Sunday, April 22, 2007

sheesergirl is moving...

only two blocks away, but it will be the start of an entirely new life.

after sharing 2 and a half amazingly fun years of dating, and several interesting but difficult months of living together, purpleman and sheesergirl have decided to part.

i'm closing this blog, as i haven't been updating it much recently anyway.

thanks and see you again, maybe in a new blog!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

isla holbox

it's been a hectic 6 months of moving, adjusting to new jobs, meeting new people... so purpleman and i decided we needed a vacation.

isla holbox is a tiny island off the northeastern tip of the yucatan peninsula. from cancun, it's a bumpy, 3 hour car ride through the jungle of quintana roo, followed by a 20-minute ferry ride from a small town called chiquila.

holbox is still recovering from hurricane wilma, and the island is basically a sleepy fishing village anyway, so there are very few tourists --after a few days you start recognizing the same faces.

i was surprised at how good the food was everywhere. the most impressive dish was the seafood ceviche: raw lobster, shrimp, octopus and fish, all marinated in lime, with chopped cilantro, onions and tomatoes. a very simple dish, but impossible to make without fresh seafood. xaloc, the small hotel where we stayed for 6 nights, did an exquisite version of this and i suspect they added a secret twist to the standard recipe. another memorable dish was xaloc's langosta xtabentun, lobster cooked in a creamy, anisette-flavored sauce...

but having returned to chilly new york, one of the things i'm already missing is waking up to the sound of waves. starting monday, it will be back to alarm clocks and subways...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

the new yorker

i haven't updated this blog as much as i'd like to since moving. besides the fact that it took us a while to get connected to the internet, i've simply been very tired. it's partly because the new job has been pretty demanding. but it's also been hard adjusting to the generally more confrontational culture that is new york. i'm finally getting used to it and even beginning to feel comfortable that people --whether it be in the office or on a train with total strangers-- say what they want.

so, purpleman and i have spent most of our weekends recovering --reading and lazing around the apartment.
but lately we've been more adventurous, sampling indian in jackson heights (below: the famous jackson diner), szechuan in chinatown, argentinian gelati in the west village...

Monday, July 10, 2006

this is home now

it's been a hectic few months, but we're finally settled in our new home here in astoria, new york. and we love it!

we considered parts of brooklyn like williamsburg and park slope, but astoria somehow felt much more comfortable. my first impression of the neighborhood was that it was tremendously diverse. riding the N train into the neighborhood, i noticed everyone was reading a newspaper in a different foreign language --some greek, some italian, others chinese or spanish. and when i got off the train, i was hit by smells wafting from the falafel and kebab stands, the din of the greek cafes and restaurants... and somehow i knew it was my neighborhood.

our new place is a humble two bedroom apartment on a quiet street near broadway station. from our dining room window, i can see the neighbor's lawn --and laundry. i actually didn't expect such a nice view of greenery in new york city! the picture on the right is our living room. these two chairs are from my apartment in japan but the kilim is from double knot, a beautiful, turkish carpet gallery in tribeca. shopping for furniture was the funnest part of the move, although arranging for their delivery was the hardest!!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

some good news

just as i was starting to like the idea of being a bum in new york, i received a call saying i got a job in new york! so i am feeling tremendously happy and relieved about being able to move with purpleman without struggling for a visa or quitting work --both of which i was prepared for.

so it's been a crazy month. the excitement of hearing about purpleman's new job, the horrible job interview and agonizing wait for the result... i definitely don't want to go through it again.

now all i have to stress out over is where to live in new york. the top candidates are astoria, queens, and the area around prospect park, brooklyn.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

i still can't believe it but...

purpleman and i are moving to the other big city! so here we come:

i should've posted this sooner, since we found out a few weeks ago about purpleman's new job. but it has taken a while for reality to sink in -i couldn't stop shaking with excitement when he got the call- and to overcome the initial panic of "now what am i gonna do?"

