General


General08 Aug 2014 04:43 pm

August is a harsh mistress.

General25 Jul 2013 09:37 am
Wintery Run at Sunshine Village

Can’t see the forest for the trees, January 2013

I feel like this blog is in a bit of limbo – I lack the follow through to post about restaurants in D.C., let alone ones left untouched from our final weeks in Okinawa in December 2011. I have been cooking a lot, but nothing is really that imaginative or incredible enough to blog about.

I spend most of my day researching, absorbing, inhaling material and knowledge required for my other blogs, mixed with watching Star Trek on Netflix, leaving little time to think about my own personal stories and life. And are blogs even about personal stories anymore? Didn’t that kind of stop with monetization of said blogs? (Okay, rhetorical questions here. Stay with me.)

So where am I? Where is this blog going?

Crazy White Girl with a Kitchen (née Keyboard) has been around in various forms for over a decade. Where will it be a year from now?

But before I address the future, what about the past? What have I done in the last year? In 2012 I  arrived home from Asia, and lived in my parents basement for some time. I still feel the rage at our current landlord scoffing at my rental application: “But your current address is at your parents house…”

Well, yes – would you rather I live in a cardboard box between moving home from overseas and trying to move into a new town? THE RAGE.

But, I digress.

moving chaos

Move In Chaos, May 2012

We spent some time reconnecting with Edmonton, marvelling at the new restaurants and burgeoning new food scene, loving the nostalgia. Then things got hectic – we moved to the mountains in May, had several visitors, I went on a serious road trip with my parents, applied for and got a UN internship, moved to DC in August, made new friends and celebrated old ones in Vegas in December and then suddenly it was January and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.

I got a part-time temporary job that filled a hole in an awkward way, but then I packed up and went back to Okinawa and Las Vegas for a few weeks. In many ways it cauterized the wound left by leaving there so suddenly. I shook 261 hands of the wonderful former students now moving onto high school, spent some amazing time with old friends, ate some food I’ve been longing for over the past year and spent a lot of time thinking. Where will I be next year? Next month? Who will I be?

This past year has not gone how I thought it would at all. But then I realized I did not really have a plan for this year – it was mostly to be spent thinking about what I wanted to do. Instead I just started to DO those things. Turns out sleeping in everyday and playing video games in your PJs gets more boring more quickly than you thought and you’ll do pretty much anything to escape it.

hakama

Wearing a traditional outfit (Okinawan Bingata kimono and hakama) to junior high grad, Okinawa, March 2013

I have found some things that drive my day though, and one of those things is work. And in Canmore, there is work, but it’s not really the kind of work I want to be engaging in, I’ve discovered. (Not that there is anything wrong with folding towels or slinging coffee or working a till, I’m just – past that stage. I think.)

So what’s a girl to do? I love the outdoor lifestyle here, even if I think I could take advantage of it more. Although taking the trash out and seeing a herd of elk ten steps from your door is kind of amazing.

I love being close to my friend Kenny, but also miss friends in Edmonton and Calgary perhaps more than when I was further way. The guilt at being so close but not seeing them weekly is harder than surviving off of monthly Skype dates. I hope one day to see my friends further afield – there are so many. So many stops, so many dinners and drinks to be had, so many stories to recall and create. My parents are leaving Edmonton and heading for Thailand and Arizona. My home base, as temporary as it felt (and yet not – 17 years in one spot is no joke) is now closing up shop.

I love my home, my view, my kitchen, my husband. I love blogging about Las Vegas weddings. I love writing and communicating and most of all, I love hatching and nurturing ideas. My beautiful leather bound notebook is full of thoughts, brain farts, drawings, lists and ideas, glorious ideas, and I feel like there are a million bees in my head buzzing to get me to do things most days. This is a great feeling, if a bit overwhelming. As you can see, personal blogging is not really on the forefront of my mind these days.

So, where does this leave me? I’ve applied for jobs (my spreadsheet says 34) from Nairobi to Bangkok, Edmonton to New York. A few bites, two interviews, but nothing serious. Am I even ready to move again? Should I go back to school? 35 is approaching, and much faster than I care to admit.

The last two years have passed in the blink of an eye. I can’t bear to think of how quickly the next two will go. Does life ever slow down?

