Wednesday, December 31, 2008

my tiny little guard

During the Christmas holiday I'd stay up late and just surf online, talk to friends, or work on projects. Everyone would be sleeping, but there was one little guy who'd stay up with me and keep me company through the late hours. She actually does it every late night (usually only on weekends) that I stay up.

It's Ginger!

She'd usually sit on one of the chairs by the dining room table (where I usually use my laptop), facing away, and keeping an eye on everyone that's coming into the kitchen. She'd stand up as soon as someone comes in. It's really cute.

Once in a while she'd sneak onto the table.

She'd also come and sniff(?) me if I pet her.

And a lot of times she'd just come and sit by my laptop to monitor(?)/check out what I'm reading online!

She's my tiny little guard late at night!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

[Tokyo Fall 2008] Miyazaki's Ghibli Museum in Mitaka

Visiting Miyazaki's Ghibli Museum in Mitaka was one of my must-do things in our trip to Tokyo this year.

The day we purchased the tickets at Lawson's that morning, I was really excited we were finally going to see the museum.

Our admission time was four o'clock. We walked alongside the Inokashira Park according to the signs indicating the museum's direction. It was almost getting dark, and we were getting a little worried, but then eventually saw this:

ghibli museum
It was the head of the big sky robot!

We arrived at the gate, and there were a lot of people already. After we entered the museum, we showed the staff the tickets and they gave us cool limited edition "movie stubs" (that I will find in my luggae and take pictures of soon!)

No cameras allowed in the museum, so there isn't any... but we watched a short film by Miyazki about how Mei (the cute little sister in Totoro) visited Totoro and the whole Totoro world! It was awesome! I think this alone was worth the adimission fee.

After watching the film, we were able to see Miyazaki's work room, his scatches and paintings, all his previous works (including those from his childhood) and such. It was just amazing.

Of course we also visited the gift shop... I was tempted, but no I didn't get anything. Can you belive it?

There was a kid play area with a giant cat bus and kids were having a blast! No cameras allowed still, though. Past the play area we went out side onto the belcony:

water fountain
A water fountain! I did have quite a few sips here.

fish bench
A fish bench with a handle(?) or clock hands(?) of some sort. The bench was very sturdy by the way.

going up
And then we went up here.

And then we saw the big sky robot!

big sky robot
He was giant!

Everyone was taking pictures and staying in line to have their pictures taken with the robot.

big sky robot
You know these were not us. Just a random cute couple that posed with the robot.

A girl was kind enough to offer to take pictures of us, and we did the same for her. She was so cute!

We then walked around the museum.

robot cover
A robot manhole cover.

There was also Kiki's room and behind the bakery areas (from Kiki's Delivery) but it was a little bit too dark for my video camera to pick up anything great.

But then we saw Totoro!


big totoro
I love Totoro! :)

ghibli museum mitaka
It was one of my favorite museums ever!

Oh, and I really loved it when I saw the little figurines that spin and made animation movements. I was very deeply moved.

Monday, December 29, 2008

sort of a strawberry cake

OK this is not a real cake, but I was really craving some strawberry cake the other day, and just didn't have the energy to bake one... hence this "sort of a strawberry cake" pancake cake.

pancake cake
So it has layers of cake, whipped cream, and stawberries. Yumminess.

pancake cake
I was almost tempted to frost the whole "cake"... would have been more real!

I used about 3/4 cup pancake mix, 1/2 cup milk, and an egg, to make the batter for the "pancake cake" (for two stacks/8 pancakes). The cakes were firmer than regular pancakes, and they stacked very well. I'm going to experiment with different "cakes" soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

beefy dog biscuits - twisty sticks

We've been enjoying a lot of yummy food at home this holiday weekend, and I thought I'd make the dogs some yummy treats too.

I saw there was still a couple cans of low sodium beef stock in the cupboard, so I made them some beefy biscuits!

homemade dog treats

Beefy Biscuit Sticks for Dogs

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cups dry milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg
1 1/2 cups low sodium beef stock
some cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, dry milk and garlic powder. Add the egg and mix everything together, and add the beef stock to make dough.

Mix in enough cornmeal to form a stiffer dough (so it's not sticky to the touch). Use your hands to "pick" the dough, a small amount at a time, and roll it with both hands to make little twisty sticks. (Or you can roll the dough out and cut it into shapes.)

Bake in the 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. These sticks are really crunchy ( I think it's the cornmeal that's doing the trick!) I love hearing Nuki make loud noises when he eats these!

homemade dog treats
Hmm... beefy biscuits...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

snow dogs

It snowed quite a bit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day... and I belive a little bit of snow continues to come down here and there throughout the weekend (so far).

