Fattening Cake

It had to happen.  I had been so good only making low-calorie food in the oven.  But then one of my friends had something to celebrate and Black Forest Gateau is his favourite cake.  The chocolate sponge isn’t so bad but the cake is covered in a mountain of fresh cream.

Black Forest Gateau

Black Forest Gateau

2 Responses to “Fattening Cake”

  1. Christine Bailie Says:

    I am looking forward to my trip to Japan all the more now….he he

  2. karen Says:

    I’m trying to find low-calorie cakes to bake. Bought another book tonight that has lots of healthy muffins and cakes for me to try to make.

    Also had a bit of a cake disaster tonight and made a cake that was much too moist inside. Hopefully the next one will be better!

Sunday Cake

Today I made another low-calorie cake. I wasn’t expecting it to taste so lemony but it’s still really good.

Italian Almond and Carrot Cake

Italian Almond and Carrot Cake

2 Responses to “Sunday Cake”

  1. Chastity Says:

    Oh man. I absolutely need this recipe as well as the other one.

  2. karen Says:

    This was a yummy cake. My Japanese teacher had some today and surprised me by eating the crumbs of the knife. It’s sometimes hard for me to tell if someone who is Japanese likes something, but not in this case 🙂

New Version of Perl 5 Released

I’ve spent a couple of hours reading about the Perl 5.12.0 release.  My favourite article was posted on the ActiveState blog and it includes a nice summary of the history of Perl 5 development.

I can’t help but be impressed at the things that can be achieved by volunteers.  Jesse wrote:

Perl 5.12.0 represents approximately two years of development since version 5.10.0 and contains over 750,000 lines of changes across over 3,000 files from over 200 authors and committers.

The Perl development team rocks.

Snow Monkeys

Yesterday we set out to spend the morning at Jigokudani Monkey Park.  We had arrived in Saku the night before and had arranged to meet our friends at 10am.  I was looking forward to our road trip as we are rarely in a car anymore. The day was damp and overcast, so we didn’t get a very good view of the mountains, but the journey was still enjoyable.

Once we parked the car we had a 30 minute hike through the forest.  I would love to see the monkeys when it’s snowing but I don’t know if I really want to go hiking in the middle of winter.  Even yesterday, without any ice or snow, it was a difficult walk.  The ground was muddy and in parts it was very steep and slippy.  But it was worth getting a bit dirty.

The monkeys are Japanese Macaques and they are beautiful.  I wasn’t expecting to see quite so many of them or for them to be so unconcerned about us being there.  A couple of them even pushed me out of the way when they didn’t like where I was standing.

Alpha Male Japanese Macaque

Alpha Male Japanese Macaque

One of the things the monkeys are famous for is bathing in a hot spring.  They do this to keep warm during the snowy months and I wasn’t sure if any would be bathing yesterday.  But when we got to the spring there were quite a few monkeys lazing around.  Others were grooming each other in the water.

Monkey in Onsen

Monkey in Onsen

One of the park keepers pointed out the alpha male of the troop. I believe that he said that the monkey was 26 years old. (He was speaking in Japanese so it’s possible that I am mistaken.)  He was calmly sitting watching all the humans and as long as we didn’t stare at him it was possible to get quite close.

Marty Tries to become Alpha Male

Marty tries to become Alpha Male

7 Responses to “Snow Monkeys”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    And the alpha male looks wholly unconcerned.
    This sounds like a lot of fun – thank you for posting pictures.

  2. karen Says:

    We did have a great day. I’m glad it was also a cold day or Marty would never have left!

  3. Norwin Says:

    Which one is the monkey 😛

  4. karen Says:

    The cute one 🙂

  5. Sarah (wee sis) Says:

    awwk them monkeys are so cute. And ive noticed that marty has lost lots of weight :O xx

  6. karen Says:

    Marty is cute too 🙂 The monkeys were lovely.

  7. mella Says:

    so adorable!
    please check out my article about snow monkeys as well! there are some really wonderful photos and more interesting facts!
    i hope you’ll enjoy it!

Japanese Hotel Room

Last night we stayed at the Plaza 21 hotel in Sakudaira.  It was the smallest Japanese hotel room I have ever stayed in.

Hotel Room

Hotel Room

Hotel Room - Looking Towards the Window

Hotel Room - Looking Towards the Window

I found it really hard to take a picture of the room because I couldn’t find anywhere sensible to stand.  The pictures don’t really show how small it was.  If I lay on the bed and stretched out I could touch the walls on either side of the room with the tips of my fingers and the points of my toes.  And I’m not exactly tall.

3 Responses to “Japanese Hotel Room”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    This looks like a little slice of torture.

