Thursday, July 31, 2008

Working out Matthew McConaughey Style

A while ago Masa and I were talking about what kind of body is sexy and how to get that way. I mentioned that Matthew McConaughey has a great body so we googled his workout routine. We didn't find the exact one but I did find a good article on Men's Health Magazine website. It was called "Work Out with Matthew McConaughey" by Mike Zimmerman.

I immediately felt a connection with what he had to say and was inspired by a couple of quotes:

"I go for distance instead of time," he says, "to where I'm sweating and tired as far away as possible from where I started."

But doesn't he worry about having enough gas left in the tank for the return trip? Nope. "The return trip is always easier," he says. "Think about it. One, you can anticipate the road you've already traveled. Two, when it's time to eat the hay, the horses get home no matter how tired they are. Third, you're past the hump. You're in. Each step gets you closer to sitting down and relaxing."

"I tell myself, Okay, you're going to run as far as you can today, then run back, and you have as much time as you want."
I tried the run until you are really tired and then turn around method tonight and I ended up running twice as long and far as I normally would have. I also ran through the city instead of the river valley and ended up exploring as I ran. I got pretty close to a state of flow at the pace where I feel I can run forever. I ended up running from my apartment to Nishi Kawaguchi station. The total distance was 6km and I kept up a slow steady pace. It will be a good start to training for the Toda Half Marathon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quick Japanese Vinegar Pickles

Usually when you make Japanese-style pickles you have to wait a while for the salt to draw the water out of the vegetables. I saw my mother-in-law take a shortcut once that really saves time. The following recipe is based on a recipe from a Japanese cookbook called "One Dish Cooking". The original recipe calls for regular vinegar without sugar and uses the traditional method of letting the cabbage sit for thirty minutes while the salt draws the water out.

Fast Cabbage Vinegar Pickles
1/2 head of cabbage shredded or cut into small pieces (your choice of size)
1tsp salt

2tbsp sushi vinegar (or regular rice vinegar mixed with a bit of sugar)
1-2tbsp water
1tsp soy sauce

Put the cabbage into a glass bowl and sprinkle with salt. Scrunch the cabbage over and over until it becomes limp. This should take only a couple of minutes. Rinse the cabbage well, return to bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, water and soy sauce. Pour over the cabbage and serve. You can make this ahead of time and keep on the table or in the fridge.

I can't rank things

One of my clients was late today so I had a bit of time to write in my notebook. While doing so I came to a realization that I severely dislike ranking things. It doesn't really matter what it is - I have a hard time doing it. I think I have a hard time separating things from their context which is needed to rank. This realization came in the middle of reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. While journaling I started to wonder what my favorite character in the book is. I couldn't decide. Not because I like them all so much but because they are just a part of the story - they are just an element. Then I tried to think of my favorite character from fiction - also couldn't do it. Then I got curious about my lack of ability to choose a favorite character because of context. I decided to take a step back and do something like make a top ten drink list. Sounds easy enough, right? I found it took a while and I only got up to six and they rankings are deeply related to the context. I even had to do a formal brainstorming session.

Top Six Drinks
  1. Water - the only beverage I enjoy any time, any place- especially during and immediately after a workout or when I first wake up in the morning.
  2. Lemon water - cool but not cold, in a nice water glass with a stem, drunk while sitting on the couch
  3. Peppermint tea - when the tea is cold on a hot day
  4. Hot tea - with a bit of honey - drunk on a cold day when the room is cold and I can warm my hands on the mug while reading a book
  5. Sangria at Bar ChitChat - drunk while chatting with friends but only if there are no smokers near
  6. Blue Raspberry Slurpee/slushie - While driving on a hot day with the windows down and music blaring - especially on highway 21 between Fort Saskatchewan and Sherwood Park or highway 15 between Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton

Monday, July 28, 2008

A beautiful ending to a blah day

So most of yesterday was pretty crappy. I had a bad sleep, when I woke up it was hot and there was no wind and I spent an hour and a half in the immigration office (before work). By the time I got home from work, which was great, I was not feeling very well. I rushed from the station to the dry cleaners because it was going to close ten minutes after my train arrived.

When I got out of the subway station, I noticed that the sky was looking a bit pinky and orangy but didn't seem spectacular. On the way to the dry cleaners is a park/baseball diamond and as I looked across the park, I spotted a great sunset. It literally made my day. I stopped and had a nice pause and snapped this pic with my cell phone.

I continued on only to find the dry cleaners closed because they are closed on Monday; a fact I had forgotten. I was not bothered the slightest bit because I got to see the sunset on the way home.

