Food & Cooking · Tried

A Gorgeous Day for a Picnic!

 

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Yesterday I made a little picnic lunch and went to Rosy Mound in Grand Haven. I had never walked there before, and boy was I in for a treat! It was a gorgeous day, and after eating lunch under the shade of the big, beautiful trees, I started my walk. I didn’t get very far before I heard a “thunk, thunk, thunk,” sound and saw hunks of bark falling from a tree beside the path. I looked up, searching for the culprit of the noise and the falling tree bark, and saw two pileated woodpeckers! I was so excited–I don’t remember ever seeing them in real life before. I laughed to myself as I saw them pecking away, reminded of the Woody the Woodpecker cartoons I used to watch as a child. A man came up behind and whispered excitedly, “A pileated woodpecker!” I said, “Yeah, there are two!” He told me that they usually travel in pairs, keeping the same pairs for life. He had seen them in Florida before, but never in Michigan. A nice surprise for both of us.

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Continuing on the trail, I came upon a view of the beach. I always love it when you emerge from a wooded area and catch glimpses of the blue water in contrast to the green and brown of the trees.

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As I continued on the trail, I couldn’t help but smile. I felt so much joy at the breath-taking sight of sunlight on water. Seagulls played together in the sand and in the air, I saw butterflies fluttering about, and I thought of a line from Anne Frank’s diary: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” What an encouragement!

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I sort of ate my share of some Peach Tarts I made before going on my picnic rather than taking them with me, but I’m sure they played a role in my lovely time.  I didn’t have any pecans around, so I used some Hazelnuts instead, and they turned out great!

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Below is the recipe for the tarts, sure to result in a happy mood when combined with a walk outside on a gorgeous day.

Peach Tarts

  • 2 large firm-ripe peaches
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (or hazlenuts or walnuts)
  • 4 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Place a rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

2. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Place a peach half cut-side down on cutting board. Holding it together with one hand, cut 6 to 8 even slices through the stem end, then push gently to fan out. Combine sugar, nutmeg and pecans in a bowl.

3. Place one phyllo sheet on counter with narrow side facing you. Brush bottom half lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar-pecan mixture. Fold top half over bottom half, pressing lightly. Repeat, folding top half over bottom half. Repeat again, this time brushing and sprinkling left half and folding right half over. Repeat once more. You should now have a 3-by-4-inch rectangle. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 phyllo sheets. Place a fanned peach half in center of each phyllo rectangle, brush with remaining butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.

4. Bake until phyllo is golden brown and crisp and peach has softened, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Recipe originally posted here.

Monday Matters · Projects

My Day in Photos & My Summer Fun Bucket List

Yesterday we went to a Hanshin Tigers baseball game, followed by a judo farewell party for Chad (one of his teachers started the party by saying, “Ladies and judo-men, thank you for coming. Kanpai!). Both events were really fun, but drinking in the sunshine followed by drinking at a small izakaya led to two sleepy friends this morning. So, we slept in and then lazed around all morning. Chad played League of Legends online and I drank coffee on our balcony while reading blogs, twitter and the news.

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We finally got going in the early afternoon, walking from our apartment to Nunobiki waterfalls, down through Kitano (spotting a woman with a monkey!) and to Starbucks, to Sannomiya for a little shopping, and then all the way to HAT Kobe for some more shopping and sushi.

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We ate sushi at a kaiten sushi restaurant called Kurazushi, and while we were waiting for some of our specially ordered sushi to come zooming down the sushi train, Chad surprised me with a Rilakkuma stuffed animal! Yay! Just looking at it makes me so ridiculously happy. You can’t deny Rilakkuma is one of the cutest characters ever, not to mention the fact that our favorite things are the same in life: eating sweets and relaxing.

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I know. I look tired. Focus on my cute Rilakkuma & the striped bag I got for only 300 yen instead!

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We tried some new sushi today, as well as some yummy sweet potato sticks (top left corner, above). You can see sushi with grilled bacon and mayo on the bottom left, and lemon steak sushi on the bottom right. In the upper right corner is my handsome husband with his cheeks full of sushi, and in the middle you’ll see more normal types of sushi (crab salad, tuna salad, shrimp mayo and cucumber salad, shrimp, and tuna).

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Chad expertly making green tea with the powder and hot water.

All in all we had a really nice day. We’re both feeling sad about leaving Japan, despite our excitement about going home, so I made a summer fun bucket list to help cheer myself up! The warm weather was a welcome reminder that summer is on it’s way, so I thought I’d share my list (so far!) with you!

Caitlyn’s Summer Fun Bucket List

1. Drive-in Movie

2. Binder Park Zoo

3. Go fishing

4. Make S’Mores

5. Have a Star Party

6. Learn to play guitar again

7. Make a bird feeder

8. Make jam

9. Join a book club

10. Go mini golfing

11. Go bowling

12. Have a BBQ

13. Go on a picnic

14. Make banana splits

15. Make homemade ice cream

16. Tie Dye Shirts

17. Blow bubbles

18. Paint rocks with my niece

19. Cheese Fondue

20. Make Root Beer Floats

21. Board Game night

22. Milk Carton Boats

23. Go to a museum

24. Friendship Bracelets with my niece

25. Look at bugs/plants/nature under a microscope

26. Learn to make egg tarts

27. Get a cat!

28. Can tomatoes

29. Play badminton

30. Run at least one 5K

31. Have a fancy night dressed up around town (going to ordinary places)

32. Find a gym with yoga and zumba that’s reasonably priced

33. Volunteer

34. Pay it Forward by paying for someone behind me at a drive-through

35. Paint Balling

36. Wine and Cheese night

37. Make kimchi

38. Make homemade pickles

39. Make homemade Bloody Mary’s

40. Make pineapple upside-down cake cupcakes

41. Make sun tea

42. Dandelion Blowing

43. Make a sandcastle

44. Make/decorate pottery

45. Bon Fire

46. Celebrate 5th Wedding Anniversary at Guster concert!

47. Visit Green Dot Stables in Detroit

48. Go to our high school reunion

49. Traverse City & eating/drinking cherry-flavored things!

50. Shorts Brewery

51. Make waffles

52. Make homemade bread

53. Make cookies with my niece

54. Make trail mix and go for a walk with my niece & nephews

55. Make dreamsicle orange punch

56. Make strawberry mimosas

What fun have you been up to lately, and what fun things do you have planned for summer?

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?