Nuki and Yama loves the snow! They'd play and chase each other in the backyard, and occassionally settle down in the snow and eat some of it as a treat.

nuki and yama
Playing in the snow.

nuki and yama
Close up. I love Nuki's expressions!

We do have snow dogs at home!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

sally lunn bread

It's Christmas Day, and a day for more food and naps! :p

sally lunn bread

I made a loaf of Sally Lunn and it was delicious! It was the first loaf of "normal-looking" bread I made from scratch! It actually rised right and looked pretty. I used Betty Crocker's recipe.

Sally Lunn - 1 1/2 Pound Recipe

1 egg plus enough water to equal 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons softened butter
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon bread machine or quick active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer (usually liquids first, then dry ingredients, and lastly the yeast.) Choose basic/white cycle with medium or light crust color.

sally lunn bread

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

christmas eve dinner

We haven't spent Christmas at home for a few years because we had always been out of the country at this time. I'm glad we're home this year, and we're going to have some "Christmas-y" food (rather than ramen, sushi, or yakiniku!)

This is what we're having this year:

Half a maple-glazed ham
Candied yam
Green beans with garlic
Homemade bread
'Traditional' cheesecake
'Oh there's some chcocolate' cheesecake
Spring Alishan mountain tea

I think (and am hoping) it'll be a really yummy dinner!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

corn noodles

Here's a quick meal idea:

Heat a can of cream style corn, then add salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste. Mix the cream of corn with cooked Chinese/Japanese noodles. Fast and yummy!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

[Tokyo Fall 2008] Kichijoji: Satou Fried Beef Meatballs

After visiting the park I relized we still had a couple hours before we had to be at Miyazaki's Ghibli Museum, so I figured I'd try to find us the fried meatballs again.

I remember reading about how someone walked from Ghibli Museum and through the park, toward the "other" side of the park and had the meatballs. I thought I'd find out what direction the museum was, and then walk towrad the opposite direction, where I should eventually run into the meatball place.

I saw this sign:

mitaka ghibli museum sign

Up close:

ghibli museum sign

Now that I knew where to go away from the museum.

John and I walked and walked until we were out of the park, and we didn't see any meatball place! I checked the address and just couldn't find the right chome...

I was really hungry and was thinking of giving up, and just finding a place inside a market street looking area to have lunch. Then I saw a line of people:

waiting in line
There are two secions of the line, with a gap in the middles, so the line does not affect the traffic flow.

I looked up and saw "Satou"! This was the meatball place we had been looking for!

We quickly got in line, and within a few minutes a girl came by and gave us a large ticket for purchasing the Satou special fried beef meatballs. Apparently they only make so many meatballs per batch, and only those with the tickets were "allowed" to purchase, with a limit number of 20 per ticket holder.

waiting in line
We were the last to get a ticket for the next batch. The people behind us would have to wait a little bit longer before they got theirs.

While in line we tried to figure out how many meatballs we'd get. We saw some large fillet looking pieces, some tiny little ones, some medium ones, etc.,but we had not idea exactly how large these "special" ones were... we figured we'd get 10. (The ticket says it's 180yen per 1-4, and 140yen per one if you get more than 5.)

satou beef
When it was finally our turn, we told the girl we'd like 10. She apologized and said she only had 8. The lady behind us said she'd like only 8 (sure you do!) so the girl kindly asked us to wait just a few more minutes.

Fine. If waiting for another couple more minutes gives me fresher meatballs. Why not.

satou beef
So we waited a few more minutes, and learned that you only need to stay in line for the special meatballs; if you'd like other kinds of meatballs or meats, you just walk up and buy.

satou fried beef meatballs
Some sort of fried meatballs.

When it was our time to get our 10 fresh special meatballs, the girls at the counter had put them in two different paper bags.

She handed me my bag of meatballs. OMG. They were BIG!

satou fried beef meatballs
"Satou Special Fried Beef Meatballs!"

The beef in the meatballs was really juicy and tasty, and there were chopped onions, ground black pepper, and other spices. (There might have been other ingredients that I couldn't name.)

Did I say they were BIG? They were big, flavorful, and rich! I ate three and that was all I could take... and we got 10!

I think the special meatballs were worth the wait. You just have to remember not to get too many at a time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

[Tokyo Fall 2008] Inokashira Park - part 1

After visiting Shimokitazawa, John and I got back on the train and arrived at Kichijoji. We were going to find these really yummy beef meatballs near a market street but were unable to find it in time.

