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Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Tamagokake-gohan

I mentioned the other day about tamagokake-gohan. When abbreviated TKG. I just couldn’t wait to give the garlic soy sauce a try and it was delicious. It was completely different from the plain one. I totally recommend it! It raised the level of this simple dish times 10!

The one in the photo is a bit frothy because I didn’t have enough rice in it but delicious all the same.

**WARNING**

Some countries tell you not to eat eggs raw but in Japan it is normal. Please be safe and follow the guidelines of your country and know what eggs you can eat raw and which you cannot before trying a recipe like this one.

  

Garlic soy sauce

I got my hands on some raw garlic. Usually the ones at the grocery store have been dried a bit. These were not so they stank. Let me tell you! I’m a huge garlic fan but Wooo!

So I was thinking about ways to use it and my coworker said her favorite for garlic that was just pulled out of the ground was to soak them in soy sauce so I can make garlic soy sauce! I don’t know if I’ll be able to use the cloves I put in there or just the soy sauce but I’ll update you and let you know.

I’m excited to use it in a number of ways, but my number one way might be with tamago-kake-gohan. This is where you take rice, crack a raw egg in it and add a drizzle of soy sauce. In this case I would use my garlic soy sauce.

Now,  I realize in some countries eating raw egg is dangerous. But in Japan, it is normal. Please make sure you use the proper eggs before trying that particular recipe at home.

i added a bit more soy sauce than in this picture.

There we go!

A tough journey

So yes, it has been a long time since I have posted here. About three years. What have I been doing in all this time? What happened to my hobbies of cooking and nail art? Well to put it simply, I had fallen into a depression and I am now coming out the other end of it.

On March 11th, 2011 there was a huge earthquake in Japan. I was here for that. I was on the 7th floor of a department store in the middle of a lesson and we felt a small shake, and then the world turned upside down. My student clung to me and was wailing. It was then I realized how big and serious this was. I was working in the Shonan area and we are known for having awesome beaches. After we cancelled classes for the rest of the day, we were told to evacuate the building and to find high ground because there was a tsunami warning. None of the trains were moving and the buses that were moving were packed. There was no way to reach my home that was over 45min away. Thankfully a student’s mother saved me and my friend and allowed us to stay with her and her daughter while we waited for the father to get home (He literally walked all night from Tokyo to get home).  I remember laying down in the futons the mother had laid out for us and trying to call my aunts to see if they were ok. No calls got through, everyone was calling loved ones, the lines were all busy. I was able to call my home in the states. My younger brother answered because he was awake at this odd hour that I called. I told him not to wake up my parents and to leave a note on the counter that I was ok and to contact me on Facebook. I am so grateful for Facebook. It was the only way I could communicate to anyone that I was ok, and for me to check if all my friends were ok. I remember freaking out as I watched my iPhone battery dying. I had to conserve it’s battery and watch how many times I checked Facebook to check on my friends. (I now carry power cords and a portable battery with me everywhere)

I tell you this all in detail because this was the cause of my depression. My PTSD. I didn’t even know you could get PTSD from an earthquake. I always associated it with soldiers fighting in a war, or a trauma from something that happened from a person’s childhood or horrible experience. I was very naive on the many aspects of it. It’s still hard for me to think of it this way. I like to call it my PTESD (post traumatic earthquake stress disorder). But it wasn’t only this that had contributed to it. I am a person who likes habits. I like to know what to expect from a situation. The unknown scares the crap out of me, and I don’t trust people for a long time. Unless you know me really well, I would seem the opposite. Completely open and trusting of everyone. NOPE, not me. Maybe when I was five.

The thing is, I was supposed to move into my new apartment on the 13th. I had packed everything away, I had eaten or thrown out food  (I wouldn’t have a fridge or stove for the first 2 weeks), most of my stuff was inaccessible. I was also getting ready to leave the job I was working at and starting a new one in less than a month. For me, these are two huge changes that cause extreme stress. And to throw an earthquake/tsunami and then a couple days later a nuclear scare on top of it all. It was just too much for me. I was able to keep it in for a few years. I busied myself with making lessons for my new job and decorating my apartment etc. But about the end of the second year, I started to notice a huge change in myself. I was extremely moody, didn’t want to talk to people and sleeping a lot. I started to order pizza 2-3 times a week because I didn’t even want to talk to the people at the cobini (convenience store). No human interaction was ideal.

