Dinner in Okinawa: Watanji

We found a great izakaya near our hotel in Naha while we visited Okinawa. Watanji was a great local spot that had different spins on Okianawan favorites. Above is Naoto pointing out his name on the chalkboard. Apparently one of the servers shared his name. In true izakaya style, we got a bunch of small plates to sample. One of my favorite dishes was this smoky potato salad. We also had Okinawan yam tempura (dipped in honey!)This was Okinawan pork in soy broth. It was soooo delicious, once I pulled off the layer of fat. Japanese eat a lot of fatty meats, something I never can do. I know there’s a lot of flavor there, but man…texture issues! We lightened things up next with some fresh tuna. And then hopped back into the heavier foods with these Okinawan pork sausages!Then we had gyoza with lots of extra crispy bits. And finally…deep fried taco rice with the most amazing taco sauce on top. It was all of the ingredients of taco rice, packed into a little ball and fried! I want to recreate this so badly. The izakaya was very local but the staff was very welcoming, as with most places in Japan. Naoto stuck with Orion beer and I did a shikuwasa and soda…so refreshing!

I think I have one final Japan post…though I probably have plenty of other stationery things to share. Stay tuned! And happy weekend!

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Dispatches From Home Part 7

Still here at home…Presley is thrilled. Illinois is opening up a bit more this week. Outdoor seating at restaurants is going to be allowed soon and while we won’t be partaking, I’m glad for the restaurant owners. We will continue doing carry-out for now. It’s so funny looking at this picture now, us walking in coats! It has been so hot this week that Naoto is anxious to turn on the air conditioner. We probably should, but I feel like we just opened the windows! I got all of the pots on the lanai planted this week. I am so excited about my choices this year…I say that every year I suppose, but I really tried to lean into the part-sun plant options this year so I can hopefully enjoy blooms all season. I’ll share some pictures as soon as I clean up the rest of my potting mess and get the lights strung up this week. It’s not a fully functional lanai without the party lights! I’m behind on reading for the year. I set a goal of thirty books for 2020 and you’d think I’d have finished by now with all this time on my hands, but I haven’t been able to concentrate well enough to really stick with anything. I’ve finished our book club books and that’s about it. I know I owe the blog a book post, but even writing about what I’ve been reading might be too boring to share!Celebrating birthdays and holidays on FaceTime isn’t the same, but it is still nice to see everyone’s faces and to do a proper toast. We celebrated Karen a couple of Sundays ago and I made this little invitation typed on some kaishi-paper and some sparkling wine stickers. And in good mail news, I received my Last Week Tonight stamps and I can’t wait to use them! Are there any other John Oliver fans out there? I just started watching Community (I’d watched the first few episodes back when it aired) and I’d totally forgotten he was on that show!

I think that’s all to report. Next week is our anniversary and I’m trying to coordinate a bedroom painting party this weekend, which means I need to finish cleaning the bedroom. Hopefully I can report next time that we’ve actually painted…it’s been a struggle.

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In My Mailbox: Treats From Hawaii

Naoto’s host family in Hawaii sent us a care package last week and it was so full of Aloha goodness! I got some new flip flops (or slippahs) for lounging on the lanai, a wallet that I can use for my cash at craft shows, and some very kawaii face masks! Naoto is going to wear the blue one to Trader Joe’s! There was also this sweet little wallet made from Japanese fabric. It will make a nice stamp or business card holder. (One cannot have too many traveling stamp options!) And there were these fun handmade cards and a Japanese bookmark. And…my favorite–this Japanese clutch. Isn’t it so fun? It has a large pocket behind the kiss clasp section and is more than big enough for my phone. I am so excited to leave my home again someday just so I can carry this. Along with those treats, they sent all sorts of Hawaiian snacks. (And some Japanese snacks for Naoto, including baby clam instant miso soup.) I have mixed feelings about mochi, but we are really enjoying this sakura mochi this weekend.

