June 2009 Archives

Jujube Sweets

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Jujube sweets and their namesakes

Jujubes are an Asian cousin of the date fruit and are also called red dates or Chinese dates (なつめ in Japanese). Jujubes are about the size of a date, but lighter in color with a crisp skin and slightly tart flavor. I first encountered them in Chinese sweets and they are sometimes brewed into tea to help fight colds.

In this recipe, I've combined them with dates and walnuts to make a raw vegan treat. Ideal for summer, since it requires no cooking. They are only 45 calories each, but it is very difficult to eat just one.

Jujube Sweets
makes 24

15 sun-dried dates
15 sun-dried jujubes
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Pit the dates and jujubes and put them in a food processor with a little water. Process for just a few seconds to break them up, then add the walnuts. Process until you have a thick, lumpy mass. Form the paste into marble-sized balls and roll in the coconut. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or on the counter where you can more easily sneak a couple when nobody is watching.

Detox Days

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Part of my circle of friends is very much into detox diets and fasts as a method of controlling health (and weight, I suppose, though none of us are very big people). Now I am on the detox bandwagon. Thanks to Tracey and Rachel, I am doing a two-week detox program of herbal supplements and a caffeine/sugar/alcohol-free whole-grain vegan diet. Today ends the first week of four herb-scented, enormous, brownish pills a day.

I have fallen into some really bad eating habits over the last couple of months: sweet snacks and desserts every day; mindless consumption of beer or wine with most dinners; buttered toast (heavens!); bits of cheese at parties; an occasional pizza. I was dragging myself down. Reverting to better practices was hard, so the detox is a line drawn in the sand.

The 'Quick Cleanse" seems to be having a good effect on my digestion and I have been feeling energetic and well. The detox headaches were mild and I am accustomed to the healthy vegan diet already, so it was more a matter of falling back into my good cooking habits than a shocking new lifestyle.

But the few times I have toppled off the wagon, I have noticed it. Yesterday was a big screw-up. After I locked myself out of the house, I opted to go have a curry & naan for lunch instead of sitting on the stoop waiting for Tod to notice his phone ringing and rescue me. And at dinner time, I ate a heap of oily stir-fried greens and sauced vegetables at an Asian restaurant. The consequence is a bloated, uncomfortable tummy that feels a lot like it did a couple of weeks ago. I hope a few of days of diligent detox eating will bring me back into line.

Such dramatic effects from simple mistakes make me wonder what is the best possible food style to maintain my health? Is curry out of my life forever? Can I never have "deep fried nasty" again? And what is going to happen to me when I have a glass of wine?

Sigsy has been on a one-month raw food detox that she is loving so much that she plans to keep going. I wonder if I ought to do that over the summer? I don't think I have the patience for all the blending that takes the place of cooking, but seeing how much she glows right now and how energetic she is makes me want to try it and see.

But first I have to get through the second week of the herbal detox.

Let's Spin Matsuri!

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Last autumn, just after I'd learned to hoop, Deanne went off to Hoop Camp, a weekend hooping retreat in the US filled with hooping classes and all the most inspirational hoopers. I wished I could go, too. "Maybe next time," I sighed. But Tracey is never one for wishing. She suggested we do one here. Great idea! Slowly and in halting steps, our wishes and plans gelled into reality.

So it my great happiness to announce Spin Matsuri, a weekend hooping and movement event scheduled for October 9-11. Deanne and I are hosting what we hope will be a fun and active three days at Seimei no Mori Resort in Chiba, about an hour by train from Tokyo. There will be a series of hoop, spin, dance, and yoga workshops taught by amazing Japanese and international instructors, plus glowing parties, costumes, food, fun, and frolics with interesting people.

Tickets go on sale starting June 22nd and there won't be many available. If you'd like to get notifications and reminders about the event, please sign up for the Spin Matsuri announcements.

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No Shopping Report #6

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The last few weeks have been quiet on the shopping front, though the change in seasons has made me wish for things like new shoes, summery interior goods, and a juicer. Instead, I bought four books to give as gifts and some bento molds for a little pressie to MJ. The other day there was a fabric and thread purchase for stuff I will sell on Etsy. That's it for the non-consumables. Ultimately none of them stay here in the house.

The worst craving has been for fresh summer togs. But I have refrained. In lieu of new clothes, I spent a wad of cash on a service. Jeanette, the StyleSmart Sensei, came over for a wardrobe consultation. Before our session, I explained my dilemma: my wardrobe is uncoordinated and confused but I am not shopping this year. She said it would be no problem.

We spent several hours together while I tried on every piece of clothing I own - even the winter wardrobe I'd just put into storage. When she left, she took away about 20% of my clothes: all things boxy, ill-fitting, or an unflattering color. A few of my old favorites were in her bag and even some nice newer things, but I understood why. I really ought not wear pants that two people can fit into nor a jacket that is simply too large and the wrong color.

Of the remaining clothes, I need to alter 2/3 to fit me - mainly I'll be taking in shirts, reworking waistbands, and dying all the beige and white things to make them teal, pink, green, or red. So I have crafty homework to do - and I will have to work quickly or risk not having any clothes to wear after a couple of days. Next month, we will be going on a learning expedition to the stores to see what I might buy if I were shopping (and it will be very difficult not to buy anything, I know) and to a flea market to see the vintage dresses (and I will feel not too bad if my resolve fails there).

Jeanette really gave me good advice and suggestions. I am sure that I will follow through with some of them in six months' time when I am shopping again.

Meat Insanity and its Aftermath

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I really don't know what I was thinking. Was I overcome by nostalgia for summer cuisine? Were my omnivore "friends" so persuasive? Did I drink too many Coopers before the grill was going? I am not sure.

