It's hard to believe it's already the week of Thanksgiving. If I was going by the weather, I wouldn't believe it at all. Back in Michigan, we'd be expecting frigid temps and maybe even some snow on the ground. Trust me, I'm not complaining. But the week is inevitably going to bring on a serious case of homesickness, this Thursday being our first major holiday away from our family and friends. So, we're staying busy, as usual, and I'll hopefully pick a spot for our turkey dinner tonight. No oven means no home-cooked version for us, at least not this year, but that's OK. My research has turned up several Tokyo restaurants and hotels serving up the traditional fare, along with some unique dishes -- smoked salmon soup, anyone? On top of it all, it's a short week since yesterday was a Japanese national holiday -- Labor Thanksgiving Day, to be exact -- and we had a fantastic weekend. Take a look at home of our favorite sights, including the oddball/fantastic public art you see above. We spent Monday evening enjoying the beautifully illuminated Mejiro Garden in Toshima-ku. Our most high-tech sushi experience thus far was at Uobei, 2-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku. You place your order on a touch screen and the food is delivered to you on a conveyor belt from the kitchen. The first of the TWO large pizzas Craig, our friend Stefano and I shared at Two Dogs Taproom in Roppongi. Cooked a favorite this past week: yummy scallops. And finally, Japan's happiest motorcycle, spotted in our neighborhood. The smiling face stopped us in our tracks!
Happy Monday! Craig was off today, so we enjoyed a long and restful weekend. We still managed to do some exploring and of course, eating. I'm so excited to announce I'll be contributing to Deep Japan as a senpai, or mentor, sharing my travel experiences and advice for visitors to Japan each week. You can read my first post here. I hope your week is off to a fantastic start. Here are my web findings from the past few days. Enjoy!
- This one's good for a laugh. As a gaijin, or foreigner, I know I'm unfortunately guilty of saying some of these things. [Pirates of Tokyo Bay]
- I can't foresee something like this taking off in Japan, where wrappings and boxes abound, but a package-free supermarket is an intriguing idea. [NBC News]
- Every week, I share my "happy sights." Check out famed photographer Annie Leibovitz's top five from the past couple of years. [The Guardian]
- In Tokyo, I walk more than I ever have. I'll be copying some of these hacks to save my feet. [WHO WHAT WEAR]
- Walking around town, I often see just the tops of peoples' heads. How all that texting and scrolling impacts your neck. [NPR]
- Start your holiday shopping now with this amazing gift guide. [New York Magazine]
- How to entertain (specifically for Thanksgiving) in a tiny apartment. My favorite tip was the one about the bathtub. [Refinery29]
- If you're cooking a Thanksgiving meal this week. Make this your potato dish. It looks amazing. [Smitten Kitchen]
I had a wonderful experience this week at a networking event that reminded me how important it is to put yourself out there -- you never know who you're going to meet. While I've always known what I wanted to do career-wise, networking events of any size have always spooked me a bit. I frankly don't always find it easy to talk about myself and I know the roots of that are the insecurities we all have (I know my post-collegiate job hunt during the recession certainly didn't help). Thankfully, being in a foreign country where the only person I knew when I arrived sleeps a foot away from me has forced me out of my shell a bit more. I can honestly say everyone I've met here -- Japanese or otherwise -- has been open, kind and most of all, helpful. That's what I love about busy places like Tokyo. You meet such an interesting mix of people, many of whom have been in your shoes and are willing to give advice. Trust me, there is nothing more flattering than being asked for advice or help, even for silly stuff. I glowed for days after giving a traveler directions for the first time here. I mean, she wanted to go to Zara. It was destiny. But it really doesn't matter where you live. Look for events in your community for professionals in your field -- current or desired -- or for people with a shared hobby. When you move somewhere new, there will be plenty of days when your couch and TV seem like your best friends. But Netflix can't hire you. You know what I mean. I can't wait to see how the new connections I made this week impact my time here in Tokyo. Stay tuned!
