Saturday, August 30, 2008

Eating Late

So this was day two of the wife getting out and working. We ate leftovers for lunch, did dishes, jumped on the tramp and then spent some time on the free wood pile. Last night on the way to our friends house we passed a pile of wood in a trailer with a "free wood" sign. So we called and happened to be the first to call. This morning it was dropped off at the side of the drive way and after mom went to work it was one of the jobs. As I sawed up the branches that were too long to fit in the stove the kids played on the pile. The played on it, after I made it a little safer than the original humble jumble from tossing it off the trailer. Then I tried to split some of it using my splitting maul, no dice. So then I went to the splitting maul followed by the sledge hammer. A little more success but this is not going to be easy. The rounds are probably 2 and half feet across and that is a little more than I am used to. But free is free so I ain't complaining. After, I threw in the towel the kids kept playing and I went inside and continued reading "the ominvores dilemma" and read that well into the evening. It was about 7:30 when the daughter finally roused me from my enraptured state and talked me into making some curry with her. With the last of the daylight we went out and got some more peppers and tomatoes. Then we made a vegetarian curry. We did use canned brown and black beans but I think I can defer to the industrial food machine enough to used canned beans. And really I would have to work so much harder in the garden to be able to make enough food to keep us in canned goods all year. Although reading Mr Pollans book has me really thinking about becoming a sustainable farmer. It just sounds so cool. If only I had a thousand acres divided fifty fifty between forest and grasslands, 100 head of cattle, 200 head of pig, various barns and farming implements, and 3 grown children who were interested in sticking around and keeping the farm running. I would also like to have someone who is licensed to butcher animals, someone who can make good cheese out of raw milk, someone who can make tofu out of soy beans, someone who is mechanically inclined and a group of people who are interested in consuming all of my fare locally so that I don't have to worry about getting my produce sold. If only. Well who the heck knows, life takes some pretty strange twists. Heck I could even grow my own wheat and make 100 percent home made pizza. Gotta figure out how to make my own yeast and salt. Those could be problematic. Back to dinner. This is the son plowing through his bowl of curry and rice.
He had just woken up from a three hour nap. I thought the smile looked pretty realistic. That is it for tonight. Lovin the produce.

Dinner Out

So we had dinner at our friends house this evening but this getting ahead of things. The wife had her first day of work today. She is volunteering at the local organic bakery to learn the trade, get out of the house, and try something new. During the morning I was in charge of the kidlets and after doing the dishes we went to the school to drop of some stuff and pick up some stuff. The daughter rode her gear bike and she can really cook now. We raced at one point and with me pulling the trailer I actually gave up and she won. She still tips over sometimes on starting and stopping but seems to really like the big kid effect and we can make much more miles on the average trip. After we arrived back home it was time for lunch so we went out to the garden and harvested some tomatoes and peppers for salsa and pasta sauce.

I made two varieties of salsa, one hot one not. The key to the deliciousness of the salsa was that I strained off a lot of the tomato juice which made nice tomato juice and made the salsa thicker and scoopier. The pasta was served with a really simple, onion, garlic, oregano, tomato sauce. All from fresh. I added an avocado to the salsas and that was pretty much all I wanted for lunch. Now you might be wondering at the extraordinary output for lunch. Well we had dinner plans. Our friends had invited us over for dinner. This was a wonderful feast. I brought some sangria which I won as a door prize at a meeting I had to attend. The fruit and wine combination was perfect on a warm late summer evening. We had our first glass as we sat outside shucking the corn and make horrible puns. The corn on the cob was cooked to perfection, they even put out the whole bar of butter to properly get your cob covered. Definitely a nice touch. The chicken wings were done in a teriyaki sauce and perfectly complimented the home made Cesar salad, with freshly cooked turkey bacon bits. Accompanied by a side of white rice it was a great way to spend an evening with friends. We started the summer having dinner at their house and now we have put the summer to bed with them as well. The topper to this meal was the chocolate cheesecake topped with strawberries. My affection/affliction for cheesecake is well documented. I just love it. Now we should have a picture of dinner but I am waiting on the e-mail with that. When I get it you will see it.