General and japan and Travels27 Nov 2012 10:07 am

From a young age, traveling around all the time, I’ve grown used to not saying good bye, just saying ‘so long.’ I live with the hope that I will see most people again in some way, and it’s paid off in unusual ways.

I first met Ron via his blog before I moved to Japan. It’s hard to find a unique voice that writes well in the sea of expats blogging on Japanese matters, but he definitely was one. He was real, he blogged about interesting stuff (living conditions, food, fashion) and he was prolific. And to add to the greatness, he was blogging from Okinawa, not far from where I would be living. I stalked his blog for some time and finally emailed him (or maybe Twitter DMd?)

When I arrived in Tokyo, I met some of the other JET teachers at the airport who were helping with the new teachers orientation, and met his girlfriend at the time. I’m pretty sure I creeped her out by running up to her (a familiar face through the blog, but we had never communicated at the time) and saying “HI I READ RON’S BLOG AND YOU ARE AWESOME, NICE TO MEET YOU” while shaking her hand really hard on the sky bridge from the Narita airport to our bus.

Over the next year and more, I had a few great times out with Ron. He took Mike and I to a great gyoza place, and we shared many a beer with him, and had a great pancake party that first fall after I arrived. I was worried for him as he changed jobs and looked for a new one, constantly on the verge of having to return home. But, he stayed, he 我慢’d (endured). Very Japanese of him.

Long story short, he’s actually from the D.C. area, and after a problem with a trip this summer, he finally made the voyage home this fall, so we hung out. It was great to see him, share a few (ok, many) brews and eat a few Costco hot dogs while he stocked up for his trip back to Okinawa. Lord knows I know what that is like.

God speed, Ron-sensei. I’ll miss you – but it was great seeing you again. Albeit in a place I never expected I would. Who knows the next crazy ass place we’ll see eachother?

Food: Washington DC and General and Travels31 Oct 2012 12:24 am

Twice a year, the White House opens their gardens to the public for tours, once in the spring and once in the fall. Tickets are free, you just have to wait in line to get a ticket, then come back at the predetermined time on it to gain access. As the Canadian Embassy no longer helps you get access to the White House interior, this was as close as I was going to get, so I was up early on a Saturday to get a ticket. The early hour was worth it!

There are a number of tickets, as they let about 150 people or more through every half hour, starting at 9am and ending at 4pm.

click to make bigger

I took a number of photos of things like the West Wing, Rose Garden and the presidential putting green, but I was most interested in the First Lady’s vegetable garden. Only three first ladies have maintained veggie gardens at the White House throughout its history – Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama have all had gardens on the property, but Michelle’s is the biggest.

There is a bee hive that produces honey for the White House…

There are 50 varieties or so of produce, and the harvest this year totaled more than 1,000 pounds, all of which is used in the White House. There is a wide range of items, from bok choy to salad greens, artichokes, tomatoes and more.

These were a special heirloom variety of bean, cultivated from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello property. Hence the quote.

(Can you see the masses of people behind me? It’s a popular tour!)

This past weekend I visited Arlington Cemetery, too. I’ve been twice now, and I went specifically to catch some fall color before hurricane Sandy blows all the leaves away. It wasn’t as colorful as I had hoped, but there were still some shots to be made.

click to make bigger

I really like Arlington. It’s a powerful place, and huge. Over 400,000 people are buried there, over 12 acres I believe. I spent a lot of time at Section 60, which is the area where those who died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. It’s incredibly active, as families and loved ones visit those they have lost. I hope to return atleast one more time before I leave D.C.

General and japan and Travels04 Dec 2011 04:18 pm

I sometimes feel bad that updating this blog has fallen by the wayside. So here are some photos I took in November(ish).

 

Food: Home Cookin' and General and japan15 Aug 2011 08:55 pm

While I love my space here at crazy white girl, I kind of felt like I was missing my audience on Okinawa centric blog posts. They get lost in the volume of posts from Edmonton, and I am certain that most of my readers from Canada do not give a damn about restaurants thousands of miles away.

So, since September last year (!) I have been trying to start a dedicated blog about food and restaurants in Okinawa as well as any other areas I may visit while I am here. It is hard going for English information on restaurants here – many of the blog posts by English speakers tend to be about restaurants close to the bases, and frankly, do not look that appetizing.

