Monday, March 23, 2009


Dear Hannah,

Today you are one. One year of infant bliss. One year of chubby thighs and rosy cheeks. One year of milky burps and infectious laughter. One perfect year.

Let me tell you what it’s like being the mother of Hannah. I’ve struggled to keep up with you – not because you are a particularly difficult baby, but because every morning you open those curious little eyes, and you’re not the same person you were the night before. Always changing, always learning – like software updates, I just can’t keep up. Yesterday your favorite foods were sweet potatoes, pears and squash. Today you like strawberries, strawberries, and strawberries. Yesterday you could sit for hours in your swing, blowing bubbles and luring people to your side with your innocent, dimpled smile. Now you bring the smile to them; an in-your-face, look-at-me-or-so-help-me-I-will-tear-your-hair-out kind of gremlin grin that leaves people both amused and terrified – amused at how scrunchy your nose gets, and terrified that they might not meet your expectations.

Being your mother has made me take a better look at myself. When we found out you would be a girl, Daddy said “watch out, here comes a mini-Suzie.” It’s true, looking at you is like looking in the mirror. The same things that frustrate you frustrate me. We make the same faces, we blink innocently at your father when we’ve made the same messes, and we both demand lots of love, attention, and strawberries. We like to be heard, you and I, which means we’re often competing for the floor when we have someone’s attention. When I am having a particularly harrowing day with you, Hans just laughs and laughs and says, “I told you so.” Raising a copy of myself has tried my nerves to the point of frazzlement. I didn’t know I was so difficult!

Your big shiny eyes and irresistibly puffy cheeks have helped you achieve celebrity status among the Japanese. When we go out, I feel more like your entourage or manager than your mother.

“So cuuuuuuute! How old?”

“11 months.”

“Woooow! So cute! Can I touch her?”

“That’ll be 50,000 yen.”

Megumi, your Japanese grandmother, recently said “I want to take care of Hannah, but without you.” Gee. Since then you’ve made several visits to Megumi’s house, where you are no doubt wined and dined to your heart’s content. I’m blaming her for your gourmet taste of freshly squeezed apple juice.

I shower with you, eat with you, sleep with you and cry with you, all the while thinking how did I ever do this alone? You’re my best friend and sweetest sidekick. The thump thump thump of your deliberate crawl in my direction warms my heart to the core. One year flew by, as I’m sure the rest will. But for now, for today, I’m in love with the girl that you are. My perfect one-year-old Hannah. Happy birthday.



music credits: If I Could, by Jack Johnson
Gracie, by Ben Folds
Ladybug, by Terrible Twos

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Merry Christmas - 12/23 Highlights

Oh boy. Here we go.

1. Apologies for the poor video quality and crackly sound. I don't know how to fix this.

2. I feel vulnerable posting these . . .

3. Yeah.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hannanigans III

These are probably boring to anyone but me and I. Care. Not. :)

Make it stop

Dear Hannah,

In a couple weeks you'll be one year old. I can't believe I am writing these words. Where did the time go? I want these two weeks to last forever. Think you could slow your stride a bit?

You're breaking my heart.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Salad tips

I've been experimenting with ways to make that big bowl of green salad in the refrigerator more tempting to Hans (and sometimes myself), and here is what I've come up with so far:

1. It's all in the way you cut the vegetables. Seriously! I had no idea julienned carrots tasted better and are easier to eat with a fork than plain old sliced or diced carrots. If there is a vegetable you've tried and tried in your salad, but it's just not working, try cutting it in a different way. Of course, a nice set of kitchen knives is a must!

2. Fresh fruit. These add such a springy, crisp, juicy flavor to salad. I love mixing salty with sweet, and you can't go wrong with apples (especially when they are in season and CHEAP!). Again, I like to julienne these. If you add apples to your salad, be sure to sprinkle some lemon juice on them so they don't brown. Lemon also adds a great zing. My mom and sister also make a great strawberry spinach salad, and I like sliced grapes and mandarin oranges. Experiment adding different fresh fruits to your leafy greens!

(I'm beginning to sound like a women's magazine article, aren't I? You know what? I don't care!)

3. Dried fruit. My mom puts dried cranberries in her salads and I love them. Unfortunately I can't find them in Japan, but I do like raisins and dried blueberries in my salad. Again, these are good for cutting the saltiness of salad dressing.

4. Nuts. Add some protein to your salad! It makes it way more filling, so you can actually feel satisfied having had a salad as a meal. I personally like whole, raw, unsalted almonds. I'm sure walnuts or pine nuts would be great too. Use nuts sparingly though, a little go a long way as far as fat intake goes.

5. Sesame seeds - raw, toasted, white or black. In Japan they have salad dressings with sesame seeds, which I love.

6. Use a variety of colors. I'm way more interested in a salad that has greens, reds, yellows and oranges than one that is monochromatic (different shades of the same color). Also, yellow, orange and red stimulate the appetite, so using these colors in your salad makes it look a lot yummier.

(I just went back and deleted 10 exclamation marks to make this blog just a little more palatable.)

What about all of you? What are some of your favorite salad recipes?

