My Little Green Thumb?

avocado

Yikes! It’s been a month since my last post. I’m… embarrassingly behind on blogging. I really, really, REALLY want to catch up on my “lost blog” posts and finish writing about my summer travels in Japan. But I’ve been crazy busy, and haven’t been on the computer or internet much. Part of the reason earlier this year was because I was always sick; but more recently it’s because of something more on the positive side. I have a few little tidbits of good news to share. First is that I’ve started a new job recently (yay!), which is why you haven’t seen much of me on my blog or on Twitter. This is mainly why I have so little free time now. And separately, unrelated to blogging, the second bit of news I wanted to share is that the black thumb I thought I had is turning out to be a little green, after all! I usually have terrible luck with plants; even easy-care-for ones like lucky bamboo. However, this avocado pit is looking promising! I started growing this avocado tree about two months ago, and it’s starting to take root and break out of the seed. I’m very excited to see what will become of it!

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu at J-POP SUMMIT Festival 2013

I’m a BIG fan of the J-POP SUMMIT Festival which is held annually in the summer at San Francisco’s Japan Town. I attended the 1st annual event back in August 2009, when the New People store also celebrated its grand opening launch. There were a few Japanese bands who performed back in 2009, including one of my favorite bands ever, TsuShiMaMiRe, and another band I was familiar with, Noodles.

J-POP SUMMIT

Seeing as how real Japanese bands traveled to the U.S. to perform for this festival, I decided to keep my eye out for the future events in case other bands I liked would make an apperance. Of course then, as you know, I moved to Japan and missed the next couple of years’ festivals… This year, the 5th annual festival was held over the weekend (July 27-28) and I was super, crazy excited (!!!!!!!!!) to see the lineup of performances included THE Kyary Pamyu Pamyu!

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

I LOVE HER. Ever since her video for PONPONPON came out, which I had to watch again, and again, and again… I was hooked.

SO OF COURSE despite my allergies, despite having a crazy busy week and weekend, and despite starting a new job and wanting to sleep in past 6:00 AM for the first time in two weeks, I KNEW I HAD TO GO TO SAN FRANCISCO AND SEE HER.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu at the J-POP SUMMIT Festival 2013

She was amazing! I can’t believe I got to watch her live, so close, and for free! She opened with Pamyu Pamyu Revolution followed by PONPONPON, Invader Invader (her latest single), Fashion Monster, Kyary An-An, and Tsukematsukeru. SO GREAT.

She is so cute. Her backup dances are AMAZING and crazy energetic. I’m still so stoked that I was able to see her! I honestly thought I would never get to see her perform live.

(。uωu)

I feel so lucky!

Walking in Kyoto’s Streets

Maiko Style Experience It’s been very hot the past few days. The temperatures have been rising past into the hundreds (about 40°C), and when it’s hot like this, I remember the spring and summer heat from my time living in Japan… I’m just glad that it isn’t humid here in California!

I’m still very behind on my blogging. Lots of posts from last year’s summer travels still. But, I wanted to share a post from last spring when I got to dress up like a maiko in Kyoto during the hanami season. This is one of my favorites because the focus is on that beautiful obi!

Happy summer! Hope you are all staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, and enjoying the gorgeous, late sunsets!

Calamansi Juice

Allergies are the worst! This has been a really terrible spring/summer season, what with the flu, catching one cold after the next, pink eye infection, and itching allergy eyes on top of all that. ne thing that has cheered me up though is drinking freshly-squeezed calamansi juice.

Calamansi is a small, citrus fruit native to the Philippine Islands. I just read now on Wikipedia that it is a cross between Citrus reticulata (Mandarin orange group) and Fortunella japonica (Kumquat group). My mom has a tree in her yard which provides us with a bountiful harvest of fruit year after year. She brought some over to me when I caught my most recent cold, and my husband helped me make juice to soothe my sore throat. Calamansi juice, like lemonade or limeade, can be as sweet or as tart as you’d like it to be. Below is a starter recipe which is slightly on the tart side and can be adjusted to your own personal taste.

calamansi

Calamansi Juice

Makes 1 liter, or 4.22 cups of juice

Ingredients:

  • 15 ripened calamansi
  • 1 liter of water
  • 5 tbsp sugar

Directions:

  1. Slice each calamansi in half. Squeeze the juice into a 1L pitcher. Remove any seeds.
  2. Add 1 liter of water, then add sugar to taste. Stir well and serve over ice.

Healthy & Fresh Hawaiian Pizza! (with Basic Dough & Sauce Recipes!)

Homemade Hawaiian Pizza

I’ve been sick with (yet another) cold, so I haven’t been able to catch up with my “summer in Japan” travel posts, or the food that I have been cooking! But I wanted to share this recipe for a basic pizza dough and tomato sauce from the book Pizzas and Calzones (Simply Healthful series) which you can use with any toppings to make a delicious, fresh, and healthy pizza! The recipe can be modified to make a whole wheat crust, or you can use bread flour to make a more chewy crust. For the pizza you see above, I made a light whole wheat crust using 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour. We had some Canadian bacon in the fridge that needed to be finished up, as well as some leftover pineapple slices from the Hawaiian sweet rolls I made that same week, so we put these together to make a really tasty Hawaiian pizza with plenty of toppings. For the cheese, I used a Mexican cheese blend from Trader Joe’s; and on the side, we ate a salad made with baby arugula from the garden.