Of course I gained about 25lbs since 2012. All that pizza… I still order pizza pretty regularly. I feel like I have forgotten how to cook. It takes forever to put together something I used to throw together. But I am slowly reteaching myself, and rediscovering my love for cooking.

This past year has been a year of healing and rediscovering myself. I am so lucky to have friends and family who loved me even though I am really good at shoving people away by jackhammering (push seems too nice) the right buttons. I tried to reach out to a therapist at the end of 2013 but the guy, while certified in the states had to collaborate with a Japanese doctor to write scripts for him. This made him very expensive. $180 per hour and he was all the way in Tokyo. I couldn’t afford that and was feeling desperate. He tried to do what he could through email. I think even from my messages he could tell how low I was. I was so embarrassed but I knew I needed help and I called my friend. She found me a doctor and went with me to my first appointment. When I met her I was hyperventilating just from the train ride. I think I really freaked her and myself out. At this point I had to take two weeks off of work, but I was stressed because I couldn’t afford that. I was put on medication and was slowly recovering. I had a goal to get off the antidepressants before my trip home. I didn’t want my family to see me at my worst. They saw bad but not worst. They gave me what I needed and what I always know I have from them. Unconditional love. My mom chanted with me, we are buddhist, and renewed my faith. I knew I had the strength to overcome this hurdle. My dad chatted with me, and actually helped me to uncover the timeline of my feelings. He was the one who said the depression could be a result of the trauma from the earthquake. I brought it up to my doctor, she looked at what I had talked about in the past and agreed then told me about PTSD. My poor brother took the full force of my anger multiple times and never fought back. Just allowed me to get it out. I feel so bad for this now, I know I must have seemed crazy. I needed an outlet. It was the wrong one but he let me have it. I am so lucky to have the family I do. No one else could have gotten me through this. I returned to Japan, with a better understanding of myself and my emotional triggers. My true healing started from this point.

In Japan, in my Japanese class I had made two instant friends. They met me at one of my lowest points, and they also loved me unconditionally. They got a lot of my crazy while in Japan. Again, I’m good at pushing people away, but they just pushed back and let me know I wasn’t alone. When these two people can love me when they met me at my worst, I knew I had made friends for life. I hope someday I can show them the better parts of me. I love them and recognize them as family.

Another person who has helped me heal, is my chiropractor. I threw my back out and my friend who took me to the doctor recommended him. His office is a 5 min walk from my house. I started to go to him regularly and he explained to me about how my body works, and how it deals with stress and anxiety. I’ve had a problem with my hip feeling like it dislocates sometimes when I walk, for about 10 years. I went to several doctors before but he is the first to give me a reason why this happens. I have learned about my body and stretches I can do to help myself when I am unable to see him. In Japan, Chiropractors are not covered by insurance. I pay 6,500yen for each hour. But I will happily give him my paycheck, because what he has taught me about my body and my mind, and how it is all connected is priceless. Also, he has doubled as a second therapist and his English is very good. He also accepts my American side and when I broke down crying realizing what I was doing to myself and that my pizza diet only contributed to my downward spiral, he surprised me by giving me a hug.  You may be thinking “so what” but in Japan you don’t really hug. As an American who needed comfort he adapted to help me. It’s one reason I love the city I live in. It’s a mix of culture, just like me.

One more person who has helped me is my coworker. For as long as I can remember my mother told me don’t say negative things. The karma will come back around. I was always like” yeah whatever” until I was in college. Then I finally understood this. But I only understood half of this. My coworker tells me it’s human nature to think negatively about yourself and your situation, but don’t speak the words out loud. You are listening to yourself. You must tell yourself, “you are enough” and things “couldn’t be better.” My mother texts me guidances everyday, but it’s not the same as having her there with me by my side. Because I see him almost everyday, through him I understood another layer of what my mom had told me. It’s not just about other people. It’s about myself too.

