Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy birthday Moem!

Today my mother turns 48! Which is very young considering she has a 30-year-old daughter! Look at how cute she used to be (when she was just a little younger than 48):
Well, she's still adorable. I wish I could celebrate her birthday with her today, especially since she's in the hospital now, recuperating from her spine-tumor-removal surgery. I will just have to celebrate her from here, so I'm going to bake a cake in her honor today, send her a picture, and then eat it with Yasu while wishing her a lots of good health and love for her special day. And we already sung her a birthday song through skype > land line phone > cell phone > hospital phone, the connection sucked but she loved it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Going to see Harry Potter

The new Harry Potter movie premiered last week, but I contained myself and was somehow able to wait until today to go and see it. I'm over-the-top excited and I have high expectations!
Of course, Yasu is coming with me to see the movie but he's less excited than I am. The story is a little complicated for him and he doesn't read novels so just telling him to read the books doesn't help. So last week I spend an evening telling him the big picture of all seven books, so that he will be able to fully understand and enjoy the movie tonight. Going over the most important story lines with Yasu really made me wish I had all seven books here with me in the States, so I can read the story over and over again. Just for fun! I'm going to get a box with all seven books someday and read them to him and our kiddies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Windows

This is what the windows in San Francisco were telling us today. Interesting messages, but not sure if they apply or not.
But I do consider people living in pretty San Francisco houses lucky, and a fire alarm on the sidewalk is rather weird.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hats hats hats

What's more fun than trying on hats? Yeah, can't think of anything better either! Bryna (one of Yasu's schoolfriends) introduced us to a store called Berkeley Hats where they have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of hats. Hats are everywhere, on the floor, on the walls, on the counters, on the ceilings, on the customers, where ever you looked there were new hats to discover!
Most of the hats they sell are 'serious' hats, like to protect your head from the cold, to dress up like cowboys during Bon Jovi concerts, to wear on the golf court, to look cool when you're with your fashion sensitive friends or for fancy tea parties with the queen. But we enjoyed the 'crazy' hats the most.
A turkey hat and Christmas tree hat for the holidays, a colorful mohawk and fluffy yak for our cold winter ears and a mushroom hat when you want to pretend you're in Mario-world.
This is a great place to go when you need a Halloween costume, they have so many options and it's not so expensive. We already found some good candidates for next year, a farao, a flamingo, a chicken or a deep sea diver. Hmm difficult...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Layers

It's getting cold here, and it's almost December so it's about time. It's nowhere near freezing though, I guess that's too much to expect in California anyway. It is cloudy, rainy and sunny, which is the perfect recipe for a nice rainbow.
It may not be freezing but I get cold really easily. So today I wore a lot of clothes: two turtlenecks, four sweaters of which two really thick ones, a scarf, a tuque, fingerless gloves, jeans, two pairs of socks, winter slippers and two blankets wrapped around my waist. Yasu made fun of me, I did kind of look like a homeless person, and all I was doing was surfing the Internet. You'd think I was getting ready for some ice skating championship.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Louana the Second

My sweet mother is in the hospital now awaiting surgery on a tumor in her spinal cord. It really sucks that I’m so far away and can’t really be there for her. She has already forbidden me to use my frequent flier miles to come home... Several times. She wants me to save them for her 50th birthday in two years, which she deems a much better occasion to come home for. So I needed to think of another way to be there for her in this terrible time, so I’ve created a mini-me:

She’s actually much prettier and cuter than me and the only things we really have in common are our long brown hair and the mole next to our noses. I’m a little jealous of her and she gets to travel really cheaply, her plane ride to the Netherlands was less than $10!

Yasu really likes her too, so it’s a good thing I sent her to my mom, so that Yasu doesn’t have to divide his attention between us.

My mother opened her package with mini Louana in it today, in her hospital room in front of the Skype camera (hospitals these days are pretty modern). And she loved the doll - it took her a while to recognize who she was, but the mole did the trick - and she even cried when she read the purple note hiding in the doll’s tummy pocket. My mom has never been the over-emotional type, but ever since she’s been in the hospital and on lots of morfine she has no problem sharing her feelings with us. She’s become quite sentimental. It’s a bit funny but I like it. And now my mom has a way to hug me whenever she wants.

Translation of the purple note: “My name is Louana the Second, and I love my sweet mom very, very much. Unfortunately, my mom is in the hospital right now and not doing well physically, so she needs many hugs from her daughter (Louana the First). But Louana the First lives quite far away, but don’t worry, there is a connection between us, kind of like an invisible USB cable, or WiFi, or even better LouFi! So when you hug me really hard, the hug will travel through LouFi and be received by Louana the First just moments later! Oh, kisses will travel through LouFi as well!”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cupcakes and muffins

I keep on baking, some weeks more than others, but I want to become an experienced baker someday. Just before Halloween I made some bloody cupcakes with Frankenstein hair and brains, a.k.a. red velvet cupcakes with green butter cream icing. They were pretty easy with those packages from the supermarket but also extremely sweet, which makes them even more American to me. I definitely need to adjust the recipe, or start cooking them from scratch to get a less sweet result. But for a first try at cupcakes they were fun, especially messing around with icing, and edible. I read somewhere that muffins are just ugly cupcake wannabes, but my muffins definitely look prettier than my cupcakes.
I tried pumpkin spice muffins a while back, and they were okay, but small and a bit sticky. This time I didn't follow the recipe on the box (because I'd thrown away the box last time) and just did what seemed right, resulting in a thicker batter. I also kept them in the oven longer and the muffins turned out much bigger and fluffier. Great! Once I've got the baking from supermarket boxes down I'm going to move on to baking from scratch. Baby steps.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How-to cook Japanese curry (by Yasu)

