Thursday, 18 February 2010

What's not to love?!

Week two in Canada and I can't believe how quickly time is speeding by! There is sure lots to love this Thursday:

- sunny and warm "winter" days
- walks on the beach

- views of the city of Vancouver backed by snow-capped mountains
- Seigel's bagels, especially when still warm from the brick oven
- spinach salad with dried cranberries, bacon, feta cheese, red onions, fried mushrooms, and balsamic vinaigrette
- my dad's homemade apple pie (made with apples from his own tree) with imperial sharp cheddar cheese
- home-made Nanaimo bars with nuts instead of shredded coconut

- a visit to the Museum of Vancouver

- the MOV's "Ravishing Beasts" special exhibition that illustrates what my advisor says in his museum history lectures on developments in museum exhibit techniques over the past 100 years (I am a nerd, I LOVE museum exhibits that tie in to museum studies)
- catching up with a friend from high school that I hadn't seen in over a decade
- cheering my heart out watching the Canadian men's hockey team manage to beat the Swiss in a shoot-out

Saturday, 13 February 2010

And it starts...

Being an expat I find I miss little things, little cultural understandings like understanding "Tim's double double" or being able to hum the old intro to HNIC. It is the reason why I sometimes get a little misty eyed when I hear part of 'Oh Canada' at the start of a hockey game when I'm listening to the podcast from my room in Tokyo, and it is why I've loved watching the lead up to the Olympics, and seeing how Vancouver has embraced it. It is why I've loved seeing the pride of the city and of the country as a whole. And it is why I loved watching the Opening Ceremonies and the celebration of Canada.

I'm excited to be back in Vancouver in the middle of this (at least for the next little while, before I have to head north for the real reason I came back - to pack up my stuff at my dad's in preparation for his move). I'm excited to be attending a couple of sports events (Curling and... MEN'S ICE HOCKEY, although only in the former will a Canadian team be on the ice). And I'm just generally excited to see how it all unfolds (hopefully there will be many success stories and no more heartbreaking accidents like the death of the Georgian luger).

As the Opening Ceremony began I started a project of my own. I've decided to join the knitting olympics. I don't want to push myself to finish within the next 17 days if that means missing out on everything else, so I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to finish, but I am excited to be working on a project for myself - a shawl in a gorgeous multi-colour brown yarn with blue/purple/orange/green. I'm looking forward to having it when the weather warms up in the spring, and having it as a reminder of the 21st Winter Olympic Games long after the flame has been extinguished in my hometown.

Let the games begin!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Things I love Thursday

Because it is still Thursday here I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon this week... here goes!

Things I love this Thursday:

- The fact that the three weeks I could take off between everything else happened to correspond with the Winter Olympics.
- The fact that my dad is in the process of moving back into the house I grew up in in Vancouver.
- Sleeping in my old bedroom after nearly 15 years and discovering that the view of the night sky from my bedside window hasn't changed although the trees have grown beyond belief.
- Discovering that our old favourite brick oven pizzeria is not only still open, and offers non-tomato pizzas, but that it also has a delicious roast lamb special.
- Artichoke and asiago dip, pita chips, goat cheese, spinach and feta pizza, Montreal-style bagels...
- Seeing Vancouver - buildings, people, storefronts, cars... decked out in Canadian flags.
- Seeing the torch relay - my favourite (retired) hockey player passed off just before the torch entered the Indo-Canadian neighbourhood, which was full of sari stores with gorgeous red and white window displays displays and blaring Bollywood tunes.
- Seeing my favourite hockey player!!!! (chatting briefly with his brother but not managing to get a decent photograph)
- Watching hockey on TV with my dad.
- Walking into a clothing store and instead of discovering all the clothing was way too small, being told the jeans I was about to try on were definitely too big for me and that because I was "lean" I should go down at least a size if not two.
- Toothpaste boxes with scratch and sniff stickers - that actually smell like the toothpaste they contain.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Ramen for U and Hambagu for everyone else

Having missed last month's challenge, I was looking forward to the Washoku Warriro's challenge this month (head on over to La Fuji Mama to check out the other offerings). Then La Fuji Mama announced the challenge was Miso Ramen (Chinese-Style Noodles in Miso-Enriched Soup) and Teriyaki Baaga (Soy-Glazed Beef Burger) and I was even more excited. U loves ramen but I don't and as a result we don't eat it out. I thought that making it for him would be the perfect way to thank him for all his help and support while I was working on my thesis.

