Christmastime in Twinkle Town

Merry Christmas everyone!  I just needed to share, here is what Christmas looks like in Japan:

Roppongi Illumination is pretty amazing.

Christmas cookies, very delicious.

A picture of people taking pictures.

Our Christmas view.  Squint and you can see Mt. Fuji.

Fried Chicken, a Japanese Christmas tradition.  Mmmmmmm.

Christmas Crafts

Did you think I’d let a holiday go by without any crafts?  I think not!

A few years ago I started Homemade Christmas, an ambitious plan to sew or bake or stitch some element of all the gifts for my family for the holidays.  I always meant to start in September, but never got going until after Thanksgiving and then without fail would spend Christmas Eve in my room with a headlamp and an embroidery hoop.  Spoiler alert — I didn’t make any gifts for Christmas this year.  I’m a little disappointed in myself, actually.  I’ve been busy making things for other people, and with an early December deadline for shipping to the States, I didn’t have my 2 am Christmas Eve sewing miracle to count on.  Sorry, family.  This year you’re getting random Japanese curiosities instead.

But the crafter in me just couldn’t let the holiday pass without a little sparkle-adorned felt for the occasion.

Take note, Santa.  And what is that adorable Christmas village, you ask?  Even Tokyo looks quaint in wooden miniatures.

The Lego angel is on my desk all year long and I think finally feels at home with some Christmas company.  I’m sort of loving his Godzilla-esque presence over those buses.

I didn’t stop at stockings.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I somehow feel it’s not Christmas unless I’ve made something for someone, so I whipped up a few ornaments to give as gifts.

A few of them even got star tree-toppers.  I’m in love with these 5-hole buttons.

I think the ornaments look rather cute on my tree branch.  No $500 Oregon pine for me. (Seriously.  That is no exaggeration.)  The beauty of a corner nook in a small apartment — I really only need 1/4 of a tree.

Today is the Emperor’s birthday, a national holiday in Japan and the beginning of our long weekend of leisure.  I’m looking forward to all the fried chicken and eggnog in my future.  What is everyone else cooking?

Merry Christmas!

Raw Egg Pasta Sauce

Since I’m now a working woman, my daily routine as a Tokyo Housewife is no longer.  That is a gentle way of saying our apartment is a complete mess, I may have let my kanji study slide, and I now fail regularly at keeping food in the cabinets.  These days, more often than not I’m finding 7 pm roll around with nothing planned for dinner.  And then I realize I ate cereal for lunch and I’m starving and ready to gnaw off my hand.

So what’s a housewife to do?  I pester Dan.  Here is what one of our chat conversations looked like this week:

Me: would you like pancakes for dinner?  that is not a trick question
Dan: i’ll eat whatever you cook
Me: well, i can cook pancakes, mushrooms, a little bit of leftover rice, pasta with no sauce, eggs (again)
Me: oh, and there is avocado :)

Please forgive me for loving emoticons.  I could blame Japan, but really, those smiley faces have been in my repertoire for years.  (You should see the emoticons available on my cell phone — given the chance, I could compose my autobiography using only those things.)  So, with that list of random ingredients, I decided to throw everything (well, almost) into the pot, cross my fingers, and hope for something edible.  Dan mentioned he’d heard about eggs in pasta, and a quick Google search confirmed it exists.

I think the creamy-egg-in-pasta idea was suddenly less scary because in Japan, I’m not afraid of eating raw eggs.  My new chef friend told me that the date on the egg carton – usually a week after purchase — is for when you need to refrigerate the eggs, not throw them out.  They are that fresh.  So, I went for it.

This is our kitchen, maxed out for space yet again.  Thank goodness we only own two pots.  I sauteed some エリンギ eringi mushrooms (if you are curious what they look like whole, you can peek here) and cooked up the pasta.  When the pasta was done and drained, I threw in the cooked mushrooms, two eggs, the avocado, salt, and a splash of milk.  And some black pepper.  And… it was delicious.

