate Wonderland!

Aren’t the colors of these heart chocolates beautiful? After regaining my sense of smell (I’m almost all better–just need my voice and energy back now!), Chad and I decided to split them tonight while watching some Modern Family. And now, we’re getting ready for bed. It’s a little later than we planned on, but we needed time to wind down!

What will you treat yourself to tonight? Sweet dreams~~!

Learning · Seen/Heard/Tried

Wednesday Learning

This week I am learning/have learned about two things: the Lewis and Clark expedition, and chocolate. Of course I knew a bit about both to begin with (well, we could argue I knew a lot about the latter topic), but I wanted to learn more and I’ll tell you why.

Firstly, the topic of Lewis and Clark. This May we’re planning on visiting some states in the west, including Oregon. I am so excited about visiting the food stalls, Voodoo Donuts, various museums and breweries, and also…walking on the same trails as Lewis and Clark did! We’re starting to plan our trip, and I’ve been really big into the research involving Oregon. I’ve felt the calling to reread Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, to watch random youtube videos about the expedition (see below), and to spend too much time on sites with interactive maps.

 

Secondly comes the topic of chocolate (*drools*). It came to my attention recently that a Japanese native named Susumu Koyama was awarded the title of Top Foreign Chocolatier by France’s Le Club des Croqueurs de Chocolat two years in a row. Koyama has a confectionary shop in Sanda, which is in Hyogo  Prefecture (we live in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture), and one of my friends who lives near the shop says there are always massive queues of cars outside. Putting these bits of information together, I concluded that I must try some of Koyama’s chocolates before I left Japan!

Fortune struck with Valentine’s Day on the horizon. Department stores in big cities around Japan are stocked with various chocolates from the very best chocolatiers for the season, so once shops started their “chocolate events,” I was on a mission. I first went to one of the events in Osaka, only to find that the chocolates famous for winning the award were sold out! Luckily I was still able to soak in the artistry of all of the chocolates on display in the brightly-lit glass cases, to dream about the textures of the delights, and to sample a few as I walked around. Oh the joy!

Finally, I was able to procure the chocolates I’d been searching for in a department store in Sannomiya:

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So now, the verdict.

Well.

We weren’t that impressed. Numbers one through three were nice enough–they had a harder shell with creamier chocolate inside. Number five, the Ninja Chocolate, had a taste like you might experience after breathing in campfire smoke too closely–like you’re chewing on a piece of soft bark, almost. They sure were pretty, though. And expensive *cough, cough* over 1500 yen *cough, cough*

Despite my disappointment, I feel like I might have to give Koyama another chance with some of their other chocolate selections. After all, they’ve kept the title for two years now, right? In the meantime, I think I’ll just stick with a good old Meiji bar.

What do you think? Do you know any cool facts about the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Oregon, or chocolate? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Monday Matters · Seen/Heard/Tried

Monday Matters

Doing something fun over the weekend–and then having something fun planned for the following weekend–helps make starting a new week a little easier. Yesterday we chose a slip out of our date jar with the suggestion, “Go hiking around the apartment.” We live on a mountain, so that’s easy enough to do! We started by walking uphill to Nunobiki Waterfalls.

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Somehow from there our uphill hike turned into a mostly downward walk and a culinary adventure. For starters, we split a chocolate waffle set at the Kitano Museum cafe. The cafe has a very simple, natural style–loved it! And the waffles…so good!!

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From there, we headed to the famous Kitano Starbucks, which is in an old house. I got a cappuccino, and Chad got a latte.

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Drinks in hand, we continued on our way. We walked around for a few hours before stopping for curry (we may or may not have had gyoza as a snack in between…). After hearing Kobe Mint Curry was supposed to be good, we decided we might as well try it.

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Chad got Kobe beef curry, and I had veggie curry. It wasn’t necessarily to die for, but the atmosphere in the restaurant was quite pleasant. Similar to the Kitano Museum Cafe, Mint Kobe Curry has a very clean, quaint feel, and the staff were quite friendly. They tried to speak English (even though we ordered in Japanese), saying, “Careful! Very, very hot!”

We continued our “hike,” grabbing some Eho Maki on our way home. Eho Maki is a special sushi roll eaten on the Japanese holiday of Setsubun, celebrated February 3rd annually.

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You’re supposed to eat the roll facing a specific direction deemed auspicious for that year, and in silence. We ate ours without speaking as we watched the latest episode of “Elementary” (love that show!). Whether we were facing the proper direction or not, I’m not one to say, but we did count out beans for our age (27 + 1 for good luck for me this year!). We ate them up for good fortune. Out with the demons and in with prosperity! Our date (and over-eating) was finished, with hope for an early spring and happy days ahead.

If you’d like to see a video of me chucking beans at Chad as an oni, or demon, please click here.

To find out more about setsubun, please read this article here.

Did you have any culinary adventures over the weekend?