  2. karen Says:

    Thankfully I was only sleeping there one night. It was incredibly hard to move around if Marty was in the room. Really awkward getting out of bed as I was over at the wall. And I’m really glad we didn’t have suitcases as I have no idea how there would have been room for us and these at the same time.

  3. Khaos » Blog Archive » Snow Monkeys Says:

    […] « Japanese Hotel Room […]

Weekend Trip

This weekend we are going to Saku to visit a friend and to go and see the snow monkeys.  I love travelling on the shinkansen and can’t wait to leave but Marty is still fast asleep.  Obviously the thought of a train with a maximum operating speed of 300 km/h isn’t as exciting to him as it is to me.


I have often heard people ask conference organisers if they’ve started to have nightmares about the event yet.  I organised a conference and I didn’t have nightmares.  But last night I had my first nightmare about being president of TPF.  The dream involved mutant rats, freaky flying creatures, and black goo.  Thankfully I woke up at the point where the rat people were trying to turn me into a man…

(I imagine when mst is encouraging people to blog about Perl that this isn’t the sort of post he is expecting.  But the dream has been on my mind all day.)

Spring Day

This spring has been surprisingly cold and damp.  But today the sun came out and a I finally got a chance to see the cherry blossoms.

Street Lined with Cherry Blossoms

Street Lined with Cherry Blossoms

Baking a Cake

“Bake a cake”, he said,  “It’ll be fun”.  It’s been years since I tried to bake a cake and I’d forgotten how much time it can take.  I used to make chocolate cakes, but I really don’t want all those extra calories in the house, so I decided to make something less fattening.

But before you can make a cake you need to shop for the ingredients.  It’s difficult to find the correct ingredients here.  I have been told that they don’t sell self raising flour in Japan.  This can be made from plain flour and baking soda but it adds an extra mixing and sieving phase when trying to get the baking soda evenly mixed through the flour.  I think I found the right type of sugar, but if nothing else it was the right colour.  Good fruit though is easy to buy, if a bit expensive.

After sieving and mixing the salt, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon I had to prepare the fruit.  I don’t appear to be very good at grating things.  The carrot was too hard and seemed to take forever, the apple was too mushy and I nearly put my hand through the grater.  The orange peel was the only thing that seemed to grate in the way I was expecting. The raisins were no problem at all as all I needed to do was weigh them.  The sugar needed mixed with oil and orange juice, which should have been easy, but I managed to squirt orange juice all over myself and the floor.

The cake didn’t look great before I put it in the oven, probably something to do with the carrots and raisins, but it did smell amazing.  Now that it’s out of the oven it looks fine.

Carrot, Apple, and Raisin Cake

Carrot, Apple, and Raisin Cake

Actually it tastes fine too.  Not sure I would describe the process as fun but I would make this again.

4 Responses to “Baking a Cake”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    It looks delicious, even if carrots gross me out. I would give it a try. I’m sure Chastity is proud.

  2. karen Says:

    The carrot wasn’t noticeable in the cake as it also had orange, apple, and raisins. But I believe it was the carrot that helped it be so moist.

    Marty took it with him to work this morning, so at least I know he liked it 🙂

  3. Chastity Says:

    I’m very proud! Also proud of Jessica’s willingness to try it, carrots be damned! 😉 I’d love this recipe. It sounds delicious.

  4. karen Says:

    I’ll have to look it out for you. I’ve been buying new recipes books and now I can’t remember where I put them!

Out of Touch

Yesterday I lifted up a copy of Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 75 while walking through HMV in Shibuya.  I have only heard of about 40% of the artists and 4 of the 43 songs.  As I was curious I decided to look up the contents of Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 65, which was released around the time I left the U.K.  I believe that I used to listen to popular music, but I might just be kidding myself and blaming my move to Japan for something that isn’t related at all.

On that CD I had heard of 70% of the artists and knew 20 of the 43 songs.  I was aware that I was hearing a lot more Asian music but I hadn’t realised just how out of touch I was getting regarding music from the U.K. and America.  Mind you, I’ve just looked at the contents of the album again and with artists like “Jedward featuring Vanilla Ice” I’m not sure I’m missing much.

4 Responses to “Out of Touch”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    I didn’t even know they were still making those.

  2. karen Says:

    I have a little sister who asks for such things as part of her Christmas present.

  3. geoff! Says:

    I’m still here and I don’t think I’d fare much better… and worse still there doesn’t appear to be any Every Little Thing in the HMV in Belfast! ^_^

  4. karen Says:

    I suppose my local HMV has advantages if you want to buy Japanese music 🙂

Easter Dinner

Yesterday I decided to use the new oven to cook dinner for friends.  This did mean that things probably seemed totally chaotic when they arrived at our apartment.  When cooking for other people I’m a great fan of dishes that can mostly be prepared the day before.  I’ve gotten used to making soups, curries, and stews.  I’m completely out of practice when it comes to using an oven.

