Friday, December 31, 2010

A new year and a new blog

Everywhere people are getting ready for the new year, and in some places people have already entered the new year. I can't believe how quickly a year goes by. I remember when I was in high school and a week seemed endless, I wish I could experience time like that again.

For 2011, I've launched a new blog. From now on the Loulogue will be my personal blog and the new blog will be for all things crafty. So if you're reading this blog to see what Yasu and I are up to, you're in the right place but if you're mainly hanging out here to see what happens in the eleventh monkey world, hop on over to the new eleventh monkey blog and follow me there.



For now, it's a collection of all the eleventh monkey blog posts posted here in the past and a few new posts, but I have loads of plans for this new blog. I can't wait to start in the new year!

But first, we're heading into to city to start our celebration of the past year. I want to follow Dutch traditions, by eating 'oliebollen' (literally oil balls) and watching fireworks at midnight. Well, they don't have oliebollen here, nor box mixes to make some yourself, but I have found a place that sells square-shaped beignets that just taste like oliebollen, so we'll have oil squares this year. And the city of San Francisco is so kind to host a free fireworks show at midnight, so that's taken care of as well!

Happy 2011 everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Monkeys

I sew many kinds of animals, and sometimes even skulls or cupcakes, but my favorite creature is still a monkey. And I'm the eleventh monkey - because I was born in the year of the monkey on the eleventh of August - so it's only natural that I like to create monkeys, monkeys and more monkeys.

And so I have, this past month. I've made three custom monkeys for customers and an itty bitty monkey on a key chain as a birthday surprise for my husband.

And now I'm off to dream about making even more monkeys... I wish my hands could sew faster, then I would have at least a hundred different versions of monkeys in my shop.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gourmetten for Christmas

For Christmas we invited over some friends to enjoy a Dutch-style dinner. In Dutch we call it ‘gourmetten’ and it’s similar to what the Americans call raclette, apparently. But with raclette the focus is on melting cheese and with ‘gourmetten’ cheese is just a side dish, the focus is on the meat. 

It’s a do-it-yourself cook-at-the-table dinner, with lots of little meats, vegetables, little potatoes. There is one shared grill on top, and everyone has his own little pan to cook things in under the grill. It’s a lot of fun and Dutch people love doing it for Christmas.

In the Netherlands, we just go to the supermarket and buy ourselves a ‘gourmet’ platter with all kinds of little marinated meats, sausages, and tiny burgers. But they don’t sell those here. Any meat you buy here is big, very big. 

So Yasu and I had to prepare everything ourselves, we spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but it was fun to pre-cook together. We prepared lots of meaty things, like turkey cordon bleu, tiny soy pork satays, roast beef and spring onion rolls, marinated beef strips, tiny sausages, meat balls. Also some cheesy things like bread-crummed chees sticks, and sliced veggies with cheese on top. And we even made our own garlic butter, Dutch egg salad, and tuna salad to serve with the bread. We served it all with a small variety of dip sauces.

Of course, we made way too much, but we didn’t want our guests to go hungry and we can always do another ‘gourmet’ party tomorrow for the second day of Christmas (which we officially celebrate in the Netherlands). They weren’t familiar with this kind of cooking, but I’m happy to report that they loved it!

Of course, we also prepared dessert. Yasu got to bake his Christmas cookies, for which he practiced. He baked a large batch of sugar cookies, which he decorated beautifully and colorfully with icing, blue sugar and chocolate chips. His cookies were popular but not as popular as his boiled chestnuts, a popular snack in Japan, which were all gone by the end of the night (most of them left in Kosuke’s happy stomach).

I made a batch of french-vanilla-red-velvet-cream-cheese-and-walnuts cupcakes, which were huge and delicious, but I forgot to take pictures of them.

Yasu and I spent lots of hours grocery shopping and at least ten hours in the kitchen cooking and baking, but the whole process was fun to do together (it’s a good thing Yasu is on winter break now) and it was worth it. We had such a wonderful Christmas meal and our guests really enjoyed it as well. And tomorrow we get to do a private ‘gourmet’ do-over with all the leftovers. 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas surprise

This morning I woke up to find this adorable Christmas card next to the bed telling me how happy Yasu is to be spending this Christmas and all future Christmases together. And then he starts to play his guitar and sings "All I Want For Christmas Is You" to me! Well, good morning and Merry Christmas to you too!

