Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prison and pancakes

We got up very early this morning to catch the first ferry out to Alcatraz Island. Even though it's supposed to be fall, the weather was beautiful, warm and sunny, perfect for a sightseeing trip.
Our reason for visiting Alcatraz was twofold. First of all, Yasu had never been before and was curious about the notorious prison on an island. I'd already been there twice before and I told hime it was certainly worth a visit. 
While he was doing the audio cell house tour, I was walking around the former prison taking pictures for Eyes for Lies, which was our second reason for making the trip to Alcatraz.
Yasu really enjoyed the tour, which was in Japanese for his convenience. This was the first time they actually offered the tour in Dutch, but I'd already heard it twice in English, so I didn't think it was really worth it on our current student budget. But walking around without headphones can be really fun too, escpecially when that man farted really loud and long, believing nobody would hear him because everyone was listening to their audio tours, while displaying the most innocent face possible! Actually, it was so loud some people even heard it through it their tours, and giggled along with me.
Playing the unhappy prisoner is always fun too, as long as you can step out of the depressing isolation cell as soon as the camera shutter closes. 
Climbing 'The Rock' and taking hundreds of pictures makes one hungry, so we rewarded ourselves with pancakes at the only IHOP (International House of Pancakes) San Francisco seems to have. Perfectly delicious!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Eyes for Lies photo-shoot #3

At the beginning of this year Eyes for Lies asked her readers to show her where they live. So Yasu and I did a small photo-shoot for her in Osaka. It was so much and she loved our pictures! So we were more than happy to take more pictures for her in the Netherlands and in San Francisco. And what better place in San Francisco to take Eyes for Lies than Alcatraz
The idea was that readers take a picture with her poster in their hometown, but I'm a bit trigger happy when I'm armed with a digital camera. And then I have a hard time choosing my favorite pictures, so I usually end up sending way more than just 'a picture' to Eyes. But she always loves our pictures so it works out wonderfully!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mariko in San Francisco

Mariko, an ex-student from Osaka, is in San Francisco! Working as a flight attendant she often flies to a foreign city, stays the night, and flies back to Japan the next day. And how perfect is it that we happened to be attending a seminar at one of San Francisco Airport's hotels?! So after the seminar, and after Mariko's after work nap, we picked her up at one of the other hotels, and went out for dinner. 
She treated us to a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant to celebrate our new marriage, and she brought us the best care package from Japan, with all the things we've been craving the most. It was so great to see her again, I've have always loved talking to her and teaching her, and now she was here with us in San Francisco. I've been feeling seriously homesick to Japan for a while but seeing her has taken most of it away. I really hope her airline will send her back to San Francisco soon, then I will cook her dinner and bake a cake for dessert. Thank you Mariko for a great night, a great dinner and the best omiyage ever! See you soon.

I'm learning NLP

You may remember that Yasu is currently the youngest certified NLP trainer in the world. Of course, he had to learn his stuff somewhere and one of the places he studied NLP in the past was NLPCA, which operates near San Francisco Airport. And this weekend we're attending one of their seminars. For Yasu to help out a bit and get reacquainted with the other NLP people and for me to finally experience NLP first hand, after having heard so much about it from Yasu for years. 
Yasu was worried I would totally hate it or find it boring, but it was really interesting. I was surprised to learn a lot of things about myself. I'm looking forward to another seminar day tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Convenience

How convenient life can be sometimes. Especially when you have a neighborhood Starbucks, where you can try the very popular and quite tasty Pumpkin Spice Latte. Also the postoffice across the street makes it very easy for me to send packages to my eleventh monkey friends in a moment's notice.
Other things that would make our life here even more convenient, a Miyamoto Munashi (our favorite 24-hour vending machine restaurant from Japan), a Kurazushi (our favorite sushi-go-round chain from Japan), a Lawson konbini (Japanese convenience store), an Albert Heijn (Dutch supermarket) and most importantly a Jankara karaoke place, because I really need to get my karaoke fix soon!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My new friend the oven

I've been cooking meals on a very regular basis now, and surprisingly they taste quite well, but they've all been cooked on the stovetop, because I've been a little scared of the oven. I had no idea what to do with it or how to cook in it. But today on the phone, the Skype phone that is, my grandmother gave me some tips and gave me the courage to do this:
A very simple oven dish, with potatoes, ground beef, veggies and cheese, but it worked awesomely and it tasted great. I'm no longer afraid of the oven, she is now my friend and we'll be spending a lot of time together, I'm sure.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I do at home

Nothing relaxes me more than sewing my little akward creatures and at the same time catching up on Criminal Minds episodes online.
Currently I'm working on little dog badges for the shop and just finished a bunch of custom horses and one for the shop. Life's good.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chef Yasu

Yasu cooked dinner tonight! He used quite a few authentic Japanese products which we picked up in Japantown or ordered online. The fresh ingredients were American, of course. The recipe calls for thinly sliced pork, but that's not available here, so he sliced up big slabs of boneless pork rib meat, which worked quite well.
And of course our new small friend Zojirushi (the ricecooker) helped prepare the rice. The rice from the internet was supposed to be real Japanese rice, but the grains are longer than those of real Japanese rice. After cooking it even smelled like Western rice and it wasn't very sticky. We could get some real Japanese rice in Japantown, but that's expensive and way too heavy to carry home. The rice we have now doesn't taste as delicious and sweet as rice in Japan, but it's certainly better than nothing and a nice enough imitation.
Yasu cooked shogayaki (pan-fried pork and onion in ginger sauce), miso soup and rice. It smelled delicious, tasted really good and authentically Japanese. That was a nice dinner! Yasu you can cook more often!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Japanese goodies

