Monthly Archives: May 2014

Japan Does It Better 13: Furu Pote

seasoning packets for friesBack on our first trip together to Japan in 2011, Naoto and I stayed with his mom for a few days. We watched her regular TV programs with her at night and enjoyed a game show about restaurants. A “food expert” (I can’t remember if it was a famous chef or a food critic or what) ate every menu item from a fast food restaurant and rated each item. Sometimes the food expert had high praise, but as you can imagine, the best TV was when the food expert criticized the best sellers on the menus.

Lotteria was a featured restaurant and I became obsessed with going there and trying Japanese fast food. We finally went with Hisae and Norio (my sister-in-law and brother-in-law) and I enjoyed a shrimp burger, fries (better known in Japan as furaido potato) and a melon soda. Hisae got fries too. But she had a little pouch of powder that she sprinkled on top, giving them a salty seaweed flavor. I was amaaaazed (and disappointed that my fries were plain ol’ fries.)

Apparently, furu pote (fries shaken in a bag with seasonings) are popular in several fast food chains in Japan and across Asia.

During our trip in March, we went to Lotteria and I got to try the fries for myself. I got the butter soy sauce flavor packet and Naoto got the seaweed. I enjoyed every bite of my fries and every sip of my melon soda. And still I wondered where this concept was in the US.

For the past three years I’ve thought Americans would eat up furu pote like crazy. (Of course we would have to name it something else.) We could have sour cream & onion flavored fries, BBQ flavored fries, cheddar flavored fries. Where was this kind of thing in the home of the french fry?

Well, last week I came across this article announcing McDonald’s plans to introduce flavor packets for their french fries. If you try it, let me know what you think. I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s since 1996 and a little flavor packet isn’t going to change that. But I’m excited to hear how they taste.

So, even though the idea skipped across the ocean and is finally here in the US, when it comes to flavored french fries, Japan Does It Better!

P.S. To see all of the other JDIB posts, go here.

 

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Cocktail Perfected: Moonlight Cocktail

hasegawa happy hourI’m not sure when it happened, but I have a huge aversion to the color purple lately. I used to like it. Then one day I realized that I have no purple clothes, I never choose purple pens or stationery and all of my purple washi tapes (there are only three rolls) are almost completely untouched. (I mostly use them for grandma mail…because I think she likes purple.) When we were shopping for flowers for the balcony last weekend, I steered clear of the purples and went for the reds, the pinks, the yellows and oranges.

One exception to the purple aversion: cocktails. I’ve been using my violet liqueur pretty often lately for cocktail-making…apparently I love a purple cocktail. On Friday night, I made Aviations for a little “craft club” night with some friends. On Saturday, I made the cousin of the Aviation–the Moonlight. Like the Aviation, it’s very purple, but also very delicious. It has the same basic ingredients as the Aviation, but it replaces the maraschino liqueur with triple sec.

The Moonlight Cocktail

1.5 oz gin (We used North Shore No. 6, a favorite around here.)

.75 oz Cointreau (or another triple sec)

.5 oz créme de violette

.5 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed, always)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Pour into a coupe or a cocktail glass. Enjoy on a spring Saturday night while planning your garden.vintage cocktail glasses

 

 

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Spending the Yen 4: Yubinkyoku Treasures

Tokyo Central Post OfficeOne of my favorite places to shop in Tokyo is the post office. Or, I should say, the many post offices. Of course, my favorite was our “local” PO but it was fun to get out to other locations to see the different offerings. The postcards and washi tape above are from the Tokyo Central Post Office located near Tokyo Station and inside the Kitte shopping and dining center. (Kitte is Japanese for postage stamp.) Jess took us there and smiled as we walked into the post office. She knew it would be a hit. (Thanks, Jess!) Tokyo Central Post OfficeThe Kitte had special washi tape made for its first anniversary. I couldn’t resist. posta collect I also picked out some Posta Collect mailbox letter paper and a pen. It reminded me of the glue stick from last year. Anything that has that classic red mailbox on it is pretty much a guaranteed purchase.japan post officeI loved the spring mailbox postcard and the big postal bear ready to deliver a big message. japan post officeAnd this tiny tape runner is the perfect size for traveling and it’s shaped like a mail truck! japan post officeI bought the fourth set of constellation stamps and my brother-in-law, Norio gave me the other set. It’s Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower. posta collect, japan post officeNorio also gave me these post office stickers. The bike, the mail truck, the mailboxes, the mail bags…they were the best gift ever. I love that Japan has so many postal treats. cherry blossom stamps, Japan post officeI sent out so many postcards using the spring stamps (shown above). Japan really embraces unique shapes in their postage stamps, this time using round and sakura shaped stamps. japan post officeThis fancy mail van was delivering packages to our hotel and Lawson’s convenience store. japan post officeYay for good mail and good mail treasures!

