Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I love getting lost in hidden alleys...

Over the weekend, we visited Kokusai Street, a busy shopping area in downtown Naha. The little side streets are such fun to wander around. You saunter down a little path and stumble on the most interesting places and feel like you're a tourist in a different city.
How do you like to discover a new city?

Ikebana Project #2

Fall feeling... that was the theme for this week's arrangement. I love autumn, even Okinawan autumn, which is still like summer other places in the world. I feel a little something different in the air. It's subtle, but it's there...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

$25 Dirty Martinis and a George Clooney Sighting...

A few weeks ago, I promised you a story about our EXPENSIVE drinks at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. The hotel's claim to fame is the movie "Lost in Translation" where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen share a drink.

Highly recommended for the first-class views and the expertly prepared dirty martinis, we made our way through a labyrynth of marble corridors, velvet-lined elevators, and well-dressed patrons to the 52nd floor of the hotel.

The views certainly did not disappoint. We arrived right before sunset and watched as the city slowly turned ashen and then dark as neon emerged in full force.

The prices were outrageous of course, but how often do we get to sit in such a fabulous setting?

Dirty Martini and Apple Ginger and Pear Grey Goose Cocktail ($25 each)

Besides, I spotted George Clooney in the bar. My husband denies vehemently that it was him, but I'm certain. Okay, 75% certain. In any case, celebrities often look underwhelming in real life, though in my opinion, he was STILL handsome despite being shorter, paler, and scrawnier than on film.

We decided to splurge for a snack. We ordered the duck fat crispy fries ($17), which I will always consistently order from now on if I ever see them on a menu. I don't really need to describe them, do I? They were greasy and crispy and salty and perfect. We also ordered a cheese platter ($32), which was tasty, but come on, look at it. There were four small bricks of cheese on the plate. And yes, you read the price correctly.

After imbibing and looking at all the pretty people in the bar, we walked back to our hotel. The sky was swirly and eery and we experienced a sudden mild wind storm, but nonetheless, we were pleased with our swanky high rise nighttime excursion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Post

Hey readers,

Ever struggle with post-vacation blues? Want some tricks to bring your travels home with you? After many many trips over the years, I've come up with a few techniques that make the transition smoother.

I was fortunate to write a guest post on this exact topic for a fellow kindred spirit traveler and blogger.

Please check out my guest article at Anil's awesome travel blog foXnoMad!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where are all the Kolaches?

While we were in Texas, we were lucky to hear about a kolache festival going on in a nearby town.

Never heard of a kolache before?

A creation from the Czech Republic, kolaches are kind of like a buttery danish or sweet bun with fruit or cream cheese embellishments; some of them even have sausage, cheese, and (gasp) jalapenos. I'm fairly confident the addition of jalapenos as a filling was dreamed up by a Texan visionary.

In any case, they are TASTY and since both of us spent some time in the Czech Republic in our past, we wanted to relive them. So off we set for the festival.

On the drive up there, I was reminded of a quest years ago in which I attended the Poteet Strawberry Festival near San Antonio. The Poteet festival was quite a local event, so popular in fact that we sat for hours in traffic, faced all perils to get there- one unfortunate individual was even killed on the highway, and found to our dismay upon arrival that there was not a single strawberry in sight. Nope not one. Turkey legs and sausage tortillas and beer, yes. Strawberries, no. Who am I to question why?

So I couldn't help but wonder if the kolache festival would turn out to be the same... in fairness we were warned that the kolaches run out fast. By 9:00 am even. 9:00 am!

So in true Texas spirit, this is what we found at the kolache festival:

Finally after wandering the maze of carnival food, we stumbled on this

and this

and this

and this

Almost takes me all the way back to the Charles Bridge, listening to Dvorak, and reading Kafka...

Ikebana Project #1

I've talked about my obsession with flowers on this blog before, and today I indulged myself in them for a few hours. I started taking Ikebana classes, a fine Japanese past time, and here's my first creation.

A little strange, huh?

Actually, it looked gorgeous inside the class, and then fell completely apart on the drive home. I had to piece it back together on my own as best I could without the sensei's guiding expert hand.

