Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More mid-week randoms

Our neighbors have the most gorgeous hydrangea bush outside their house

this is the harvest from out mini garden this week

a fun day in the sun...

resulted in some red legs

my husband misses dressing up so much that he refused to change out of his church clothes Sunday

today my pantry went from looking like this...

to this...I've been putting it off for a while and I'm so glad I finally did it, I feel so much better!

Jason picked this guy up on the way home from dinner the other day.  Right after I took this photo, it FLEW at my face!  I was not expecting that and I screamed and ran like a little girl.  I hope this is my only up close Japanese beetle sighting!

how is the commissary going to be completely out of milk??!!?

I got a couple of awesome packages this week, one included this t-shirt and some buttons and stickers from Dave at ShootTokyo

the other one had me sitting in the mail room parking lot for 10 minutes bawling my eyes out.  Last year I went fabric shopping with a friend and fell in love with this fabric.  She started to help me turn it into an apron, then PCS season happened and we never finished it.  Well, she finished it for me and mailed it to me!  Isn't it FABULOUS!  I cannot wait to wear it!

She also included some drawings from her children which is what got to me.  Some times I'm not sure which side of my love/hate relationship with the Army is stronger.  I love the Army for all the opportunities it's brought my way, including the friendships I've made but I hate the Army for ripping these friends away from me!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Basic D-SLR Photography

The info in the link below is a MUST READ for anyone interested in D-SLR photography.  Dave, a local photographer here in Japan, posted some excellent info on his blog and I think it would be a shame not to share!  I wish I had had a breakdown like this when I was first switching over to manual on my SLR.  I hope some of you find this useful!  Even as someone who shoots almost solely in manual, it's still nice to see this info broken down so simply.

  While you're there you should check out some of his other posts.  He does a tremendous job at capturing Japan on a daily basis!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

25/52 {Fantasy}

Something I have fantasized about all of my life is about to become a reality...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Flavor of the Week {Bruschetta Chicken Pasta}

I'm not sure how this hasn't made an appearance on the blog yet, it makes an appearance in my kitchen at least once or twice a month!  I found the original recipe here but after making it so many times, I've made it my own.  It's super easy and perfect for a quick weeknight meal!

Bruschetta Chicken Pasta

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces 1/2 box thin spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small red onion sliced
1 small zucchini sliced (optional)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (plus 1/2 cup for marinating)
3 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
shredded Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste

Marinate chicken in 1/2 cup (more or less as needed) balsamic vinegar at least 30 min.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until white all the way through, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to plate.
Return skillet to burner, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté garlic, onion and zucchini (if using, I recommend you do) about 5 minutes or until the veggies are slightly tender. Add tomatoes, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and herbs. Heat until sauce is slightly reduced and tomatoes softened (about 2 minutes). Add pasta and chicken to tomato mixture and heat until warmed (about 2-3 minutes), tossing/stirring to fully incorporate. Stir in basil.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

(that basil came from my garden, YAY!!!)

If you like bruschetta and pasta, you will love this!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Contact Card

Sorry for the double post today but I've been putting this off for too long already.  It's kind of a big deal to have a business card in Japan.  I can't tell you how many times I've been asked for one and don't have one to hand out.  Since I don't have a true profession here, I've been having a hard time trying to decide what to put on the card so that it doesn't look lame with just my name, email and phone number.  This is what I came up with today.  What do you think?  Is it corny?  I totally just used my little "about me" from my twitter account.

Do you have a personal business card?  What is on it?  I'm completely open to any suggestions you may have!  I keep debating on whether or not to put my blog URL on it.  I'm not sure I want EVERYONE to have that.  I think I'll just write it on the back if I want someone to have it.

HELP!  Tell me what you think!

