Friday, July 27, 2012


Thankfully, I'm better at baking cupcakes than decorating them.

I'm pretty excited to watch the start of the 2012 Olympics tonight. In 2008 we were settling into our house in Ono, and I have such fond memories of the fantastic Beijing opening ceremonies accompanied by a take-out dinner and fireworks on the neighboring mountainside that we could see from our hilltop location. I also loved watching track and field events with a group of international teachers while supervising high school English camp, especially when the Jamaican teachers were jumping around the room after Usain Bolt's win. One thing I will not miss is the repetitive judo coverage!

These are simple White Cupcakes with  Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting. I cheated and used store bought icing and frosting tubes, which I already had around the house. In retrospect, I should have taken the time to get out the frosting tips, but I didn't want to take time away from other tasks, and they are just for us and a friend visiting from out of town, so hopefully the novelty outweighs the cake wrecks factor.

Go team U.S.A!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Google Fiber in KC

Fellow Americans be jealous- Google Fiber is coming to KC. Of more than 1,000 cities that applied, we were selected as the first market. With 100 x faster Internet than most of the U.S., I'm hoping it'll be about as fast as my Internet service was in Japan, where we had a dedicated fiber line (we could download an entire movie in about 3 minutes). So happy to see this video, and that pre-registration has opened. I hope that Waldo is one of the first to get it! YAY!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I harvested my onion crop this morning.

Most of the crop, Stuttgarter Reisen, a standard yellow onion, are small, you can see from the photo that they are about two inches in diameter. I've read that drought leads to smaller fruits and vegetables, and I'm also going to guess that our early heat led to them being about half the size than they otherwise would have been. Regardless, I did get a lot, so we'll have them to store for a few weeks. We also had a substantial crop of green onions all spring, which was fantastic. When I planted them I had in mind the beautiful onion braids that I used to see on my commute in Japan, and I pulled out a photo of my time in Miki to reminisce about the gorgeous gardens there.This photo is from October. 2008, almost four years ago!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bright as the Sun

My favorite color of this summer, as bright as the relentless sun.

Monday, July 23, 2012


It's nasty out there, folks.

Today I had to drive between Kansas City and Lawrence, viewing the dried out landscape, remnants of grass fires, and crispy vegetation. I stopped for a coffee on my way back at Z's East, a local Lawrence shop. I always enjoy reading the daily almanac postings that they have, and today's was poignant for that dried out landscape- the decreased bug population means less food for birds. The almanac suggested putting out suet or seed, so while making a stop on my way home I picked up a suet block and holder. It was only $4.50 for the combo, and I'm hoping that in addition to helping out the bird population I can provide some entertainment for my cats (through the window). The interesting thing is that I noticed this morning that my sunflowers were nearly picked clean of their seeds, something I've never seen before during mid-summer, and which doesn't usually happen until late fall. I also put a small bowl of water out near the sidewalk in front of our house for dogs on a walk, or any other creature that might need it.

Keep an eye out for each other, guys, it's one hell of a summer.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Make this Meal

Sometimes modernity is fantastic.

Today it was in the light breezy feeling I had zipping down the highway at sunset, out on a library run, windows down, music loud. Or the early morning Skype conversation; it still amazes me that I can video chat like I'm on the Jetsons. Or the Facebook discussion between friends, each of the three of us residing in a different country, able to contribute throughout the day. But perhaps best of all, it was finding these two great recipes online- Miso Kale Salad and Quinoa and Grilled Pepper Salad. Nearly everything was local- the kale and onions were fresh from the yard, the peppers and tomatoes from the Farmers Market. We even have a local tofu factory, so it was just the quinoa, cheese, miso, oil and spices that weren't raised within 50 miles. We also enjoyed a side Purple Cherokee tomatoes from the Farmers Market, just sliced, nothing additional needed.

Here's the Miso Kale Salad with Tofu. Our two year old loved the tofu and went so far as to call it "frosting" and "a special treat." If that's not a ringing endorsement, I'm not sure what is. I got the recipe from Marin Mama Cooks, who got it from Eating Well, Fast & Flavorful Meatless Meals. Sharing. Modernity. Yum.

- 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. miso- we used white
- 2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine juice, miso, and garlic. Cut tofu into squares and toss in dressing, bake at 450 for 18-20 minutes.

For the salad:
- 1 large bunch of kale, we used red
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 4 tsp miso, again we used white
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- Parmesan cheese, we used grated, and just sprinkled it on the salad

Combine all ingredients except cheese and kale, whisk. Add the kale and stir until well combined. Plate the salad, sprinkle with cheese, and top with tofu.

And the Quinoa, from Epicurious. It seems fussy to prepare, but it's really not, and the results are worth it.

- 1 1/4 cups quinoa
-2 large green peppers (the original recipe said yellow or orange)
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 3 scallions, chopped

Wash quinoa in at least 5 changes of water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off water, until water runs clear. Drain in a large sieve. Add quinoa to a saucepan of boiling salted water and cook 10 minutes. Drain in sieve and rinse under cold water.
Set sieve over a saucepan with 1 1/2 inches boiling water (sieve should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, about 10 minutes. (Check water level in pan occasionally, adding water if necessary.) Spread quinoa on a baking sheet to cool.
While quinoa is cooking, grill bell peppers. As it was a weeknight, we did this on a grill pan on the stove top, but it would be great to grill outside as well. Chop peppers.
Whisk together oil, lime juice, soy sauce, and cumin in a large bowl and stir in quinoa, bell peppers, cilantro, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste. 