Not such an easy things to do as it turns out Ikebana flower arrangement is really geometric and mathematical. Stems get measured against each other and placed at specific angles, and textures and colors are carefully planned. Even the shape and size of the vase is thoughtfully prescribed. There's no room for randomness, which I learned as sensei sized up my creation and yanked out a few of my flourishes. I thought they were nice extra touches, turns out they were no nos.

Right now I can even already see that one of the stems is way off in the configuration. I hope there are no Ikebana experts out there bristling at my arrangement, but if there are, it's my first time, okay?

My sensei is really a character. She's tiny and about 90 years old and doesn't differentiate well her l and r sounds, so you might imagine a little confusion on my part as she explained the whole philosophy and history of Ikebana to me.

I learned that the red flowers in my arrangement are a species of hibiscus called Roselle. They make tea out the leaves, and some enterprising Japanese even make wine.

I already know I'm going to love this class.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

40 Year Old Men Away from Wives for the Weekend

My husband went to Texas A&M and still has a great bond with his college Aggie buddies after all these years.

It meant so much to him that the whole group swept in from all over the States to attend the funeral. Seriously, amazing.

So, apart from all the sad aspects of attending a funeral and dealing with THAT, how did the old Aggie buddies spend their time?

Well, with oversized portions of Mexican food...

A fully stocked hotel mini-fridge of beer...
and playing tricks on each other as if they were 14 years old...

This is apparently what middle-aged married men do away from their wives and children for the weekend. No strip joints or midnight cow-tipping, these 40 year old men were inspired at some point in the night to manicure the nails of one unlucky friend who had the misfortune to fall asleep in the middle of their drunken mirth.

I was long asleep in my own room when all this went down though I do vaguely recall through a Lunesta haze my husband coming in our room and asking for red lipstick. However, lucky for all of us dear readers, they documented it play by play with incriminating pictures.

Look at those devilish smiles. I especially admire how they managed to leave a small wedge opening among them so we can look upon the unsuspecting victim peaceful in the background.
So you can see, they are all involved...
A little clear base coat polish, I believe... you know, so the polish doesn't stain.
My husband getting in on the action...
Lots of snickering in the background...

The next morning aftermath... blue fingernail polish and lots of coffee.

What a fun group of guys! Thanks for being there!

Texas Eats

It's the middle of the night in Japan, and I am completely jet-lagged and hungry! What's a better thing to do than contemplate food? Tonight's special feature- Texas food.

Some of our culinary adventures in Texas include all these lovelies...

Hamburgers on the road from College Station to Abilene

Chicken Fried Steak and Coconut Pie on the road from Abilene to College Station. Can you believe I didn't even get the name of this place? I'm a little devastated by that as I sort of fell in love with that dessert...

Famous Chicken Oil restaurant in Aggieland... this is my kind of place. I love how the shack looks like it should be in an old movie about the wild wild west... the inside decor was really fun and of course, I had to eat another hamburger.

Beautiful fondant almond cupcake at Jen's Birthday party...

At a proper Southern ladies lunch hall, Victoria's in Huntsville, Alabama (where my family lives), cheesy chicken casserole plate and salad sampler plate.

Chicken casserole, homemade yeast bread, cranberry jello salad, and copper pennies (carrots marinated in a spicy sweet sauce)
Chicken salad, macaroni salad, pumpkin bread, homemade frozen strawberry yogurt salad

Back in Texas at a divey Mexican place on the side of a back road... Nothing better than a rainy day and Mexican food. I love Tex-mex restaurants each have their own personal recipe for salsa. Theirs was served warm!

Finally, a generous T-bone steak at the Longhorn Tavern. Oh, and a heaping portion of peach cobbler with Blue Bell ice cream too...

Okay, so needless to say, I gained 7 pounds while we were stateside. It's a perfect timing that I enrolled in a boot-camp fitness class starting Monday morning bright and early for 3 months!

Also, needless to say, I am no longer hungry, but ravenous, so it's time to fix a little comforting nighttime snack. Should it be the cream puffs or the potato casserole? Hmmm...

What's your favorite thing to eat in the middle of the night?


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