24/52 {Heat}

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

30 by 30

I've been thinking about the things I want to have on my 30 by 30 list for a couple months now and after I saw Annie's post about her list, I decided it was time to stop putting it off and finish it up.  Here's my list, broken down into a few categories

1} take a yoga class
2} complete a 5K
3} climb Mt Fuji
4} do 1 unassisted pull up
5} pass the Army PT test for my gender/age group

6} learn to cook lobster
7} make gnocchi from scratch
8} learn to make grandma's relish
9} try 5 new foods
10} make Pioneer Woman's homemade cinnamon rolls (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/)
11} learn to make 5 traditional Japanese dishes, including sushi

12} drink the Absynth we bought in Prague 3 years ago
13} visit at least 3 new countries
14} learn enough Japanese to carry on at least a 5 minute conversation
15} visit Disney (Tokyo Disney will have to do)
16} visit Hiroshima
17} scuba/snorkle the Great Barrier Reef
18} ride an elephant in Thailand (this and #17 are trips that will help knock off # 13 as well and are sort of in the early planning stage.  If our vacation locations change, these will have to be changed as well)
19} visit a Japanese Onsen (hot spring)

20} get out of debt (ALMOST THERE!  STUPID STUDENT LOANS!)
21} get caught up on my scrapbooks and stay current
22} read 50 books
23} find out my blood type
24} design a logo for BleuDress (or pay someone else to)
25} MASTER all the functions on my camera
26} solve the Rubik's cube or complete a crossword puzzle without any help
27} save $20K
28} watch all of the Star Wars movies (I've only seen the newest one)
29} renew my CPR certification and keep it current
30} complete a photography project or be paid for a photo

I hope to photograph and blog each one of these as I go.  I have 15 months to complete the list.  Wish me luck!


Oh, and apparently I'm still not caught up on my 52 in 52 project.  After I posted yesterday, I look at my planner and realized I should be working on week 24, so here are 22 and 23! (I better get my act together so I can complete this and cross off #30 on my list)

22/52 {Downtown}
In DOWNTOWN Taipei with my love

23/52 {Summer}
Does it get any better than SUMMER bbq's with friends?!?!

Taipei and {52 in 52} update

Ok, so I haven't blogged a photo for 52 in 52 since April 9th.  That was week 14.  It's now week 22 or 23.  I decided to catch up on that project using photos from out trip to Taipei.  Here they are:

15/52 {soft}
We took a cooking class and made the most delicious dumplings with this SOFT homemade dough

16/52 {Perspective}

17/52 {Love}

18/52 {Start}
Jason really wanted to try Taiwanese tea...this is how it STARTs

19/52 {Free}
Ok, so this guy isn't really free, but he sure looks FREE in the photo

20/52 {Texture}

21/52 {Toys}

And a few more random photos from our trip:

He walked to get me a coke while we were waiting for our gondola ride just because he knew it would make me happy.  He's the best!

On our gondola ride into the mountains of Taipei

Him drinking tea, me eating peanuts while we were in the mountains


We set the self timer for a couple shots and this was the last one.  It's a horribly unflattering angle for me but it just makes me laugh.  My reaction to his action is so typical us.

We took a cooking class and I made the perfect onion pancake =}

Eating all the yummy food we'd just made

I love frogs!

I could never have planned for this guy to jump through my shot, but he did and I love it!

Our trip was....OK.  It rained a lot so I don't have many photos (other than the iPhone shots). We ate some of the most disgusting food either of us has ever tasted on Friday night.  It was just an innocent looking noodle dish but it seriously tasted like dirty feet smell.

Trying not to be the rude Americans, we sat there and ate until it was gone and then sprinted out of the building.

Saturday we went to the cooking class and although the food tasted good, something didn't agree with me and I ended up tossing my cookies in a train station bathroom.  That was actually the turning point of our trip.  After that, I felt much better and Saturday night we went off in search of some dinner.  We settled on a ramen shop that had a long line.  We thought we'd be good since the menu that was posted outside had English and Chinese but when we got in line, they handed us a clip board to place our order and it did NOT include English.  We spent the next 20+ minutes (thank goodness there was a long line) matching the characters on the menu we could read to the ones on the clip board.