Twice in one week! Yasu surprises me with a lovely card and I had nothing... And on Tuesday, after it happened for the first time, I so swore to myself to ignore our 'let's-do-nothing' agreement from then on, and never be empty handed again. I had no idea it would happen again that quickly though. My husband is such a sneaky sweetheart, and he keeps on telling me not to feel guilty. But really, this will never happen again, next time I'll have something for him too. I hope...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Saved by the Internet

Before Christmas comes around us Dutchies usually send each other cards wishing people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Having lived abroad for years now, I don't really adhere to that tradition anymore. But after I thanked my mother for the card she sent us this year, it became apparent she was expecting a card from us. 

Oops. And it was already too late to send a card from the States, it would never make it to the Netherlands in time for Christmas. 

But we live in the Age of the Internet and anything is possible there. So I gave some of this year's summer pictures a Christmas look with Picnik and turned it into a card on the Dutch Hallmark website. 

And they post the real card with a Dutch stamp somewhere within the Netherlands and that's how our impromptu card arrived today, very much on time for Christmas this year! Thank you, Mr. Internet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrating again

The day that we got married we never really had any dinner, because we were on a plane to Guam, and plane food simply doesn’t qualify.

Our first night in Guam we ended up having dinner at the local Chili’s. So we thought it would be fun to celebrate our first anniversary by having dinner at Chili’s again, to reminisce about our honeymoon in Guam and our first year as a married couple.


And even though we agreed that dinner was all that we were going to do to celebrate (always thinking about our budget), Yasu surprised me with a lovely anniversary card.

But I really had nothing... Even though I had thought about getting a card myself, but in the end decided to stick to our agreement. I felt a little guilty, but I loved his surprise. He’s so sweet.

Our one-year-old secret wedding

A year ago today, Yasu and I got married in Osaka, in secret. Now that we live in the States it’s no longer a secret and I can finally show off our pictures of that day.

Don't expect pictures of us looking like a groom and bride or a wedding cake, our wedding was a very non-weddingy happening. It was just the two of us and our stamps at a very boring and busy City Hall. Our witnesses (my manager and a coworker) signed the papers beforehand at school, and we signed and most importantly stamped (stamps with your name in Kanji are more official in Japan) the papers at City Hall.

Then we handed in the papers and were told to wait among hundreds of strangers, called back a couple of times to clarify things, told to wait again and finally told that we were married. Just like that, no "Do you take.." or "I do", just "Okay everything's taken care of, you're married. Next!" A bit disappointing and a strange realization that all of a sudden we were husband and wife. 

We celebrated our sudden marriage with a lovely 'Happy Wedding' package from my parents including faux champagne, heart lollipops & chocolates, and soap bubbles.

After our little celebration over Yodogawa river, we biked to Osaka's tallest building, the Umeda Sky Building, which we listed this building as our official address on the marriage documents (don't worry it's legal). We had a pink heart-shaped lock engraved with our names and the date and locked it forever (at least that's the idea, we'll see when we visit with our kids in twenty years) on top of the Umeda Sky Building. 

We also wrote little messages to our new spouse on star-shaped paper ornaments for the building's Christmas tree. And then we quickly headed to the airport to start our two-week honeymoon in Guam!

This wedding was necessary for us to be together now, we've done the (extremely) long distance thing for more than 3 years, and we absolutely did not want to do it again. We'd already been together for 6 years and we knew we were going to be married someday anyway, hence our non-happening of a wedding.

But someday we're going to get married properly, complete with the suit, the dress, the cake, the rings and wedding guests. But that's one expensive party, so that'll have to wait until we can afford it. But we're together now and that's all that matters. And tonight we're going to celebrate our first anniversary as a married couple. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The other Bowl

A while back we went to check out this amazingly impressive supermarket in Berkeley that Yasu heard about at school. We weren’t very impressed and later learned we went to the wrong one, so today we went to the right one: Berkeley Bowl West.

And again we weren’t impressed, especially since Yasu was told that this one was 8 to 9 times larger than the other Berkeley Bowl. Ehm, not really, not even twice as big. Both Bowls are quite similar, the second one is newer and a bit cleaner though. And there’s a free shuttle from the BART station to take you there, which is nice for non-car-owners like us.

There’s one thing I really do like about both Bowls and that’s their produce department. They are rather sizable and their produce is actually fresh. Which seems to be quite an accomplishment in this area.

But they don’t always have the right sizes: either too tiny or too large. Grocery shopping isn’t always easy in the States.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yasu bakes

Yasu wants to bake cookies for Christmas, and so he will. Today he practiced by making two cookie-brownie cakes, while looking cute in my flowery apron.

He was surprised by how much work it was, but he did an awesome job. He did it all by himself, I just took the pictures. He was so proud of his work and his cakes are really delicious. 

He’s ready for Christmas cookies now!