I enjoyed rebuilding a blog, especially one with a specific purpose. It took a long time, though, with many breaks as I contemplated my fate in this country.

Each post offers English information about the restaurant, as well as a map. I am hoping it will soon become a resource people can rely on. There are easy to browse sections by location, cuisine type and information about Japanese ingredients as well as shopping for food products and cooking in Okinawa. When comparing it to crazy white girl, there are bigger pictures, better tagging and more features about food in general here in Japan.

There are still a few glitches and changes I am making, so excuse any bits and bobs left lying around there as I move into my final preparations to really promote the hell out of this thing.

I will still be posting here about home cooking experiments, more general Japanese food tidbits and my travels, but most of my blog posts about Okinawan restaurants will now be posted on Eating Okinawa. If you are a regular reader, you will notice a lot of duplicate content up there so far, but from this point on it will be all new. So please be sure to visit EatingOkinawa.com for all your Okinawan food needs.

Think of it as a first year in Japan anniversary present to … ME!

Food and Food: Asia and General and japan08 Jun 2011 10:12 pm

When I was about 7 years old, my parents started a birthday tradition of bringing me to the Japanese Village in downtown Edmonton for a little teppanyaki fun. The last year I went – the year I turned 10 – the staff took a Polaroid of me wearing a huge Japanese wig hairstyle thing…and that was the end of that tradition. Partly because we moved to the UK and partly because even at age 10, the idea of wearing a wig thousands of other of people had worn and “wearing” an experience thousands of others of people had turned me off. Yes, I was a snob even an an early age it would seem.

Twenty years on I think I have returned to my roots. While themed restaurants are not my first stop, I am less likely to turn my nose up at them. Perhaps out of nostalgia or out of expat desperation. While looking for a fun experience for my mom’s last night on Okinawa back in January, a friend suggested taking her to one of the restaurants in the Sam`s Group.

These restaurants (owned by three American brothers) tend to be teppanyaki restaurants. As the idea of a chef  “performing” just for us cooking frozen seafood likely imported from another country made me cringe more and more, I decided to take one for the team and see what it was like.

Seafood display at the front of the rather large restaurant

I might be able to sit at that bar for hours if it had the right view

 

I was pleasantly surprised. The Sam’s Group has been on Okinawa since 1970, and they know what their patrons want. They mostly appeal to young American military families going out for special occasions or entertaining and to tourists from mainland Japan looking for an American experience in Japan. It is a really weird contrast in diners.

The location we went to, Sam’s by the Sea Awase, was one of the original restaurants. It is loaded with tiki torches, moais, outriggers, rattan furniture, shells, and all sorts of fun Hawaiian bric-a-brac. It could be tacky and gaudy and messy, but somehow it isn’t.

I think the there were three factors in a great experience at Sam`s.

  1. my expectations were low. I was not expecting much from an Americanized Japanese restaurant idealizing America in Japan. (wrap your head around that one)
  2. we chose to visit the one restaurant in the group that served entrees as opposed to teppanyaki style
  3. we had a coupon and dammit, we were going to use it

Nerdy fun with GIFs and my shark mugs.

The drinks were really good, and we walked away with four free themed cups which brought me more joy than you can imagine. One man’s junk is another woman’s treasure, I guess. My mom got a margarita and Mike got a pina colada. As I was driving, I stuck to the virgin drinks.

I’m not kidding when I said besides my mom visiting and some tacos I made on New Years Day, these cups were the best part of my January.

We started with escargot and cheese tempura. The escargot were fresh, garlicky and buttery. They could have come with a bit more toast for sopping up the butter in my opinion, but they were still delicious. The cheese tempura were basically glorified cheese sticks. But when you have not had cheese in some time, you take what you get.

Then a small salad that was alright, served with our choice from four different dressings. Following that, a bowl of housemade piping hot Indian curry soup. People rave about this on Okinawa web forums, trying to figure out the recipe for when they go home. I thought it was alright – better and more unusual than most standard complimentary restaurant soups.

Finally, our entrees.

Going all out I got the theatrical sounding “flaming sword shish kababs.” Out came the chef with a sword laced in … fuel, and placed my rare steak chunks and veggies on my plate. It was a nice experience, but I wish I had just gotten regular steak after tasting my mom and Mike’s beef. My meat had a sweet marinade on it which was good, but I really love the taste of just straight up beef.