It has arrived.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to work

So I went in to work today with the camera so that I could get off last nights post and lo and behold left the camera at work and couldn't take a picture of this evenings dinner. A true shame as we had a lovely dinner. Green salad with the onion vinegrette dressing, a turkey and bean sprout stir fry served over some truly perfect white rice, and a full rich bowl of miso soup. The picture is of myself and kanko-an chan eating hiyashi somen in the Kag. Good times. We just finished watching "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Pretty cute and funny. You also gotta love a guy willing to do not one, not two but at least three full frontals in the same movie. Bold. The wife goes in for some bakery work experience tomorrow. Things are starting to roll here.

Pizza the Second

So we broke out our brand new pizza oven for the second time and first time in our home. The pizza was superb. The sauce was made entirely from tomatoes and garlic from the garden. Cut the tomatoes, seeded them and then chopped them up in the blender. After boiling for about 15 minutes I then let them simmer for about an hour. The garlic, basil and oregano was sauteed before adding the tomatoes and afterwards I added salt and vinegar.
We came up with a few different varities of pizza this evening and all were vegetarian. Though I am a true believer in salami and pepperoni the wife has pointed out how the preservatives in them make me all stuffed up afterwards. That coupled with the reading of fast food nation and all those people dead of listeriosis and I am pretty gun shy around the animal products. So we had vegetarian. The kids had individual sized cheese pizzas and really seemed to enjoy the small sized pieces and having it all on their plate. The wife and I made do with peppers and tomatoes from the backyard, some pesto and artichoke hearts we had in the fridge and a very modest portion of cheese. I have to tell you about the dough. As this evenings pizza sauce was a little more involved than usual I let the kids have a really good kneeding session. The result was awesome dough with half the work I usually have to do. Note to self. Child labour can be a good thing when it comes to making pizza. For dessert we tucked in to the sweetest, cheapest cantaloupe that we have ever had. In Japan these babys would have run anywhere from 15 to 30 dollars. Here, a buck eighty-eight. There is definitely something to say for eating food in season. I mean sure august and september would be the feast months but you would look forward to it so much more. If you could only have cantaloupes in august and september you would look forward to it all year and it would be that much more special. That day may come again. I am sort of looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My wife rocks

Well, this evening I was informed by one of my sisters that she too would like to have a wife. I have to admit that our life together is far beyond any blessing I could have hoped for. I try to let her know everyday just how much I appreciate how great she makes our life together. Today was another example. While I was off at school the family went to the park for a picnic lunch. When I got back from work they were off shopping and then the fabulous meal above was prepared while I was out for a run. There must be a bolt of lightning or some other catastrophe waiting for me because this is just too good. Back to the meal, bacon and broccoli pasta was accompanied by a lovely garden salad with an onion, garlic, vinegar dressing. The home grown tomatoes bring so much flavour to salads. I personally just enjoy eating them like one would a peach. Nothing like a juicy piece of fruit for an afternoon snack.

On a different note, we are now three months into the pregnancy and we discussed today how I can coach basketball through the pregnancy. I was planning to not coach this year but after discussing it my wife illustrated a strategy that should make it possible for me to coach. I ran into one of my players from last year while at the library with my daughter this afternoon. I asked him if he had been playing much this summer and he said he had. I really don't want to let them down so I am super happy that the wife had a plan. I still need to look for an assistant coach but I am feeling pretty up about being able to carry on with the foundation that was laid last year. Time for an early hitting of the hay.

A working stiff (Monday August, 25th)

So it was back to the factory again for me on Monday, and I enjoyed it. So nice to see familiar faces and get back into my comfortable digs. The anticipation of a new year and all that lies ahead. The awe at the amount of work that needs to get done. Well lets not worry about that right now. Lets talk about dinner.
Once again I was treated to a feast. I managed to borrow the Matrix trilogy (having not seen most of the second and all of the third) and we sat down to watch them yesterday afternoon. Dinner was served during the first movie and between mouthfuls I did my best to explain what is actually quite a confusing plot. Not really a six year old movie thought she did seem to enjoy it. Dinner consisted of some lovely ni-mono along with ebi-furai and some potato salad. Living la vida loca is the best way I can describe it. By the way not being at all fluent in Spanish my fingers are crossed that that saying is a positive one describing the good life. The ni-mono had daikon, kelp knots, shitake mushrooms and tofu. So so good. The ebi furai were accompanied by battered and deep fried yams. I only had one (and a half) helping of dinner and was quite proud of my ability to keep the gluttony away. That said I didn't go for a run yesterday and the lethargy of life here in lotus land is sinking its hooks into me. Today, today will be the day. But maybe after a nap.