I don't usually get home just at the right time to see the sunset. The view from our fifth floor apartment also includes aspects smog which detracts from the overall effect. I think there are two good places to view a sunset: one, on ground level and two, from the top of a mountain.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A bit of Canadiana in Tokyo

About six months or so ago I found an interesting cookbook in a local used book shop, The Blue Parrot in Takadanobaba. Much to my surprise they had "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens" in the cookbook section. The book was written in 1970 and my version was published in 1979. This particular book was actually a wedding gift to someone named Pam from her Aunt Bea - the card is still taped to the inside of the front cover. I felt that as a Canadian, I should buy it. It is filled not only with good recipes but, anecdotes, historical info and old jokes as well. I just picked it up and started reading it last night. There are a few great recipes in there - especially since my mom sent me home with cream of tartar last time I visited. A lot of old recipes used baking soda and cream of tartar for leavening before the invention of baking powder. A little piece of history in the heart of Tokyo. I have never been to Nova Scotia but I still felt a strong connection to a lot of the foods as I grew up eating moder versions of them. なつかしいな~。

That cookbook inspired me to pick up a new cookbook that my mother gave me recently. I had only flipped through in and must have seen lots of recipes with ingredients that I cannot buy in Japan because I hadn't picked it up since I first looked through it. I started to look through and found lots of interesting recipes with anecdotes from Premiers and other government types. The cookbook was created to raise money for the 2007 WD Workplace Charitable Campaign by Western Economic Diversification Canada. There are tonnes of recipes that I can make and a lot that remind me of home. I can't wait until winter to try a lot of them out. There is an onion salad that looks good. I don't actually like onions but I think my onion-loving husband and his family will enjoy it. If I can handle the smell, I will make it and post the recipe and pics.


A while ago we recieved a bottle of red wine - it's infact more purple than red - from Masa's aunt. We finally opened it up and were pleasantly surprised. My first reaction was "wine juice". It is very fruity and lite. Red wine usually makes me feel a bit ill but this doesn't. I believe the grapes are niagra concord - at least I think that is what the bottle says.

You can find it here via an online. The site is in Japanese. It appears they make a white version as well. I will definitely be checking it out.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Clan is Coming

My husbands parents, an aunt and family friends are coming over tonight and we are preparing dinner for them. The menu: grilled sausages, Masa salad, green pea soup, tofu quiche, veggies and dip and kimchie tofu.

Masa Salad
This is a salad that we had at a restaurant and my husband figured how to make.

1 bunch mizuna (potherb mustard) - cut into 1.5" pieces
1/4 yellow bell pepper - chopped into small pieces
1/4 red bell pepper - chopped into small pieces
1/2 small carrot - grated (optional)
50g cheese (your choice - I like goda)- grated
1-2tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2c Japanese caesar dressing (it tastes nothing like real caesar dressing - it's closer to a ranch/blue cheese mix)

Mix all the cut veggies together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine dressing and balsamic vinegar. Pour dressing mix over veggies, add cheese and toss. Serve.

Tofu Quiche (crustless)
1 pack of tofu
1 small onion - diced
1 clove garlic - minced
3 slices bacon
1/2 bunch spinach - chopped finely
2tbsp soy sauce
1tsp basil
1tsp oregano
1tbsp flour

Preaheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Cook the bacon, onion and garlic together in a frying pan until onions are translucent. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat. In a bowl whisk the tofu with a bit of water until it looks like a pudding (it doesn't need to be really smooth). Add soy sauce, basil, oregano and flour and whisk together. Add cheese, mix and stir in veggies. Pour into a lightly oiled glass pie pan and smooth out the top. Bake for about thirty minutes.

Dip tip - you can use tofu instead of sour cream in dips to make them fairly healthy. Just blend it in a blender for a nice smooth texture. I usually make ranch dip or french onion dip (using オニオンコンソメ).

Kimchie Tofu
We had this at a yakitori place once and it was great so we decided to copy it.

1 pack tofu (firm is best)
1/2c kimchie
2-3tbsp yakiniku sauce (Japanese style Korean BBQ sauce)

Rince off the tofu. If using individual bowls, cut the tofu to size and place in bowls. If you use a large serving bowl, put the whole piece in as is. Top with kimchie and yakiniku sauce. Serve.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tomato Goodness

I was at the supermarket the other day and found gorgeous tomatoes for a really good price. There is a green house down the street from the supermarket and I suspect that is where the tomatoes came from. I decided to make two tomatoe dishes this morning to eat over the next couple days.

1 garlic clove - minced
4inches of day old baguette - crusts removed
3 ripe, juicy tomatoes - deseeded and peeled
1/2 japanese cucumber - peeled
1/8 yellow bell pepper
1/8 red bell pepper
1tbsp red wine vinegar
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tsp sugar
1tsp sea salt
extra fresh ground salt & pepper for seasoning

Throw all veggies and bread in the blender and then blend until smooth. Add everything else and blend for a few seconds to mix. Refrigerate for 8hrs to overnight.

Toasted Tomatoes
This one is really simple. Cut a tomatoe in half and deseed. Put the cut sides up and spread pesto sauce over the top. Put in the toaster oven and toast until warm and fragrant. They can be eaten warm or cold. I am going to let them sit in the fridge all day and then toast them again at supper tonight with cheese on top.

Hot and Sticky

Tokyo is hot and sticky today. It started out cloudy this morning and I was worried that the sun wouldn't come out at all. The sun didn't fail me. It is now beautifully sunny and 34 degrees celcius. I check the heat index and it is a balmy 40 degrees. No wonder I feel lethargic.

Last night I looked through some old pics from last year and found a real winner. I have always appreciated great t-shirts. I just happened to be born in 1981 so I felt a personal connection to that shirt.