I’d place the steak on a level above the Keg but below Carnevino in Vegas, which was the last truly awesome steak I had in North America. It is probably unfair to even make that comparison, actually. But, this is better than average steak for a restaurant, and the presentation and fun atmosphere make it a great destination restaurant.

With a last minute change of order, I switched my side of bread to garlic rice, at an extra cost. I am glad I did, and recommend it to others, even if you are “riced out” – a situation that does not happen to me often here as the Japanese rice is so good. Sam’s rice was tender and flavourful. The bread was decent at Sam’s, but the butter was tropical fruit infused and was a bit sweet and fruity. At first we thought it was the bread itself, but that was not the case.


Chevron-shaped impressively high coconut cream pie…sadly not as good as I had hoped.

We closed out with a piece of mile high coconut cream pie. I had been eyeing it across the dining room, but it was probably the weakest element of the meal. The meringue was a bit sticky and soggy, not fluffy and light. I would probably forgo dessert next time and just get another tropical drink.

Sam’s has been around on Okinawa for over 40 years, churning out steak, seafood and classic cocktails to soldiers and tourists alike. They are good at what they do, and I know we will return there again sometime in the future.


Sam’s by the Sea, Awase
(other locations in the chain, visit Sam’s Group for more info)

ps: while my photography on the blog is normally standard at best, thank you for sticking through this substandard stuff. Not my best. It was part of the reason I delayed this entry so long, actually!

Food: Asia and General and japan25 Feb 2011 11:15 am

Although there is a lot of weird stuff going on in Japan, one of the strangest places (I think) is an area called American Village near a town called Chatan. It is near a few of the bases in the middle of the island of Okinawa, and so there is a high concentration of American military members and English in general.

Ballpark Hot Dogs, Chatan

This, right away, sets it apart from anything else on Okinawa. Add to this more “foreign” restaurants; Indian food, Mexican food and Thai food are scattered amongst the more traditional Japanese offerings, add a sprinkling of some “American size” clothing shops, a Starbucks outlet and a huge ferris wheel and there you have American Village. I thought it would be so horribly kitschy and touristy I could not stand it, but I guess I have been away from home long enough that I enjoy it. Your standards change when you move overseas.

Standards change when it comes to food as well. A friend recently asked me how I was coping with the different food. He meant cooking at our place, as he knows I think Japanese food is stellar, but sometimes you just need a taste of home.

You can get pretty much everything here if you look hard enough and pay enough money. Or, if you are willing to experiment, you can substitute. So the cheese is not as good as it is back home, but that’s okay, your tongue has a way of forgetting.

That brings me to hot dogs. I have not had a good hot dog in some time. I did not make it a point to even stop in at Costco or Fat Franks before I jumped ship in Edmonton, let alone make my own, so it has been a while. However, while we were in American Village a few weeks ago, we saw a new restaurant had opened; Ballpark Hot Dogs. It opened early in February 2011.

I was skeptical. I have had good burgers here, but not every burger is automatically good. Would a hot dog be any good?

Turns out it wasn’t good…

IT WAS AWESOME.

Perhaps this is a result of my tongue forgetting, but I really do think these hot dogs were quality.

Mike got the dog with chili, melted nacho cheese and sauteed onions. I got “The Nationals” or the dog with onions, chili and cheddar cheese. The buns were soft, the dogs juicy and plump and the toppings pretty fresh. They really pushed up my sodium intake, but they WERE delicious.

At the suggestion of the clerk, we also got some ranch bacon fries. The fries were a little underdone which made things a bit soggy but the bacon and ranch were a great combination.

Ballpark Hot Dogs is basically a take out hole in the wall, but there is ample indoor and outdoor seating on the top deck of Mihama Carnival Park, where the restaurant is.

The hot dogs are named after baseball teams and feature different toppings like nacho cheese, sauerkraut, salsa, onions (raw and sauteed) and various sauces.

Hot dogs run 390-450 yen which is a decent deal, since the hot dogs are made to order with fresh toppings. They also have sets with fries and drinks. The menu is bilingual and the guy who helped us had extremely good English.


