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Just popping in.

Hey friends.
Can you believe that it's June already!?
Time is flying by. My time left here is going quickly.
I really can't believe that I haven't been home to Canada in 2 years.
So bizarre!!  Thank goodness I have a squirrel friend who puts up photos,
otherwise I might forget what Canada even looks like!!!
There are definitely some things I will miss like crazy when I'm back.
For example, this delightful lunch feast:

Macrobiotic lunch set!

Personal Steamed Veggie basket (including okra, japanese sweet potato,
daikon, cabbage, carrots,  bell peppers and tomatoes)

Dippage for the veggies: shoyu +  sesame, and sea salt

Of course, some miso soup.

And you can never have too much brown rice.

And to finish off the meal:
Whole wheat apple crumble, with fresh soy icecream. No sugar! 

And something to ponder:
Do you know what you really want, but aren't going after it?
Put your idea out there.
The only thing stopping you is your mind.
If you believe you can do it, you can!
Big hugs from Japan. Hope all is well in bloggy-land.

The sun is shining,

and life is good :)
Hey guys. Long time no see write.
Not much new in my life, other than beginning to get stuff sorted out to go home!!
I have 3 months left here (sad, but a bit excited too), and I want to be able to enjoy my time here in the summer without spending all my time packing up and sorting, so we are beginning to make lists and get boxes ready.
And we had some family visit, and have been digging picnics under these glorious blankets of beauty:

I think ohanami might be my favourite activity in the world!
Are there any blossoms where you are?
In my city in Canada, there was just a blizzard last weekend....eeeergh.
I have been eating closer to my heart these days.
Less giant bowls of porridge, and more of this:
Somehow I forgot about how great wakame makes me feel. I tried some of the
cheaper store brands here when I first came, and didn't really like them, so I just let
it fall off my radar. Well, I found a better high end brand, and am cooking it
into my rice everyday and LOVING it. So energizing!
But, there have been some giant bowls of this in my life lately:

Simple yellow split pea soup:
~2 cups yellow split peas rinsed and soaked for awhile, then drained
~3 cups chopped greens (something sort of like kale?)
~6 cups of water
~salt
~spoon of cumin and some cayenne
1. Bring split peas and water to a boil.
2. Scoop off any foam that forms (if you want)
3. Lower heat and simmer for about 30 mins or until the split peas are quite broken down.
4. Chop up greens and add in, cooking until they soften (~15 minutes more?).
5. Add a pinch of salt and spices to taste and cook for about 10 more minutes.
6. Scoop out some parts of the soup and blend if desired, adding back in and reheating.
7. Serve, topped with some flax seed, sunflower seeds, and parsley.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have been focusing on my yoga these days. I am loving it!!!
Meditating a bit more, and practicing regularly at home. 
Spending time reading on it as well.
It's what makes my heart sing, so why not spend as much time as I can on it!?
What makes your heart sing!?

Ahhh.

Spring time is glorious.
Despite the recent horrific events up North here in Japan, 
fresh spring air and beautiful flowers can help calm the mind and make everything seem better.

And of course, starting your day off with a late breakfast of cold carrot cake
straight out of the fridge doesn't hurt, either ;)

This was some yummy fuel for a long walk outside, checking out views like this:

All that walking make me hungry for a simple dinner:

Brown rice covered in dulse, and a fast stiry fry.
This is just the beginning of more blossoms --- I can't wait!
I am a sun and outside girl, and I hope to spend time everyday outside when I can.
Have you stopped and smelled the flowers lately?

One of the best things happened to me.

Really, I couldn't have hoped for more.
My favourite restaurant here in Japan, a macrobiotic one close to me, offered a cooking class!
It was in the evening, for a few hours, and it was great!!!
We made:
-pressure cooked brown rice with aduki beans
- lotus root and greens with a sesame ume sauce
- konnyaku, tofu, daikon, carrot, onion and shitake nabe (which is sort of like a stew)
- miso soup
- wheat gluten tempura in a tahini miso sauce
The couple that owns the restaurant are insanely cute and friendly.
The lady studied macrobiotics in Osaka for two years. 
The restaurant serves delicious food (the wheat gluten dishes and I often don't get along so well, but I usually don't eat it, or order something else).
It was hard to snap photos while cooking, but here are a few:
This is the aftermath of our cooking station. 
There were 6 of us, and we got to eat everything after.
And, here are some of the final food shots:

Trust me, it was much nicer than the photos!
While we were eating, the couple gave us a cute talk on macrobiotics.
As it was all in Japanese, I could only get the main ideas, BUT, it was fun anyways.
They made a big book and flipped through the pages as they talked.
Anyways, I am so happy and can't wait to take more classes! 
Have you ever taken a cooking class?
This was my first one...and I really want to study about macrobiotics, a lot more!