I made chicken soup the day before for our starter, which was one thing less to worry about.  I wanted to cook turkey breast, stuffing, potatoes, and carrots in the oven.  Since the oven is quiet small we tried putting things into it earlier in the day and realised that there was no way that was all going to fit.  Instead of roasting the carrots I made honey and orange coated carrots in the crock pot.  I have gotten used to the crock pot so when it plays it’s weird little Japanese tune I know that the thing instead it really is cooked.  Pity I can’t say the same about the oven.

The roast potatoes cooked really fast.  The turkey breasts cooked really slow.  At one point it looked liked all the vegetables would be ready with nowhere to keep them warm.  I had this large bowl of colcannon that I was beginning to think might have to go in the crock pot with the carrots, which wasn’t a brilliant solution but I really didn’t want to dry it out on the stove.

In the end it all worked out and I did learn a few things about the oven.  It’s really hard to cook two things in it at once that aren’t going to finish at the same time.  It has one oven tray and a wire stand that sits over this.  So, when you take out the tray, the stand comes out too.  If your meat is on the tray there is no way to baste it without lifting out the stand, and in my case, the potatoes.  The oven loses heat really fast when the door is open so it’s not a good idea to open it and then realise that you haven’t got a clue how to unwrap the tinfoil around the meat so you can baste it.

Oven gloves would also be very useful.  I used to have these but we have no idea where they might be.  I’m hoping that somewhere I have an unpacked box containing ovenware.

I’m really glad that I had ordered Easter eggs and little Easter cakes from the U.K. for this dinner.  If I hadn’t I would probably have decided to bake a cake and that would have made the day a complete stress-fest.  As it was we had a bit of flapping around followed by a really nice meal.

2 Responses to “Easter Dinner”

  1. Norwin Says:

    “a bit of flapping around followed by a really nice meal” – that sounds like you observed all the traditions correctly. After all, it wouldn’t have been a proper special occasion without a bit of flapping about! I know my mum had some flapping too. But our dinner was lovely too!

  2. karen Says:

    I don’t mind a bit of flapping, I just like to pretend to be calm and collected when we have company!

Wedding Anniversary

We celebrated our 14th Wedding Anniversary last week.

Flowery Gift

Flowery Gift

2 Responses to “Wedding Anniversary”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    A very belated ‘Happy Anniversary’ wish….. again! Dates and I don’t work well together. Anyway, I hope you had a good day 🙂

  2. karen Says:

    Thank you! As you know I’m not exactly great with dates either 🙂

Oven Cooking

We bought an oven.   I was a bit concerned when I finally managed to translate the instructions.  The maximum time setting is 90 minutes.  I have memories of cooking things for much longer than that.  I then thought it might be a fan assisted oven, which significantly reduces cooking time, but it’s not.  I gave the booklet to my Japanese teacher in case I had misunderstood and that there was a way to use it without setting the timer.  She looked at me and asked what on earth I would be cooking that would take longer than 90 minutes.

The oven isn’t very big.  It is a 31 Litre oven, which means absolutely nothing to me.  It’s not like I’m planning on filling it with bottles of mineral water, or that you can completely fill an entire oven and still use it.  But after staring into it for a while I realised I wouldn’t be able to cook a whole turkey in it.  I might not even be able to fit some turkey crowns in it.  I actually can’t think of anything that would fit in it that’s going to take more than 90 minutes to cook.  My memories are all of large roasts and turkeys.  Things that are meant to feed 10 people coming for dinner.  Here I spend most of my time cooking for two.  Sometimes, we get really wild and I cook for four.

I just cooked a Shepherd’s Pie and I’m incredibly happy.

Taller By Far

I’ve been using the Wii Fit for quite a while now to track my weight.  We had friends over recently who were talking about their weight and BMI and we thought it would be fun to use the Wii to do this.  One of the measurements we needed to put in was height, which led to a discussion on our heights.

In the U.K. height is measured in feet and inches.  In Japan they use centimetres.  It turns out that I didn’t know how to accurately convert between the two.  In school I had been taught that 30 centimetres was one foot.  This made me believe that 5 feet was 150 centimetres but it’s actually 152.4 centimetres.  I hadn’t realised that in school I was being taught an approximation based on the standard size of ruler we used to use.

This means that I’m actually about 3 centimetres taller than I thought.  Pity I’m not actually taller, the problem was just converting between the units.  Though updating the Wii with my real height does improve my BMI.