Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Spinach Pineapple Pizza

I have dolphins, fools' parades, a 50-mile bike ride across 6 islands, a floating torii, taiko drum festivals, books, music and more to write about, and after caring for a sick baby all day, all I want to do is collapse on my bed and read Kafka on the Shore while listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band instead. So here's a pizza recipe! Hannah loved this, which made me happy because she usually hates spinach. You can, of course, choose your own toppings. These are just my favorites.

1 1/4 C warm Water
1 Tbsp yeast
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
3- 3 1/2 C Flour (I like to use half white flour, half whole wheat)
fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, oregano, or whatever you have and like)

Dissolve Yeast in Water, let sit until foam forms on the top. Add sugar, salt, & 2 1/2 C flour. Mix to form dough. Add up to 1 C more flour. Mix 3 minutes. Add herbs (I think rosemary is the best).

Roll out thin or thick. A thin crust will make you about 3 good sized pizzas.

Tomato sauce
mozzarella cheese
Fresh or frozen spinach
4 cloves garlic, 2 minced, 2 sliced or chopped (so you have some chunks)
1 small onion, sliced
Sliced mushrooms
Pineapple chunks

Sautee the onions until a little soft. Add Mushrooms and garlic. Add a teaspoon of water to release juices. Add spinach last, sautee until it is soft (fresh) or warm (frozen).

This was the morning after . . . sorry. It was still good!

Layer sauce, sauteed mixture, cheese, pineapple, basil and tomatoes however you want.

Bake at 425 degrees (220 celsius) for 10- 15 minutes, depending on how thick the crust is.

You'll probably look like this when you're done but it's so yummy you won't care. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cycling Trivialities

Dear Hannah,

Today you are a year and a half old. The typical mommy line that follows is, "where has the time gone?" I'll spare you from that (because I know exactly where it's gone), and just say how wonderful this time with you has been.

As our adventures in Japan wind down and I've divided your tiny baby clothes between the three moms-to-be in our circle of friends, it's easy for me to get caught up in reminiscence of your littler days . . . those days when I could sit you on a blanket and know you'd still be there when I returned from cooking, checking email or going to the bathroom. You were just a happy ball of pudge, spitting up your milk and babbling at your toys. Saying goodbye to carseats, high chairs and your first crib has been trying for me. Ok, maybe I will say it . . . where has the time gone?

Now our days are filled with parks and beaches, crayons and dolls. The blanket I used to sit you on is packed away in your closet. Not only do you wear shoes, but you wear them out and outgrow them faster than I can keep up with. Your growing feet have taken you up ladders and down slides, across burning pavements and sandy beaches, through plastic tunnels and pits of colorful balls. Your growing hands have colored pictures and operated cell phones, touched dolphins and thrown sand to the wind. Caring for your growing hair and fingernails eludes me. Your growing teeth exhaust me, and I am astonished at your growing vocabulary: hi, bye bye, all done, please, thank you, arigato, koko, nani, Mama, Dada, Baba, Gigi, I love you, no, hai . . . you also sing: Aruko, aruko, watashi wa genki . . .

At the park you scrape your knees and bump your head more times than I'd like to admit, but you brush it all off with careless ease and I burn with pride in your courage. It isn't easy to watch you climb that ladder, out of my reach. I could climb after you, a hand on your back as you climb, following you through the maze of plastic and metal, helping you down the slide . . . but you thrive in your independence, and I won't be the one to take it from you. So I watch, catching glimpses of you through the plastic slats . . . a hand, a curl, a smile . . . pieces of the young girl you are becoming . . . fearless and strong.

We read books together at night . . . sometimes the kind that are full of pictures, and sometimes the kind that fill your imagination with pictures . . . Frog and Toad are Friends and The Little Prince are my personal favorites to read to you. You smile when I do the different voices. I smile when you smile. We are mutually filled and edified.

How does your little brain work? How do catch on so quickly? You won't come in the house without taking your shoes off at the door. You turn the vaccuum on and off and push it around with vigor (you've tried scrubbing the toilet as well . . . is there something you're trying to tell us?). You make calls and talk on our cell phones. You drop coins in and make sales with your toy cash register. You methodically eat your blueberries like Pacman. You turn off the computer when you feel ignored. Among hordes of Hello Kitty charms, you find the one that lights up. And yes, when allowed, you even operate the stove. Everyone thinks their kid is a genius, but seriously.