Remember when I wrote about the gifting culture here in Japan? Well, it's fair to say I've never gotten a more original gift than the box -- nay, case -- of leeks Craig brought home for his performance in a golf tournament. After sharing them with a fellow expat, I learned western leeks aren't common here in Japan, so they were actually a real treat. This recipe I found to try and use them up was for potato leek soup, a classic that looked easy and used ingredients that were obtainable here, except for the celery. So I went for it. This one is a winner. The intense flavor of the leeks (had to wear my onion goggles to cut those suckers) transformed with the simple spices and stock into a delicious, savory and rich soup. It was so thick I ended up adding some water at the end, but had I left it, it would have been the best pot of mashed potatoes ever. Really, ever. Get your hands on some leeks and make this soup now with some crisp crackers and a light salad. If you ask really nicely, maybe someone will give you a case of leeks for Christmas. Ingredients:
- 1 qt chicken stock (low sodium if you can)
- 8 small russet potatoes or 4 large ones (all the potatoes pictured above were little guys)
- 2 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced (white portion only)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Combine the stock, potatoes, leeks, bay leaf and thyme in a large pot. Bring this to a boil, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes soften.
- Puree the mixture using an immersion blender or food processor. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Stir in cream and any additional water or stock to desired texture. Serve immediately.
Last week, the familiar Christmas were just starting to emerge in Tokyo. Well, this week, Christmas exploded in all its sparkly, lit-up glory, and I can't help myself from taking photos of the spectacular displays. We spotted the one above for Tiffany & Co. in Ginza. Isn't it fantastic? The city is really coming alive with the season, and walking around amidst all the lights has become a favorite evening activity. Here are some more sights from the past week:
A stunning cascade of sparkles in Tokyo Midtown.
Got all type-A giddy over my new planner from Laurel Denise.
I would love to host a colorful party like this one on display at The Conran Shop.
So many mini treats. The inventory was going fast at the Little Pie Factory in Minamiazabu.
Where is Elsa? She's at the Marunouchi Building, apparently. Beat it, Santa.
It's the start of a new week and you've probably noticed the site looks a little different right now. I'm changing some things up on the technical and design sides so please excuse this temporary look -- 100 Tacks is "under construction" but stay tuned for a new and improved look very soon. Thanks for your patience and readership, which has allowed me to continue growing this space :) To get your week going, here are my latest web finds:
- If you come to Tokyo with $5, you can get Kit Kats. Find out what else you can get around the world for a Lincoln. [Business Insider]
- More tips to help you be more productive if you work from home. [Cupcakes and Cashmere]
- Ways to cut household spending. [Domaine Home]
- The velour tracksuit bites the dust. Can't say I didn't totally want one -- back in high school. [The Cut]
- Catching up with the real-life antagonist who inspired the film Shattered Glass. A really interesting profile about honesty and forgiveness and total news junkie/journalism nerd material. [The New Republic]
- Some great advice for any aspiring big-city homeowners. The average price for a Tokyo apartment is around $500,000. [Refinery29]
- Another stroll down memory lane for millennial girls. [Hello Giggles]
- Breaking Bad meets Frozen. If you're a diehard fan like me, you're welcome. [BuzzFeed]
So, my last DIY was pretty time consuming and, well, painful. But there are still some items in our now vast collection of IKEA furniture that I want to tweak, so I’m back at it. Wanting to complete our fall bedroom update, I went for our Brusali nightstands.
These nightstands match our bed (which I adore) and have plenty of storage but they’re just a little . . . bleh. I was eying a much-less-practical set of bright yellow ones but was talked out of it, although a bit more easily than the coffee table. I knew I wanted to do something to make them more exciting but again, didn’t want to deal with painting them.
I was wondering around Etsy, as housewives and women who work from home tend to do, when I came across some gold vinyl stickers in the Chick Design Boutique shop. I know, gold vinyl circle stickers are having a major moment as wall decor, but I was drawn to the triangles. And then I got my idea. Vinyl stickers are durable and stay securely in place, but the best part is they’re easily removed when you tire of them.
A craft with minimal effort and commitment? Done.
I ordered the 4.5-inch stickers and they included a bonus fifth sticker, which was good insurance in case I made a mistake. Beyond that, all you need is some blue painter’s tape, a ruler or straight edge of some kind and a pencil. I used the ruler and pencil to measure and mark the center of the nightstand door and then secured the tape, which became a guide for the first sticker. After I had that one in place, I removed the tape, placed the second triangle flush to the first and voila! New nightstands.
As I said before, these stickers were incredibly easy to work with and could be adjusted and moved several times without damage. If this apartment had smooth walls (we have standard Japanese textured wallpaper), I’m sure I would find more places to put them.
I’m so happy with the finished product and oh yeah, this DIY cost less than $10.
If you’re from Metro Detroit, the Coney Dog is a dish you’ve probably had more times than you can count, and have a strong opinion about. Don’t tell me it’s “just a hot dog.”