Naoto is so excited to have a little taste of Hawaii at home and as always, I love a good surprise in the mail.

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Plot 6 in 2020

plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park, community gardenI am a little scared to talk about Plot 6 today because we’ve had torrential rains this weekend and there’s a ton of flooding around town…I can only imagine what our plot looks like right now. Certainly any seeds we planted on Friday have not stayed in their tidy rows! This is the “before” picture. We were surprised to find that we didn’t have many weeds creeping in. Other plots, as you can see in the background, are COVERED…ugh. We pulled weeds and then topped off our plot with some fresh compost before we planted. So far we have:

  • rosemary
  • lavender
  • Black Krim tomato
  • 2 Brandywines
  • Mortgage Lifter tomato

And we planted seeds for:

  • parsley
  • chives
  • mizuna (Japanese mustard greens)
  • onions
  • nasturtium
  • zinnias

We still need to plant:

  • edamame
  • basil
  • another tomato (I said four was plenty but I lied…)

I thought I had some back-up edamame and basil seeds but it looks like we need to go shopping for some which is easier said than done right now. I wish I’d ordered some seeds online before this whole thing started. Sigh. So many lessons learned for the next pandemic.

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Bread Mail

sandwich letter set, japanese stationeryI ate a lot of sandwiches in Japan during our last visit. Sandwiches in Japan are among my favorite things. (This should be a #JDIB post…I need to look through my pictures.) To commemorate the many sandwiches, I bought this “sando” letter set while we were in Okinawa.

Last week on Instagram, Assembly of Text did a little challenge for writing a letter about your relationship with bread. My pen pal, Nic, and I had a little online chat about the challenge but I decided to write her a bread love letter, too. bread stickersThen I remembered that I have a little collection of bread stickers to share. I bought these at Loft a couple years ago and found them tucked away in my Japan hoard drawer. They have a really nice texture and really pretty, soft illustrations of Japanese bakery items, including strawberry bread, which I regret to say I’ve never tried.Japanese bread stickers, croissant, Japan bakeryAren’t they so cute and carby? I had these little cats with cakes envelopes so I figured they are on-theme enough. The silver foil fork and the tiny paw reaching for the cake slay me. The sandwich letter set isn’t made for a verbose letter, but it was enough room to tell Nic all about my love of sandwiches in Japan. Japanese bread stickers, washi stickers, watercolor stickersAlso found in my Japanese hoard drawer…these washi bread stickers! Japanese bread stickers, washi stickers, watercolor stickersThey’re made of washi, so they have a really pretty transparency. It’s hard to tell from my pictures, but the colors are almost neon, which makes the browns of the bread much more fun. I used these to decorate the envelope.hightide washi tape, pancake washi tape, japanese pancakeThen I remembered this Japanese pancake washi tape I bought in Tokyo that would fit in with the carb theme. hightide washi tape, pancake washi tape, japanese pancakeI stuck a little piece on the envelope flap and wrote #carbmail on the envelope, though I really like #breadmail better.

This was a fun little morning activity that made me look through my stash to see what could fit. It also reminded me (yet again) that not every letter needs to be long and in detail about my day or about staying home or pandemic fears. As a matter of fact, it was a nice break NOT to talk about the weirdness of now.

 

 

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Okinawa Part 3: Orion Beer

This day was the highlight of Naoto’s trip, can you tell? It’s called Orion Happy Park for a reason! We were scheduled for the first tour of the day and we totally lucked out–we were the only ones on our tour! We felt so fortunate, as the next tour was packed. Before going on the tour, we spent some time in the little Orion museum. I love looking at old packaging, so it was neat to see how the Orion cans and bottles have changed over the years. There is nothing better than a retro label–I especially loved the cherry blossom editions. We started by learning about the grains used in Orion beer. Naoto was a very involved student, asking a lot of questions of our personal tour guide.

