Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hanami: Part 1

April in Japan is time for "hanami (花見)", which literally means "flower watching". During hanami, people usually spend sometime outside under the sakura trees having picnics with friends, family, or colleagues. This April is my 8th hanami, but it was only recently I realized that I didn`t have any decent pictures of the sakura, except for this one. Thinking how ridiculous that was and that April is about to end, I was so determined to go sakura hunting while I can. As a result, although I could only got the pictures from two places, I was very happy with what I`ve got. The first place was in my campus where I work and the second one was in Ogawara, 30 km down the south from Sendai. For now,  I only share some pictures from my campus and I will share the other pictures from Ogawara in the next post. 

These pictures were taken on an overcast day where I was hurrying shooting with my camera before the rain started to pour. One thing I learned is this kind of weather actually give the best lighting situation, although probably it still depends on what kind of mood you want to have from the pictures. Gloominess due to the low light was what I`ve thought would come out of the pictures, but I was wrong! Especially for the close-ups (although not macros), with the soft light blotchlessly lit everything up, they look rather dreamy and soothing to me. I`ve heard about the photography tips recommending shooting on an overcast day, but when I actually experienced it I was glad that was true! Another lesson: never leave your macro lens at home if you have any.

I hope you all enjoy this virtual hanami and stay tuned for the next sakura trip!

Shrimp scampi

When it comes to shrimp, I have to be in my best mood. My husband is not big on shrimp shells and feet as he had a terrible experience with them and thus, I`ve never left them as is ever since. I don`t know if I don`t do it right, but for me deshelling and deveining the shrimps usually take more time and patience than the cooking itself. That`s why cooking shrimps is never on my to-do list when I`m under the weather. But the funny thing is, as much as I find the cleaning part is annoying, most of the results awed me so much that I`m more than willing to repeat the whole process.
This shrimp scampi is one of those tedious but scrumptious menu I`ve tried. But I`d like you to know that I half-heartedly call it tedious because once you`ve went through the cleaning part and put the shrimps on the pan, the dish will finish like in a blink of an eye (an eye that will take like 5-10 mins to do so).

Alright, without further ado, here`s how to prepare our Sunday night`s shrimp scampi.

Deshell, but leave the tails intact, and devein the shrimps. Leaving the tails on prevent the shrimps from curling in too much during cooking. Or if you prefer to have the shells on, you can just slit the back of the shrimps and devein them.
Wash the shrimps and drain the excess water.

Our key ingredients today, other than the shrimp itself: lemon and coriander.
You just can`t go wrong with them.
By the way, I always freeze my coriander because it`s a rare ingredient here. That`s why the coriander looks wilted in the picture. For those of you who live in places where you can get coriander effortlessly, you`re lucky, my friends.

To the shrimps, add lemon juice, chopped coriander, chopped garlic, and chili. Deseed the chili if you want milder heat. Add salt and pepper to season, but you can add these later during cooking.
Stir everything and heat a bit of oil over medium heat. 

Add the shrimps and everything to the heated pan and cook for 5-10 mins with occasional stirring until the juice has thickened.

See? Only a few steps and you`re done!
These lemony shrimps are definitely to be served many times in our house. I probably will sigh again during the cleaning, but the happy (and yummy) ending is totally worth the effort. 
I feel like summer is coming already!

Serves 2 persons

20-25 medium shrimps, deshelled and deveined
 2 Tbs lemon juice
5 cloves garlic
2 tsp coriander, chopped

1. Deshell and devein the shrimps but leave the tail intact.
2. Wash the shrimps and drain.
3. Add lemon juice, garlic, coriander, salt, and pepper to the shrimps and stir well.
4. Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and add the shrimps and the marinating juice Cook until the juice has thickened.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hello again!

Gosh...I really thought my blog would go rusty as I seemed to abandon it for quite sometime now. To be honest, though, other than being occupied with some works, I`ve been losing my appetites for cooking and experimenting with food. As a result, we`ve been eating outside awfully a lot these days. I know, it`s sad. Eating outside (very often) is sad. Not being able to share what I`ve created in my kitchen with you is even sadder, especially when I come to realize the reason I started this blog in the first place. However, when I talked about this to my husband, he just told me not to worry much and he`s sure I`ll be busy again with my stove, oven, and mixer very soon. I guess he`s right. Or I hope he is. He has to be. 

In the meantime, for a happy talk, I have a great news to share. Plus, I really have to show off my new lovely baby to you. 
I actually had been planning to get a motorcycle driving license since last year, so somewhere around last summer or fall, I bought two books for practicing the exam. After running out of excuses not to study, I was finally able to force myself to cram in all the stuff and kanjis in my head just last month. Armed with (my husband`s) electronic dictionary, my husband (he`s far more fluent in Japanese and experienced in riding/driving than me), and the books, I studied for several days during my spring vacation. You heard me right, my vacation was all about studying and taking the exam. I knew nothing about riding motorcycle or driving or traffic signs, except for red means stop and green means go. So, cramming in all new stuff within days for an exam with no less than 90% passing score was a big challenge for me. Not to mention the riding itself!

But those gazillion cups of coffee and hard work totally paid off since I passed the exam! Hoorraaay!!

To take the exam, I had to attend a lecture and riding lesson at the driving license center (which just sounds like "police office" to me). It started from 8:30 am, continued with the exam at 1 pm, and finally I`ve got my license almost at 5 pm. Phhewwww! It was a very exhausting day, but certainly one of the happiest moments in my life. And apparently his too, as he seemed even much happier than me!

When I got home that day, I quickly browsed for 50-cc scooters on the internet and it was a very exciting process! I`ve fallen for this Honda Crea Scoopy:

Picture from

...then I thought the blue one was cute too...

Picture from
...and then later came the Yamaha Vino, which looks much shinier and rounder, ...

Picture from here

...and that`s it! I wanted Vino. The beige one. Or the blue one. Or red?

After deciding, on a Saturday noon, we went to a motorcycle dealer and guess what I saw. For the first time ever. This Honda Giorno scooter. 
Picture from here

In a glance I thought I was looking at Vino, but I wasn`t. And just like that, I forgot the Vino already. Next thing I knew, I rode my baby ivory Giorno home. Wohoohooo!
Oh well, I need to come clean, though. Despite my big and sudden crush on the scooter, my first time riding it on the road was definitely a not-so-fun experience.  I got cold feet and felt so dreadful while driving it behind my husband who drove ahead as my guide that I had a meltdown once I got home (safely). But when the morning came, I fell in love again and I couldn`t wait to give it (and myself) another try. And I`m so glad I did! My next riding wasn`t so bad, although it still needs huge improvement, and I even started to enjoy the whole experience.

So, at the moment I am all about practing, practicing, and practicing while being careful and super slow on the road. You see, the book says 30 km/h max for 50-cc motorcycle and that`s exactly what I do.

With this addition, we are now a family of four and very exciting to welcome the sakura blossom!

Hope you had a great weekend too! Beep beep!