i'm still not exactly sure what i'll be doing in a few months, but i do know i'll be with purpleman, living somewhere along these lines.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

some controversial reading

one of the best books i've read lately is Snow by Orhan Pamuk. i love istanbul, and even though the story is set in what i think is the northeast corner of turkey, the frequent references to places like the very european nisantasi neighborhood reminded me of my visit to that "melancholy city". pamuk recently became very controversial after he was arrested for commenting on turkey's massacre of the armenians. turkey dropped the charges (of embarassing the state) right as i finished reading this book --what a coincidence.

another controversial book i read recently is the japanese Ishi ni Oyogu Sakana (fish swimming in stone), the first novel by Yu Miri. i had read a few of her other novels and essays but i had resisted this one because i knew it was the censored version. but when i saw it at the bookshop the other day with the advertising blurb "words were buried but their spirit survived", i decided to give it a try. it was one of the most depressing books i had read in a long time. it left a nasty aftertaste, but the kind you're glad to have experienced in a sick sort of way. definitely not iyashi-kei.

onsen weekend

the best onsens are supposed to be the hardest to get to, but omaru onsen in nasu-kogen was pretty easy: just an hour on the bullet train to nasu-shiobara and another hour on a courtesy bus that took us directly to the omaru onsen ryokan.

what makes this particular onsen special is that it's actually a river. the hot spring comes bubbling up from the riverbed --they've basically blocked off parts of the river to make a few outdoor baths.

the food was pretty good too. they did a cool presentation with the sashimi. i guess this is supposed to be a kamakura, or a japanese igloo. notice the prawn chilling out next to a scallop and a mound of wasabi:

it snowed on our second day there, so we sat in a bath watching snowflakes melt amidst the steam.

something chocolatey

my sister read my to-do list for 2006 and decided she wasn't going to let me be all talk as usual: we would bake a chocolate cake.

everyone says baking is easier than it sounds, and i suppose it's true because it is mostly just measuring and mixing. the hardest part is waiting --especially when you need to let it cool but the smell is so good you just can't resist...

we followed a recipe by raymond blanc, and the result was my favorite kind of chocolate cake: very dense and not too sweet, with a generous sprinkle of walnuts. it initially seemed a bit underbaked --a little bit too moist-- but tasted perfect a day later.

Monday, January 16, 2006

new york

i just got back from a week-long business trip to new york and washington d.c.
the funnest evening in new york was a dinner at hoomoos ali in soho with two former colleagues. they left the company years ago but we've somehow managed to stay in touch. it was fun exchanging gossip and updating each other on the latest developments in our careers and relationships...

and we had a hilarious conversation about our mutual friend jeremy, which started:
(brian) "I met him in Moscow, he's now dating a fellow Brit there!"
(me) "So then she must be new, the last i heard he was dating a pole dancer!"
(karen) "I think he' still with the pole dancer, he mentioned her in a recent e-mail"
(brian) "But I just met his girlfriend a few week ago! She's a journalist!"
after 10 minutes and much confusion, we were able to piece together the full story-- he was dating an english journalist working in moscow who pole-dances for recreation! of course we might've gotten it totally wrong, in which case i suppose it would be a perfect example of how funny rumours get started.

the rest of the trip was mostly business, and quite rushed. but i did have a very long, leisurely breakfast at norma's. i took a full two hours to read the new york times and the new yorker(i know you can get it outside new york, but it's not the same) and finish my Waz-za waffle made with mangoes and blueberries. i don't think i would ever become a regular at norma's even if i did live in new york. it is quite expensive. but when you're travelling you have a better excuse to pamper yourself, right?

Saturday, December 31, 2005

happy new year

best wishes for the new year.

i've been busy the past few weeks catching up with friends, doing holiday shopping, getting the flu... and now 2005 is already over!

i meant to write up a list for "the best of 2005", but there were too many highlights this year and i'm too indecisive to choose just one. the best trip would be a tie between melbourne and paris, the best dinner would either be one of the paris restaurants or yarra valley's healesville hotel, the best music album would be either superaquello's new album or maybe takk by sigur ros --although my latest favorite is solo piano by gonzales.

so instead, here's a to-do list for 2006:
1) learn to bake something chocolate-y.
2) visit barcelona (fingers crossed)
3) move house
4) drink more wine

