Vintage Ice Tongs 

vintage walnut ice tongs, Hasegawa Happy Hour, vintage barware My parents came up to visit over the weekend and brought our anniversary gift. Part of the gift was these fantastic vintage ice tongs that they found in a vintage shop. Don’t my parents know how to score a vintage treasure? (And they know me so well…and Naoto, too, though he didn’t squeal like a school girl when he saw the box.)vintage walnut ice tongs, Hasegawa Happy Hour, vintage barware The tongs came in their original box, an added bonus. (And yes, I will totally keep the tongs in their box!)vintage walnut ice tongs, Hasegawa Happy Hour, vintage barware I love the Mid-Century style illustrations of cocktails on the handle. I think they are going to make a great partner with my vintage penguin ice bucket at our next Hasegawa Happy Hour!

Thanks, Mom & Dad! xo

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Plot #6: The Growing I’ve Missed

plot 6 looking north, june 2015We came home from Japan and it was more than a week before we made it to see the garden! I know that sounds crazy, but I was deep in the fog of jet lag and any time I was awake, it seemed to be raining. When we finally made it over, we were amazed at how big our plants had grown. We even had a few things to harvest! Pictured above is the plot (looking north). You can see that I never did fill those four square feet I had left. But the good news is, I have two tomato seedlings on my balcony that have grown like gangbusters and will be transplanted this weekend. daikon, plot 6We finally thinned our daikon enough for them to grow into respectably-sized vegetables! I was only able to harvest two, but the others are growing nicely in their square. None of the beets were ready though, much to my disappointment. first tomatoes, plot 6 first tomatoes, plot 6Our Juliet has some nice green tomatoes and the Sweet 100 has some, too! plot 6 looking south, june 2015On the north end of the garden, the peas are going crazy and I have four edamame plants, a crazy square of cucumber plants (too many for one square!), and two volunteer tomatoes (to be transplanted soon). I reserved one square for a loofah plant that I started on the balcony. It’s looking good, but I’ve read that loofah aren’t good as transplants. I’m going to try it anyway and hope for the best. first harvest 2015, plot 6

One of my goals this growing season is to weigh our harvests so at the end of the season we can get an idea of how many pounds of produce we are eating from our garden. This was our first harvest: lots of komatsuna lettuce and some radishes.

It feels good to be back in the garden again!

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Spending the Yen 6: Fish Stamp

kanji fish stampI picked up this kanji fish stamp in Itoya during our trip and I’m so excited about it. I’ve seen these stamps in previous trips and I’ve always loved the artistry and meanings. I wish I’d written down the artist’s name. He has a whole collection of these stamps, with simple drawings mixed with kanji. kanji fish stamp on mailThis one in particular means (roughly translated) “a feeling that you are face to face even though you are far apart”. Isn’t that a perfect description of letter writing? Naoto, who isn’t often impressed with rubber stamps, convinced me that I needed this stamp in my collection. I’m glad I let him talk me into buying it!kanji fish stamp stickersYesterday was a most beautiful day and I spent some time on the balcony writing letters and using my new stamp. I stamped it on some sticker paper and cut out a bunch of stickers to send to pen pals. I’m very happy to share these sentiments with my letter writing friends!

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Hasegawa Happy Hour: Summer Solstice Edition

summer solstice Hasegawa Happy Hour, #hasegawahappyhourNaoto and I had a little party for two to celebrate the summer solstice on Sunday. It was a good chance to eat on the balcony together for the first time this season and to recreate one of my favorite new drinks from Japan, the Spumoni Cocktail. I ordered a Spumoni during our anniversary dinner and fell in love, ordering it at almost every izakaya after that. Campari, grapefruit juice and tonic are the only three ingredients, so it’s nicely bitter and really refreshing for summer. #hasegawahappyhour summer solstice editionFor dinner, we made steak salads (and sadly had to move to wine because we finished off the Campari!) We grilled a steak on our stove and added it to a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggs, avocado, and goat cheese. It was so delicious and a great way to make an expensive steak feed both of us.

Spumoni Cocktail 

1.5 oz Campari

2 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (Bottled wouldn’t be horrible here, especially if you like a sweeter cocktail.)

2 oz tonic water (I’m not a huge fan of tonic, but I like it in this. If you hate tonic, club soda could be substituted for a slightly less bitter flavor.)

orange wedge for garnish

Add Campari and grapefruit juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Pour in rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with tonic and garnish with an orange wedge. Enjoy on the balcony as you toast the summer season.

