Friday, July 30, 2010

Food Fun Friday- Octopus Balls!

One of my favorite things about living in Japan is sampling the different kinds of food!  Some things are inherantly Japanese- such as sushi and udon noodles, while other nations' cuisines have a Japanese "twist" on them, and can be suprisingly delicious! 

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and never eat out.  Here on base the choices are limited to mostly American fast food (yuck). So to get out of the food rut we must venture off base, which lately Brother has a big problem with.  The kid would be happy to hang out  the rest of our time in Japan in this little fish bowl of a base- ugg.  But once you do get off-base- the choices are endless.  The problem is- well- trying to figure out WHAT kind of food that place makes, is that chicken or pork, or WHAT kind of fish is THAT?  Many of us find ourselves pointing to pictures- not quite sure of what we will get in return.  I have learned to point and say "kore-wa kudasai"- translated- "I would like that one please".  Sometimes I will get asked a long string of questions in Japanese, all I can do is either nod yes (hai!) or shrug my shoulders "wakarimasen?" (I don't know/understand?)

Well we have definitely gotten out of our food rut as of lately.  It has been too damn hot to cook, so going out seems to be the only option.  We have also made many trips here and there in the past few weeks- so eating out is what we do! 

Last Friday Sissy and I took the train/subway to Hiro-o (hee-ro-o) Station to pick up her modeling pay (cha-ching!)  I offered to go eat at the amazing ramen restaurant that is nearby- but like my good daughter she is- she chose Starbuckys!  I ordered a vanilla frappucino (not realizing it wasn't the coffee kind), and a slice of quiche for me, a shrimp/egg sandwich for Sissy.  The quiche was delicious and familiar.  The shrimp and egg sandwich sounds gross you say?  Actually, I helped Sissy eat it and it was VERY good.  It was like an egg salad sandwich with some small yummy shrimp thrown in for good measure.  It was surprisngly tasty and may be something I pick up again in the future.  I know Starbucks doesn't sound that exciting for those who are stateside, but when there isn't one very close to where you live, you get excited about these little things.
I know- not that exciting- but it was to me!

Sissy enjoying her shrimp/egg sandwich at Starbucks, that's my quiche of the left.

This week I have been bitten by the shopping bug.  Right now the stores are all having their summer sales- so that could be a good or bad thing- depending on how you look at it.  Wednesday Sissy and I strolled over to Vina Walk, which is in Ebina.  It is a nice little mall, conveniently placed next to the train station, as many malls are here.  Vina Walk has an Outback Steakhouse, for those who are looking for American fare.  I have been there once, it is pretty good actually.  It is pretty pricey, but actually when you factor in the tip you would have paid stateside- you end up paying the same.  Here in Japan people do not tip in restaurants, cabs, etc.  They are actually paid a decent wage and are expected to provide excellent service (which they do about 98% of the time). 

Vina Walk also has a nice food court- which is where Sissy and I headed for lunch.  We had Indian.  The guys at the Indian restaurant are so friendly and actually speak very decent English.  In this food court they use the pagers you see used in the waiting areas in restaurants.  Once your order is ready- you go pick up your food.  That gives you the chance to find a table in the mean time.  Very efficient the Japanese are!  Oh, you don't ever have to pay for water or even order it most of the time- there is a little water station available for everyone to use, I love it!

butter chicken and nan- yummm!
The next day Brother, Sissy and I went to Ayase Town Hills, which is a small sized mall in Ayase.  It is connected to Viva Home- which I can only describe as a Japanese version of Home Depot.  In the food court Brother ordered Indian (because he missed out the previous day, Sissy ordered potatoes and a pizza dog, and I ordered tako-yaki.  What is tako yaki you ask?  OCTOPUS BALLS!  But not THOSE kind of balls, it is octopus meat and dough fried up into tasty(?) balls.  I have tried them once before, but they had gotten soggy in the plastic take out container- so I thought I should give them another go.  I ordered 6 octopus balls with "cheezu" (cheese).  They used a little blow torch to melt the cheese on top.  It looked mighty tasty.  But I only was able to eat two.  It just didn't do anything for me.  I am very disappointed.  I would love to tell everyone how much I enjoy octopus balls, but that would be untruthful.
I tried, right?
Gindaco's- here is where you get y'ur Octoballs!

tako-yaki AKA Octopus balls
he loves curry too- butter chicken just like Sisy had the day before...

