Archive for October, 2011

Chicken Tonight

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I like trying out new recipes.  This week I’ve been craving pastry and I thought I would attempt to make savoury pies.  I have a limited supply of recipe books, most of which focus on desserts, so I spent quite a bit of time researching recipes on the Internet.  In the end I went with a Delia Smith recipe for Chicken Feuilletes.  I’m not sure what a feuillete is but it looks like a pastry parcel.

I had planned to make the pastry but I actually found frozen puff pastry in my local grocery store.  I was delighted as it meant I could experiment with making pies without spending hours folding pastry.  Making the filling was easy.  I let Marty put the filling in the pastry as he enjoys playing and was keen to try making the little parcels.  Watching him looking into the oven and saying things like “oh pants” did make me wonder if I’d made a mistake.  But although the finished pies don’t look as good as the ones in the original recipe they certainly taste like the comfort food I was hoping for.

Chicken Parcels

Chicken Parcels


Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Marty and I spent a couple of days at Ashford Castle during September. One of our planned activities was archery with “cupid in mind”. I don’t find the concept of being hit by an arrow a romantic one but thankfully the arrows flew mostly in the direction of the targets.

Archery Practice

Archery Practice

Cold Prevention

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

We received information today from our medical insurance company listing medication that they supply once a year.  This included a set of things for cold prevention.

Japanese Cold Prevention

I’ve gotten used to the Japanese wearing masks in the winter but I hadn’t heard about Isodine Gargle until one of my doctors asked me if I was using it. She was concerned that my thyroid function was being affected by me gargling too often with products that contained iodine. For me it was an incredibly strange question but it seems that lots of people in Japan gargle with a mouth wash when they arrive home.

I’m not sure what a medical company in the UK would suggest for cold prevention. Maybe a medicated hand-wash, as there was much talk about these after the swine flu scare, but I can’t think of anything else.  All the other things for cold prevention that come to my mind aren’t backed up with much science.  My mother would encourage me to take echinacea which used to make me laugh as she pronounced it like “itchy kneea”.  There was a time when Vitamin C was considered to be the best thing to take to prevent a cold.  And now I hear people talking about Zinc.

When I was younger I spent more time arguing about these things.  But I was never persuasive enough to convince my grandmother that I wouldn’t “catch me death” by going out in the winter with wet hair.


DVD Hatred

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I used to think that our new DVD player only hated me. I would try to watch an episode of something like “Grey’s Anatomy” at lunchtime and it would refuse to play.  Or it would play the first couple of minutes, making me think it was finally behaving, and then stop without explanation.  Put in something like “Gossip Girl” and it would start to make alarming noises making me fear that the disk would be spat out scratched beyond use. Yet in the evenings, when Marty wanted to watch something, it would have no problem playing “Dexter” or some other violent show that Marty was into.  Marty liked to say that the player had taste, unlike me.

But last night it was devious.  Instead of refusing to play the film or stopping every five minutes it managed to skip whole chapters.  We were watching “Thor” which had a predicable plot, so it took us a while to work out that this was happening.

It is a cheap player as we wanted something that was multi-region and our only choices were badly hacked together machines.  When we first moved to Japan I wasn’t expecting this problem as both the UK and Japan are in region 2.  But our Japanese region 2 player wouldn’t play UK DVDs.  Something to do with having a player that wanted NTSC DVDs and not PAL DVDs.

Today it’s sitting sadly in the corner, no longer plugged in, as having to guess if the DVD is playing all of the movie was the last straw.  In its place is our XBox 360 which appears to be capable of playing Japanese and UK Region 2 DVDs.  Not quite sure yet what we are going to do with our Region 1 disks, but for now I’m happy that I can watch “Mad Men” over lunch and don’t have to venture near that scary thing the Japanese call T.V.


London in November

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

I’ve travelled a lot this year and I’m not finished yet.  I plan to stay in Tokyo during October and December but I’m going to attend the London Perl Workshop in November.  I believe the last one I attended was in 2004.  Living in Asia has made it more difficult for me to attend European conferences but I do love catching up with my friends in Europe.  I should go and register now as I’m still feeling stupid for forgetting to register for YAPC::Asia.

After the workshop I will go to Belfast.  I haven’t booked my flights yet, but soon I should know what I’m doing.  Well, as much as I ever know what I’m doing.

Unexpected Learning

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

There are times when learning creeps up on me.  Tonight I was sitting in my favourite tonkatsu restaurant when I realised that things have changed.  It’s the same chain of restaurant that we went to when we first moved to Tokyo, but the experience is somewhat different.  I don’t smile as much.  I still love the food but I can now understand what the staff are saying to me.  I no longer have to go with my “if in doubt smile” approach to compensate for my lack of understanding.  We can read the menu, though we do tend to order the same thing every time we go.  And I can name the pickles.

When we moved there were so many things that we didn’t recognise and the pickles in Tonkatsu Heaven were on that list.  We had no idea what vegetables they had pickled so we named them after their colours.  My favourite were the white ones, which turned out to be daikon.  They served us pink, purple, white, and various greens.  But tonight I could name the pickles in English and Japanese.  I wonder what else I’ve learned without noticing?

Delusions of a Packhorse

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Do you think that you have a superpower?   I do.  It’s not amazing: I can’t shoot fireballs from my hands, or turn invisible, but I believe that I can carry anything I can lift.  I’ve never really comprehended that lifting is different than carrying.  If I can lift something off the ground how much harder could walking with it be?  Yesterday I decided that I could travel across Tokyo with a suitcase, a grip, and my hand luggage.  In total they weighed just over 40 kilograms (88 pounds; 6 stone 4).

Now you may be reading this and thinking, “I could easily carry that”.  But I’m just under 5 foot 2, female, and not a weight lifter.  Of course I also thought that I could carry it, though it would be a stretch to say that I thought I could carry it easily.  I know that I can lift a suitcase that weighs up to 23 kilograms in one hand and I know that I can carry my hand luggage along with that.  How hard could it be to add an extra bag?

My delusions concerning carrying things started when I was a small child helping my Dad with his pigeon baskets. I have no idea how heavy a basket full of pigeons is, but I remember that it was tiring carrying those baskets from our house to my grandfather’s house.  But I also remember how pleased I was when the task was finished and the pride I felt because I’d been able to do it.

This continued throughout my childhood with superhuman feats of carrying things to and from school.  I didn’t live that close to school (google maps shows me that it was a mile away) and I always had too much stuff.  I can still remember walking home from school during a snow storm.  I was carrying my guitar, clarinet, school bag, and gym bag.  I didn’t have a spare hand to brush the snow away so I arrived home looking like a snowman as the snow clung to the wool of my duffel coat.  But I did manage to make it home.

I was very glad that it wasn’t snowing yesterday.  It was a bit warm, but I took my time with the luggage.  I still arrived home ready to collapse in a heap.  The problem though, and this is always the problem, is that I did succeed in getting the bags home.  Do you think that next time I’ll remember that it left me tired and sore?  Do you think I’ll remember the bruises from almost knocking myself over as I lifted the awkward shaped things onto the train?  No, I’ll just remember that I was successful.