 Modernity is so good.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All Star Day

It's All Star Day here in KC.

While we're not going to the game, or partaking in the many festivities around town, including a parade on the Plaza and Fanfest at Crown Center, I am looking forward to watching the game this evening, probably with some Waldo Pizza. The above photo is from a game we went to at the K last year in June.

Go National League!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Live your life

Sometimes all those internet memes can get old, but this came across my path today and it connected with my world view. I've edited out the profanity at the bottom, but you still get it.

It's so easy to just follow the "path." I can't even count how many times people told me what my next step would be. I graduated college- a family friend told me I would be working "corporate" in a year. Never happened. I went to graduate school- a friend told me I would never get a job. Wrong. We got a house and a dog- everyone told us a baby would come soon. Instead we decided to move overseas. We had a kid- everyone told us we would never travel or go out on dates again. Even our hip urban friends said this. Well, that didn't happen. We travel. We go on dates. We help support the local economy of high school babysitters. Our lives are still fun and interesting. We didn't move to the suburbs and buy a minivan like everyone told us we would, instead we live in the city and I drive a mini-car.We take our toddler camping and to museums and to hip restaurants in the city. He's never been to an Applebee's, Olive Garden, or the like, but he has been to Beer Kitchen on many an occasion.

Even with all the choices I've made to live my life on my terms, there are days that feel like loops. My daily schedule this summer certainly feels like a loop. Research, reading, correspondence, not a lot of variety between a Tuesday and a Friday. It's inevitable that this happen on the small scale, but it's what we do on the large scale of our lives and how we spend our time outside of work time that I think defines us. Do we spend our evenings watching tv or connecting with other people? Reading a good book or refreshing the Facebook feed? Trying a new recipe or microwaving some junk food? It takes effort to forge your own path. But with the infinite possibilities available to those of us fortunate enough to be born into the middle class of a first world country, it's a crime to not embrace the potential of each day.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


Happy Birthday to my fantastic husband!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Independence Day

Ah, the height of summer- Independence Day.

Most years we are traveling this week, so July 4 is not a holiday that we have specific traditions for, but this year I think we celebrated in true American style. We started the day with our neighborhood picnic and kids parade. Slugger, the Royals mascot, led the parade, and our little guy even won a prize for having one of the best decorated bikes. There was live acoustic music and face painting and games, the kind of traditional, simple party that one is nostalgic for even while it's happening.

After a break in festivities we hosted our own barbecue with friends, enjoying time in the garden and good company. On the menu- two types of BBQ seitan (for how we made seitan from scratch scroll down here) that Joe slow-cooked on the charcoal grill using KC BBQ sauces, grilled corn-on-the-cob, purple herbed potato salad (seemed closest to blue), and watermelon. Our guests brought a fantastic couscous veggie salad, kale salad, red and blue cupcakes (sans food coloring, but dyed with blueberries and beets!), and an apple pie. It was a feast in true American fashion.

In the evening we watched the illicit fireworks show in the neighborhood, celebrating the best of summer days.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Devilish Heat

It's still hot. Welcome to the new normal.

I'm so tired of hearing people celebrate the warm low-snow winter and then complain about the heat all summer long. It's climate change, folks. We caused it, we need to work to solve it. Or at least slow it. Do you like to eat food? Breathe oxygen? Then let's work on curbing that CO2 addiction, k? And, some of us actually *enjoy* the winter, the snow, and things like snowshoeing and skiing, hot chocolate and sledding. So please stop ruining my environment with your Hummer.

I was mystified to read this headline today: "What's Causing the Heat Wave?" Um, really? Have you not heard the news in the past, oh, twenty years? Perhaps not, as only 83% of Americans "believe" the climate is warming. No, my fellow citizens, this is not Santa Claus. Much like evolution, there is nothing to "believe" about climate change. Step out your door. It's happening. Actually, it already happened.

So, what can we do? Little things. Easy things. Hang your clothes out to dry instead of using the dryer- it'll save four whopping pounds of carbon emissions for each load you don't dry, and it'll make your clothes last longer. Use bar soap- it takes less energy to ship a condensed bar instead of all the water in body wash. Don't use a hair dryer- think about the silliness of blowing hot air on your head while you run the a/c. Or, if you are like me and like to use the dryer to straighten your hair, wait until it's almost dry and then run the dryer for only two minutes instead of ten. Eat vegetarian for a few meals a week- it takes an astounding amount of water to raise animals, not to mention the strain on petroleum resources and if you're eating beef the mass of methane that cows produce. Turn up your a/c a degree or two. Eat local. Turn off the lights and t.v.

If we all take small steps today we won't have a massive crisis tomorrow.

Recipe for the summer smoothie that I drank while reading about Yoshitomo Nara (pictured above): toss one peach, one apricot, and a handful of blueberries into the blender with two handfuls of ice. Blend. Drink. Be devilish.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Fourth of July Blueberry Pie

Thanks, Martha Stewart, for improving my Saturday with this fantastic Blueberry Pie recipe. The pate brisse crust takes quite a while, as there is a good deal of refrigeration time involved, but that gave me more time to go to the Farmers Market and get this great haul of veggies:

And of course, around here a trip to market means a trip to the adjacent playground, so I got in some exercise to burn off the pie and ice cream. Plus, blueberries are full of antioxidants and supposedly they improve your mood, so I'm healthier and happier all around. I can't imagine a better Saturday morning.