A Cure for Homesickness

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We all have those recipes that bring back so many memories, they become much more than a meal. For me, that recipe is my mother’s pasta sauce.

Just the smell of it takes me back to the house I grew up in, watching my mother stirring it on the stove. It takes me back to cherished family dinners and special occasions. My parents will be here in less than two months, but I was missing my family this week. So I decided to make this sauce to combat a little dose of homesickness.

My mother first passed on this meat sauce recipe to me when I was living in Brooklyn. It was mine and Craig’s first Valentine’s Day together and he flew in from Detroit to spend the week with me. Long-distance relationships aren’t easy, so I wanted to make him something amazing to show him how grateful I was he came to town. It may just be a pasta sauce recipe, but this dish has cheered me up and fed my soul more times that I can count. Needless to say, Craig loved it and it was a way of further welcoming him to the family.

The meals we share with those we love are the most precious. It doesn’t have to be Michelin-star quality or a complex dish we make for them, we just have to love making it for them. My mom loves making this sauce for us and I love that it’s become a part of our little family. It may seem silly, but I’m going to keep the recipe to myself for now — a precious memory served in a bowl that will always connect me to my mother.

What dishes remind you of family?

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My First Drink and Click Photowalk

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A fellow senpai at Deep Japan recently invited me to join the Tokyo chapter of Drink and Click, a worldwide organization that brings people of all experience levels together to walk their city taking photographs and chatting about social media. It’s a chance to share tips and learn to take better photographs while also socializing. After the photowalk is done, the group moves onto a bar or restaurant for food and drinks while sharing some of their shots from the night.

I’ve always loved taking photos, but I’ll be honest, for the longest time, they were an afterthought when I traveled somewhere or even lived somewhere new. I swear to god, from the year I lived in Chicago, there are less than 10 photographs, all taken by visitors. It’s something I really regret now, because it was a chapter in my life I left mostly undocumented. I knew once Craig and I started traveling we needed to force ourselves to capture some of those memories, without being completely glued to the camera — you can’t eat your food or go zip lining through a lens.

Now, I’m the definition of an amateur photographer — I mean, you saw the early images on this blog — so I jumped at the chance to learn some new skills to really improve my photos. Plus, making more friends couldn’t hurt. Despite being a bit nervous, I actually had a wonderful time and even found a few Americans to chat with. Take a look:

First, we headed to the rooftop deck of KITTE, a shopping center in Chiyoda to get some shots of Tokyo Station.

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Our second photo stop of the night was the Tokyo International Forum. I can’t wait to attend next month’s meetup and keep working on my photography. Get ready to see even more of Tokyo!

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Weekly Web Tacks

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This weekend was one of a few firsts. Craig and I attended our first Black List Tokyo party and I went on my first photowalk with Drink and Click, a fun new photography group I joined. Unfortunately, our plans for Sunday turned into an all-day Six Feet Under binge thanks to some serious rain. I wish I was more upset about it, but it’s such an amazing show! The picture above is one I snapped during the photowalk. Check back later today for more of my pics.

Enjoy this week’s web tacks and have a great day — I just found out Bergdorf Goodman now ships internationally, so you know I am.

  1. Discover why we love bento boxes so much here in Japan. [Refinery29]
  2. Remember when we all planned to get rich off Beanie Babies? [New York Post]
  3. Some home decor envy for a cool home office — that isn’t white, pink and gold. [DOMAINE]
  4. Could you work in an office full of cats? Only in Tokyo. [Oddity Central]
  5. Check out this art museum full of optical illusions in Thailand. [USA Today]
  6. What does supermodel Molly Sims eat all day? Hint: There’s plenty of Japanese food. [Mind Body Green]
  7. My first workout tape starred this screen legend. [The Cut]
  8. Ask me again to try fugu. [The Wall Street Journal]
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6 Happy Sights

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Big news! Craig and I booked a trip this week for Taiwan in May. We’re lucky to be going with two of our favorite travelers who’ve been there before (one has family living there), so we know we’ll see some truly unique places not found in the guide books. We’re going in May and can’t wait to share the adventure with you. Another tack for my map. Yay!

Beyond that, I’m sad to say the soundtrack to my working days this week has been a near-constant loop of Friends on Netflix. Hubby isn’t exactly a fan, so, when the cat’s away . . . damn you, Roku, damn you. But several of my happy sights should serve as evidence I have left the house recently.

I hope you had a wonderful week and have big plans for the weekend. Tonight, I’m going on my first photo walk to practice using my camera. Stay tuned for the results!

Some of the lead runners in the 2015 Tokyo Marathon pass near our apartment.

Some of the lead runners in the 2015 Tokyo Marathon pass near our apartment.

An early White Day present from Craig arrived this week. This Urbancode backpack makes the perfect stylish sightseeing accessory.

An early White Day present from Craig arrived this week. This Urbancode backpack makes the perfect stylish sightseeing accessory.

