Thursday, October 30, 2008

The fight of our lives

It's really late here, about midnight, and I wasn't going to post today. I'm suffering from major election fatigue, and I'm thousands of miles away! Like most people, I am ready for this to be over.

But then I saw this video.

I posted earlier this month about my two miscarriages, two much wanted pregnancies that ended just as they were beginning. My desire to be a mother, and the difficulties I've faced along the way, have influenced my intention to vote for candidates who support universal healthcare and reproductive choice. These particular stories about mothers whose desire to give birth safely, only to find themselves up against so-called "pro-life" laws, shocked me to the core.

Laws that give personhood to a fetus could have sent me to trial for murder. Any woman who has a glass of wine during pregnancy, or a cup of coffee, or who misses a prenatal vitamin or goes jogging, for heaven's sake - and then has a miscarriage - is at risk of criminal charges under these laws. Who knows? Maybe not eating a diet sanctioned by the Health Department counts, or getting pregnant later in life and delivering a baby with a disability. Once a fetus has "personhood" in the eyes of the law, its mother ceases to.

Oppose fetal personhood laws. Don't criminalize miscarriage.

Vote for Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stupid good: vegetable bread

Oh, this stuff is good. I made a loaf for dinner tonight, alongside baked salmon and vegetables and a big salad. The recipe comes from the Deaf Smith Country Cookbook, which, sadly, is out of print. If you can find a used copy, buy it. In the meantime, try this.

4 c whole wheat flour
1 T active dry yeast
1 t table salt

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c raw honey
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 c hot water or veggie broth

1 large carrot, grated
1/4 c chopped parsley
1 c cooked bulgur, buckwheat, or other grain

Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine egg, honey, and oil. Add the egg mixture and hot water or broth to flour mixture, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Combine well with hands or mixer.

Let stand 10 minutes.

Add the vegetables and cooked grain to the dough and combine fully. Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled 2 quart casserole dish. Allow to rise in a warm place for one hour or until almost doubled. Preheat oven to 350.

Bake in casserole dish for 45 minutes to one hour or until done. Cool partially, then turn out onto a plate to cool completely. Delicious with hearty bean stew or just about anything.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eek!

So the fruit here is really expensive, and when I saw a bunch of red apples for 100 yen (about a dollar and sinking fast), I bought three. And I got a bonus!


Again. Eek! Good fruit, though.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wait, where am I?

Is it Japan?
Is it Thailand?
Or is it Freeport Freaking MAINE?
We had a big Saturday - and all these pictures are from that day, by the way. Check it: I knew there were LL Bean stores in Japan, but I didn't know there was one in Yokohama! We happened upon it, completely by chance, and I was so glad to see Bean bags and Maine maple syrup that it was all I could do not to start hugging the tiny Japanese employees. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So remember Irish, my friend and knitting student of pumpkin soup fame? (Yeah, fame. This blog is a regular Page Six over here.) I finally got a picture of her and her husband Steve: All this and she can knit, too! Steve is a lucky South Carolinian*.

They invited Josh and me to join them in Yokohama on Saturday for a Thai festival, and we jumped at the chance. Both of us love Thai food, and we've been meaning to explore the city more. So we got up early and met a friend of theirs at the train station. All in all our group consisted of seven people - the two of us, Irish and Steve, their coworkers James and Kaori, and another friend whose name escapes me. He took this picture. Good looking bunch, eh?

We ate a ton of Thai food which I did not photograph because I was too busy shoveling chopstickfuls (chopsticksfuls?) into my mouth and poking Josh in the eyes to fend him off my plate. Yeah, it was pretty good. We'd like to visit Thailand sometime soon, maybe even for Christmas - we'll see.

We spent some time perusing the upscale red brick shopping center nearby, and upon leaving I got excited when I saw a poster for chocolate milkshakes with a cherry on top. Then I got closer and realized I wasn't looking at a milkshake... but a PILE of MEAT. It was at this point, upon exposing this WILLFUL and UNNECESSARY DECEPTION for which there is NO EXCUSE, that my mood began to deteriorate. Josh wisely suggested a change of scenery to take my mind off of it.

There's an amusement park in Yokohama which features a giant ferris wheel. The Cosmo Clock 21 was the world's largest when it began running in 1989, and now it's just freaking big.
We got some great shots of the city, although the grey weather was a bit of a bummer. Lucky for us it stayed cool and dry all day.


