Good morning!

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Porridge and honey from Pret. And a cafe latte. Mmm.

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Just like Thanksgiving dinner

In my winter-long quest to find vegetables other than zucchini that might take place as the standby vegetable, I pulled out this recipe from Thanksgiving.

A few years back I made the standard Campbell’s soup mushroom and green bean casserole. It was delicious but not quite healthy and people really seemed to like it..

But this year I wanted to try NOT to add to my family’s high blood pressure and cholesterol, so I found a much better recipe that actually turned out tastier than the canned soup version! And in this one, there’s only one canned ingredient – French fried onions.

You cook green beans on the stove or boil them in water. In a separate pan, saute sliced mushrooms in a little oil and add seasoning (I used garlic salt and Italian herb mix). When you’re ready to eat, combine the two and sprinkle some French fried onions on top!

Voila! And there you have a really yummy veggie side dish that is not zucchini.

Only a couple sad green beans remained at the end of this meal.

 

As you can see, we had other food too. Really, really good fish and the quick cooking risotto!

Not in Japan: Takoyaki!

Didn’t take very long for us to find a little slice of Japan here, did it?

We found a takoyaki stand outside a grocery store that sells a ton of the yummy Japanese foods we ‘discovered’ overseas.

The tako balls are not as big as the ones we had in Japan, and they did not have quite as large slices of octopus inside them, but they were warm and delicious nonetheless, on a chilly night in November (yea, yea, I’m a little behind here. It’s shopping season!).

Takoyaki made in California.

So you can compare, here’s our takoyaki from a stand in Tokyo, Japan.

Japanese takoyaki. In Japan.

Which one looks better to you?

Message me or leave a comment if you want the address of the takoyaki stand! We drove by the other night and it wasn’t there, though, so it might not be there all the time.

Home again: Things I miss about Japan

We’ve been home one day and I already miss some things about Japan.

1. The efficiency of escalators. People in Japan stand to the left so those in a hurry can pass on the right. By the time we got to LAX, that habit was gone. I was all ready to shove some people to the side so I could plow my way to customs. Some of the older Japanese people were habitually standing to the left, and I appreciate that.

2. Small and large flush options for toilets. This just make sense. Why waste the extra water if you only need a tiny flush?

3. Effective public transportation and walkable streets. In Japan, we walk, take a bus or train to get anywhere. It didn’t take long to remember how horrible traffic can be.

4. Book stores everywhere! Why doesn’t America read? I don’t even care if it’s chick lit or graphic novels. We need more book stores.

5. Healthy portions of healthy food. The only time I felt stuffed was when we ate pizza — 4 mid-sized pizzas for 4 people is too much. Every other meal was healthy, light and small enough that I could eat it all and be happily content. Tacoyaki, granted, not super healthy, but OK if you only eat one or two and share the rest.

6. Fashion. Everyone has a style and people put on makeup before they leave the house. I could use more fashion pressure. Also, dressing seasonally. It’s October. Why am I in Rainbows and a tank top?

7. Non-tourists taking pictures. I’m not the only one!

Japan, I miss your crowded streets, flashy lights and noisy cities!

Day 9: Seeing green… ribbit!

Saved up an appetite this morning for a rice omelet. At least, it’s a rough translation.

The cafe was beyond what you would call frog-themed. Frogs found in every discernible space. Even the telephone was a frog!

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We speculated whether the owner/chef is truly that into frogs, or maybe he got one or two and suddenly everyone thought he was into frogs so kept buying him more frog things until th cafe was overrun with the amphibians.

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Tadpoles and mommy frog? Daddy frog? Is it safe to drink this tea?

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It doesn’t really matter though, because the decor is cute and the food is delicious! I didn’t have high hopes for a dish made of curry, rice and eggs. Now that I know it exists, and how good it tastes, I’ll have to learn to recreate this in my own kitchen.

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Sadly, today is the day we travel back in time, and across the ocean, home to California (and stay awake somehow for 30-some hours).

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The bus ride back to Narita finally allowed me to see the ocean and the harbors as we crossed a bridge or two toward the airport. I wonder how long it will take me to stop replacing English with the few Japanese words I know?

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Vincent and I noticed on the airport limousine that the little man and woman stick figures indicating a bathroom are a tad different in the states. Our little stick woman has a longer skirt! Japanese stick women are clearly more leggy.

Also, the sign outside the men’s restroom at Narita, in addition to giving a map of the bathroom architecture, also depicts what looks like a man changing another fully grown man’s diaper. I wish I had taken a picture of that but security was already hurrying us along.

Sayonara, Japan! Hope to see you again soon!

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But I am already doing this!

In order to boost flagging tourism after the nuclear disaster, earthquakes and tsunami, the Japan Tourism Agency has proposed a bold plan. They’re going to give away 10,000 free round-trip tickets.

Good Morning America says that the catch is that would-be travelers will need to submit a detailed travel plan, and, more importantly, write a review of their time in Japan and post in online.

The post ( found here) states that the funds aren’t approved yet and this wouldn’t happen until April. Also, the bloggers would get a free plane ticket but pay for their own food and hotel.

Still… Vincent and I are here now, in this post-earthquake world, and are testimony to the fact that it’s safe. And the tuna is delicious.

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Not only that, but we have seen other tourists (read: awkward white people) out in the city. Mostly near the temple yesterday, but a few elsewhere. A nice Australian man pushing a stroller asked us what tacoyaki was right before we bit into the octopus-filled fried carb balls. He declined, moved on and we haven’t seen him since.

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Oh! And there was a group of tourists in line behind us to get into the maid cafe. German, maybe?

This probably is a fraction of the normal number of tourists, but the place is not completely bereft.

It is safe. The city is lovely, the temples are grand, and it’s kind of nice being two of fewer tourists around.

Day 2: Kichijoji, Shibuya, Shinjoku…

So glad to have shoes off right now. We walked… I don’t even know how many miles but I’m grateful I considered comfort when packing. I am bummed I didn’t consider fashion. Everyone here is more trendy than me, and even though I’m a normal sized person, I’m pretty sure I won’t fit into any of the adorable shoes I keep seeing.

Plus I finally have a place to wear fun leggings and tights but I did not bring them!

We wandered around 5 areas today, including Kichijoji, Shibuya and Shinjoku, and two others I don’t remember. There were a ton of train rides and after a couple hiccups Vincent and I are pros at scanning our Suica cards.

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While wandering, Vincent and I found this Irish pub!

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I took this picture for my brother.

We also wandered into a noisy, smoky casino that was pretty full for a Friday afternoon. People were playing pachinko. We also went into the Gap, saw a Mcdonalds, Lush, The Body Shop, Starbucks all over that looks just like home, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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We visited a few bookstores and I bought my first souvenir/Christmas present! From a store called BookOff. And all I know how to say is thank you, so when I was buying the book, Dain had to translate when the sales girl asked if I wanted a bag and I just stood there.

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Halloween is coming!

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We learned that there is a whole genre of manga for women. And I browsed a Real Simple magazine with Japanese style houses. The first bookstore we went to had 9 stories. We wandered 8 floors but the 9th was employees only.

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We lunched at a nice Japanese restaurant where I had tuna and rice. Vincent had nishin?? (fish) udon. He said it was very salty. We also had green tea/matcha.

Drinks here are not as sweet but are just as tasty. We’ve had coca-cola, green tea, Thai iced tea and vitamin water. All of it is yummy but not overly sweetened like drinks in the US. I like it better.

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