Have your wife send you a box of curry roux from Japan when you're living with your inlaws in the Netherlands. Then forget to cook it before your wife also comes to the Netherlands and you move to the States. Then have your wife bring the box with her on the airplane when she follows you to the States a week later. Then wait three months before finally using it.
Put on your wife's pretty apron. Then chop onions, carrots and potato. Then stir-fry them in oil. Then add bite-sized beef and stir-fry it along with the veggies.
At the same time boil eggs in a frying pan, the Yasu-way, and they'll turn out perfectly.
Add water. Then occasionally stir while you let it sit for about 15 minutes.
Check out what's inside the box of curry roux. 
Add the chocolate-looking curry to the pan and stir. Then stir some more until it looks like this:
Don't forget to smell and taste the curry along the way to check if it's really what you want it to be.
Serve the curry on steamed white rice with the boiled eggs and some sliced cucumber when you don't have actual tsukemono (Japanese pickles).
 Admire your dinner and wait for your wife to complement your cooking.
Then eat!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grocery shopping

We weren't able to get all of our groceries at the Berkeley Bowl this week so I convinced Yasu to come with me to the local Lucky, to get the rest and to experience a huge American supermarket. Which is quite a spectacle for us foreigners, and that's why Yasu wanted to go the Berkeley Bowl. But we ended up going to the wrong one, the little sister of the original Berkeley Bowl, rumored to be the biggest supermarket ever. The one we visited was a bit dissapointing, but we'll go to the big Bowl for sure someday soon.
We started off our Lucky's adventure with a little Starbucks date, and I got to try the Peppermint Mocha coffee, which was good but tasted more like hot cocoa than coffee. Then Yasu got to be impressed by Lucky's. Not the produce department - which is really below par,  I've never seen so many soft tomatoes and fungussy strawberries in my life - but by the long aisles of hundreds of sodas, chips and cereals, packaged meats, huge turkeys, and the enormous frozen food department. Also quite different here are the size of things, just look at the sandwich Yasu is holding! 
There is so much to see and buy in the typical American supermarket and it was quite overwhelming the first time I went there. My trip to the grocery store takes me about two hours every week, and Yasu now understands why. I just wish I had a car to bring everything home in, but for now my crappy American bike and huge Ikea bag will have to suffice, to bring our food home.

Monday, November 08, 2010

An afternoon in Berkeley

When we were out exploring Berkeley today we stumbled upon a bus that looked quite shocking:
We tried to find out what had happened by asking bystanders and they seemed convinced some kind of bomb exploded because all the windows were shattered (at least as they could see from the side we were on). the inside was totally burnt out and the engine seemed to be totally fine and unburned. Yasu and I had actually seen huge clouds of smoke in the distance about an hour earlier when we left the train station. So people concluded it happened more than an hour ago and all the victims were already taken from the scene by ambulances. I just hoped nobody had been seriously hurt.
Yasu desperately needed a haircut and the salon was right across the bus scene. The hairdressers told us that something under the bus had suddenly caught fire several hours earlier, and that the bus driver had gotten all the passengers out quickly and safely. The bus had been burning for a while before the fire department came to put out the fire. The firefighters had broken half of the windows in the bus in order to put out the fire inside the bus better. Great, no terrorist attack and no casualties, except for the bus of course.
Sorry, forgot to take before and after pictures of Yasu's hair but I got some 'during the haircut' pictures while the lady with the razor was telling us the bus story.

The reason we were in Berkeley was actually to do some grocery shopping at the Berkeley Bowl, the biggest and most impressive supermarket ever, according to one of Yasu's classmates anyway. Yasu wanted to check it out and I also though it would be fun to do some groceries together for a change. The produce department was impressive. 
They had loads of seasonal products like pumpkins of course and also produce I know from home but sold in a very different way, like Brussels sprouts still on their stalks. Didn't even know they grew on stalks, but I don't know a lot. They also had weird produce, like kiwis in the shape of fans (sorry no picture), tomatoes in the shapes of pumpkins and bell peppers in all colors, even purple, and cauliflower in rather sick colors, green, orange and again purple. No thanks.
Although, the supermarket's produce department was amazing, because of quantity and quality (the supermarket near us can learn a LOT from the Berkeley Bowl), the rest of the supermarket wasn't impressive at all, a little dirty and unorganized and rather small. Apparently, we'd gone to the wrong Berkeley Bowl, the original one is about 8 to 9 times larger than the one we visited. Well, I'm not sure if I believe that, so we'll just have to check that out another time!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fall seems to have arrived

Even though the weather and temperature here in middle California still reminds me of summer most of the time, it really does appear to be autumn right now. 
Colored leaves on the trees and fallen leaves decorating the sidewalks everywhere, those are definite signs of fall. But the weather keeps confusing me. I wonder what winter in this part of California will be like.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

30 years ago

In 1980 my mother was pregnant with me. While I lived in her comfortable and warm tummy, people were already taking pictures of me.
Then on August 11 at 11:02 in the morning my mother gave birth to me. She was only seventeen and already a mother to a baby girl.
In the Netherlands it’s common to send birth cards to family and friends to announce the birth of a new baby. This was mine:
Card translation: "After months of waiting their wish was finally fulfilled, I am their first child and they call me Louana. I was born at 11:02 am and I weighed 7 pounds. My mommy and daddy are: Robert and Louise van Luttervelt."
 
I loved hanging out with my mommy, especially when she fed me with a bottle (for some reason I didn’t like breast feeding). And I got used to smiling for the camera at a very young age.
As you may have guessed I’m organizing old pictures. I scanned all the analog pictures I could find in the house before I moved to Japan and threw them in a file on my hard drive. All this time they’ve been out of order and patiently waiting for me to organize them. I’ve finally started, I wonder how long this is going to take me...