We learned a little bit about the science behind the brewing process, like when the mixture actually becomes alcohol. This display shows how many cans Orion fills in one minute. Isn’t that crazy?!

The bottling and canning processes were so interesting. I’ve been on a few brewery tours and I always love watching the bottles get filled and topped and labeled. This part made me so happy and also felt so Japan. The floor of the factory is blue, like the ocean. The crane is pink, the color of coral. And the walls are painted the color of the sand. The factory celebrates Okinawa in every way. 
After the tour, we were able to go to the tasting room to enjoy a sample. I don’t drink beer, but they had a delicious bottled tea. Oh and the ORION SNACKS!! It’s peanuts and rice crackery things covered in a mix of almond cheese, turmeric, curry, chili, onion, and garlic powders, paprika, pepper, soy sauce, beer yeast, sugar. They are so crunchy and good. I’m not a huge curry person, but these are just a perfect little drinking snack. We bought a big bag of them in the little snack-sized portions like you see above. We’re almost done with them and we’ve been looking for more here in the US to no avail. Sigh…guess we’ll have to go back to Japan someday for more. I think Naoto would toast to that!

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Dispatches from Home Part 6

peonies April showers bring May blog posts…eventually. May has been so busy! April flew by, and May is doing the same. Everything is kind of nuts right now. At work, we are finally moving back to our building. It’s still all kind of in flux because permits are taking longer since many offices are still shut down in Illinois, but most likely, we’ll be all moved into our office by the end of the month. It’s SO exciting. We went furniture shopping this week and I got to see the office today! I’m not sure what June will look like, since I’m sure we’ll still be doing a combination of working from home and going into the office, but it will feel so good to finally get settled into my space. National Card & Letter Writing Month went out with a bang–I sent out 37 cards and letters and I am still going strong with letter writing in May. Still poking through my vintage postage collection. These strong women ones are some of my favorites. Naoto brought home two bouquets of peonies this week. The pink ones at the top are just now opening and the coral ones turned white and are almost spent. They motivated me to clean my desk and to work there more so I could enjoy the flowers. It really is the little things… The first weekend in May was so perfect! (It frosted and snowed the following weekend, but we don’t have to talk about that!) We were able to shop for flowers for our lanai and we spent almost all day Saturday outside planting, reading, and playing cards until we couldn’t see anymore. Naoto learned Uno and proceeded to beat me at it all night. Beginner’s luck!

I hope you are doing well! I feel like the longer this goes on, the more lax people are getting… I am happy to stay home because it’s so tiring being out, remembering a mask, remembering not to touch your face, remembering to stay 6 feet away… Plus with Naoto’s job, I still feel like we’re both at risk, or at risk of being carriers, so it’s just best that I stay tucked away for awhile longer.

 

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Write On Check-In

write_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postageHow is everyone’s letter writing coming along? As of today, I’m ahead of the curve and hoping to finish strong. The last week is always the hardest because I’m either behind or desperately losing steam. (But it’s not like I don’t have extra time right now!) I’ve been having a lot of fun with rubber stamps and vintage postage this month. I love a good stamp collage, themed or not.

In a huge mail fail, I was in a rush to get a birthday card out to my coworker on Saturday morning and I forgot to put a stamp on it. Oops. write_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postage, easter mailwrite_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postagewrite_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postageDear Hancock, quarantine mail, write_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postageI couldn’t resist ordering some pandemic cards from Dear Hancock earlier this month, even though I’m still making my way through my greeting card collection. Does anyone have enough self-control to not buy more cards and stamps even though you have plenty at home?