Tofu and Asparagus Arrabbiata Sauce

This is one I created myself. Again, with the spicy food! I'm sure this would still be good without the crushed chili peppers and cayenne. Tenessa, I know you're allergic to asparagus. I've also done this with eggplant and it is FABULOUS. Just saute the eggplant with the onions. The trick to this sauce really is in letting the fresh tomatoes simmer long enough to break down. Keep the heat on med-med low for a good tomato-y sauce.

Tofu and Asparagus Arrabbiata Sauce

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
crushed red chili peppers (to taste)
cayenne pepper (to taste)
2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can plain tomato sauce
pinch of sugar (to bring out tomato taste)
1 bunch asparagus, snapped into bite-sized pieces and boiled or steamed.
1 pkg firm tofu, cubed
salt to taste (sea salt is the best)

1. Sautee onions, chili pepper flakes, cayenne and half of minced garlic until onions are translucent.

2. Add fresh tomatoes and second half of garlic, heat until tomatoes become a little "saucy," stirring often. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and sugar. Simmer for 10 min, stirring occasionally.

3. While the sauce simmers, boil or steam the asparagus for 1-2 minutes. It should be bright green and a little crisp. Add asparagus to sauce

4. Cube the tofu. Add a few minutes before serving, so it doesn't break up too much. You just want to cook it long enough to make it safe to eat (1-2 min).

5. Salt to taste. Serve over penne pasta.

Indian Lentil Dal

Another curry. This one reminds me of my youth when we had neighbors from Nepal. They eat this stuff with their fingers. I was tempted to do so myself, as there were no clean forks when I was finished cooking...

Indian Lentil Dal

1 c dried lentils (or 3 c reconstituted)
4 c vegetable broth
2 c filtered water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 TB cumin, ground (or to taste)
1/2 tsp curry (or to taste)
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne (opt. - only if you like spicy!)
Soy sauce, to taste (up to 1/3 c)

The night before you want to make your dal, boil the lentils in water for 5 min and then discard the water. Soak the lentils ovenight if you are using dried. Change the water once while soaking. WHen you are ready to use the lentils, discard the soak water.

Chop the onion, carrots and celery and add to a saucepan with a little oil over medium heat. Cover the saucepan and begin mincing galic. Add garlic to saucepan. Occasionally stir the veggies.

Once the onions are translucent, add broth, water, lentils and spices. Cover the pot and simmer, if your lentils are already cooked, you shouldn't have to cook the soup for long. If the lentils are soaked but uncooked, simmer the soup until the lentils are soft enough to eat (~45 min.), stirring occasionally.

Last, add soy sauce.

Tip: If you don't have lentils, you can use mung beans instead.

Chickpea Curry

Tenessa requested some bean recipes, so I'll post ones that I've tried and really like. First, I'd like to divert your attention to Aileena's blog for some AWESOME black bean burgers. Seriously. I make these about twice a month. They give you gas, but they're soooo worth it. One hint: I added a couple shakes of fajita seasoning to mine. :)

And, if you love curry the way I love curry....

Chickpea Curry

2 TB olive or canola oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 c dried or one 15 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
12 oz diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp garam marsala
*I used some curry powder and cayenne pepper too, but I like things on the spicier side

Cook chickpeas according to package instructions, or rinse and drain a can of chickpeas.

In a stainless steel or cast iron pan, saute oil, onions, ginger and garlic for about 5 minutes. Place onion mixture and all other ingredients except for garam masala in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6-9 hours. Before serving, add garam masala.

If you don't have a crock pot (like me), you can make this recipe by cooking on medium high heat on the stove in a covered saucepan for 30 min. in place of using a crock pot.

Try adding other veggies like carrots or bell peppers when you saute the onions.


Ok, so these are NOT low-fat or whole wheat. Anyone out there that has a recipe that is both/either of these, PLEASE post it! Or, if you want to indulge...

Tortillas (makes 18)

4 c all purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp salt
6 TB vegetable shortening (or soft margarine) - see what I mean?
1 1/4 - 2 c BOILING water

1. Stir flour and salt together.
2. Add shortening or margarine and mix together. Start with a fork, but ultimately, use your hands. Mix until it is like course meal.
3. Add boiling water (1 1/4-1 1/2) so the dough will hold together (if it is crumbly, you need more water). Initially mix it in with a spoon (to avoid burning hands), but use your hands at the end to more or less "knead" it together.
4. Work the dough until smooth, form into a ball, cover with plastic and let it rest for 30 min.
5. Set skillet over medium heat
6. Cut dough into 6 wedges and then cut each wedge into three pieces for a total of 18 pieces of dough. Roll each piece into a thin circle (about 6-8 inches in diameter).

7. When skillet is hot but not smoking, cook the tortilla until it is lightly browned/puffed (20-30 sec). Flip and repeat. Allow to cool.

Store in airtight bag in the refrigerator. Otherwise they get kinda crispy (unless you like this in a tortilla).

Thanks to Rebecca (another teacher here in Japan) for this recipe! This is so much cheaper than the 550 yen I was paying for a pack of 10 tortillas!