Wednesday, February 29, 2012

half day/snow day

I had mentally checked out of winter {it's been in the mid 50's all week} so you can imagine my surprise when I woke up and saw this scene.

 I had a meeting that should have been cancelled so I put on my trusty new rain boots and headed out.

The roads were AWFUL!  I can't believe there weren't any delays or cancellations.

My meeting was in the building across from my husbands office, so I stopped by and discovered that they were sending everyone home so I got to bring the husband home with me =}
which means he got to scrape the car off & drive!

Once home, we promptly got to work on building a snow man!

I'm pretty proud of his roundness, I worked hard!  I did however make him a bit too round in the middle {my husband called it an "American" snowman in Japan}.

After we had the snowman built, I got out our "snow crayons" {colored water in squirt bottles, I use the same ones I use to decorate sugar cookies} and went to town drawing in the snow.

We have a very talented dog, what can I say? 
 {ok, so I did that, not him}

We even let the neighbor kids decorate our snowman.

I don't know about you, but I think this is the best looking snowman I have ever seen! 

We also taught the neighbor kids that it's OK to eat snow.

Our neighbor built and decorated a snow-pumpkin

We posed for a photo with our snowman {he didn't look so hot after the colors all ran together}

Now the snow is already starting to melt, last I checked it was 40 degrees outside.  Tomorrow it's supposed to be 55 so this snow won't stick around.  I'm glad we had a fun day playing in the snow today but I'll be happy when it's gone for good!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Japanese glass beads

Today my friend Miho took myself and 2 other ladies to make Japanese glass beads.  

We got some instruction from this kind gentleman.  He was very patient with us!

Then it was out turn to pick some colors and give it a try
 I obviously enjoyed myself
 TO {red} N {yellow} BO {blue} DAMA {green}  {I knew all but the green}
TONBODAMA=glass beads
 Our friend Miho is a seasoned professional at this
 Once you are happy with your shape and design in goes into the pebble bath to cool off

 The shop also has a jewelry making area
Plus it is a coffee/tea shop
Upstairs was an area with more seating where we were served tea & chocolate while we waited for out beads to cool

Our finished products
For our 1st time, we were all pretty impressed with how well they turned out!  Here is mine =}

{the fabulous owner also sent us all home with a gift but I am going to give mine to someone so I can't show you yet!}

After craft time, Miho took us to her favorite noodle shop for lunch. When we pulled into the parking lot, the line was out the door.  "People were waiting outside in the cold for these noodles?  They must be good!", I thought and I was not disappointed!

You walk in and everything is completely open.

You get to watch them make everything!

This guy rolls out the dough.
 Then laid it on top of the slicing machine.
The next guy comes over and puts the dough through the slicer which makes the noodles.
 The noodles are placed into a huge tub of boiling water and then fished out with these giant nets! {pun intended}
 Then you place your order {what size bowl you want and if you want any special sauces added}.
 Next you can choose some tempura to go with your noodles.
 Which is also cooked fresh right in front of you.

Then you eat!
Udon noodles with shrimp and eggplant tempura and an inarizushi.  YUM!

These are 2 things that I never would have experienced if it weren't for a friendship I made through church.  Miho, I am eternally grateful to you for sharing this part of your culture with me!

I plan on recreating this day with my mom when she gets here.  OH!  I think that is the 1st time I've mentioned that on here.  


In just a few {5 or 6} short weeks, she will be here and I cannot wait!!!  She will hopefully be here just in time for the sakura {cherry blossoms} and the warmer weather.  It's going to be so nice to show my mom this amazing country.  This is a once in a lifetime trip for her and I'm so glad she decided to come.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cooking Class #2

Ask anyone in the world who makes the best food and I'd be willing to bet an overwhelming majority of people would answer "grandma".  Today, some wonderful grandmas {although, none old enough to be my grandma and maybe not ALL of them are grandmas} taught a group of American ladies how to make a Japanese dish called shabu-shabu which is a hot pot of flavored water that you dunk meat and veggies in to cook.  Shabu-shabu gets its name from the "swish-swish" sound the food makes as you cook it in the liquid.

We stared this class just like the one I took yesterady, chopping lots of up lots of veggies. 

 This is my kind of cooking!

we even learned how to make some fancy carrot flowers...

or our version of them lol.

While the water was heating in the hot pot, we made some inarizushi {you may remember me talking about this treat here}.

I still haven't found anything here that I love more then these sweet rice treats!

Then it was time to eat!

My beautifulfriend Melissa.  I really can't believe she is leaving in a few short weeks ={

Everyone dipping their meat into the hot, flavored water to cook it

after most of the meat was cooked we added all the veggies

our table of awesome ladies

me with some of the great women who taught us

and a shot of the whole group!

These cooking classes are some of my most favorite memories of my time here in Japan so far.  These are days I will always remember and I am eternally grateful for!

For those who are interested, here is the recipe for shabu-shabu

*thinly sliced meat of your choice {traditionally beef or pork}
*1/4 napa cabbage {any variety would probably work}
*1 carrot
*1 package mushrooms
*1 large green onion
*1 cup cooked noodles
* 3 pieces of kombu {dried kelp}
*3TBSP sake

We used 2 different dipping sauces that were store bought

1. Goma, a sesame sauce {recipe}
2. Ponzu, a citrus, soy based sauce {recipe}

1. Cut the tofu into 8 pieces.  Cut the cabbage into large chunks {the size of a credit card}.  Slice the carrot into 1/4 inch slices. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Cut the green onion into thick diagonal slices {like the photo up above}.

2.  Fill a pot 3/4 of the way with water and soak the kombu about 10 minutes then put the pot on the fire {or burner}.  When the water starts to boil, take out the kombu and add the sake.  Swing the meat back and forth in the liquid several times to cook {using chop sticks or tongs}.  Add the veggies and noodles to the liquid and let cook for a few minutes.  Dip the meat and veggies into either of the sauces before eating.

That's it!  It's super easy, super fresh and super delicious.  I can see this as a great camping meal or backyard meal in the fall.  All you need is one pot for cooking and no fancy tools or gadgets!

Thank you so much to the wonderful Japanese ladies for hosting us today!