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: The Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

Shinyokohama Ramen Museum, insideNaoto had one wish for our trip–to go to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, a “food amusement park” in Yokohama. Since we’ve been on our Naoberly’s Noodle Tour, I was almost as excited as he was to try different varieties of ramen. ramen by region,  Shinyokahama ramen museum ramen strainers, Shinyokahama ramen museum ramen bowls, Shinyokahama ramen museumThese three pictures pretty much represent the “museum” part of the Ramen Museum. Actually, the museum part is smaller than the gift shop! But the real purpose of going to the museum is to treat yourself to different varieties of ramen. Two floors below street level, there is an old fashioned “neighborhood” featuring the best ramen shops from all across Japan. (Shown in the top picture.) ramen menu, Shinyokahama ramen museumOutside each shop, there’s a ticket machine where you choose your ramen, any extra toppings, and drinks. You pay at the ticket machine and when you sit down, the servers take the tickets and serve up your order. Museum rules dictate that each adult must order one bowl of ramen at each place he dines. Thankfully, the shops all offer a “smaller” bowl of ramen (in addition to a regular-sized bowl), so you can try a few different types. Sadly, though, even that small bowl of ramen was too much for me. Kumamoto style ramen, naoto's bowl, Shinyokahama ramen museum Kumamoto style ramen, kimberly's bowlWe started at Komurasaki, which serves Kumamoto-style ramen. Naoto had a traditional tonkotsu ramen with added pork and eggs (pictured first) and I had the King’s Ramen with fire roasted garlic with added pork and corn. Kumamoto style ramen, naoto Kumamoto style ramen, kimberlyIt really was delicious! Aaaaaand that was the only bowl I ate! IMG_2819After the first ramen shop, we sat at a table in the bar area and had drinks. Naoto had an Orion beer on tap (which is apparently a big deal since you can’t find Orion on tap around here) and I had a Okinawan citrus cocktail, which may have been the best thing I drank during this vacation.postcard writing, Shinyokahama ramen museum While Naoto moved onto another ramen shop, I stayed at the bar and wrote some postcards. Shina Soba-ya ramen, Shin Yokohama ramen museum Shina Soba-ya ramen, Shin Yokohama ramen museumNaoto went to Shina Soba-ya (where I could see him eating from my postcard-writing station!) and had not only another bowl of ramen, but spare ribs, too! Okinawan style ramen, Shin-Yokohama Ramen MuseumAfter walking back upstairs and spending some time (and money) in the gift shop, we went back down to try one last bowl of ramen. We went to an izakaya and had Okinawan-style ramen (and another Orion beer and another citrus cocktail!). It was really simple but tasty and it had the thickest noodles of any ramen I’d had before.

I highly recommend the Ramen Museum for an afternoon full of noodle fun! I have a few more Naoberly’s Noodle Adventures to share with you soon!

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Baseball In Tokyo With The Yomiuri Giants

Yomiuri Giants GameOne of the main things on my wishlist for this trip to Japan was to see a Japanese baseball game. I’d been watching them on TV while we had TV Japan a couple months ago and it seemed like it would be a really fun and different experience compared to games here in the U.S. Thanks to some help from Naoto’s sister, Naoko, we were able to go to the Tokyo Dome to see the Yomiuri Giants play the SoftBank Hawks! The Japanese baseball teams are named by their corporate sponsors (lame, right?), so Yomiuri is not the name of the town the Giants play for, but it is the name of the corporation that owns them. (The Yomiuri Group owns a bunch of newspapers and a TV network in Japan.) Yomiuri Giants GameIt was pouring the day of the game, so we followed the umbrellas from the train station to the dome, which is referred to as “The Big Egg” by the locals. Yomiuri Giants GameThe pace of the game felt a lot slower than it is here in the States…which, if you’ve ever watched a baseball game, they’re pretty slow already. When I go to Cubs games, I always get a scorecard and keep score. (Fun fact: When I was in junior high, I watched a LOT of baseball and I kept score at home.) Keeping score helps me stay into the game and helps time pass steadily, especially during those middle innings, pitching changes, and long at-bats. With the Giants, I was more interested in the crowds. Japanese baseball fans really get into the game and there are “super-fan” stands in the outfield where everyone wears orange, sings songs, and there is a band! Here’s a little video of the super-fans singing a Giants rallying cry song. The video is a little grainy (sorry!) but the super-fans are sitting to the left of the right field foul post (that yellow post).