The picture here is the one we toted back from Japan. It wasn't that big of a pain but in the process we managed to crack part of the frame so now I have to remember to ask the wood shop guy about borrowing some clamps and the best gluing techniques. Everything is bubbling here and lets just hope nothing boils over.

Don't know who took this shot of the son but he always seems to be playing with camera. Maybe it is a self portrait. I still think there is some genius at work.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Artistic Genius

So I know he is only three but I can't believe the picture my son took today. I mean the composition, the light dark contrast. The way the computer and my daughter are framed. I mean it is a beautiful picture. Maybe he just got lucky but I doubt it.

As for dinner we all got lucky. I started off totally lacking in drive and enthusiasm but as the cooking proceeded it all just seemed to click together. To start with I made two types of cooked salsa. A kids salsa which was pretty much a spaghetti sauce and a spicier version for the parents. It was only a small batch and I used a whole apple so it was quite sweet. However, it worked. The apple was a drop from the back yard. Once you cut out the parts that the bugs chewed through to get at the seeds the rest is great. The wife made her creamy garlic salad and cut up some of the egg plant we received from my garden guru. These were grilled on the bbq along with some of our tomatoes and some pork steaks. I just finished reading Fast Food Nation and am thoroughly terrified of the meat that they sell in stores. The whole thing with maple leaf killing people with listeria was exactly what the Eric Schlosser was talking about in his book. It just makes one want to go back to the earth. And its all about money, I mean really there is more to life. Enough ranting, I over cooked the pork and still had to microwave it when we cut in and found a little pink. It was delicious and I turned off that part of my brain while eating dinner. We may end up being vegetarians yet. Back to work tomorrow. Its been a good run. Manyana.

True Vacation

Well today was one of the last true vacation days of this summer. We rode bikes, flew a kite, played trains, read books and generally had a slow day around the old homestead. There were no afternoon naps and the kids were in bed before 8:00. Hey, has anyone else noticed all the back to school stuff being advertised and on sale in local shops. It is really kind of a revolting feeling when you are rudely awakened to the fact that summer has come and gone. However, the garden still provides us some summer inspiration. Tonights curry for example, was made with tomatoes, peppers, garlic and beans from our garden. The salad used our tomatoes and my gardening buddies Armenian cucumbers. The rice was once again cooked to perfection in our new fangled rice cooker. It is whole grain rice which makes it both better for you and harder to cook well. Our rice cooker was bought for this specific purpose and it does the job. As of Sunday morning we are working on a plan for this the last day before I have to go back to work. It is slightly overcast so I think going to the lake is out. I need a razor but I don't think buying that will take all day. Well, we will figure something out. Have a nice Sunday.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday, August 22nd.

After a busy day running around town, updating car insurance, banking, doctor's appointment and playing in the park we came home and crashed again. Fortunately the wife is on the ball and made a potato, tomato, and eggplant casserole. Baked with cheese and spices it was another lovely light evening meal. Beside the casserole came the creamy garlic coleslaw salad. The real crowd pleaser (okay I loved it) was the first batch of fresh from the garden salsa made this year. 4 varieties of tomatoes with two types of pepper, diced onions, diced garlic, salt and vinegar. It has been a long year waiting to make the fresh stuff again but it is so nice now that it is back. The garlic was great and I just need to cut back on the amount of onion I am using. To hot for the kids even without the chili's. But I loved it. Strangely fall already seems to be in the air. I sure hope we get to enjoy the fresh produce on the vine for a few weeks. Gotta start thinking about making this years batch of salsa. Good times.