We decided to take on the added challenge of making the chicken stock (Torigara Dashi) from scratch. U wasn't too sure about this. First he insisted it wouldn't taste very good. Then he argued that we wouldn't be able to find noodles sold without broth packets. Despite U's misgivings, however, when we found one last packet of torigara (various chicken bits for stock), on the grocery store shelf, we both agreed to give making it from scratch. This did take a fair amount of time, but we were rewarded with a delicious thick chicken stock that ended up playing an even more important role in the overall flavour as we hit a language bump when U mis-read "tablespoon" as "teaspoon" with the measurement of the miso. The resulting broth was a little bland, unfortunately. On U's request we added chashu (slices of flavoured pork) as a topping in addition to the onions, mushrooms and bean sprouts called for by Andoh. The resulting bowl of noodles looked pretty good and, although I'm not likely to become a connoisseur of all things ramen, I did enjoy it enough to consider making them again sometime - with likely with a greater variety of toppings and a more flavourful broth.

The hambagu were even more of a pleasant surprise. They were so much easier to make than I had expected, and very forgiving of my habit of not sticking strictly to the recipe - like adding in less meat because that was all I bought, using an entire beaten egg instead of only 2 tbs, and adding in a few handfuls of shredded cabbage that I had in the fridge and wanted to use up. Given all the liberty I took with the recipe I was rather nervous about the end result, but I was thrilled with the way they turned out and loved the sweetened soy sauce glaze.

Instead of 4 patties that Andoh suggests, I made 7 smaller ones. I couldn't resist eating one right away, but the other six got boxed up along with a few sides (mixed mushrooms pan fried in butter, and lightly boiled green beans) and taken to work the next day for lunch - for me and two of my coworkers. Unfortunately that didn't lend itself to great photography (photo taken with my cell phone as a lunchroom of co-workers looked on in bemusement) but it did make me popular at work!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Ni-to Day

Apparently February 10th (NI-gatsu TO-ka) is National Knit (NItTO) Day in Japan. It seemed to me that there was no better way of celebrating the day by sharing my very first sweater. Sure its only baby-sized, but its a sweater, its my first one, and I happen to think its adorable!

The yarn, Debbie Bliss's Baby Cashmerino is delicious. It is lovely to knit with and the resulting knitting is soft and thick with a really nice give to it.

The pattern from Debbie Bliss's Baby Cashmerino 2 was minimal at times which made it a little tricky to figure out. Once figured out, however, it was super easy. The resulting sweater, while simple, is still adorable.

Given my inability to tie a nice bow, the hardest part of the whole project was tying the perfect bow on the front!

I finished the sweater a few days ago, the very same day that the little one it was intended for made her entrance into the world. I hope it keeps her warm and safe, and I wish her, her parents and her elder brother love, health, and much happiness. Happy Birthday Baby R!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Bookcase Tour Tuesday - Changing Faces

I'm heading to Canada today for a few weeks, so I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do bookcase posts, but wanted to sqeeze in this week's museum catalogue for Bookcase Tour Tuesday.

This week I chose a small catalogue I picked up at Osaka Castle a few years ago. Unfortunately I missed the actual exhibit, held in 2005, but the catalogue somewhat makes up for that. The title of the exhibit translates into English as "Faces of Hideoyoshi - Changing Images." Representations of the famous general, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, dating from his lifetime (late 16th century) to the 1920s. They are presented by type, with hanging scrolls,

illustrated screens,

woodblock prints,

and oil paintings.

I love the way numerous images from similar types are presented side by side for easy comparison, and that each is presented with information about the individual artwork. To a history nerd like me it is a fascinating comparison of different representations of a single historical figure.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Bookcase Tour Tuesday

Melanie over at Kimono Reincarnate came up with the idea of a virtual bookcase tour - giving the web a peak at your book collection. I immediately liked the idea but figured nobody would be interested in the boring array of English and Japanese books on museum studies, and the large and out-dated collection of Japan tour books that take up most of my bookshelves in Tokyo.

But then I remembered the bottom shelf of my bookcase, full of museum catalogues. I have a weakness for exhibit catalogues and, when they tend to be about 2000 yen, I can't help myself a lot of the time. Full of gorgeous pictures and information that I am *sure* I will use someday, it really is a shame they sit on my bottom shelf un-looked at most of the time. Sharing them one-by-one virtually seems perfect! So, here goes...

To start off I chose the catalogue to an art exhibit at the Yokosuka Museum of Art in 2007 of drawings by Taniuchi Rokuro. I'm not a big modern art fan, but I loved this exhibit, and when I pulled the catalogue off the shelf the whimsical prints reminded me of some of the items Melanie has made (and sells on her Etsy site)

I love the combination of timeless Japanese scenes like these two kids digging into their taiyaki (sweet bean buns shaped like fish),

and ones bringing kids' imagination to life, like the smoke and snow fighting as opposing armies of samurai.