Basic Pizza Dough
Recipe adapted from Pizzas and Calzones (Simply Healthful)

Makes enough dough for two 12-inch pizzas.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    (for whole wheat pizza, substitute 2 cups whole wheat flour; for a lighter crust, substitute only 1/2 cup to 1 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

Notes:

Rising Dough
Dough goes through two risings before it can be shaped and cooked. You can omit the risings if you are in a rush (see notes in recipe). This dough can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator or freezer:

Refrigerating Dough
Punch down the dough after the first rise, then refrigerate dough in a plastic bag (leaving room for expansion) for up to 3 days. Let come to room temperature before shaping and cooking.

Freezing Dough
Punch down the dough after the rise, then lightly dust with flour and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place into a freezer-proof plastic bag. Dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. To use, thaw in refrigerator 12 hours or overnight, and let come to room temperature before shaping and cooking.

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in lukewarm water. Let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes).
  2. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in center of flour. Pour yeast mixture and olive oil into well. Stir in flour from bowl with your hand or a large spoon to make soft dough. (If you prefer not to knead by hand, you can also mix together the ingredients using a food processor or similar appliance. Process just until the dough comes together to form a wet, sticky dough.)
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Add a little bit of flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. (At this point, you can let the dough rest for 10 minutes, omit the risings, and skip over to step 6 for shaping the dough and cooking. I went ahead and proceeded with rising the dough twice as the recipe called for.)
  4. (First Rise) Wash and dry the large bowl from earlier, then coat it very lightly with vegetable oil. Return dough to bowl and coat top with a little bit of oil. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  5. (Second Rise) Punch down dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 2 minutes. Return dough to bowl. Cover and let rise again for about 30 minutes.
  6. Punch down down. Divide in half. Form each half into a ball, then flatten dough out into a disk. Pick up the dough in both hands, holding it along one edge, and turn it as you would a steering wheel. Stretch dough between your hands as you turn it. When it is about 10 inches in diameter, and about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick, the dough is ready. Repeat for second half (unless storing for future use, then see notes above).

Basic Tomato Sauce

Recipe adapted from Pizzas and Calzones (Simply Healthful)

Makes about 2 cups, enough for two 12-inch pizzas.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz.) Italian-style plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juice
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Notes:
This is a basic sauce, which can be seasoned to your liking. I added fresh basil and dried oregano.

Following steps 1 & 2 will create a basic chunky tomato sauce. For a smoother sauce, follow steps 1 & 2, then process in a food processor or blender until desired consistency is achieved.

Directions

  1. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with olive oil. Heat over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  2. Add tomatoes with juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in salt, pepper, and any additional seasonings you want to add.

Use sauce immediately, or cool and store in refrigerator (up to 4 days) or in freezer (up to 1 month).

Baking Directions

When you’re ready to bake a pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the oven rack in the lowest position. If using a pizza stone, then preheat with the stone inside the oven.

When oven is ready, sprinkle pizza stone with yellow cornmeal to prevent sticking. (You can also bake in a cast-iron skillet, baking sheet, etc. whatever you have on hand.) Spread pizza dough onto the cooking surface. Bake on lowest oven rack for 7 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle your cheese and toppings, leaving a 1/2″ border all around. Bake for an addition 8-12 minutes, or until everything looks heated through and the edge of the crust is browned.

Let pizza stand for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Pink & Gray Chevron Tote Bag

chevrontote1

I’m really into zig-zags lately and have been wanting to make a crochet new tote bag. I came across this pattern for a Crochet Yoga Bag by Hanri Shaw and thought it would be the perfect way to use up some extra gray and white yarn I had on hand from another project. I actually started & finished crocheting this bag back in February, but life and constantly catching sicknesses got in the way, and I didn’t get around to sewing in the lining until today.

The pattern is quick and easy to follow, but I did notice a few mistakes, which I go into detail on my Ravelry page. Basically, in the starting rows 1-7, my “total stitches per round” was not matching up with that of the pattern. I also made a few modifications which are all mentioned in my notes. In case you’re not a Ravelry member, I’ve included my notes below as well.

chevrontote2

Hook: 5.0 mm (H)
Yarn: Loops & Threads Impeccable (worsted weight); 1 skein True Grey, 1 skein White

Notes/Modifications:

Row 1: Used a magic loop starting method instead.
Row 2: NO CHANGE Starting row, make 8 sc in loop.
Row 3: NO CHANGE Increase to 16 stitches as stated.
Row 4: NO CHANGE Increase to 32 stitches as stated.

Row 5: SHOULD END with 46 stitches. If following the instructions 3ch (2dc into next dc, 1 dc into next dc) – repeat until end sl st into chain, you will end up with a total of 48 stitches. Instead: ch3, (2 dc into next dc, 1 dc into next dc) 14 times, then (1 dc into next dc) 4 times, total 46 stitches.

Row 6: NO CHANGE Increase to 61 stitches as stated.

Row 7: Pattern states “same as row 5” (total 82 stitches). SHOULD READ same as row 6. This actually gave me 81 stitches, so I inserted an extra increase at the end.

Row 8: Pattern states “(Sc in each of next 5 st, 2sc into next st) repeat 13 more times (96 stitches)”. Instead: ch1, (sc in each of next 5 st, 2 sc into next st) 13 times, 1 sc in next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc, 1 sc in next sc. This should provide the required 96 sts.

Strap Modification:
I don’t like to make separate pieces and stitch them on. So I modified the straps to continue working in the round after the chevron pattern + 3 rows of sc.

Strap Row 1: Chain 60, skip 20 sts, then 1 sc in next 28 sts, ch 60, skip 20 sts, then 1 sc in next 28 sts.
Strap Rows 2-5: Even rows of sc for the next 4 rows.

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