Isn't it so nice...

to be able to eat out at a restaurant, where you DON'T have to be picky and ask for substitutions? Where they offer plenty of vegan, whole-grain, and macrobiotic based foods?
A few weekends ago, we went for a drive through the mountains to a Macrobiotic Cafe called Magnolia. It was a delightful drive, with twisty turny (turney?) roads, through bamboo forests and rice fields.
The cafe itself was easy to spot, a nice old western-style farmhouse. Behind it was a great view of the mountains. 
We walked in, and there was a nice gas heater in the middle of the room, with a kettle on top bubbling away to keep the room humid.

We sat at a thick wooden table, with comfy chairs. 
To our right was the small kitchen where we could see the two wonderful cute lady chefs cooking away. In front of them were some low-lying shelves and counters, lined with macrobiotic foods. Umeboshi plums, miso, whole-grains and their flours, unsalted nonoiled raisins, almonds, and cashews. Some dried seaweeds. Some kukicha tea, and soup stock. Wonderfully delicious tempeh... we had fun browsing while our lunches were cooking.
I decided on the Macro lunch plate. It came with: onion miso soup, brown rice, salad, beans, and some roasted lotus root and veggies. It was yummy yummy.
My guy chose the wheat-gluten sandwich and salad, and so did one of my friends. They said it was great!
My other friend chose the pasta, but I forgot to get a photo...oops!
For dessert, my friend and I both enjoyed the tofu and walnut cheesecake (to die for!). I forgot to snap a photo of dessert on our plates, but here they all are in the cooler.
My guy enjoyed the chocolate cake. I think this was the winner. It was so dense and rich, but not very sweet.
My other friend chose the special of the month: brown rice roll cake with strawberry and amasake. It was delicious! The cake was made of brown rice flour and was really spongy.
In my city in Canada there were no macrobtioic restaurants, and very few vegan only restaurants. And actually, I think in Canada in general, there are not many macrobiotic restaurants. For any Canadians out there...do you know of any macrobiotic restaurants in Canada? I love to visit Vancouver and the island, and maybe one-day I'll make the trek to Toronto.
In any case, Japan is a glorious place to eat out. They do food so so well in this country. I am located in what feels like the North West Territories of Japan (kinda isolated). But that being said, there are even two Macrobiotic restaurants within an hour of me! And don't even get me started on the big cities like Kyoto and Tokyo. For me, Kyoto was like a dreamland. So many delicious vegan and macrobiotic restaurants, and some kick-ass yoga. I will for sure miss the abundance of local foods, and the delicious cafes in this country when I return.
What are your favourite places to eat?
In Japan so far, my favourite restuarant was in Kyoto. It was called Biote.


Do you mind asking for special dishes and options when eating out?
I hate being picky, so I do my best to find something on the menu that I can eat with minimal requests. 
But, that being said...it is difficult sometimes to find things on the menu, and then asking for them, 
especially here in Japanese ;)

Umeboshi Plums

Have you ever tried umeboshi?
They are really popular here in Japan. They are super sour pickled plums.
They are most often in rice balls, or served on top of rice with black sesame.
But, you can also find umeboshi flavoured candies (hard candies and dried candy).
There is ume vinegar and paste.
And also ume-shu (alcohol).
I love umeboshi, because I love all things sour.
I first tried umeboshi paste in Canada, because the plums were just WAY too expensive for my budget. Since coming here, I have been able to enjoy them quite frequently. They are quite salty though, so make sure you don't over do it. I have tried many from the supermarket, but they are often artificially dyed and sweetened. So, after a few treks to some natural foods store, I now purchase naturally aged for 5 years in wooden barrels umeboshi. Yum yum yum.
In many of the macrobiotic books I own, there are recipes for healing teas using umeboshi (boiled with shoyu, or kukicha tea for example). I haven't tried anything like that yet, but I am definitely curious.
Something else I love, are Japanese mortar and pestles:  
suribachis



I make my own ground sesame in here, and you can grind many other things too.... like umeboshi!