Found a source for yummy pastrami sandwiches. This could become a weekly habit.

Found a source for yummy pastrami sandwiches. This could become a weekly habit. BTW, that’s mustard, not mayo. It may be an excessive amount, but it’s not mayo.

Had to try the chorizo dog at BrewDog in Roppongi. Could have done with more fries. And some more bun.

Had to try the chorizo dog at BrewDog in Roppongi. Could have done with more fries. And some more bun.

Stumbled on a fashion show at Matsuya Ginza.

Stumbled on a fashion show at Matsuya Ginza.

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Small Kitchen Mission: Octopus Salad

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If you haven’t had octopus before, hopefully this is the recipe that gets you to forget The Little Mermaid and go for it.

I first had octopus back in elementary school at a family dinner and started eating more of it in high school during trips down to Greektown in Detroit. The way I’ve had it most often is cold and served in a salad, so I decided to make my own after impulse purchasing yet another octopus tray from the market (Hey, better than candy, right?). I’ve also been craving avocados, which I used to eat so much more often back in the states.

This octopus came cooked, marinated and seasoned with white pepper and parsley, but if you can’t find any already cooked, it takes between one and two hours to boil. After that, soaking it in a little lemon juice and seasonings for at least an hour will do the trick to get some flavor into the octopus. Once that’s ready, the rest of this salad comes together quite easily. I love chopped salads because you can get a bit of everything in each bite. The key is just to chop everything to as similar in size as possible.

Man, did his octopus salad turn out yummy. This recipe would serve two as a main dish or four as a side. Head to your local fish monger and ask for some octopus — don’t worry, they can take care of the less desirable parts of the prep work — and get in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb octopus, cooked and cooled
  • 1 seedless cucumber, halved and sliced (Or 3, if you’re in portion-challenged Japan!)
  • 1/2 shallot, sliced very thinly
  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 16 olives, halved (I used both green and kalamata)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the cucumber, shallot, olives, octopus and avocado in a bowl. Toss to combine.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over the salad as well as the juice of the entire lemon.
  3. Season with oregano, parsley, salt and pepper, and then toss and serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Weekly Web Tacks

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It’s Tuesday and back to the grind after a busy weekend of apartment revamping. Remember how I shared the process for getting rid of old household items last week? Well, it all culminated in a true lost-in-translation moment so I was dealing with fixing that mess yesterday. All is well and thanks to the help of some wonderful people, the stress has subsided.

Here are my web tacks for the week. And that image above? I snapped it at a local sushi-go-round in Phoenix my sister and her family frequents. I enjoyed some more American sushi there but I have to say, it was pretty expensive for rolls that had far more toppings than fish. No complaints about the rolls with spicy goodies like jalapeños though.

Happy reading!

  1. Sunday we watched the 2015 Tokyo Marathon from our balcony. We didn’t spot any of these though. Gives the phrase “wearable tech” a new definition.
  2. My new favorite blogging term is “beau-tographer.” [FASHIONISTA]
  3. More motivation to drink more water. [BUSTLE]
  4. Want to know what growing up in Metro Detroit was like? I got a kick out of this, but there are some unfortunate points in there. [Thrillist]
  5. How to organize your closet like a Japanese guru. Also adding her book to my must-have list. [Lucky Shops]
  6. Some stylish suggestions for chic travel. [Mined]
  7. Go inside Kate Moss’ house. Done. [Vogue UK]
  8. I have a feeling most Japanese women would love these quirky clutches. [PopSugar]
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Throwback Thursday Travel Edition: True Food

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As I’ve mentioned before, my food cravings when I was back in Michigan were not so healthy (I pray that one day I’ll experience a gotta-have-it broccoli moment, sort of). So when I got to Phoenix, Arizona to stay with my sister and her family, I had one restaurant on the top of my list: True Food Kitchen.

Known for their healthy and fresh menu, True Food Kitchen was established in part by Dr. Andrew Weil, a leader in alternative medicine, based on an anti-inflammatory way of eating. The menu at True Food Kitchens’ 10 locations is built around what organic produce, meat and seafood can be acquired from local sources. And the natural theme doesn’t end there — every element of the decor was developed with sustainability in mind. Not your typical chain, right?

What I love about this restaurant is the creativity of their dishes (like those edamame dumplings you see above) as well as their willingness to customize dishes to whatever your diet calls for. I seriously listened to the guy behind me turn the bowl of curry I got (see below) into his own custom creation with tofu and extra veggies.

The cocktails aren’t bad either. The lovely green one I gulped down (day cocktails are the best cocktails) was their cucumber martini made with, my favorite, St. Germain. Amazing.

I’m finding more and more health food stores throughout Tokyo, so I’m excited to make some True Food Kitchen-inspired dishes of my own. If you head to Arizona (or California, Colorado, Texas, Virginia or Georgia), make sure to stop by one of their locations for some food you can feel good about pigging out on.