Thursday, August 21st

Well this was the day we were supposed to get home. It was nice to wake up in my own bed, even if it was at 3:00 in the am as my daughter began her morning whine. The Jet Lag is still throwing her and I off. Although up by 5:00 and in bed by 9:00 is a pretty good way to live your life. This evening and we were going to have Shepard's Pie but the potatoes got waylayed along the route and we ended up with ground beef and veggies over rice. We also had a lovely green salad with the homemade creamy garlic dressing. Nice lite food for a stomach that is still recovering from four weeks of gluttony. Down below you can see the effects that Jet Lag has had on my son. He is staying up late and then crashing until 10 in the morning. This is him during a mid afternoon nap. My wife found him on the floor. Gotta get those clocks reset.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ready in 5 Minutes

Well we made dinner at home last night and it was great to have the home cooking. The roast is one of those pre cooked jobs that takes 10 minutes in the microwave. Too much salt but the meat is really cooked to perfection. The soup was Miso soup so we had a nice change of pace from the fare in Japan. A little bit of bean sprout stir fry mixed things up nicely. I enjoyed the rice which was cooked in our new rice cooker. We lugged this baby all the way back from Japan and I hope it was worth it. The stewed pumpkin was great and I enjoyed the salad. The wife bought baby arugula and it turned out to taste really bitter to her. The kids jumped right on that band wagon and I was the lucky recipient of most of the salad. The real feature of the salad was the homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers.

The garden has done well considering it suffers from four weeks of neglect. My bell peppers have not done much of anything. The hot peppers are hit and miss and the tomatoes are all producing well. The Toms we have eaten so far are really sweet as we haven't been gobbling them up as soon as they were barely ripe. Cucumbers are growing and we have maybe ten squash sizing up. The morning glory has taken over everywhere it could and will take some major work to get back under control. However, all in all I am glad with how the garden has managed under less than ideal conditions. Already looking forward to next year.

Japan, the final installment

So we are officially back in Grand Forks. After two marathon days of travelling we stayed in our own beds last night and it was great. The Jet Lag is still affecting the daughter as she was up from 3 to 5 pestering me about this and that. I finally gave in at 5 and put on a video while I caught up with some banking. So here is the final installment.

What you see in this picture is where we slept at night while at the great grandmothers place. The three mats lined up in a row housed, myself, the wife and kids and one of the cousins. In the foreground you will see the second dining table that had to be put away, well this is put away, between meals so that we could use the room. Six kids and seven adults living in a little more room that what some lunatics live in in Downtown Vancouver. It takes all types.

This is the kids playing with their second and first cousins. They have appeared in previous offerings and really we would have liked to get in even more play days but everyones schedules didn't always match up. How are one's children and one's cousin's children related. Are they second cousins. Third cousins. They share a great grand parent. Maybe this is the whole once removed thing. Well if you believe everything you read on wikipedia then they are second cousins. I of course am nothing in all of these relationships as I don't share an ancestor but everyone was nice enough to call me uncle or at least David, to my face.

Here we are in ishiki new town, or something new town. One of my old colleagues from my Kagoshima English teaching days runs her own school from inside her house. She is also the owner of the wonderful blog about her life and dog that I have listed in my links I likes. Of course it is in Japanese but the photos are real cute. You can check it out here. She had us over for lunch and my children spent the whole time chasing the dog. He is old and really timid and wasn't as in to my kids as they were into him. We had a nice afternoon and I caught up on some gossip about my old work place. Gossip never gets old does it.

Does everyone like Ramen? We sure do. This is a picture of Uncle Kanefumi, atomu, the son, and I. We are pretending to be lions outside the chinese food restaurant. I can see it. The uncle took us for lunch after we spent a gruelling morning gardening at the sis-in-laws place. I was feeling like a giant slug after not having done anything for three weeks so I decided to take on the yard. The uncle who was on his day off and came over to hang out ended up coming out and lending me some tools and getting in up to his elbows. Really I was way out of my league but with his tools, pick up truck, and know how we managed to put a good scald on that yard in about 3 hours. I was soaked in sweat and after a shower we all went out for the aforementioned lunch. This was also the only night on the whole trip that I drank Sho Chu. I paid for it for the remaining 7 days. Word to the wise, just say no to Sho Chu. People who drink it know what they are doing. People who don't just shouldn't. Nuff said.

I liked this action shot of the wife cleaning the tub for the evening bath. Notice the son hanging out in a bucket of water. That is what you do when it is 36 degrees 80% humidity and there is no relief in sight. In the foreground is my son's arch nemesis, Lilo. Lilo and he spent a lot of time together and she spent most of it pinching or biting him. She was really interested in whatever he was doing or holding and wanted it right now. If she didn't get it appropriate actions were taken. Hopefully, the next time we are there she will have her words and will not torture my son quite so frequently.