We went on a roller coaster too - but in lieu of a description, I give you Sarcastivid with your host, Cranky McBuzzkill: video
It goes through a pool, then underground! But Mr. McBuzzkill is right about one thing - it was a little short. It was like AAAHTHISISSOCOOLOHMYGODwhat? It's over? Oh.

After the shenanigans we walked to Queen's Square, a big tower of a mall with mostly Western stores and restaurants. KFC is huge here, for some reason. We saw an Adidas, an Eddie Bauer, and a couple others, before we spotted and took off running for LaLa Bean. There were backpacks, there was flannel, there were giant, overpriced bottles of Maine maple syrup - not the Canadian imposters we get at the commissary (sorry, Nadine**). We didn't actually BUY anything, but whatever. Now we can go whenever we want! HEAVEN.

Here we are on top of the ferris wheel, just another day in Japan.

*Sidebar re: Steve - this man is fantastic. He has at least one Master's degree, teaches in an MBA program on base (when he's not doing his Navy job), can speak intelligently about everything from ammunition to crochet AND he can occasionally be heard shouting, in an excellent southern accent, "quit puttin' her head in your mouth!" to the dog. Irish and Steve, Josh and I hit it off right away and I'm FURIOUS that they're moving.

**Not that sorry. GO MAINE!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stupid Good: Dulce de Leche

It's time for our first installment of Stupid Good, the column in which I chronicle the latest best thing going. For its inaugural, I present to you:
Haagen Dazs Extra Rich Light Dulce de Leche ice cream!



Dude, this stuff is stupid good. It's a rich vanilla ice cream with a ripple of caramel running through it like a beam of gold through a diamond mine. It's sold in an impossibly small (like the image above) pint, which has been known (in our house) to spontaneously empty itself after we've only had afewbitesIswearwherediditgo??!?

I usually avoid super-sweet ice cream, but this one is everything I want it to be and more. We were enjoying a bit last night when I asked Josh whether I should put it away, or we should just eat it all. His response?

"Let's just say...don't put it away."

Friday, October 24, 2008

The heart of the house


Mom, Dad, and Rudy in Maine this summer

A number of years ago today, my mom was born. I'm told she didn't know until much later that she would even be my mom, but I'm not sure I believe it.

What can I say about Mom? This artist, photographer, creator (not a reactor) with mad Trivial Pursuit skills and an uncanny bullshit detector? It's difficult to know where to begin - so I'll begin in the kitchen.

Someday I'll be able to cook like she does. A running joke in our house when I was growing up was that there could be a lemon, a tomato, and a jar of peanut butter in the pantry and Mom would come up with a gourmet meal - one we all ate around the table, by candlelight, for as far back as I can remember. She taught me about seasoning, creativity, and - when you use a recipe - reading it ALL THE WAY THROUGH before you begin, young lady. She bakes like a pro too; don't get me started on the key lime cheesecake.

In my lifetime I've seen her sew clothes, knit, make jewelry, paint, sculpt, weld, and design her homes in innovative and stunning ways. She went back to school as an adult, with three young kids, and got a degree in art, proving to us in the meantime that we could do anything and it was never too late. She has always been an anchor, a rock, for her family of seven siblings, her kids, and her friends. And she somehow manages to do all this without taking psychic self too seriously.

She also doesn't so much like having her picture taken.

I wish I could say more, could find the words to express how she has given me life, again and again, has been my greatest teacher and biggest fan. I wish I could fly to South Carolina right now and give her a great big hug - that one I wish nearly every day. But it will have to do to say:

Happy Birthday, Mama. And many more.



Note: The title is from an Alanis Morissette song about her mother. It's beautiful - go listen to it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Looking the part

Back in early October, Josh and I went to an on-base bazaar that happens once a year. It's quite something, actually - dozens of vendors show up and take over a huge gym and every floor of a five-story parking garage, selling everything from furniture to towels, Japanese antiques and cheap trinkets from China. It's basically a flea market, but a nice one.

We were unsuccessful in our furniture hunt, sad to say - there were some really nice pieces just outside our price range, and a couple things we would've bought that someone else nabbed first. We did get lucky and find a couple of Christmas gifts, though, and some things for the house.

And kimonos! This was so much fun. We tried on a couple ensembles apiece, and settled on the ones we liked best. Neither of these is heirloom quality or anything, and mine is used, but they were so beautiful that we didn't care. Here they are:




Cute, no?

That happened to be the day on which we'd scheduled dinner with our great neighbors, and they mentioned how funny it was that Americans come here and buy all kinds of things that Japanese people would never have. Kimonos hanging on the wall, for example, and this piece of furniture called a step tansu. Good for Americans to prove they've lived in Japan, but not for Japanese people - who generally want American style furniture.