I was extremely proud that we were resourceful and had figured out it.  I'm pretty sure we got exactly what we wanted to order and it tasted DELICIOUS!

Sunday was BEAUTIFUL and we rode the gondola up into the mountains then went to the zoo.  It was a perfect day for us and a great way to end what had started out as a horrible vacation.

When we got home, I realized I had a rash (that's my 2nd one this month if you're counting, I mentioned the 1st one here and posted a photo here). This one was all over both of my forearms and ITCHED! 
So I went to the DR and he gave me some steroids which cleared both of my rashes completely!!!  Ironically, the medicine he gave me was the same medicine that had been prescribed to my dog that same morning.  While we were gone, he was staying with some neighbors and managed to rupture a disk in his back and had no use of his back legs.  It was the saddest thing I'd ever seen.  He is doing so much better now and can walk on his own except for on our slick tile floors.  Hopefully in the next week or so he'll be back to his old self and running around again.  For now, we're spoiling him rotten with love and attention.

Lastly, we got to add another pin to our travel map!

WOO HOO!  Yay for travels!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Perfect Summer Drink {Strawberry Lemonade}

This is too good not to share IMMEDIATELY!  We are having a neighbor's BBQ in less than 2 hours but I'm putting everything I need to do on hold to share this with y'all.  It's that good!

2 years ago a friend introduced me to homemade orange-lemonade and it's been my go to summer drink ever since, until now.  I found this recipe from my go-to recipe girl but there were a few things I didn't like about it, so I made it my own.

Strawberry Lemonade

For the strawberry syrup
1 heaping cup chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. cold water

For the simple syrup
1 cup water
1&1/3 cup sugar

For the lemonade
1&1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups cold water

To make the strawberry syrup, combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and water in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Puree until smooth.  Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds, pressing down to extract as much liquid as possible.  (DON'T SKIP THIS STEP! I did on my 4th pitcher and regretted it.)
Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a pot and cooking on a medium-low until the sugar is complete dissolved.
To make the lemonade, combine the simple syrup,  the lemon juice and water and the strawberry puree.



It might taste even more magical when you mix in a little rum and serve it in a fun margarita glass ;-}


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

all cooked out

Phew, I'm exhausted!  I have spent close to 10 hours in the kitchen today and I'm so glad I'm done. I don't know how cooks/chefs work 10 hour days on their feet, I couldn't do it.

I started out at my friend Melissa's house this morning teaching 2 groups of the sweetest Japanese ladies how to make her families homemade donuts full of money.  

She gave a little demo

and then everyone got to take turns helping

She told the story of why her family celebrates this tradition every year

This is Yoko.  If I could choose an honorary grandmother, I think I'd choose her!
 (hi Yoko!)

One of the groups

 It was a long morning but so much fun!

After a morning of donut making, I had lunch with the husband then headed home to start the 6 hour process of baking cupcakes for my Bible study's year end picnic tomorrow.  

A little back story.  While I was in America for a month, I tried and became OBSESSED with this yummy dessert from CheeseCake Factory
I'm not a fan of either cheesecake or red velvet cake, but the combination, slathered in cream cheese frosting is to die for!

Since I've been back in Japan, I cannot stop thinking about this dessert.  I decided our PWOC picnic is the perfect opportunity to try making it myself.  I chose to go the cupcake route instead of making a layered cake and here's how it went.

After reading hundreds of recipe reviews, I went with Annie's red velvet cake recipe and Martha Stewart's cheesecake recipe.  The cupcakes are FABULOUS, the cheesecake is just so so (but like I said, I'm not a huge cheesecake fan to start with so I wouldn't take my word for it).

I cut holes in the cupcakes like I do for the car bomb cupcakes I make and scooped cheesecake into the hole with a mini ice cream scoop

like so

Not quite the same at the CheeseCake Factory original (and WAY more time/effort) but they're a pretty darn good substitute!

I chose 3 recipes based on the reviews online but I'm certain any 3 would do.  If you have a favorite cheesecake recipe or you like the red velvet cake from a box, go for it!