Ballpark Hot Dogs
2nd Floor, Mihama Carnival Park (by Freshness Burger, by the ferris wheel)
American Village Chatan
open 11am-11pm everyday
Map

Food and Food: Asia and General and japan30 Dec 2010 10:18 pm

Our search for great dim sum on Okinawa continues. A few months back we made our way to a small Chinese restaurant in a very residential neighbourhood of west Naha.

Unlike Tong Tong, Eva Kui offers a more complete dim sum experience with special teas, the requisite lazy susan tables and offerings beyond dumplings. We got a set menu which provided tea, soup, salad, shu mai, har gao, sticky rice and pudding as well as sesame balls.

The server taught us the best way to brew our own tea after elaborately preparing the pot and cups for our golden liquid. I am not sure what kind of tea we got (perhaps pur-eh?), but it was a fine one, and beyond the norm. Not on the level of the Mariages Freres we had in Bangkok at China House, but still great.

We had a small pot of constantly hot water to make pot after pot of the tea with which was much more preferable than signaling down an always rushing server at a large dim sum restaurant for some bitter tea. Some would say that is the only way, but I liked having executive control over our tea.

a

We started with a seafood salad, then moved onto a clear broth speckled with green onions. Then the steamed items came out, super hot and fresh; pork buns, har gao, three kinds of shu mai and a glutinous, flavourful steamed rice in banana leaf.

Tender, hot char siu bau, or BBQ pork buns. Three different kinds, at once dense and light, sweet and savoury. They are one of my favourite dim sum items. Unfortunately not every place decorates them to look like beautiful peaches, however.

This sticky rice was well balanced, and not too sticky and gloppy. It smelled of its leaf wrapper and was fresh and warm. Normally I think of this item as filler that is stuffed with sub par ingredients and MSG, but the rice at Eva Kui was amazing.

Some of the shu mai had little pockets of ginger in them, adding to the flavour explosion. Some were pork and others were shrimp.

Wonderful har gau, with tender wrappings and crisp plump shrimp inside.

Finally pudding and some molten, freshly fried sesame balls that crackled as you bit into them, giving way to glutinous bean paste filling. The greasy, cold gluey balls you get at most Asian bakeries and restaurants do not hold a candle to this. It makes me very excited to hop over to Hong Kong one day and get dim sum straight from the source.

The pudding is addictive, and there is never enough. It is often called tofu pudding, but there is no tofu in it at all! Almond based, it is silky and smooth and I have to scrape the bottom of the bowl every time I get it.

I highly recommend Eva Kui. There is very little English, but if you have an idea of what to expect from dim sum, you will know what to expect and will have a good idea of what should be coming out if you get a set menu.

The food is above average and the atmosphere is authentic, with emerald green carpet, large rosewood tables with glass lazy susans, jade scupltures and groups of Chinese ladies. It is worth the effort to find, and very affordable.

Eva Kui Taiwanese Teahouse
Oroku, Naha
沖縄県 那覇市 小禄 5-15-22
Map
Closed Monday, open 11am – 3pm, 6pm to midnight.

General and japan30 Aug 2010 07:44 am

Just completed a run to the grocery store for some storm goodies ahead of the news that a storm is headed for Okinawa. Goodies means canned fruit and instant noodles. The storm (typhoon Kompasu) is ramping up and may be as strong as the last big typhoon here in 2007.

I have pulled down my laundry line, filled my tub with water and we will see how this brand new apartment building weathers the storm.

I just hope that the power stays on. See you on the other side!

General26 Jul 2010 07:46 pm

I had to drop off  “the guys” at an extremely helpful and kind acquaintance’s home the other day. She’s got a number of young tarantulas and scorpions and is going to harbour our friends for a while. Considering tarantulas live decades, this is no small task.

So, thank you to local photographer and very wonderful woman and insect sitter Jennylynn Fields of SPYD Photography.

Here are some photos from one of the last feedings.

Unnamed scorpion of Tityus falconensis species.

“Feathers” the salmon pink birdeater

“Truckee” the green bottle blue

Yes, I cried after I dropped them off.

General and Travels26 Jul 2010 12:46 am

This has been my living room for about 10 days. Finally, today, most of it was packed into suitcases. I think I’m overweight on one, but I have squeezed most of what I know I’ll need into the bags. 5 days to go.

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