My mother in law is actually a hair dresser by trade and decided to dress up the wife and daughter for some glamour pics.
I really like the authentic hair do. We have a couple of family shots which may grace any christmas cards we make this year. Not that I have ever made christmas cards but I have always imagined myself as a christmas card sender. So this may be the year.

We planned to go fishing on this trip and this is a picture of us on my father-in-laws boat. This is unfortunately where it ended. There were large seas that day and we didn't want a puke fest. The kids enjoyed chasing the sea cockroaches and trying to find crabs.
I could have gone on any of a number of night fishing trips but I didn't think 12 hours from 5 pm to 5 am with six or seven guys who I barely understood when they are sober was that nice of a prospect. That and the staying up all night really didn't catch my idea of a good time. So there was no sea fishing this trip. I did go for a morning of sea shore fishing with Uncle Kanefumi and he caught a tiny little fish. I once again struck out. Maybe I should be a hunter instead.

Getting to the end of the trip here.

Can you imagine cooking on a gridle in the middle of the table when it is 35 degrees out? Well I can. No air conditioning and we are all sitting and sweating around the table eating some really delicious okonomiyaki. They had the yamaimo which makes all the difference.
Atomu unfortunately had the seat right where he is standing and got scalded with little oil burns numerous times during this meal. We had another griddle meal our last night as the daughter requested gyoza. Probably like her sixth gyoza meal of the trip. But homemade gyoza with home made chicken karage(my request) were an awesome last dinner. I ate way too much at both of these sittings but didn't have any beer the okonomiyaki night and only a few the last night. I came down with the stomach flu as a result of the sho chu night and really lightened up on the partying the last week.

Self taken picture by the wife. I think she did a great job of getting her sisters, herself and yours truly all in the shot. Here is a shot of the kids playing in a park the last morning we were there. Notice the brilliant sunshine and everyone hiding in the shade of a tree. Well they had to be rescued from this park by the father in law because a torrential downpour came and trapped them under the awning of a near by apartment building. Tropical weather is a weird thing. From here they drove us out to the airport and we made our return journey. It took most of a day for the whole flight -- lay over -- flight but we arrived 3 hours before we left. Gotta love crossing the international date line the other way. We stayed a night with the Harry bear and then made the trek home yesterday. It is now time to return to our regularly scheduled life.

It was a great trip and we really spent a lot of quality time with our relo's. Can I live in Japan again? Well lets just say the summers would be tough. But being near family would be awesome. The next blog will be back to dinner and hopefully the daily stuff that our lives are made of here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

One week and Counting

So I don't need a lot of grief about not posting. I apologize but I just don't have easy access and I am currently skipping a lovely home cooked meal so lets work on being nice to each other. Now where did I leave off. Right we had a big day in Kagoshima shopping, well not really shopping but buying our tickets to Nagasaki for our side trip. This is the kids having lunch right before that.

Gotta love getting drivethrough in the basement of a mall. We ended up doing some reminiscing down town and this is the kids in one of the main shopping arcades after having played in a fountain in the main park. Fountain was all about video. You will have to see that later.

This was a lovely Yaki-niku dinner we have. Basically you organize all the ingrediants and then cook them on the big teppan (portable griddle/grill) in the middle of the table. After being cooked you dip the items in one of a couple of sauces. Goes very well with beer. As do most things when its 35 with 80 percent humidity. Currently I go through two outfits every day.