And here’s what happened during the 7th inning stretch:

OH! And the weirdest part…the opposing team has a dedicated fan section that gets a whole half-inning of uninterrupted cheering, singing, and band playing. Isn’t that crazy? (And isn’t that just what you’d expect from a country so steeped in respect?)Yomiuri Giants Game, hot dogI have to say, the Tokyo Dome hot dog was kind of disappointing…it was a little cold and the bun was not as amazing as the other hot dog buns I’ve had in Japan. And, I had to eat ketchup on my hot dog because the condiments both came out at once and I had no choice! (Ew!) Yomiuri Giants GameBut I had an amazing ice cream cone, melon and vanilla swirl soft serve (shown above next to Naoto’s beer.) Other food offered included Giants player designed bento boxes, chicken nuggets, curry rice, hamburgers, sushi, pretzels…plenty of ballpark favorites.

Sadly, the Giants lost the game, but it was a fun night at the ballpark just the same.

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Heavenly Hydrangeas

Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja ShrineSeriously…if you can go to Japan in late May/early June, GO! Like I mentioned yesterday, hydrangea season has stolen my heart. Those gorgeous shades of blue and pink and purple, the different varieties and shapes of the blooms…breathtaking.

Our friend Jess, who lives in Tokyo with her husband and son (you may remember her from our Tokyo Cook Out), gave us so many ideas of places to see and things to do. I really think she missed her calling as a tour guide/travel agent. It was her idea to see a few gardens while we were in Japan this year…and none of them disappointed! Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja ShrineWe met up with Jess last Monday at the Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival at the Hakusan Jinja Shrine. Bunkyo hosts five flower festivals throughout the year and now it is my personal goal to see each one. The Hakusan Shrine is the home of over 3000 hydrangea plants! I am not sure I captured each one, but I sure tried. Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja ShrineBunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja Shrine Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival, Hakusan Jinja ShrineHave you ever seen so many varieties all in one place? I’ve been dreaming of a hydrangea garden of my own ever since…maybe someday!

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We’re HOME (And I Already Miss the Donuts)

Mister Donut, MisdoGoodness. The coming home jet lag is far worse than anything I’ve experienced in Japan. Naoto and I got home on Wednesday night, but it’s all been a sleepy fog around here since then. Hopefully this week I can get back on track with sleeping at night and blogging during the day (or at least blogging!)

Our trip was fantastic-Tokyo steals a little bit more of my heart every time we visit and I really loved the break of going to Kyoto and experiencing a bit of the slower pace and the older sites and shops there. In Tokyo, we hit a lot of our “regular” haunts (mainly stationery related!), but we did so many new things that I can’t wait to share with you. Oh, and I know last trip, I was all about the sakura. Well, this time, we happened upon hydrangea season and I think I took a thousand pictures of those beautiful blue blooms. And the DONUTS! We went to Mister Donut every day, of course, and indulged in all sorts of delightful treats, including matcha donuts, which were the special this season.

So stay tuned for another “Japan Month” around here with some garden posts sprinkled in!

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Anniversary in Kyoto

 

 Naoto and I are spending our 9th anniversary together in Kyoto. Hisae (my sister-in-law) met up with us here and spent the day with us and took us to eat a traditional Kyoto lunch. It’s been a nice, slower paced break from Tokyo, but we are trying to pack a lot into our few days here before heading back to Tokyo on Thursday, so no rest for the weary! 

Chat Noir

 Naoto and I have walked past a tiny cafe dozens of times during our many stays at the Sangenjaya b hotel. It’s called the Chat Noir and they specialize in desserts but offer a few breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, too.   We have a standing daily breakfast date with Mister Donut, but on Friday morning we were both craving a real breakfast and we happened to notice the price for a morning set at Chat Noir. ¥150! For a little more than a dollar (the exchange rate is amazing right now, around ¥122/$1) we had a breakfast of two sausages, scrambled eggs, a salad, and toast. I know it may look kind of small, especially compared to American diner standards, but it was definitely enough. The sausages were so tasty. They had a snap that would make a Chicago dog weep with envy and the salad dressing was so good that we went back on Sunday to try it again.

Our bill ended up being ¥1000 because Naoto had a ¥300 coffee and I had a ¥400 iced matcha latte (the drinks are where they “get you”) but that’s still an excellent price for breakfast I’d say.

 The decor is kind of “dated diner” chic but it’s a really comfortable spot to start the day. And…I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that we followed up our meal with a stop at Mister Donut. (Not because we needed to, but because it’s tradition!) 

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