We ordered a bunch of stuff online last weekend, and packages are starting to arrive. But it hasn't been easy for the delivery men, because we don't have a doorbell on our building. It looks like we do, but the machine isn't hooked up to anything. After one failed delivery attempt I put up a notice explaining the doorbell doesn't work and to call my cell instead, but that didn't convince the UPS man. Luckily the building manager caught the UPS man on the street and took the package from him, but UPS is delivering more this week and the building manager isn't always hanging out in front of our building... 
Luckily, the Fedex man was convinced by my notice and called my cell, and the USPS man has a key to the building, because the mailboxes are inside, and walked up to the fourth floor to deliver the packages to my front door. So far, they've delivered printer cartridges and printer paper (printer still on its way), a guitar tuner (capo still on its way), and Japanese sauces and rice (ricecooker still on its way).
The online goodies (on the left), combined with the goodies that we brought from Japan and misosoup from Japantown (on the right) will enable us to cook a true Japanese feast, once the ricecooker gets here that is. But until then I'm pretty happy cooking with potatoes, I really missed that while living in Japan.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A hard life

Life as a grad student can be exhausting.
Recharging with some music on the bed.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Crab Wharf

We walked to famous Fisherman's Wharf to find some crab for dinner. We found it at Joe's Crab Shack, which is a chain restaurant, but I really enjoyed previous dinners there in the Atlanta and New Orleans restaurants, so we decided it would be a good place for dinner.
It's quite an interesting place for dinner (the waiters perform group dances every 30 minutes) and the crab legs are good. Although they didn't even come close to the tasty the crab legs I had in Atlanta in 2004. If I could just remember what I'd ordered then...

My first cupcake

I read a lot of creative blogs mostly written by American ladies. Very popular on these blogs are cupcakes (and tattoos, but they don't interest me much). I'd never eaten a cupcake, but I have sewn cupcakes because they look cute. I promised myself that once I got to the States I would try a cupcake, or maybe more than one. And today on Ghirardelli Square we found Kara's Cupcakes, so I convinced Yasu to have a cupcake with me.
We got a vanilla-coconut cupcake and a chocolate-coffee cupcake. I wanted to try a red velvet one, because I really can't imagine what that'll taste like and it looks pretty, but they didn't sell that. It goes without saying that the cupcakes were delicious, especially the frosting.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge

We wanted to do something fun and something San Francisco-ey, so we decided to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on foot. An hour and 2.7 kilometers later we arrived in Marin County, on the other side of the red bridge. There's no public transportation back to San Francisco from there, so we turned around and walked back for another hour.
The bridge is very beautiful and a good subject for my Hipstamatic camera. I love taking pictures of road signs and there are more than enough of them on the bridge. The most interesting sign was the one urging potential jumpers to call for counseling, I wonder how many people actually use the phone next to it.
It was a really nice walk. It was really sunny (we both ended up with severely sunburned faces) but also cold and windy, just the way I like it (a bit too cold for Yasu though).

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Fun at home

I'm spending a lot of time at home while Yasu goes to school, but I'm really enjoying it.

I've been experimenting in the kitchen and I actually cooked Dutch 'friet speciaal' last night. But I brought the special sauce from the Netherlands, so it wasn't that hard, but it was delicious though! I've also started the eleventh monkey production line again, but it's going slowly because it's all done by hand and I need to make a lot of new friends before I can open up shop again.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Laundromat

Unfortunately, it's not so common to have your own washing machine here, and we don't. So I can't do the laundry at home, instead I have to go to a laundromat. Which is strange for me but also a little fun.
I've been there twice now and Yasu came with me both times, because I'm still a little uneasy doing things alone here. So he just finds a seat and studies while I pile our dirty laundry into one of the dozens of machines in the laundromat. The machines are pretty quick and finish in 30 minutes so the wait isn't that long. The best part is the dryers! In Japan they don't really use dryers, which resulted in clean but crunchy clothes and towels after airdrying them. But here they have huge dryers which makes everything soft and squishy!

Guitar

Yasu loves to play the guitar and I love to sing along. He couldn't bring his guitar from Japan so he gave it away to a friend, which meant that he had to get a new one somewhere here. So last night we turned to Craig's List once again (which is where we found our amazing apartment) and quickly found a few potential replacements. And today Yasu came home with this:
The guitar sounds and looks really great and Yasu can relax in between study sessions by playing some of our favorite tunes to sing along too.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Boxes

Two delivery men from Nittsu (Nippon Express) carried up two heavy boxes from Japan today. We packed them just before Yasu left Japan in June, and the delivery service kept them for us when we were vacationing in the Netherlands. And now they're here! I've made a huge mess unpacking them though.
And I'm not done unpacking everything yet because it's so hot today it's making me sleepy and a little cranky. In Japan it's usually hot and humid (except for a few months in winter), which sucks but at least there's airconditioning everywhere, making everthing bearable. Here there's no airconditioning so a hot day is really annoying. And it makes no sense because two days ago I was wearing Yasu's woolen scarf because it was just too cold. Can't wait for the cold days to return.
I didn't feel like cooking because of the heat and the mess in our apartment so we went to a shopping plaza near our house to have some Southern fried chicken. After that Yasu studied at Starbucks and I shopped at Lucky's, the overwhelmingly big grocery store.
Getting all the oversized packages of groceries home on our American bikes with hardly functioning brakes is still a challenge. I hope I'll get used to that someday soon. I miss my Japanese bicycle, I wish I had packed that into one of those boxes.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Groove

Today was the third time I cooked dinner, this time pasta. And I used two new pans. I actually had to buy a new frying pan today because the one that came with in the Ikea starter box was just too small.
Used a pasta sauce from the grocery store but it was kind of bland and next time I'm cooking from scratch, it won't be that easy but it will taste better! Still it's fun to get into the cooking groove.