Saturday, December 17, 2005

sushi and sake

sushidai is a casual and very reasonably-priced sushi bar right outside the tsukiji fish market. i'd recommend anyone visiting tokyo to go there and try the "tencho- ni omakase" course, which is a great deal at 3,500 yen. my favorites are aji (horse mackerel) with shaved ginger, hamachi (yellow tail), and lightly-seared toro.

one thing about sushidai, though, is that they don't have a very good selection of sake. so this time, i met up with my sister for pre-sushi drinks in ginza. bars in ginza tend to be outrageously expensive, but the fukumitsuya sake bar is an exception with glasses starting from 300 yen. it's actually a "sampling bar" where you can try different kinds of sake made by an old kanazawa brewer of the same name. if you like something, you can buy a bottle on your way out, which is what my sister did.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

in hot water

what do japanese expats miss the most about home? sushi? oden? yes, but those things aren't impossible to find in most major cities. for me, it would definitely be the onsen.

my sister nami was visiting from washington d.c., so my family decided to go up to the hot springs in hakone last weekend.

we were all quite impressed by the newly-renovated ryokan hatsuhana, known for its abundant (and therefore un-recycled) hot spring water and kaiseki dinners. one thing i noticed was its focus on women. in most ryokans, men's baths are often bigger and set in more picturesque settings than the women's, but at hatsuhana it was the opposite. there were about 4 outdoor and 2 indoor baths for women, while there was only one of each for guys. maybe they realized that women are usually the decision-makers when it comes to travel.

from the baths, we got a good view of the mountainside --a bright array of autumn colors during the day and an illuminated bamboo forest at night. aaaaah, i wish i could do this more often...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

shochu and sashimi in palermo (of japan)

i just got back from a one-night business trip to kagoshima, a city on the southern tip of kyushu. i usually don't have time to do much sightseeing and this trip was no exception, but i did manage to find a great bar specialising in shochu and local cuisine.

i didn't really feel like pork, which kagoshima is famous for, so i ordered a platter of sashimi. i especially liked the kibinago, a small, transparent fish that is part of the herring family and available year-round in kagoshima. the saba (mackerel) and modori-gatsuo (bonito that's returned south after a swimp up to hokkaido) were also amazingly fresh, and the chef told me that should be no surprise since everything was fished locally, just that morning. i noticed the soy sauce was very dark and sweet, kagoshima-style. i thought it might kill the flavor of the sashimi but it actually went quite well, making it taste a little sweeter and fatter.

because of all my oohing, aaahing and picture-taking, the chef wanted to know where i was from. i told him i'm from tokyo but originally from wakayama (which is more exciting), and when i called it the "sicily of japan" because of the mafia and high rate of crime and unemployment, he told me that kagoshima is definitely the "palermo of japan". and this is why:

from shiroyama hotel, an impressive view of kyushu's own vesuvio, the volcanic sakurajima island.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

turning 30

i was planning on not having a birthday this year so i could linger perpetually in my 20's. but i was too tempted by the promise of presents and booze...
after a champagne toast and some dancing to a record by the Brazilian Girls, a gift from purpleman, we went to Arossa, a modern australian restaurant in Shinsen. i'm not quite sure about the definition of modern australian cooking. but what Arossa and the Healesville Hotel in Yarra Valley had in common, besides a mix of italian and french cooking and some asian influence, was a very strong emphasis on fresh produce --like good farm cheese, crisp vegetables, and locally-grown meat.

so thanks to great food and wine, and a beautiful present from purpleman, a very fun transition to the big 3-oh.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

paris eats

some highlights:

it was already way past 8 by the time purpleman arrived in paris, so we thought we'd just go for a quick bite. but we ended up having a great meal at chez justine, a restaurant-bar several blocks from our hotel.

it was a friday night and the place was literally overflowing with young parisians. with a crowd at the bar and some even standing outside with their wine glasses, we assumed there would be no tables, but it turned out they were just having their friday drinks and we were quickly seated near the back of the restaurant. my pork and purpleman's duck confit were excellent, thanks to the recommendation of our friendly neighbor (who spoke perfect english and french --envy!). the place even had live guitar and vocal performance later in the evening, a surprise treat. a bit chaotic and definitely more casual compared to le pamphlet, where we ate (very well) the following night, but a generous treat to the senses just the same and a great start to the trip.