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All Caught Up On Mail

packages with gifts from JapanAs of today, I am all caught up with my mail. If there was an open entry in my Letter Ledger, it was filled. This never happens. I’ve totally blown my resolution to return mail within one week of receiving it. But now that my inbox is empty, I feel like I can reset and have another try at responding more quickly.

I also took some time last week to finally pack up and send off some Japanese treats (of the stationery, snack and hand towel varieties) for friends far and near. I had a great time decorating the packages with some stamps, stickers and washi tape I picked up during my trip. mail artFor the most part, I kept my mail art simple with washi tapes and random bits of paper and stickers. mail artOf course, now that I’m all caught up on mail, I’m behind on laundry, sweeping the floors and reading for book club this weekend. One thing at a time, right?

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Happy Mother’s Day

blue skies in springHappy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there, especially my own!

xo

(This picture was taken yesterday from our balcony. The trees are finally getting leafy!!

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April & May Paper Parcels

Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionI fell off the wagon of sharing my Saturday Morning Vintage monthly paper parcels from my Christmas gift subscription. I’m determined to continue to catch up on sharing, because every month is a delight in my mailbox. So today, I’m sharing April & May and I will go back to February & March soon.

When I get my paper parcel and take it out of the mailing envelope, it always looks like a gift, so pretty and perfectly packaged. I leave it on my desk for a few days to savor it for a little longer, until I just can’t wait to see what’s inside. You can see April’s “gift wrapped” paper parcel above…the theme was Spring and it was one of my favorites so far. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionI don’t know how Xenia gets all the little bits to stay in place, but they always look so pleasing in the cellophane envelope. I especially love how the birds are peeking out from behind the label. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionI am planning to use most of this paper pack for yet-to-be-created garden journal to document our first year of gardening last year. I want to blend the pictures and notes I took of Plot #6 into a pretty mini-book. These larger pieces of old nature journals are going to be perfect background and filler pages. I love the old “Honey Do Pad” and the Yard Work order form. What unique finds! Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionThe old seed packets are so lovely and I love the vintage bird information card, but I have to say the vintage Dennison flower and bird labels (bottom right) are the big treasures here. They are die cut and embossed and their colors are so vibrant, it’s hard for them not to steal the show!Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionI would love to see Xenia’s entire playing card collection because all of the paper packs have a few enclosed and each one is fabulous. She really outdid herself with the floral playing cards though. Can’t you just imagine a 1950s ladies bridge club playing with those pretty round cards?Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionMay’s paper parcel theme was Travel. It was gift wrapped in an old map and tied up with an air mail envelope. I’ve been using up a lot of my air mail envelopes lately. I can’t get enough of those red and blue stripes! Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionAgain, everything was wonderfully displayed in the cellophane…Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionIn the bigger pieces, there were old maps, dictionary pages, postcards, travel cards and vintage air mail envelopes (one with 6 cents of postage printed on it!)Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionThere were old train tickets and a lot of travel game pieces. I love those travel bingo cards (center bottom). My favorite piece from this month’s packet is the round “United States Lines” sticker. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionThe little bits include taxi tickets, stamps, more Dennison labels and a fabulous American Airlines air mail label. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcel SubscriptionAnd the playing cards!! American Airlines, England, Canada, Santa Fe…so many good ones.

Next month is the last month for my subscription, but Naoto already promised me a Paper Parcel anniversary gift so I’m looking forward to getting treats in my mailbox for the rest of the year!

For more information on the Saturday Morning Vintage Paper Parcels, go here.

Have a good weekend!

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Let’s Go To The Garden!

Forest Park Community Garden Yesterday, Naoto had a day off so we headed to the garden for the first time this year to prepare ol’ plot #6 for another year of planting. We were afraid of what we would find, but thankfully, as you can see above, it wasn’t too bad. Actually, compared to the state the plot was in when we inherited it, this was a dream! Naoto and I tackled the weeds (and radishes?) together and we picked up the dried out tomatoes that were left behind last summer. Forest Park Community GardenJust like last year, the community garden had a bunch of mulch delivered for the garden plots. Naoto shoveled two wheelbarrows-full for me to spread over our plot. Forest Park Community Garden,  plot 6As I spread the mulch onto our plot, Naoto worked with a claw contraption and broke up the soil and incorporated the mulch into the old dirt. Forest Park Community Garden,  plot 6I used the claw while he was refilling the barrel–that thing provides a nice workout. Forest Park Community Garden,  plot 6Less than an hour later, our plot is ready for planting. Now we just need to decide what we are planting…

I’ve linked this post up with Mary’s monthly link-up celebrating nature. Thanks, Mary!