I love the eating habits you've developed in Japan. You are lucky to have a steady diet of seasonal fruits and vegetables all year, and I hope this continues when we return to the states. This summer and fall you've dined on peaches, nectarines, Asian pears, apples, pineapple, kiwi, grapes, persimmons, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, honeydew melon, mango, figs, cherry tomatoes, avocado, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, daikon radish, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and yams. You also love rice, soba and udon noodles, eggs, cheese, tofu and fish. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, hot dogs and chicken nuggets have never touched your lips. How will we fare in America?

My social butterfly, my twinkle toes, my peanut . . . "the time has gone" into the most joyous and heartbreaking moments of my life. Climb your ladders and scrape your knees. Get up and do it again. Throw that ball and squeal. Chase it and do it again. Empty your bowl of raisins. Pick them up and do it again. Fill your bucket with water. Dump it on your head and do it again. Watch your favorite movie. Watch it again. Tickle your favorite people. Tickle them again. Fill your life and the lives around you with simple joys and cycling trivialities. I will watch you through the plastic slats and marvel at your brave curiosity. I love you. Thank you for filling my cup each day.


Music Credits: Jose Gonzalez, "Cycling Trivialities"

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Biking to Hiroshima. Back in a few days with photos and a sore butt. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I don't know why I love this. Maybe because reptiles get such a bad rap, and most people would leave little Lucky to the "ruCOONS." How many times have you seen a turtle on the road who you knew wasn't going to make it to the other side? I don't like leaving earthworms to their own devices, so this little guy would probably have me risking life and limb. I know there are a couple friends and family members chuckling and rolling their eyes at me right now. And at Lucky. It's easy to love the family dog or cat - animals with fur and facial expressions and human-like mannerisms. A bit more of a challenge to have charity for the Luckies in our lives.

Catnip and Pussywillow

The compost pile has become home to a trio of kittens and their mother. I don't know where they came from, but they're very fun to watch romping in the garden while I read Haruki Murakami's book "Kafka on the Shore" (which, coincidentally, is full of talking cats). I thought I'd name the three Otsuka, Goma and Kawamura in honor of the book, but well . . . you'll just have to read it. I wouldn't want the same fate for these little guys. Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009


This music makes me feel. I wish I could claim these words as my own. It's definitely how I would describe Capybara's album Try Brother. Songs about the simultaneous pain and relief of letting go and moving on . . . loving the memories while looking ahead. Here are a few of my favorite tracks. Lyrics and other fun stuff can be found here. Hope you like it.

Some songs breathe achingly familiar visions and take you places you didn't know you were yearning for. Places you've never been. Places you cry yourself to sleep trying to reconstruct with fragments of memories and hopes for the future. "How soft we ache for a feeling we cannot recall." Off-kilter, chunky rhythms. Layers of texture and sound. Sunny beaches and large open spaces. Driving across the Midwest plains toward the setting sun, wind blowing in my hair. "Those were lovely days." The keyboard builds in waves of raw emotion and longing, like coming to the crest of a hill whose summit you know won't bring the happiness and release you're looking for. You reach the top and exhale. Whatever it is, whatever you're looking for - it's still out of reach, "past the horizon." So lay back and take a breath. Enjoy the here. The now. This music is best experienced in nature.

"Happiness/Let Child Roam"
Sleepwalking down a trampled path scattered with rocks and roots . . . stumbling past twilight to an opening in the canopy of fragrant trees. Stars without number bespeckle the velvety sky over a glassy pool of still, silent waters. One glance at my reflection, then a poignant question full of tenderness and thorns: "Do you let the ones you love be happy? Is there selfless core love inside your winter dove?" Drumstick clacks and strumming banjos shake me out of crippling self-examination and introspection - force me to look outside of myself. Terraced sound. Terraced thoughts. "Oh this time cannot last /Cannot face back /Toward the nameless happy past?"

"Birthday Song for Bridgegirl"
"Cross that bridge if it moves you." Advice for my daughter. This music moves me. It makes me feel.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I promise

. . . to post some news, pictures and music soon. I've been kind of disgusted in my writing lately so I wanted to collect some good material before trudging onward. Unfortunately I have to work today (yes it's Monday, supposedly our day off), so standby . . .

Meanwhile, can I have this for Christmas? I would especially enjoy counting the birds in Devendra's beard and coloring the whimsy of Andrew Bird's whistle. It also supports a good cause! Should I give you other reasons for why buying this for me would be a good idea? I've got a pretty long list . . .

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Big girl food

I started experimenting with eggs and shredded vegetables when Hannah decided she didn't want baby food any more. Fried rice has become a godsend - more so when I can make it with brown rice (thanks for finding some, Courtney!). I usually make it with whatever veggies are in the refrigerator - carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, bell peppers, broccoli, squash, pumpkin . . . she'll eat anything in this form (except onions. She still hates those.)!