l'as du falafel has a special place in my heart. i remember coming here on one of my solo travels, and the food filled me with such warmth i felt so much happier and comfortable the rest of my trip. i still think the falafel sandwich here is one of the best of its kind. and i can't get enough of the tahini sauce. purpleman and i were so absorbed in our mouthfuls of "falafel special" that we just munched in silence for a while... and as a result we couldn't help but eavesdrop on the two american girls sitting next to us discussing their diets and the need for more democracy in the third world.

we also had a good meal at les philosophes in the marais, although what i remember most is the golden tarte tatin. partly because we had to wait so long for it... the memory of it makes my mouth water. yum, yum...

l'estaminet, the bistro where i had lunch alone on the first day, was so nice i had to go back with purpleman. a very laid-back and cozy place, but the menu du jour was full of choices, with dishes like boudin blanc, andouillete, etc. we opted for the two-course meal, and i had duck gizzard and liver in red wine sauce, with salad.

our last dinner was at l'astier near parmentier. everything was excellent, and my only regret: i ate so much that by the time the fabulous cheese platter came around, i could only try a little bit. next time, i want a little bit of everything! the desserts were great too, especially purpleman's pistachio creme brulee, but our stomachs were about to explode by the end of the meal.

in fact, we were nearly bursting after every meal throughout the whole trip. but we did do a lot of walking in between and we were usually quite hungry by the next meal, so i suppose it wasn't that unhealthy. we ended up dining mostly in the marais-oberkampf districts, close to our hotel. it was nice to be able to walk home after meals --and we certainly needed the exercise.

flaneuring in paris

from left: man with a baguette greets lady friend on rue oberkampf. is it only the etranger who finds this pedestrian signal humorous, only the japanese girl who finds it kawaii? the narrow path leading from saint sulpice to the luxembourg gardens.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

i've got (red) sole

i landed in paris at around noon and had several hours on my own before purpleman arrived, so after a solitary but splendid lunch at l'estaminet in oberkampf, i set out on a super-efficient shopping trip. i didn't buy much, but my main mission was accomplished in the first hour: simple black pumps from christian louboutin!!! je suis tres tres contente...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

learning to like london

purpleman and sheesergirl reunite! disgusting as it may sound, six weeks apart was far more difficult than i thought it would be, even with the phone calls and frequent instant messaging. when i finally arrived in south kensington, purpleman was waiting for me with red, teary eyes. but as it turned out, it was just because purpleman had a cold and couldn't stop coughing and sneezing... one of those nasty flus that one can only get in cold and damp london. despite that, he made sure i had a fun week and i eventually began to like the city and forgive its many annoyances --the weather, severe shower problems and delays on the underground for starters

some highlights of my trip:
re-visiting the victoria and albert museum. my favorite section was the indian textiles (nehru gallery), where i spent hours just looking at the intricate embroidery and weaving on display. the v&a was also doing a special exhibit on diane arbus. i went in without any expectations and came out feeling quite disturbed, i can't explain why. i hadn't really been moved by art in a long time, and for a few hours i just walked around hyde park.

for our special dinner, purpleman chose chutney mary. it was indian food presented in a way i'd never experienced. the curries were good but i was impressed most by the appetizer we shared, chickpea dumplings with a savoury pesto-like sauce and a sweet compote, garnished with little bits of pomegranate. i also liked vama, another indian restaurant on king's road. it was chosen by purpleman's brother who works in the neighborhood.

lastly, window-shopping at harvey nicks, liberty's and harrod's. harvey nicks has so much character, even though the clothes selection at isetan is far superior in many ways. and liberty's and harrod's have gorgeous interiors that make me want to just live there. so i feel satisfied just walking around the different floors, even without actually buying anything -- a very good thing given the prices and a depressingly weak yen.