This next shot is of a lunch we had with the wife's cousin and her kids. Everytime we get together with other kids it is great. I was being a little pissy today as we had to break plans with one of my friends to get together with relatives who called at the last minute. In the end out went out that evening with my friend and the kids as I mentioned had a good time so I really shouldn't have got my knickers in a twist. This cousin is also the owner of the car (7 passenger van) that we have had unlimited use of the whole time we have been and will be here. They claim they don't use it but I mean come on. So yeah it was important we got together and we want to get together again some time in the next week.
Here are the semi that we caught in the park. Dad did his magic with bug net in the park behind the house and everyone had a semi to play with. If you ever get a chance to see the video I have taken the constant buzzing noise you will hear is these critters at work. They are only above ground for two weeks of their lives and they sure make the most of it. Also for those of you who were there can you believe the kid beside the daughter is the same baby that was at our wedding 7 years ago. Wow. So I don't know if this means he will be a serial killer but our son is definitely torturing this cat. He loves the cat so much he grabs and cradles it in his arms all the time. Sometimes he grabs it by the tail, sometimes by a leg, sometimes by a big fold of skin, I had to tell him off sharply the other day when he picked it up by the head. The funny thing is the cat hasn't turned on him yet. It will actually sit there and enjoy the petting it gets sometimes. Truely the most mild mannered cat I have ever met.
So this is us the afternoon we arrived in Nagasaki, which it turns out is even more hot and humid than Kagoshima. Something about being in a valley. Here we are up by glovers garden. I am still undecided whether the stroller was more of a help or a hinderance. Too many stairs in Nagasaki. It reminded us a bit of San Franciso. This is a famous catholic church which has been here since 1600. I think it must have been damaged in WWII but it is pretty far from the bomb epicenter so it may have survived. Under this is a picture of gyoza. The daughter is truly crazy for Gyoza. I think she could live on Gyoza. We had a double order and she was hungry for more. However we had also ordered this lovely saraudon (crispy noodles with stir fry ladled on top) and the Japan famous Nagasaki Champon (picture not shown but it was taken). These were also lovely and the place we ate them at was so cute, seating for 12 -14 people. One guy running the whole show. Super reasonable prices. We almost ate here twice. The next day we went to the Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb museum. This was August 6th, 3 days before the annual memorial service commemorating the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki on the 9th of August. It was a pretty heavy day and the daughter was pretty shaken up after the visit to the museum. Some of the pictures were pretty brutal and she had the usual questions. No pictures allowed in the museum but I recommend going. Something we should never forget.

That afternoon we went back to the hotel and enjoyed napping the airconditioned climate controlled environment. The wife went out for a long walk and found a nice place for dinner. It is an Izakaya, basically a pub, but there are not age restrictions and the food is cheap and good. They also had a 2 hour nomihodai (all you can drink) for about 12 bucks. I was prohibited from taking part as the wife mentioned that I had begged off having beers with the inlaws the night before we left claiming I had been drinking too much. So I couldn't really get into it, but I sure wanted to. The shish kabobs are called yaki-tori and were awesome. They also made amazing tempura. I had the best tempura shitake mushroom I have ever eaten. I may never have them again so as not to soil the memory of that one. The last day in the morning we walked around and visited some temples, had lunch at the station and got back on a train bound for Kagoshima. We sat beside a mom and 10 year old son from San Fran. She is originally from Miyazaki so we had some great english/japanese conversations and Kiyomi got to play some card games so the trip went faster.

Okay we are up to yesterday. We went and visited one of the wife's friends who has a brand new (1 month) baby and a 5 year old daughter. This friend and her husband are both teachers and just had a brand new house built. It was very lovely. Some day, some day. I didn't realise this but if you get stuck at the wrong high school you basically don't get a summer vacation. Now they only teach about half time compared to what I teach, way more prep time during the day, but the vacations are way worse and they have tonnes of meetings to go to. Tough comparison but I still like my current situation.Then last night we have te-maki sushi done up so well. I also managed to put back about 5 500 ml beers. Well what do you expect. The olympics are on live, in prime time and Japanese feature in everything. There is Judo on everday, which reminds me, when I am done this I have to do some research on Judo so I can better understand what is going on. Kitajima just won the gold medal in the 100m breast stroke and watching that live with the fam was great. The koshien high school all Japan baseball tournament continues and the team from Kagoshima has made it through to the third round. On top of all that I am getting some pretty good runs in. Life is treating me, us, very well and we are having a great time. I am getting close to wanting to be back in the Forks, and I really want to see how my poor garden is fareing in my absence. But hey, that is what vacations are all about.

Will I get another post off before heading back east, to the west coast. Only time will tell. Lots of fun to be had and I am loving everyone elses blogs. Wish I had a chance to sit back and give them all a leisurely read and comment. But time is money. I am outtie. Love to all.