If you are squeamish, you might want to stop reading here.

Now that I have your attention, let me swear to you that I am never going to eat another sausage ever again. It was a delicious treat; a truly guilty pleasure. A bratwurst charcoal grilled into a crispy, juicy bundle of yum, stuffed inside a bun and slathered with pickle relish and mustard. The combination of char and nitrates and the sweet-sour-bitter of the condiments was overwhelming. I liked it so much that Tod and I shared three of them.

The next morning I woke up and knew exactly where the 1.5 sausages had landed in my digestive tract. In fact, they landed and stayed put - nothing was moving and by late afternoon I felt awful, so I took a dose of milk of magnesia and crossed my fingers.

I should have been pinching my nose. The end result was something that smelled exactly like the rotting, maggoty compost I got rid of from the balcony of last month. The stench was horrifying. Did I really do that to my body? Poor intestines. Sad, poisoned me.

Now I am contemplating a cleanse or fast or detox of some sort to ensure that I've gotten rid of it all. I don't want that nasty crap inside me.

I must not forget that dead flesh in = rotting flesh out. Even when it tastes good.

How to Find Your Lost Phone

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If you lose your mobile phone in Japan, it is quite possible that someone will find it and turn it in to the police who run a very friendly lost and found system.

But what if you've lost your phone while commuting 30km on a bicycle? This happened to one of Tod's coworkers last week. First he called the police box nearest his home. They didn't have it but they helped him compile a list of all the koban along his route so he could call each one. But after a few fruitless inquiries, he discovered that the police take the SIM card out of the phone, get its number, and report the lost phone to the mobile phone carrier.

So when you lose your phone, call your carrier. If the phone was turned in, they can tell you which police box you need to contact to get it back. What a handy thing to know.

Tod's colleague's phone had been found near the office in Marunouchi but was turned in at a police box in Kiba, a suburb nowhere near the office or his home. He never would have been reunited with it just by calling around to the koban on his route.

Summer To Do/Wish List

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  • Enjoy the fireflies (hotaru spots)
  • Hike a mountain
  • Picnic at the beach
  • Sell stuff at a flea market
  • Sew hooping gear for Etsy
  • Plan autumn travel
  • Visit Matsudai during the art triennial
  • Attend local festivals
  • View fireworks in a crowd
  • Take in a baseball game
  • Pick fruit
  • Spend a weekend in Tottori
  • Freeze ice cream
  • Swim and slide at a water park
  • Grow an herb garden
  • Eat al fresco
  • Hang out at a rooftop beer garden
  • Climb trees in Minami-Izu
  • Camp
  • Fly kites
  • Go ice skating
  • Put together ephemeral nature art
  • Complete a stamp rally
  • Dance at an outdoor music festival
  • Eat shaved ice

Long Sunday Date

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7:30 Persuasion
A migraine had put me through the wringer for over a week and I was sure I wouldn't have enough energy to make it through the day, much less spend it doing things. Tod wheedled and encouraged until I agreed to a full agenda of activities starting with a 90 minute train trip to the beach for breakfast at bills, celebrity chef Bill Granger's popular restaurant.

10:15 Beach
We arrived a Shichirigahama and learned how popular bills is - there would be no table until 11:45. The restaurant is right on the beach and just near a convenience store, so we grabbed some canned coffee and onigiri and sat down on the sea wall to watch surfers. A tobi falcon scared the hell out of me as it flew low and swooped down a few meters away from us.

11:45 Brunch
Despite its reputation, the food at bills was meh: softly scrambled eggs with as much cream as egg; ricotta pancakes made with the same egg-cream mixture, very little flour, and a too sweet syrup; great fruit with boring Japanese yogurt; and an overdressed salad of spinach, feta, peas and mint. The atmosphere was great, though, and the decor just right for an upscale beach restaurant. I was glad I didn't see the check.

1:00 Walk
After our rich meal, Tod suggested we walk along the ocean road to Kamakura. It seems quite a distance since there are 6 stops along the Enoden line between Shichirigahama and Kamakura, but Tod assured me only 4km or so. It was a surprisingly hot and sunny day but the walk was pleasant, with lots of beach activities to watch along the way.

2:30 Ack!
After arriving at Kamakura, we stopped for a rest in the shade before walking to the station. A few blocks after abandoning our bench, Tod turned to me and asked if I'd picked up his phone. Um, no. He trotted back to get it, but it was gone. I suggested we walk toward the station and ask at the police box. Tod was sweating as he opened the door and asked if anyone had turned in a pho...the policeman held it up. "This one?" Yay! The relief that spread over Tod's face was priceless. Five minutes of paperwork to claim the phone and we were done. We celebrated with a coffee and then got on the train where I promptly fell asleep on Tod's shoulder for ride back into Tokyo.

4:30 Brass & Beer
Our day wasn't done. We'd reserved seats for Star Trek at the cinema at Roppongi Hills, but we had a couple of hours to spend before the movie started. Roppongi Hills' plastic commercialism makes my skin crawl, but fortunately the last day of "Beerden Week" was happening, so we got a beer and enjoyed a performance by the Britz and Squash Brass Band.

6:40 Movie
We had excellent seats and the movie was entertaining. I ate a lot of popcorn.

9:00 Dinner
After the movie, we went to Pizzakaya for dinner. We used to eat there weekly, but our habits have changed and it is a rare but enjoyable visit now. We caught up with Derek, saw the new oven in action, and realised that Pizzakaya has been serving pizza for 13 years. We were among the original customers.

10:45 Bed
By the time dinner was over, I was exhausted just the way I imagined in the morning and insisted on a taxi home. Once home, we showered off the sea salt and rolled into bed where I read aloud from a book about reading the OED. Lights out!

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