Here I was grinding up a few plums to mix with tofu for a dressing. Super yummy! I have eaten this quite frequently on top of steamed veggies at Macrobiotic restaurants here. 
Brown rice + black sesame + umeboshi is a match made in heaven, I tell you!
Do you like sour foods?? Do you like umeboshi?

"Winter" in Japan

I can't quite believe it myself, but here are some shots from around the city I live in,
last weekend:




Quite different than the -30 c weather back home!
I must stay though, I do miss snow, and Christmas just isn't the same without it!
Are you a fan of snow? Is it cold where you are?

Eating involves all your senses

Including the visual!

One thing I will surely miss when I leave Japan, is the effort people put into presentation.
At most restaurants, the food is so pretty it is almost a shame to eat!
Looking at food, and enjoying it's beauty, and the way it is presented puts you in a great mindset to truly enjoy a meal!
Here are but a few pretty presentations, more to come in the days that follow.
These are from my favourite cafe in town (it specializes in vegan muffin and scone, baked with no added sugar):

hot ginger tea with a sweet potato scone

tea time plate

cute teapot and tray

the cutest little rice milk pourer ever!
Things like this inspire me to take the time to beautify meals!
Do you find the time to make things look pretty? I always want to, but it is not yet a priority. Soon though, I hope!

So I had an affair...

And I don't regret it for a minute.

Can I really be blamed?

I was tempted by early morning ashtanga yoga (oh adjustments, it has been so long), vegan sweets, macrobiotic lunches, all-day-long walks, sightseeing, and falling deliriously head-over-heels giddy with happiness.

Unfortunately, it ended far too quickly, and left me kicking and screaming like a toddler wanting more.

Let's let the pictures tell the story, shall we?

....................................................................................

*enter a lovely restuarant, where they ate:


*vegetarian curry and brown rice for him



*for her, a vegan, macrobiotic lunch of brown rice, steamed veggies, and fresh-pressed carrot juice

*and lentil soup

*vegan/macrobiotic cafe upstairs, on another lovely day:



*set lunches for 800yen (~$8 USD)


*post lunch, warm beverages were enjoyed. Soy chai latte for him.
*roasted dandelion coffee for her.

*going with flow, and diving into another all vegan restaurant. Amazing style:


*Very quaint, with wooden chairs, wicker baskets, and seats looking onto a balcony garden. Their menu states they "do not use any refined sugar, meat, dairy, or animal products. But we do use whole foods, organic foods, and healthy foods." We were sold.

*this fresh made-to-order vegan parfait didn't hurt convincing us either (fresh soymilk icecream with no refined sugar)

*a quick dinner at a vegan restaurant, late one evening (only the vegetable curry made it onto the camera). Bad photography skills don't do the unique and cute restaurant justice. But an inventive macrobiotic themed menu do!

*walking all day around sights like this:

*made them hungry for more mumokuteki.
*more genmai (brown rice) and vegan curry for him

*and a wicker basket (??) for her

*containing freshly steamed vegetables with nothing on them. Only 2 small sidedishes for dipping if she so chose. One had shoyu, the other sea salt.

*and wouldn't it be great, if you could go to a buffet and feast on all-organic, all-vegetarian (mostly vegan) dishes, with as much brown-rice as your heart desires? They thought so:

*soy, banana, and black sesame shakes are okay too

*rainy days are great for finding new cafes

*and after more walking enjoying fresh made soy chai

*served with lots of thought and care in terms of presentation

*and maybe with a side of vegan, whole-grain, refined sugar free, organic chocolate cake (definition of heaven: somewhere that serves things she would try to make on her own...without having to specially ask for it)

Good thing T was ok with this affair. In fact, he fell in love too.

*They drove home after 10 days, through views like this:

Truly ecstatic.
Oh Kyoto. We will be back, I promise.