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Dispatches From Home Part 5

zoom dinner How’s everyone doing? I know some places in the US and beyond are opening up a little bit. I can’t imagine how nervous I’m going to feel when that starts happening here. Right now, we’re still staying home with no end in sight. I’m sure a slow opening is coming sometime in May…probably towards the end of May, but hey, what do I know? zoom dinnerLast week was kind of a week of treats. We haven’t been dining out much because we’re more than content cooking at home and eating our Trader Joe’s food since groceries are aplenty around here. But on Friday, one of our favorite places, Goldyburgers, re-opened for carry-out and a group of friends decided we should all order from Goldy’s and dine on Zoom together. You guys, it was so fun. I miss dining out so much. Not really because of the food, but because we usually bump into people we know and then the night takes us to unexpected places. Happenstance is really missing from life right now. goldyburgers at homeBut a planned dinner together was great, and my homemade Manhattan was delicious and it was good to catch up with everyone. Spilt MilkAnother treat from last week–we ordered cookies, breakfast sandwiches, and pie from Spilt Milk, our favorite local pie place. Their snickerdoodles are the best I’ve ever had and seriously, just to be able to get a couple familiar treats makes you almost forget about this current situation. I don’t think we need to go out for treats every day, but it felt like such a delicacy to have take-out and cookies after being away from them for so long. Kimberly at the office Presley and the computerI had to go into the office for a bit last week too. I don’t mind going into the office. Some things are impossible to do from home, so it’s good to get caught up when I can. When I work from home, it’s usually from bed (or from the living room) and Presley is monitoring my progress. (She’s such a demanding manager!) I am going to miss sleeping in until 9, but I am looking forward to going back to the office someday…april calendarI can’t believe April is two-thirds over. I am so bummed that we won’t get to experience the cherry blossoms again this year. (Last year the cold spring kept them from blooming and we’ve been planning a Chicago hanami ever since!) It’s quite depressing that the weather is finally warming up and our time outside will be limited. I’m trying to make the most of it by planning our garden plot and shopping for plants online, but it’s not the same as visiting the garden shops in person and picking out the perfect plants. I don’t want to end on such a depressing note, so I will say that I’ve been enjoying letter writing and reading again. And I just started season six of 30 Rock and I’m so glad I’m finally watching it! It makes me laugh right before I go to bed and honestly, my dreams have been slightly less weird since I started it. (Have you been having weird dreams, too? Apparently it’s a thing.) 

I hope you are staying safe and healthy! Please let me know how things are going in your state or country! It’s been so fascinating writing so many pen pals and learning about their stay-at-home standards. 

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Spritzers with Pritzker

Last month, I heard this story on NPR about “Beers with Beshear,” a happy hour centered around Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s daily Covid-19 briefings. So I decided to modify it for my own governor’s briefings and call it “Spritzers with Pritzker” or since it’s Twitter #spritzerswithPritzker.

On March 26, at 2:30pm, I whipped up a Campari Spritz for the Governor’s briefing. Every day since then, I’ve made some sort of Spritz cocktail (both alcoholic and spirit-free.) It’s given me something light to do every day, something to look forward to. It’s been nice to have a little routine that is forcing me to look at recipes and make something every day. Spritzes are perfect afternoon drinks because they typically have a low alcohol content and are apertifs, before-meal drinks that stimulate the appetite.

Yesterday, much to my shock, the governor gave me a shout-out at the beginning of his briefing! I couldn’t believe it! Because of a mix-up last summer where a local politician thought I was Adam (because my handle is @adamihasegawa,) I had my bio name written out as Adam I. Hasegawa, so the governor and everyone else thought I was a guy. (Since then, I’ve changed my name to #spritzerswithPritzker to stop the confusion.) But I came clean to WTTW when they interviewed me for this article. It’s been a fun couple of days chatting about cocktails and laughing a lot. 

So the pressure is on to keep up my project! I decided to create a page here on the site where I can share all the recipes all in one place and for those who aren’t on Twitter or Instagram and may want to join in. (The intro part is pretty much just this post repeated.) I highly recommend a little afternoon break, whether it’s a cup of tea, or a cocktail, or some fancy water. These are trying times and we need to take care of ourselves and of each other.

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