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Japan Does It Better 12: Hot Dogs

Japan Does It Better, hot dogsI’ll be the first to admit that today’s JDIB post is rather controversial…especially since Chicago is (unarguably) the hot dog capital of the world. I do love a good Chicago-style, dragged through the garden (onions, tomatoes, relish, cucumbers, sport peppers and a pickle spear along side mustard and celery salt, never ketchup!) hot dog on a poppyseed bun.

But there’s something about the Japanese hot dog that’s just better. First, the dog is nicely seasoned. It has more flavor than any American hot dog I’ve ever tried. It’s not quite spicy like a Polish sausage, but there’s flavor in there! And it’s really juicy and has a nice snap. (No one likes a mushy hot dog, Oscar Meyer!) But the best part–the part that highlights the Japan dog and helps it shine–is the bun. Oh the bun! I love a good poppyseed bun, but this is so much better! The texture is light and fluffy with a nice toasty “crust”. And the bun is often grilled to perfection, making it the ideal vehicle for a simple dog and a little mustard.

So, as much as I love my Chicago dogs…I have to say, even with something as American as a hot dog, Japan Does It Better!

The picture above was taken at the cook out. I know the hot dog is blurry, but it was the best I could do with my mouth watering.

To see my other JDIB posts, go here.

P.S. No hate mail, please…I’m lookin’ at you Chicago & NYC!

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Tokyo Cook-Out

BBQ in TokyoWe were the lucky guests at a cook-out in Tokyo hosted by Naoto’s Willamette University friends, Jessica and Keiichi. There are actually quite a few Willamette grads in and around Tokyo, so Jessica organized a mini reunion for everyone. It was great for Naoto to see his old college classmates and it was great for me to be able to be around English speakers for awhile (which also gave Naoto a much-needed break from translating for me!) It was a perfect day for a barbecue–sunny and warm.

BBQ in TokyoBBQ in TokyoWe met in a park near the water and Keiichi and his friend Shige-san did most of the grilling. Keiichi and Shige take their grilling very seriously. There was a ton of grilling equipment all around our picnic site. We enjoyed hot dogs, sausages, shrimp, asparagus, pumpkin, yakisoba and more. BBQ in TokyoKeiichi made his famous chicken for us…it’s a secret recipe that involves buttermilk and a lot of garlic cooked in a dutch oven over hot coals. BBQ in TokyoIt comes out looking like this and tasting incredible! The meat was really tender and had so much flavor! BBQ in TokyoIt was great meeting and catching up with everyone on such a perfect spring day! (Those are the Willamette grads pictured above.)

Thanks to Jess & Keiichi for organizing the reunion!

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Postal Museum Japan

Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumOne of my favorite activities from our most recent trip to Tokyo was our visit to the Postal Museum Japan. The museum recently moved from its old location into a shiny new floor at the Tokyo Skytree, making it super convenient for visitors. It’s not a large museum, but we spent a couple of hours inside looking through Japan’s interesting postal past.

We looked at postal transportation (original cart & basket, and motorbike delivery)…Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumPostal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumPostal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumAnd old postal uniforms…
Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumPostal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumA fantastic letter sorter…

Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumOld Japanese Post advertising…Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumOld letter bins and bags…Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumDetailed postmarks…Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumPostal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal Museum
And there was an array of old mailboxes…Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumJapanese postal museumJapanese postal museumJapanese postal museumAren’t they beautiful? I love all of the floral gold details on the last one.

As if the museum wasn’t wonderful enough, there was a mini post office in the gift shop and a modern mailbox at the exit. All mail sent from the museum gets stamped with a special Tokyo Skytree/Postal Museum postmark.Postal Museum Japan, Japanese Postal MuseumOf course that meant taking some time to write a few postcards at the museum. (Thankfully I had my tiny blue traveling address book with me!)Japanese postal museum Japanese postal museumI think our entrance fees might have been the best ¥300 we spent all vacation! If you are in Tokyo and you love all things mail, you have to visit. Send me a postcard! 🙂

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