We mentioned the kimonos, and she asked when we were going to wear them - and we realized we had no idea! OOPS. She suggested "when you get out of the shower?" and I had to laugh.

We still haven't worn the damn things, except to show people on Skype video chats. But whenever we want to look the part, we can - the part of silly Americans in Japan, that is.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

But I don't have any fat men!

I just finished reading a review of a new diet book over at Bye Bye, Pie - June GonnaEatThat is giving away a copy of Dear God Let Me Lose Fat Amen to a lucky reader.

So, intrigued by June's review, I copied and pasted the title into a Google search. This is what I got:

Oh Google, is there nothing you cannot do?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Futo, Izu


Last week after our trip to Chinatown, Josh said that he wanted to do something more adventurous and start exploring Japan. We checked a couple of schedules and found a snorkel trip on Saturday - and signed up! So at six o'clock Saturday morning we left the house, rented wetsuits and snorkel gear in hand, and boarded the bus for the Izu peninsula.

What a day. The ride was 3 1/2 hours long (!) and took us up to Yokohama and around mainland Japan to Futo. Mt. Fuji was visible for much of the ride, so we got our first good views of the volcano. It is already peaked with snow at this time of year - the climbing season is only July and August. I wish we could have gotten a better photo.

Izu is known for snorkel and scuba opportunities, and it features gorgeous cliffs, aquatic coves, and tropical fish. We suited up and headed for the water.


Unfortunately we couldn't find an underwater camera, so I can't show you all the cool fish we saw. Instead I will show you silly pictures of us in our gear.

Josh said I look like a Sea World employee. I promised him I wouldn't publish what I said he looked like.

Snorkeling was fun, but the chop was strong and the currents were rough - I managed to cut three toes on the rocks. After a couple hours in the water, we took showers and headed off to explore.

Turns out most of the so-called hiking trail was located on top of a freaking mountain. We saw some stairs and headed up

and up

but it was worth it.



Then I saw some giant spiders up there, and

well, that was that. Anyway, we were hungry, so we sat on the beach to eat the PB&Js I brought. Josh and I have a tradition of putting tortilla chips in our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - it's the same picnic lunch we had the day we got engaged. (AWWWWWW...) Josh was really, really into it on this day.

Hee hee hee! I can't believe he lets me post these.

There was only one other couple on the trip with us, and they were NOT having a good time. Nor were they friendly, but that's beside the point. Since everybody was done snorkeling, our guide took us to another part of the peninsula for wasabi ice cream, which is a local specialty. Josh decided to brave it, and I played it safe with cantaloupe flavor. They were both really, really good! The wasabi came on sweet, then warmed up quite a bit at the end, and the melon tasted just like it should. They were even good together.

Ugh, I'm making a really weird face there. Let's see...

That's better.

We kind of thought that might be the day, but our guide was really great. He gave us an hour to explore the Dogashima Orchid Sanctuary (web site in Japanese only but the photos are great!) Josh and I left our cranky cohorts behind and spent the hour on the campus. That's where we met the parrot, by the way. :)




The place was incredible. There are greenhouses everywhere, countless orchid varieties, a research and development center, and displays like the peacock above, made entirely of white blossoms. There are some really weird plants too, like the carniverous guy pictured here


and this, um, well, this.

Yeah.

Moving on from the vaguely pornographic plants, there was an 80 foot suspension bridge called "Love Call Bridge." I wish I knew the story behind it, but it was pretty incredible to see.


I wish we could have gotten a photo of us together on the bridge. We had such a great time goofing off together and seeing the flowers! These will have to do.


I do have one shot of us together - there's a tripod set up and a sign which reads "Best Photo Spot" in several languages. Don't think I haven't chided Josh about these socks.

What an incredible day! When we got back to the bus, we discovered that our unfriendly companions had spent the hour sleeping on the bench seats. I think maybe this wasn't the trip for them.

It got COLD on the way home - the wind picked up and the twisty drive was rough on my motion sickness. But the views of Fuji in the sunset were amazing - worth stopping the car for a picture. I had to take my hat off in the wind, though.

Just the little part of Japan we've seen has been amazing. During the ride down, we saw rice fields, bundles of straw hanging in the sun, and dozens of fish spinning on a big contraption, drying in the afternoon air. There is so much more to see and do, and we're going to get to as much of it as we can. Care to join us?