getting there... with bibinbap

i usually avoid airline food, but the bibinbap on korean air was not bad at all. sure, it's partly the novelty factor, but i even considered flying korean air from now on every time i visit europe. the bibinbap comes with a tube of authentic hot sauce. the benefits of spicy foods are countless... in this case it helped numb my senses towards the boredom and discomfort of a 15 hour flight.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

sheesergirl bobs her hair

i only wanted my hair trimmed neatly so that when i land in heathrow, i don't look like i travelled all the way in the luggage compartment.

but when my hairdresser said he knew of a style that would suit me perfectly, and that today was his only chance to try it as he would be moving to the countryside in a few weeks to take care of his sick dad... i knew i had no choice.

so it's very short now. i must confess: i am very weak when it comes to hairdressers. yes, i know they're all gay. it's just that i find it very difficult to disagree with anything they say because i have an inferiority complex towards The Fashionable People. and they've got those huge, sharp scissors, you know.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

more fermented stuff

because it wasn't really available in california where i grew up, natto, or stinky fermented beans, was always a challenge for me. i remember the drama of the first time my mother made me eat it... i held my nose and had to be rewarded with some dessert afterwards. but i know that it's one of the healthiest foods in the world, so i try to eat it when i can. and i've actually begun to appreciate the flavor, although i still prefer it cooked along with other foods.

so today, i ordered the natto and okura curry at "shin soup curry" in shimokitazawa. i was quite impressed. not only was it eatable, the spiciness of the soup and the distinctive smell of natto complimented each other perfectly. so-- yet another fermented thing i must bully purpleman into trying!

the natto left a bit of a funny aftertaste in my mouth, so i wandered over to the "CAFE USE" down the street, a cafe that does a beautiful job of mixing antique japanese furniture, old Coleman lamps and Fire King cups from the 1960s. judging from the menu, they are very serious about their coffee beans. i tried some from papua new guinea, because that's where purpleman grew up and i never knew they made coffee there. it was very rich, very good.i thought my brother-in-law might like this cafe because he's very particular about his coffee, but he might feel out of place because he's a Very Loud Person and this is one of those funny japanese cafes with a very serious feel where customers somehow feel like they need to whisper.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

buried in sawdust

being buried in steaming, fermented sawdust might not sound like much of a treat, but appointments for a 15-minute "enzyme bath" at the nogizaka treatment center are pretty hard to get. i finally made a booking yesterday after about 20 phone calls.

it had been a year since my last visit but nothing had changed, from the brisk and cheerful service to the funny smell that i can only describe as garden compost. after changing into a pair of baggy shorts, you lie in a coffin-shaped box full of sawdust and various grains. the mixture produces heat through natural fermentation. once inside, it feels like a sauna, but it has a much stronger effect than simply making you sweat. i can tell that it boosts my metabolism because i become very, very hungry afterwards. and i feel like a newborn the following morning. so, i'm planning on bullying purpleman into trying it when he gets back.

after the treatment, i went to the book store to browse through guidebooks on london and paris, but decided i'm not taking any this time. i will be taking maps, though. purpleman doesn't think much of my navigational skills but i quite like looking at maps and knowing where i'm going.

i found a map of paris in one of my old Figaro Japon issues. it's a 20-page booklet that lists almost every cafe and boutique in the saint germain, saint honore, marais, etienne marcel and montmartre neighborhoods. it's amazing how accurate and detailed some japanese maps are.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

saturday shopping and listening

a very productive shopping day.

first, i bought some 35-mm film for my london-paris trip, including some Ilford black and white of different ISOs, at bic camera in shibuya. on the same floor, they had a huge section for digital SLRs, so i had a look. my old minolta xe is so much heavier than any of them, and considering that i always have to worry about pictures not coming out right, maybe it's time to go digital... but i don't feel like making the move just yet. maybe next year.

then i went to aoyama book center and found a book about oberkampf, a neighborhood in paris where purpleman and i will stay next month. looks like a cool area with lots of good bars and cafes... i can't wait!

my last stop was tower records, where i bought this album by the icelandic group, sigur ros. i've been listening to it over and over since i got home.

i think purpleman has it already, so i put on my headphones, close my eyes, and imagine him listening to the same sounds. only two more weeks now.