Thursday, December 31, 2009

At Least, I Did the Best I Could

Now I'm alone in my room, enjoying solitude after a whole day of cooking and saying goodbye to 2009. In front of me is a glass of beer to reward myself for all the efforts I made this year. This drink should taste better than anything.
New Year's food, already packed and waiting for tomorrow

To be honest, I have never felt this exhausted at the end of a year... exhausted not from being busy, but from wondering, worrying or being paranoid throughout the year. Yeah, and from "waiting" without knowing what I was waiting for. Uncertainty wears you out, doesn't it?

But for tonight, I'm just going to give myself a gentle hug and let the old year go.

Thank you, dear readers, for being with me as I went through a big transition.
I don't know how I could have survived this year without you.

The light to guide the God of New Year to this house

See you all in 2010! :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Did Come To Our Kitchen

My parents made a fuss about Christmas only when their children were small, because old folks in Japan generally think that Christmas is for kids. Thus, this year, living with my aging parents, I had to have a terribly un-festive Christmas. There was no Christmas tree, wreath, gingerbread people, fruitcake or dinner with sparkling wine. The only thing the family got was a typical Japanese Christmas cake which dad had to buy to help the relative who works at a local pastry shop.

But you never thought that this blog would just ignore Christmas this year? OF COURSE NOT!
How could I end a year without exchanging warm wishes with all the good people who support me?

So here it is... The Santa above (made with a strawberry and cream taken from the "anpanman Christmas cake" dad bought) and I are wishing you a warm, joyful Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Mom said OMG when she saw this strawberry Santa. She showed it to dad and he laughed, too. That was something new to me... actually seeing someone react to what I made for Christmas.
And I think I liked that. :)

*::::*::::*::::* Merry Christmas *::::*::::*::::*

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Daikon Pickles

Daikon radishes ready to be pickled

Mom and I pickled some daikon a few weeks ago. We don't make typical "takuan" that requires nuka powdered rice bran. Ours are pickled in sweet-and-sour solution.

This is the recipe mom got from one of the neighbor grannies several years ago.

Daikon Pickles
For STEP 1
5 kg daikon radishes
300 g salt (coarse salt)
A thick plastic bag
10 kg weight

For STEP 2
500 g sugar
450 mL rice vinegar
dried kelp
dried red pepper
(MSG... optional)
(Yellow food coloring... optional)
A thick plastic bag
5 kg weight

Peel daikon radishes. Place them in a big container lined with a big, thick plastic bag, sprinkling salt all over. Close the top of the bag (not necessary to seal). Put a wooden lid or something and place a weight on top. Leave in a cool place for 2 days.

Two days later...You'll see plenty of water in the plastic bag

Drain daikon. (No need to wash them.) Place them in a new plastic bag. Add the sugar, rice vinegar and dry ingredients. Add food coloring to the solution, if desired. Close the top of the bag, place the wooden lid and the weight on top and leave for at least 2 weeks.
* Note that a lighter weight is used this time.

For some reason, our pickles turn out differently every year, even though we use the same recipe all the time. Usually the saltiness is gone in two weeks, but this year it remained much longer. We had no idea why...
(If you are interested in trying out this recipe, you might want to use less salt to be safe. )

2014.12.6  I added "coarse salt" to the ingredients to specify. My guess is that using regular salt was the reason for the saltiness.  Maybe.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

And the Challenges Go On.. Part 7

It seems that the word "CHANGE" was the theme of this year in many places worldwide. And now at the end of 2009, I, too, am going through a transition.

When I wrote the last post of this "challenges" series, I was still looking for a part-time job, and my biggest concern was my parents' condition, especially mom's. My plan was earning a little money every month as a part-timer and studying translation at home for the rest of the time so that I can work as a sort of free-lance translator in the future, taking care of my parents. But dear readers, on the 1st of December, I started working as a data-input operator. And it's a full-time position, though only for three months.

Why the change of plan? Because I want money.

I want money to do and buy some things that are related to my new interest: the local geopark project. As I wrote on this blog (and another one), I have helped the project once in a while in the past couple of months. Sometimes I was pretty stressed, but after going through some rough times, now I'm interested in being something like an eco-tour interpreter myself, not as a professional of course but as a volunteer. Then there are books to read and workshops to attend, which will cost some money, if not a fortune.

I was still hoping to find a part-time job that would pay me enough to pursue my new interest, but I had no luck. Then finally, at the end of November, I felt that I had no patience left and went for a full-time position that was available then. I knew it was a challenge, but since it was just for three months, I thought that we --my family, especially mom-- might be able to handle it.

Now it has been about two weeks at my new workplace. I work with another new employee and we enjoy working together. More than anything, for me it's so great to be able to talk with someone about my age every day. Oh it's a long-forgotten feeling!!

And how mom is taking this? Well, so far so good, I would say.

In my first few months here at my parents' house, I often wondered if my existence at home was making her mental condition worse, because though I didn't mean to, my presence brought a roll confusion in the house; I was a threat to her position as a housewife. If I be in charge of the kitchen and shopping, she would have no other choice but to stay in her room as a useless old woman. However, obviously it wasn't possible for her to keep things in the house (especially kitchen) under control on her own. And it wasn't possible for me to completely withdraw from the kitchen, either. As the readers from my previous foodblog probably know, the kitchen had been a special place for me -- a special part of me. So, yes, I often thought that mom may function better if I found a job, started working and established "my world" where I can belong to outside this house. But I was still reluctant to give her "mother's role" back. If I'd do so, then what should I be? Just a daughter? After being on my own and being a monarch of my own kitchen for more than 20 years?

But I have to admit this: After I started to work full time and gave her the "mother's role" back at least on weekdays, she seems to be functioning much better, perhaps from the sense of responsibility? She still has memory problems, but now she tries harder not to forget important things so that she can prepare lunch and dinner on her own.

On weekdays, every morning mom and I talk about what to make for lunch and dinner. Every day at work, I call mom in lunch break to remind her what the dinner plan was (she doesn't remember about 3 out of 5 times) and ask her what I should buy on my way home. And after work, I do grocery shopping and go straight home. Most of the time, the dinner is ready waiting for me. If not, I help mom to do the last part and then set the table. That's how we have been handling it. It is obvious that she spends hours to fix dinner because of her memory problem, but so far she is doing fine.

But honestly, I'm not sure if we are doing a right thing.
And in Mar. 2010, I'm going to have to make another big career decision... :(

Dad had a health checkup and got a Swine flu vaccine injection in the first week of December. Same diabetes, same uric acid level, but he doesn't stop eating the food that are not good for him. *sigh*

My younger sister emailed me yesterday and said that she and her kids are not coming to visit us for the new year's holiday. She still can't get rid of the bad cold. Gee... the New Year's Day with my parents without my sister, niece and nephew... My very first experience. Would I be able to handle it?

I wonder how many new challenges are waiting in 2010...

Oh, and last week, I killed a huge centipede walking across my room. (Come on, it's December!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My First Homemade Rose Hip Tea

Yes, I did it! I just tasted my very first homemade rose hip tea. And it tasted OK. :D

But look at the color. My tea didn't get any redder than this. Is the store-bought rose hip tea artificially colored or something?

The biggest problem was... it took SOOOO long for the flavor to come out from the dried rose hips. The tea was already cold by the time it got enough flavor, so I ended up pouring everything into a sauce pan and heating it on the stove to drink the tea warm.

Well, well... I'm satisfied that I completed the project. But I'm not sure if I want to do this again. There are many other foods that are rich in Vitamin C, after all, and think about all those scraping and cleaning that you have to do to make this herbal tea...


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