Why did I feel the need to poor my soul out today. I thought about how I haven’t posted in this blog and realized that it was one of my interests that just stopped being fun to me. Another sign that I was falling into depression. I felt like it would be therapeutic and I hope if someone needs help they can find some comfort in my story. I feel like depression is such a negative thing to talk about. It’s hard to understand if you haven’t gone through it or lived with someone who has it. I thought I knew because my friends had it, but people with depression can be pretty good at covering up how bad it actually is. I’m still on sleeping medication because of insomnia, but I am at a point where I’m not shy about talking about what I have overcome. This topic needs to be talked about more. I remember feeling so much shame. I should have gotten help months before I had my breakdown. Even in Japan like back home in the US, depression is whispered, ignored, and shameful. You can’t just choose to be happy. It is not a choice that you just switch on. It is a war, not a battle that goes on in your mind and body. The chemicals in your body are literally out of whack. It is not a choice. It is a serious medical issue that needs to be recognized and openly talked about and accepted.

A year ago I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and now I am basking in the sun. I still have struggles, but I know how to handle it now. I feel like I have turned poison into medicine. My first true understanding of what this saying I’ve heard since I was a kid really means. I have grown from this hard experience and have come out stronger. I don’t know if the war will ever end, but I know I can win each battle that crosses my path.

So now that you know my tough journey, I hope if you see the signs of depression in someone you love, just be there for them and know it means the world. It is life.

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Bento

So, here’s the thing. I’m broke… I wasn’t expecting the big resident tax bill you get slapped with here in Japan, because my first company didn’t tell me to expect it. I’m still paying it off. But I’m out of time. My visa is up for renewal and I have to pay it off by the end of the month. So I’m in money saving mode which equals me packing my lunch for work.

There are of course other benefits. It’s way way healthier for me to pack my lunch. Every time I walk into a conbini I get tempted with their goodies. I know they design the store that way but I still fall victim to a good ole’ chocolate bar or bag of chips… or both. Also, I’ve recently gained weight, read the previous sentence for the cause. So yeah it’s getting colder and I consider my winter weight gain my extra coat but I’m not liking how my clothes are fitting me.

So about my bento. I’m not interested in those crazy character bentos you see when you google bento.

Here is a picture of a cute Winnie the Pooh Kyaraben made by a fellow wordpress blogger!

Why is that?

1) I’m not that creative and

2) I make my bento at 5am do you really think i care if it’s cute.

So I will post practical looking bentos on my site. I will warn you though I am a beginner. You may see many burnt, misshaped, dry food. Again I’m cooking at 5am, and anyone who knows me is fully aware that I am NOT a morning person. I often get made fun of because of how grumpy I am.

So why am I posting about this now? I was a cooking machine tonight! I decided to get a lot of prep done tonight (sunday night) and then just throw my bento together in the mornings. So I wanted to try my hand at kimpira gobo, it is a very popular dish here for bentos. I also salted some cucumbers and cut up some takuan its a type of pickled Daikon radish I think. I’ll post pics—->

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Also, here are a few bentos i’ve made —->

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Palm Reading

In Japan, fortune telling is a big deal. You can find it anywhere!! People will randomly walk up to you at the station and ask to read your palm. (I always avoid those people though…)

So yeah I don’t really rely on fortune telling. I feel that I control my own destiny, but I do enjoy seeing what they can “get” from my palm.  If I don’t like what’s said, I’ll change it. So anyhoo, I went to China town with two friends because one of them was going to Fiji to study English. We were having a sort of farewell dinner. We decided to get our palms read since Chinatown is the perfect place to do so.

Here’s what the lady said about me…

1) I will live a long life.

Dude I hope this one is true

2) at work, people rely on me to do things that are outside my job description. I am a capable  and independent worker. The company is lucky to have me.

I would say HELL YES! This is true with a capital T! I won’t go into detail because I’d like to keep this somewhat private but yeah… I’m doing someone else’s job and I was lied to about it in the beginning. I’m getting paid the same amount as people who do ZERO planning… its BS.

3) I am a human treasure.

Dude I know this to be true (haha)

4) I should start my own business or join in with a friend.

I’ll be joining a friend next year, at first part time… it’ll be epic!

5) I worry about other people’s feelings and think about other people too much. To the point it causes me stress

Yeah, thats me but thats my personality and it won’t change

6) I have poor blood circulation and get cold easily

Yup this one is true too

7) I have a weak stomach. Take care of my health

This is true too. The people around me know I get food poisoning at least twice a month

8) She asked if I had a boyfriend, on my palm it looks as though I do

I told her to point him out to me cause I’ve been single for a while

9) She said I would marry at 32 or 33 to a guy i’ve continued to have a friendship with even though we don’t stay in contact regularly

WTF, I have no idea.