Sissy being silly- and an example of one restaurants' menus in the food court at Ayase Town Hills.
sorry for the blurry pic- this is the machine where we ordered Brother's curry.  These are popular in Japan.  You put in your money and make your selections.  The machine gives you tickets for the menu items you ordered, which in turn you hand to the wait staff.  It is pretty fool proof, unless nothing is in English- then it gets hard!

 fried potato faces, Sissy loves them

Thank you for joining me in my food adventures, hopefully if I have any kind of follow through at all- I'll have something new for you next Friday!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunshine Stables and Kujukuri Beach

 few weeks ago, Sissy had another modeling job.  This one took us way out to the Chiba prefeecture, which is west of Tokyo and Yokohama.  It is a good 3 hours by train and taxi (from Gumyo Station).  The shoot took place at a lovely little place called Sunshine Stables.  Not only did they have many beautiful horses, but a complete western style ranch house to hang out in.  To top that off- we were a 6 minute walk from the beach (Kujukuri), so we were greeted with the lovely cool breeze from the ocean.

This is by far the best job yet- we would never have visited that place in a million years if she hadn't landed that shoot.  Between pictures Sissy and I visited the horses and chatted with real live Japanese cowboys (and one cowgirl).  They were so friendly and happy to talk about their horses.  Apparently Sunshine Stables is a sort of riding club (that also rents out space for photo shoots), there are even little cabins above the stables where people can stay overnight.  Despite the fact that the cabins might have smelled of horse pucky- I would have LOVED LOVED LOVED to have the opportunity to stay overnight- going for a ride on the beach, a big bonfire, and friendly company- sounds like a perfect night!

To be honest- I am not sure where Sissy's pictures are going to show up- magazines, billboards?  It was a big company (I'll say what when the pictures actually come out.)  It should be interesting though!

another view of the stables
last shoot was at the beach- couldn't keep this little girl out of the sand!  She found so many shells, my pockets were full!!  But I have to say I did dip my toes in the water- pure heaven...
We both got our feet nice and sandy.  When we got back to the "ranch" we were told we needed to hop into the taxi to the train station right away since the train only runs once an hour.  So we had NO time to wash our feet!  I tell you we were feeling nice and grimy 3 hours later when we finally arrived back at our home.

Overall, I really like what I have seen of Chiba so far.  Once we were out of the city, we saw fields, wide open spaces and big houses.  It was so refreshing and peaceful.  Tokyo really is a concrete jungle.  As magnificent as it is (and I really do heart Tokyo)- it is nice to get away to the peaceful countryside- it is good for the soul!

Oh- as you may notice I have a new look to my blog.  I couldn't find the cherry blossom pic I had up there before- so I stuck one up of Sissy from this modeling shoot I just wrote about.  Just FYI...

PS- the pictures are all out of order- not sure what I did here- hopefully thet make some sense....

Japanese surfer guy I snuck a picture of....
Sunshine Stables- totally forgot to take a picture from the front- very cute sign...

You know, I swear this guy was posing for me.  It has been a while since I have been around horses.  I forgot how playful and how much character they have.  Another that was out in the pen was totally rolling on her back like a dog does after a bath.  It was hilarious!!  Of course, they didn't all have great personalities.  One of them, a particular quarter horse named Comet- tried to bite me.  I told Sissy it was because I didn't have any food for him (but I think he was really just onery.)

sandy path from the beach to the ranch house

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

last published June 18...

Holy cow!  I can't believe it has been that long since my last post!  To be honest- my life has been mucho crazy lately.  I will spare you tales of car accidents, bar fights and giant cockroaches but instead show you some pictures of Chinatown- taken last month.  Enjoy!

All You can eat Chinese- not a buffet but you pay one price and then order all you want.  We were so stuffed afterwards!  The very BEST Chinese food I have eaten so far!
Bad focus- grilled shrimp- eyeballs and all.  There is something about food that can look back at you. :)
The kids LOVED the food.
One of the entrances to Chinatown in Yokohama.
Sissy posing with the Chinese statues- everyone had umbrellas that day- it was raining cats and dogs!
One of the streets in Chinatown- tons of shops and restaurants.  It is definitely a great place to go if you love shopping and eating!