Renegade

I dragged Yasu to a craft fair with me today. It was one of Renegade’s fairs, which I’ve seen popping up on creative blogs all over the web for more than a year. So I was happy to finally visit one myself. And Yasu was so patient, following me around from booth to booth, it’s a good thing he’s on winter break.

I didn’t buy anything because I was there to experience not to shop. Besides we’re living on a budget so we can’t afford handmade pretties anyway.

It was really interesting to see the hundreds of booths, and it was fun to fantasize having my own booth. I wondered how I would decorate it and showcase my products.

Maybe someday, but for now I’m happy with my little online shop.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Party

We usually decline party invitations because they’re usually later in the evening. And going back home after a party will inevitably end up being somewhere in the middle of the night and we just don’t feel safe on the San Francisco streets at night. Oh, how I miss never being afraid at night in Japan...

Besides Yasu and I aren’t such party animals, but I’m sure Bradley and Hannah have a hard time believing this after last night. Yesterday, Bradley and Hannah were hosting an end-of-semester party at their lovely apartment. Best part was that it started during the afternoon so we were pretty certain we’d be able to make it home before the city got scary.

But we didn’t. 

We were having too much fun to go home. It was great to catch up with people, to eat Hannah’s delicious foods, to drink Bradley’s alcoholic coffee-mint concoctions, and to play a card-drinking game called the Circle of Death. 

And instead of going home before 11 like the others and making sure to be back in bed on time like a proper 30-year-old, we went to some bar with Hannah and Bradley and danced (yes, really!) until the bar closed. And they actually wanted to see my passport to see whether I was old enough to enter, I guess tipsy looks young on me :)! We ended up crashing on their living-room futon like a couple of true party animals. What a fun party that was.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Celebration

When we lived in Japan we went out to dinner at least once a day, but here we eat our meals at home. It's cheaper, healthier and usually tastier too. But today was a special day, so we decided to go out for dinner to celebrate Yasu's birthday. 

We bought ourselves a Groupon for Rocketfish, a Japanese tapas restaurant somewhere in San Francisco. The food was very nice but extremely expensive, even with a 50% discount from Groupon. So I wouldn't really recommend this place unless you have way too much money to spend, or are in a hurry (service is uncomfortably quick).

In the spirit of being frugal we decided not to do gifts anymore, not for anniversaries, not for Christmas and also not for birthdays. But I felt really weird about not having a gift for his birthday, so when Yasu was at school today I made him a tiny keychain. We always get our keys mixed up, so it was a functional gift too. And Yasu loved it!

But my real birthday surprise for him was waiting at home. I baked him an actual birthday cake and decorated it myself. It consisted of two layers, a red velvet on top of a french vanilla layer, cream cheese frosting and nuts everywhere. The baking and frosting the cake weren't that hard, but the decorating was. 

YouTube videos make anything look easy, but writing '27' and 'Yasu' on the cake was a challenge, to say the least. Still the end product looked colorful and pretty happy, thanks to hundreds of tiny chocolate chips.

But what matters most was that Yasu was so surprised and happy to see the cake, to blow out the candles, and of course to eat it! It was his first time to receive such a personalized birthday cake. Even though we just celebrated his birthday between the two of us today, he let me know it was the best birthday he ever had! Success!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Happy birthday Yasu!

Almost 7 years ago I met Yasu for the first time, he was just 20 and a little weird (at least in my opinion). This is a picture of us on our first real date 7 years ago, during our last week in Atlanta. Two young people who had no idea idea that 7 years later they'd be married and living in the States again.

And today we celebrate his 27th birthday! One year closer to my 30 years of age, but I'm afraid he'll never catch up with me. I already suggested a trade, because age just looks better on men, but he doesn't want to swap with me. Lucky man. As long as we're together he'll never have to feel old.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Snowy men

I love snow. I miss snow. I always dream of a white Christmas, but haven't seen one in ages. They had a white Christmas in my home country last year, but then I was in Guam, where they definitely don't get snow. And this Christmas I'll be here in San Francisco, and unfortunately it never gets cold enough for snow here. 

So I have been creating some snow of my own, in the shape of snowman ornaments. Meet this group of cold cousins: Billy, Cody, Jerry, Lenny, and Ronny. Watch out when you hug them, they're prone to melt in warm arms.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Flamingo dance

A while back we had lots of fun in some hat store in Berkeley, and I just found this short video on my iPhone of Yasu that makes me so happy.


The appropriate ending to this song*: "I'm told that I'm a little crazy, but that is totally okay!" 

*Always On My Mind - The Guest

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas lights

No Christmas tree for us this year, but we did get 300 colorful Christmas lights to brighten up our apartment.
I love Christmas, and I love our lights. Someday when we live in a real house we'll get a tree and some ornaments to go with these lights.