OK, so maybe this is the least convincing photo ever, but you have to believe me.  I was amazed at how good this was, considering I took (almost) every last bit of food left in our apartment and threw it all together.  In the past this plan has not gone so well (translation: anchovies and tomatoes).  This time, triumph!

Anyone else out there willing to try the Raw Egg Pasta Sauce?

My Heart Belongs to MN (Or, Musings on Lutefisk)

Minneapolis has been on my mind a lot these past few days.  No doubt the recent news of a gigantic snowstorm that dropped 17 inches (a half-ish meter) of powder in my parents’ yard has something to do with it.  (If you haven’t yet seen this video, you should check it out — it’s pretty incredible.)

I love snow.  I sometimes brag that, as a Minnesotan, I can naturally master the cold, but it’s all a lie.  I don’t like the cold (it is currently -2 degree F there now.  That is -19 degrees C.  Ouch.)  But you can’t have snow without it.  And I really miss the snow.

A friend shared a video of himself riding his bicycle to work in Minneapolis the morning after the storm — at 6:00 am the streets were totally quiet, and the crunch of packed snow under his tires and boots went straight to my heart.  The quiet of a post-snow darkened landscape is amazingly serene.  One of my favorite things to do in the snow is to just walk around in it.  Wearing Sorels in slightly plowed streets you can achieve premium crunch — the snow is packed just enough, yet you can keep your ankles dry (because really, once you wet your ankles it’s all downhill from there).

In the wake of my snow fantasy — yes, I know it is a snow-filled dreamland since I don’t have to shovel the driveway, pay gazillions to heat my house, or deal with wet ankles — I came across this MPR video about lutefisk, another ingredient to a true Minnesota winter:

This video put a huge smile on my face.  It is extremely well done and captures a charming sliver of Minnesota pretty accurately, in my opinion.  A few things to note while watching:

1. The explanation of flaky vs. snotty is spot-on.  I love how she assumes everyone knows what good walleye should look like.

2. Everything at the buffet is the same color.

3. The champ’s button — it says “Uff da.”  Exactly.  And his granddaughter is the definition of hard core.

4. I feel like I know every single person in this video — is that so wrong?

A few years ago my family gave up preparing lutefisk for Christmas dinner.  It is surprisingly expensive, perhaps because we opted not to lye-it-up ourselves.  My family finally admitted defeat. It was just too much money and effort to devote to a plate of wiggly stuff that most of the people at the table didn’t really care for anyway.

Though I know it might be dangerous to declare this in front of all my Aunts who I know are reading this (hi, Aunts!), if the tradition ever came back ’round, I wouldn’t be opposed.  My tastes have changed in recent years, and considering I now consume wiggly raw sea creatures almost daily, I might have a new opinion of the stuff.  That bottle of squeeze butter got me a little excited.

Just as long as you can provide a side of snow.

I Drink Your Pancake

This is a hotcake milkshake, and it is a bad idea.

A mix between pancake batter, maple syrup, and whole milk, I picked this up from a vending machine near our apartment.

I spend most of my time gushing about awesome food, telling friends and family back home how Japan “just gets” food. I know it gets on everyone’s nerves.

Anyway, this is just to show that this country doesn’t always get it. Sometimes they can be just as clueless as Denny’s.

Unless… companies purposely make ridiculous products to get chumps like me to try them, following the thought process of, “Ew, gross. I wonder what it tastes like.”

Rats. Japan gets me.

Oh look, cold curry risotto.

 

New!

New items are now posted in the web shop!  I apologize for the cyberquiet on the blog this past week.  Here’s what I’ve been up to:

My fingers have been busy.  Actually, they’re still stitching away (and loving every minute of it).  Though it might be tight in terms of Christmas shipping, I hope to keep the ball rolling and add more items throughout the week.  Thanks for looking!