Melt a tiny bit of butter (real butter, not margarine. The animal fat is healthier than processed vegetable fat) in a pan, sautee your shredded veggies until soft, then add an egg and 1 1/2 - 2 cups of cooked brown rice. Mix until the egg is cooked. Hannah likes a couple drops of (low-sodium) soy sauce in hers as well. This makes enough to last her a few days and then some. I also like to sprinkle a little shredded mozzarella on top when I reheat it to moisten the rice and add a serving of dairy to her meal. Throw in a handful of grapes on the side and voila - a happy Hannah! I can stop stressing about her distaste for vegetables now. Phew.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Face Lift

A million thanks to Janelle for help with the new header and footer! There's still lots of tweaking to be done, but this feels ever so much better than the white. Not that I'm racist or anything. Ok, shut up Suz. Here is something much funnier than me. I? Whatever. Again, thank you Janelle. :)


Miwako came over last weekend to teach us the lovely art of gyoza-making. The following recipe is what I derived from the magic her hands produced. Keep in mind she used no measurements, so this is all by-guess-and-by-golly. We made enough stuffing for 300 gyoza - 150 for her family, and 150 for the 4 of us (over two meals - we aren't THAT American . . . ), so the amounts listed here should be cut down unless you're feeding a smallish army. Gyoza isn't the most fat-free of foods (almost a kilo of ground pork?!?!), but Miwako's homemade filling is LOADS healthier than store bought because it uses sesame oil instead of lard. My next mission is to make a vegetarian version. Janelle suggested sauteed diced mushrooms as a meat replacement. One of my adult students said there's a kind of tofu that works well as a meat substitute - I forget the name, but it's cut into cubes, dried, and then frozen. Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated! And now, without further ado . . .

Gyoza (makes 300)

Chives - 3 bunches, chopped (don't use the white part)
Cabbage - 1 whole, shredded or chopped very fine
Ground pork - about 750 g
Chuka no moto (a kind of Chinese bouillon - I'm sure other kinds would work too) - about 1 tsp
Sake - about 2-3 TB
Sesame oil - 2-3 TB
Sesame seeds - 1/8 cup
Fresh Ginger - 2-3 inches, grated
Garlic - 4-5 cloves, minced
Pinch of Sugar
Salt - 1-2 TB
White Pepper - 1 TB
Soy sauce - 2-4 TB
3" rice paper wraps - 300
Corn starch or potato starch

Salt the shredded cabbage in a bowl and let sit until juices start to release.

Pour oil and sake over meat in a large bowl. Knead with hands until it isn't sticky and color lightens slightly. The oil is meant to keep the meat together like a dough, so use enough for that purpose.

Add chives to meat. Squeeze water out of cabbage and add to meat. Knead with hands.

Add soy sauce, a little more oil (to balance the extra liquid), sesame seeds, white pepper, salt, pinch of sugar, bouillon, garlic, and ginger. Knead with hands.

The best ginger is fresh from Miwako's garden, of course.

Cover a large tray with saran wrap and sprinkle with corn starch or potato starch to prevent sticking. Sprinkle starch on a clean counter top as well.

Separate rice paper wraps and lay on counter top. Get a small bowl of water. Spoon 1 TB of filling onto the middle of each wrapper.

Dip finger in water and line half of the edge of the wrapper with water to create a "glue" for the wrapper to stick to itself. Fold wrapper over meat to create a taco shape. Use fingers to make 3-4 pleats in the wrapper. Pinch ends together. Repeat 300 times. :) Cover uncooked gyoza and refrigerate until you're ready to cook them.

To cook: A large hot plate is ideal, but a frying pan works just as well. Drizzle canola oil onto the pan and heat on med-high. Arrange gyoza on pan and cover. Cook until the bottoms of the gyoza begin to slightly brown (about 2 min). Pour enough water over gyoza to cover the bottom of the pan and cover again (optional: you can add a little corn starch to the water to make the bottoms a little crispier!). Steam for about 2-3 minutes. This step is important, as this is when the meat gets cooked! Check the bottoms of the gyoza. If they aren't browned to perfection, cook a little longer uncovered. The idea is for the bottoms to be crispy and the tops to be softly steamed. You can also drizzle a little sesame oil over the tops of the gyoza if you're really going for decadence. :) Remove from pan.

The best way to eat gyoza is hot out of the pan! Try mixing a little soysauce or ponzu with red pepper oil, crushed red peppers and sesame seeds for a good dipping sauce. Add a little bowl of rice for a drip catcher, and a cold beer to wash it down. I think this would be great for Monday night football . . . you know, if I were into that or whatever.