Today I also discovered an interesting cookbook "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day". I discovered the book while checking out Dragon's Kitchen which seems to have loads of good baking recipes. I'm pretty excited for when the weather cools off a bit and I can try some of the recipes. I've asked my sister to send it to me with my birthday stuff so theoretically from September I will be posting beautiful bread on this blog. They will be much smaller because my oven is the size of a tiny microwave.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A jam failure and my new favorite pasta

I tried to make jam with a type of plum that I don't know the name of. I believe I overcooked the fruit because I have made wonderful fruit sauce with them before. I'm sad. I even went to the effort of sealing jars only to have them filled with runny sauce. I think it will taste good in homemade ice cream. I shall save them for the middle of winter...
Today brightened up at dinner time. Below is a pic of Masa's dinner. I played around with spinach linguine, zucchini, bell peppers, butter and Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt. I am in love and have discovered my new favorite pasta. The rest of the food includes: yogurt & cucumber salad, green beans with mayo and leftover chicken wings that were baked in Yoshida's BBQ sauce. Overall a good meal.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunshine Tea

When I was a child my mother and I would make sunshine tea. I just remembered about it a couple days ago and went out and bought a glass jar. I was dissappointed to see that after I bought the glass jar, it was cloudy for three days. Today the sun has just peaked out from behind the clouds and is ready to brew.

Sunshine tea uses sunlight instead of hot water to steep the tea. It takes time to steep but saves energy. You don't need to boil water and if you are making ice tea you don't need to put hot water in the refrigerator.

All you need to do is put a couple tea bags in a lidded glass jar of water and place it out in the sun for a while. When making black tea, I also added some lemon slices. I don't drink black tea anymore so today I'm making peppermint herb tea.

Tokyo Comedy Store

Last night Masa and I went to the Japanese show of The Tokyo Comedy Store at The Baron in Roppongi. We went to go see our friend Spring Day perform. Luckliy she was the last in the lineup because we were a bit late and only caught the last four comedians. When we walked in someone was on stage singing "otsukare samba" which was kind of funny but possible too much for me for the first set. I quite enjoyed most of the jokes overall. I did miss a couple of things but had a great time. All of the comedians are native English speakers so I found it quite easy to understand as the jokes were told using western logic and flow. They just started doing a Japanese show recently and apparently it has come a long way. I'll have to go back in a few months to see how they are progressing. I'll definitely check out their English shows in the time being.

Our New Project

There is a great secondhand furniture shop near our apartment. It is huge - especially for Japan - and you can sometimes find really great stuff. Our coffee table is from there. I repainted it as it was a disaster before. It took quite a while since the top has glass and comes off. I also painted the inside. The original color was kind of an orangy brown color.

Our next project is a desk. We (most likely I) will refinish the desk so that it matches the rest of our furniture. We found a nice solid wood desk that was pretty worn but has the potential to look great. It should take quite a while as we don't have an electric sander. I will spend an hour here and there on the balcony with some sandpaper and hopefully finish it by mid August.

Fresh Pea Soup

I found a wonderful recipe for pea soup on The Joy of Soup blog. I used frozen peas instead of fresh and didn't add the marjoram and it still tasted fabulous. I never would have guessed that oregano would taste good with green peas. That goes to show how often I use green peas. It's kind of hard to find frozen green peas around my station. We found some near our gym and proudly carried them home on the train from Korakuen. Masa really liked the soup as well. I love the bright green color in the dark wood bowl. I also added bruchetta sans bread and rye bread with plum jam. Overall a successful lunch.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Classical Music

I've recently started to listen to classical music a lot again. It's so relaxing and sounds wonderful on our new speakers. I will never purchase cheap 1000yen computer speakers again. I'm listening to a Bach CD I borrowed from the local library. It is quite lovely.

My current Favorite Classical Pieces
1. Bach - Mass in B Minor
2. Bach (Vanessa Mae Version) - Toccata &Fugue
3. Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata
4. Beethoven - Symphony #9
5. Mozart - Requiem

I have now switched to listening to Vanessa Mae on Youtube.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cooking, Cooking and More cooking

A few days ago I found a recipe for ume jam on Blue Lotus' blog. I thought I would give it a shot since I can imagine it tasting wonderful. I unfortunately left it alone to start this blog post and the sugar browned. It still tastes okay but is now a really ugly color. Think of the greeness of ume combined with the color of burnt sugar. Yum, yum, yum... I think it will make wonderful ice cream though.

I got a lovely book from the library recently. It's called 'easy summer food' and it is fabulous. I think I copied about thirty recipes from it. I mixed up the gazpacho last night and we are going to have it at dinner tonight. There are also tonnes of bread recipes. I think I'm going to make some sort of flatbread tonight. I'll post pics if they turn out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I have tonnes of free time at the moment and I think I shall start blogging to fill the time. Work goes through busy periods and dead periods and this is the deadest period yet. I should enjoy the free time but instead I feel guilty for not contributing to the GDP. I don't actually feel all that guilty but I am pretty bored. I'm not really a mindless activities person so there is only so much time I can waste on the internet.