So there you have it guys… my very first palm reading! She got my personality traits right on. But i believe these are easier to read because if it does show in my palm, then i’ve been that way for a while. The future can change based on my decisions so for the future, well we will just have to see!

They’re coming to take me away (reader beware, not for those with weak stomachs!)

Yesterday I had an awesome day. I went to the festival, I had great beer, a delicious gyro and got to spend time with great people. Today I’m going to an onsen (hotspring), so I had a lot to look forward to. The only downer was that I had a bad stomachache last night. Well, shit hit the fan people. At about 1:30a I started to feel nauseous and at 2:30a everything I had left was coming up. Now, I’m used to getting food poisoning, I unfortunately have a weak stomach, but I puke and go back to sleep and it’s like nothing happened the next day. Maybe my throat is a bit raw. But last night’s food poisoning was coupled with severe, and I mean a severe stomachache. I normally avoid the hospital, I hate needles, I can be on my death bed and i’ll still try to argue my way out of going. Well I was alone in the house and I was really worried that if something happened no one would know if things went from bad to worse. I called my friend to see if she had any problems since we ate the same food. She was ok, like I said I have a weak stomach. But I was crying from the pain so of course she worried. She’s my big sis. So anyway she told me to go to the hospital I said no a few times, then decided there was no way I could not go. I was scared to go to sleep. Like I said if it wasn’t food poisoning like i’m used to what could it be? The unknown is a scary thing.

She called the ambulance for me at 2:30a, I love her. Anyway, I was so embarrassed, I’m sure my neighbors heard everything. (Side note: One neighbor did hear. The nice lady next to me asked me if i was ok the next day when we ran into eachother… EMBARRASSING!) But I also felt relief. Right before the ambulance came my stomach was emptied. EVERYTHING came up! They found me on the floor of my bathroom. I was able to walk onto the ambulance. I was still dry heaving, but the pain was finally getting better.

The hospital is a 5 minute walk from my house. I was going to attempt it at first but decided against it. Anyway we got there in no time. The first hour I was there, I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. I had to run to the bathroom a few times blah blah blah. They put an IV in me… ok pause… I have to talk about this. Normally when I get an IV they put it in the inside of my elbow. Well this old lady was putting it in the inside of my forearm. Is that normal? Not to mention she stuck me like 10 times!!! I was crying like a baby cause it HURT!

My bruise courtesy of the ill attempts at giving me an IV.

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Then the cutie doctor said to put it in my hand. That hurt too by the way. So anyway, this is when I noticed my doctor was kinda cute. impeccable timing i know. He spoke some English which is why he was assigned to me. So yeah had to answer all those REALLY embarrassing questions to this cutie doctor. I’m never going to the ER again! And I really really hope I don’t see him around cause my house is seriously 5 minutes away.

Alright I got to go catch the train for my onsen trip. But I got home at 6am slept for a few and feel well enough to go so i’m off!

Question: Have you ever had to be carried away in an ambulance?

Almond smoothies by way of festivals and earthquakes

I get up this morning, not in the best mood. There was an earthquake at 4am… My phone alarm was going crazy and then it hit. Unfortunately, I took a sleeping pill last night and didn’t get up to open my door. They say for earthquake safety to open the door because you don’t want to be trapped. If the building shifts you may not longer be able to open the door or windows. At 4am this morning, i really didn’t care.

When I woke up for good, it was already 11:30a. Talk about a wasted morning. I have to be at the station at 3pm today because I’m going to the 金魚掬い (kingyo sukui) festival! Kingyo means goldfish and sukui means to scoop. It is a festival held in August every year. At this festival you scoop goldfish with a paper scoop. The goal is to get as many as you can without breaking the paper. This is my favorite festival activity. As I child I often visited my Aunts and Uncles and I always look forward to doing kingyo sukui.

Anyhoo, in Fujisawa they have the largest kingyo sukui in the world! It is even recorded in the guinness book! I’ll post pictures later. (too busy having fun… maybe next year… sorry guys!) side note – asahi dark draft=awesomeness!