We then decided to go to Inokashira Park first.

I had heard that during Sakura season (spring), Inokashira Park would be one of the most beautiful places Japanese people like to visit. Of course there wasn't any sakura flowers left when we were there late November, but we did see a lot of beautiful trees and colorful autumn leaves.

inokashira park
The park was huge and beautiful!

inokashira park
Lots of beautiful trees and happy people.

big tree
Giant maple(?) tree. I was holding my camera, almost at the ground, but still couldn't get a full picture of the tree!

inokashira park
There was a huge and beautiful lake where a lot people would slow down their pace, sit down, and watch the ducks and fish in the lake.

old couple feeding ducks
This old couple was so cute! They were talking, feeding the ducks, and smiling.

It was a very relaxed Tokyo at Inokashira Park!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

homemade dog biscuits with tuna

I made some doggie biscuits with tuna yesterday.

homemade dog treats


2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 "regular" can of tuna (drained... you can save the liquid for use as part of the water content)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
another 1/2 cup white flour (for later)

First preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

a) In a large bowl, mix the wheat flour, white flour (or use all white flour), and cornmeal with a fork.

b) In a smaller bowl, mix the drained tuna, the oil, and the water (1 cup of water, or the liquid from tuna and enough water to make a full cup).

c) Mix together a) and b) to make a dough. Add additional flour to the dough to make it knead-able and not too sticky. I used almost an additional 1/2 white flour while kneading.

d) Sprinkle some flour on the counter, roll out the dough to approx. 1/4 in. thick (and sprinkle more flour on the dough if it's still too sticky to the touch), and use a cookie cutter to cut out biscuits. I used a tiny little one that's about 1 3/4 in. long.

e) Line the biscuits on a cookie sheet (I lined mine with tin foil) and bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes until the biscuits appear dry and their colors have turned darker. Cool the biscuits completely before giving them to the dogs.

The biscuits will not be completely hard when first pulled out of the oven, but they should turn hard and crunchy after they are cooled. You can also leave the biscuits in the oven and allow them to completely dry with the 'leftover' heat if you prefer. You can keep the biscuits longer if they are really dry.

Nuki makes really loud crunching noise when he's enjoying the biscuits!

homemade dog treats

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

[Tokyo Fall 2008] Shimokitazawa - part 2

A couple of days ago I mentioned I really enjoyed the cool little shops in Shimokitazawa, and since Japanese Yen was really "expensive" when we were in Japan, I tried to control myself as not to shop too much... hence I focused more on the interesting little things on the streets, buildings, and signages... hmmm.

There were many small weaving streets in Shimokitazawa, and with each turn there's something cool and fun to look at:

Lovely birds at the side of the street.

NOCE is usually a fairly "elegant-looking" furniture store... and in Shimokitazawa it was in a cool, more "indie" looking building. I believe they intentionally made the building look a bit run-down. (?)

Notice the cute little nordic(?) doll in front of the zakka shop?

Cute duckling cafe sign.

A zakka shop with red fence, a cute little coffee sign, and a bold red coffee and cake sign. The coffee shop was up the stairs on the right.

I believe the shop sells spaghetti. (!)

Cute Zoff (a glasses/contacts chain) sign. Cute cute cute.

Keio Inokashira Line
Even the Keio Inokashira Line sign at the Shimokitazawa station looked vintage, retro, and cool.

I love the streets in Shimokitazawa!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

shell baker

When we were in Japan I saw some pastry shell makers and remembered that I had seen them in second hand stores. I had been trying to find one ever since.

Last week I found one! It was a Black and Decker one, in almost new condition, and it was only $4. Yay!

shell baker exterior
The Shell Baker exterior.

shell baker interior
The Shell Baker interior.

I made some simple strawberry n' whipped cream pastry dessert:

Before baking, remember to plug in the baker to preheat the unit.

phyllo dough pastry sheets
I bought some phyllo dough pastry sheets.

phyllo dough sheets
Fold each sheet into little squares.

phyllo dough pastry
Place the folded sheets into the baking pan (detachable from the baker).

baked phyllo dough sheets
Place the pan into the unit, close the lid and bake for 8 minutes, and I got my pasty shells! OK they didn't look pretty but they were yummy.

I read about the phyllo dough sheets in these bakers... it takes a little bit longer than other kinds of doughs because it's harder to form little shell/cup shape out of these sheets. The instruction (that I found online) indicated that most of the doughs will only take about 2-3 minutes to bake.

phyllo dough pastry dessert
I filled the pastry "shells" with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Simple yumminess!

I think I'll be making a lot of edible shells/cups from now on.