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6 Happy Sights

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Well, as predicted, I’m majorly hurting after my boot camp class yesterday. We had a brief snowstorm in the morning (nothing even stuck), but it was cold enough to make everyone else in my group cancel. So I had a one-on-one session with our trainer that made painfully obvious just how much exercising I didn’t do during vacation. It’s amazing how much not walking everywhere impacted my strength and endurance. Something I do everyday here without thinking — walking instead of driving — really does make all the difference. Another reason to love big-city living.

Going through my camera, I found some snaps from before I left that I wanted to share, starting with the roller coaster at Tokyo Dome City \on a particularly bright and sunny day. Watching it for a little while was a nice break from the stress of running around trying to get everything done before the trip.

Here are five more happy sights I wanted to share with you. Happy Wednesday!

No two skyscrapers are alike in Tokyo. This one almost sparkled.

No two skyscrapers are alike in Tokyo. This one almost sparkles.

Last Wednesday was a holiday, so we went out and found a new hamburger joint, J.S. Burgers Cafe in Shibuya. Tasty.

Last Wednesday was a holiday, so we went out and found a new hamburger joint, J.S. Burgers Cafe in Shibuya. Tasty.

Picked up this awesome ornament in Sedona at their year-round Christmas store.

Picked up this awesome ornament in Sedona at their year-round Christmas store.

Craig insisted we start Valentine's Day with this special delivery. Hey, I never need an excuse to eat pizza, but my amazing husband is a pretty good reason to.

Craig insisted we start Valentine’s Day with this special delivery. Hey, I never need an excuse to eat pizza, but celebrating my amazing husband is pretty good reason.

Finished the day with this sweet treat. In Japan, men are typically the recipients of sweets on Valentine's Day. It's usually chocolate but cheesecake is Craig's favorite dessert. Men then return the favor by giving a larger gift on White Day, March 14. Can't wait!

Finished the day with this sweet treat. In Japan, men are typically the recipients of sweets on Valentine’s Day. It’s usually chocolate, but cheesecake is Craig’s favorite dessert. Men then return the favor by giving a larger gift on White Day, March 14. Can’t wait!

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A Lesson in Perspective at Yasukuni Shrine

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On Valentine’s Day, Craig suggested we visit Yasukuni Shrine. This seemed an odd choice, but Valentine’s Day in Japan is typically about the men (more on that subject later this week) and I knew visiting this shrine and its museum had been on his to-do list for a while.

Yasukuni Shrine was built in 1869 to commemorate the Japanese men who have died in war since 1853. To date, there are more than 2.4 million souls enshrined there. The large grounds feature the honden, or main shrine, a perfectly manicured shinchi teien, or sacred pond garden full of koi, and a large museum Yushukan, built in 1882 and full of artifacts including armor, swords, airplanes and canons (I apologize I don’t have more photos inside, as cameras weren’t permitted throughout.).

It’s an understatement to say there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this shrine, as some of the men honored here were tried as war criminals by the West. This fact alone is enough to both give you pause and could render tourists into somewhat uncomfortable observers. But the Japanese are proud of those who fought to protect their country, just as Americans and the people of every other nation are of their own. One may not be able to condone or excuse some of the actions of those memorialized here, but must also has to remember these lost men could very well be the ancestors of fellow visitors. It’s best to show respect, reflect and learn.

I highly suggest visiting Yasukuni Shrine and Yushukan if you come to Japan for the incredible relics on display here. As with all national institutions I’ve visited in Japan thus far, it’s a beautifully cared for place with a deep history that’s worth seeing.

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Weekly Web Tacks

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It’s a new week and I’m getting back to some parts of my pre-vacation routine I’ve been neglecting. Namely, boot camp. Spring will be here before we know it and then summer so it’s time to step my fitness routine up a notch. Tomorrow morning is my first class and I’m more than a bit nervous, but hey, I’ve already fallen on my butt once so how much worse could it get?

My web tacks for the week feature a very strong opinion on Valentine’s Day in Japan as well as a nod to my dancing days. Enjoy!

  1. If you haven’t seen this ballet performance to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” you need to watch it now. Tattooed, tough-guy ballet? Yes, please. [The Huffington Post UK]
  2. This writer has a very strong opinion on Valentine’s Day in Japan. I can’t say I agree with her, but I enjoyed reading the perspective of someone outside Japan. [Refinery29]
  3. Budget-friendly vacations that look amazing. No. 3 is on our list for this year. [DOMAINE]
  4. Your laugh for today, which also shows how ridiculous photo-editing apps have gotten. [BuzzFeed]
  5. A childhood friend — and very talented graphic designer — shares his stylish studio apartment. [Apartment Therapy]
  6. Watching the Academy Awards may be a little tough for me, but I’m more than up for recreating this tasty looking spread. [Cupcakes and Cashmere]
  7. Japanese teens are quite literally addicted to the Internet. [Japan Today]
  8. My industry lost one of the greats last week, journalist David Carr. Here are some of his best words of advice. [The New York Times]

 

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