Wow did I get off topic… I was going to talk about putting almonds in my smoothies! So i made my usual smoothie. I decided if I wanted to try variations, I would do it to a taste I was familiar with because then I could see if it was that particular thing i didn’t like or the entire mix. You know what I’m saying? So… yeah almonds not my favorite. At first it had an almondy aftertaste, and after I got used to that it was a texture thing. I only added 6 almonds but it was enough for me to notice. I think I mentioned before that I can’t stand weird textures. If I were drinking smoothies just for the health benefits then yeah this is a keeper but I want to make delicious healthy smoothies that have all the benefits but none of the cardboard weird texture of many healthy foods. IDK maybe if i roasted them first, or crushed them into powder in a plastic bag. If anyone has had any luck adding almonds please post and share!

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Matcha powder for smoothies

So a couple of my friends have been asking me what kind of green tea powder I’m using in my smoothies. I used sweetened matcha powder, which is Really easy to come by in Japan. They sell it in your local conbini (convenience store). In the states, or other countries if you go to your local asian food market they should have it. Here are a couple photos of the kind of powder I use.

20110801-124314.jpg20110801-124321.jpgfront and back. You can see on the back you can mix it with water or milk.

20110801-124328.jpg20110801-124335.jpgThis one says 甘さ。。。which means sweet. On the back of this package it also says to mix with milk or water. You can also make a topping for shaved ice which is a popular summer treat over here.

Smoothie Kick!

I have been wanting a blender for the longest time. Last summer was the hottest recorded summer in Japan and I was dying. I couldn’t help but think smoothies would be the perfect cure to a hot day. Unfortunately, I was going through financial issues last year. I was only working part time and looking for another job but jobs in Japan like schools over here start in April! I was looking in July… So anyway I couldn’t afford a blender last year 😦

Back to the good stuff! I bought a blender a couple days ago. Now, they only sell blenders with glass pitchers over here. I was irritated because I was going to have to carry it. After using this blender though… I have to say glass pitchers are awesome and I’m glad I dragged the thing home. ( I found out the reason for the glass, apparently years ago there was a scare with plastic. It was leaking some kind of toxic something, so that is why blenders are primarily glass in Japan now).

So, now that I had my blender I went to the grocery store that sells bulk foods designed for restaurants. I figured I’d get more bang for my buck when buying frozen food. I picked up frozen strawberries and mango, fresh spinach, milk, and yogurt. I also bought various canned fruits to experiment with. I did not go anywhere near the blueberries!! 600円 ($7.66) for one small frozen pack of blueberries?!? i don’t think so! So with my heavy glass blender in hand and my heavy grocery bag full of goodies I headed home. Side note: I lost some weight recently and all my protective fat in my shoulder area is gone. I was really feeling the weight of my grocery bag… ouch!

I get home and the first smoothie I whip up was for me and a friend. I added coconut milk, strawberries and mango. It was delish!

The next day I decided to do something a bit healthier. I decided to make a matcha strawberry honey and spinach smoothie. This mix may sound weird but man oh man is it delicious! I promise you, you can’t taste the spinach but it adds a really healthy element to your smoothie! I have a low iron count so this is a good way to get my dark leafy greens into my diet. Also matcha is green tea so it’s a good way to intigrate those anti-oxidents we keep hearing about!

Day three of my smoothie making and I made my matcha strawberry smoothie but i added some frozen mango. BINGO! This is the final product! Keep in mind I just eyeballed everything but here is the recipe if I had to add measurements. These are not exact, so tweak it yourself!

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MATCHA STRAWBERRY-MANGO SPINACH SMOOTHIE

1/4 cup of milk

3 spoonfuls of plain yogurt

1/2 cup of frozen strawberries

1/4 cup of frozen mangos

2 tablespoons of sweetened matcha powder

1 tablespoon of honey (to taste)

1/4-1/2 cup of spinach leaves/ no stems! ( i just did a handful)

In a blender, add in order of ingredients! Start with liquids, milk, yogurt, strawberries, mangos, matcha, honey and spinach at the top. Always add fresh ingredients at the top. Always add liquids at the bottom, this will help your blender process everything!

Make sure you don’t over-blend, this can affect the quality of your smoothie!

** If you want something to hold you over better like from breakfast to lunch, use a banana that has been sliced and frozen. You can also add 10 almonds!!**

Let me know what you think! The good, the bad, ugly! I want to know!

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