Developed by Greek immigrants in Detroit, this recipe is unique to the mitten state, and oh my god is it good. It’s a chili dog, but the ingredients and texture are different than what you probably associate with chili.
There are no beans in this chili nor liquid smoke. As for the texture, it’s more smooth and rich, which is why it’s often called a sauce. The chili is ladled onto a hot dog — preferably all beef with a natural casing — and then topped with raw sweet onion and yellow mustard. I personally like mine sans onion. The last time I was in Detroit, I added hot sauce for the first time and was in heaven. You can also eat this chili in a bowl, topped with shredded cheddar and some good ol’ oyster crackers, or on top of french fries with nacho cheese. All these options have me salivating as I type this.
As you can tell by that love-filled diatribe, I take my Coney Dogs seriously. Now that Craig has lived in Metro Detroit, he does too. We’re loyal to Lafayette Coney Island right downtown. It’s one of the dishes we’ve missed most, especially since the Japanese LOVE hot dogs — you can get one with your coffee at Starbucks-like chains Dotour or Tully’s.
I first tried this recipe back in Michigan and loved it, but when I shared it with our friends Nicole and Jochen, both of whom have lived in Metro Detroit before, they graciously agreed to let me take over their kitchen for a night. The ingredients weren’t terribly hard to find here thanks to the international markets, and I had such a good time making them all together. I really miss that social aspect of cooking and also having some help — Craig stirred, Nicole measured and Jochen chopped. Perfect.
It didn’t take long after our first bite to scrape the bowl clean and finish every last hot dog and bun. This recipe is incredibly simple and doesn’t take long at all. The man behind it deserves all the gold stars. Make some up and enjoy a taste of Detroit!
- 10 oz ground beef
- 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 tbsp dried onion (minced or granulated)
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp celery salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 12 hot dogs (We used two cocktail dogs per bun. Oh, Japan)
- 12 hot dog buns
- Brown the beef in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add onion and garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes.
- Stir in sugar, mustard, dried onion, chili, Worcestershire, salt, celery salt, cumin and black pepper.
- Add tomato paste, tomato sauce and water and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered.
- Using an immersion blender, food processor or standing blender, puree the mixture until smooth.
- Simmer for another 30 minutes and serve.
Last week, I went to the International Bazaar at the Tokyo American Club to kick off my holiday shopping. We want to bring back some little mementos of our time here for friends and family. This event seemed like the perfect place to start.
Open to the public, the bazaar showcased handmade and imported items from throughout Asia. I had to keep reminding myself this shopping trip wasn’t about me — well, almost. Japan is a country of artisans, true craftsmen and women who have mastered their art. They make some incredible things, from woodblock prints to washi paper and beautiful wooden dolls.
After checking some names off my list, I settled on this little lacquer box for myself, which gets its incredible bronze accents from a layer of gold leaf. As you can see from my glaring reflection, it’s very shiny, and ladies love shiny things. I saw it after first arriving and couldn’t stop thinking about it.
When I got home and unpacked the box, I placed it among some of our other little tokens from our travels and got excited about our growing collection. While our place may be small, I’m glad we have these little remembrances sprinkled throughout our home to make it feel warm.
We’re very lucky to be able to travel as much as we do, and we’ve learned the cost of the souvenir isn’t important at all — it’s the memories each trigger that determine their real value.
Here are some sights from the past week:
After another hectic week, it was nice to spend the weekend both at home and with friends. We enjoyed some of our favorite fall activities like watching college football (or listening to it, since our live feed went out) and making one of the dishes we miss most from back home: Detroit-style Coney Dogs. Check back Wednesday for a very special "Small Kitchen Missions" about that one. Throughout it all I did plenty of reading and here are my Web Tacks for the week: 1. Five very valid reasons to try living in a new place as many times as you can in your life. [Elite Daily] 2. A look back at one of the books that made me want to be a writer. [The New Yorker] 3. Sarah Jessica Parker on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. Perfect. 4. Japan Fact: Greek yogurt (my favorite breakfast) is almost $20 a tub. This may just replace it for me. [Cooking with a Wallflower] 5. Your guide to proper etiquette when visiting Asia for work or leisure. [BBC] 6. A look inside the just-opened One World Trade Center. [Daily Mail] 7. Reeses' Peanut Butter Spread. I can't even . . . take me home to America. Now. [The Huffington Post] 8. If you haven't seen OK Go's amazing new video for "I Won't Let You Down," filmed entirely in Japan, stop right now and watch. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1ZB_rGFyeU?rel=0&w=560&h=315]