Showing posts from March, 2009

Sweet muffin goodness

Strawberries are so cheap in Japan now (for a change), so I thought it would be a good chance to get some baking done.

I just finished making a yummy batch of strawberry muffins and wanted to share the VERY easy recipe...

1. preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius

2. prepare the muffin cups or muffin tray (about 12)

3. mix together the dry ingredients in a big bowl...

- 3 cups of flour
- 1/2 a cup of white sugar
- 1/2 a cup of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder

4. mix the wet ingredients in another bowl...

- 1 cup of milk (I used soy milk and it was fine)
- 125g of melted butter or margarine
- 3 eggs

5. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix them with a fork (don`t over-mix!)

6. add 1 cup of chopped fresh strawberries and mix a little

7. divide the mixture between the muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes (or until the tops are golden brown)

8. cool for a few minutes before eating - enjoy!

My new はんこ

Recently, one of my favorite students gave me a wonderful present. It was one of the most thoughtful presents I have ever received.

During one of our past lessons we discussed Japanese kanji (the chinese characters which make up a part of the Japanese writing system). Kanji are incredibly difficult to learn but they are very intricate and complex which makes them very interesting - I think!

Because my name is relatively short, and has only 2 syllables (when spoken in Japanese), it is normally written in simple Japanese characters.

Fran -> Fu-ra-n (English -> Romanji) = フラン (Katakana) = ふらん (Hiragana)

The 2 sounds `fu` and `ran` can also be written as kanji...

風 = fu
蘭 = ran

...and the meaning of each kanji is very beautiful. The first character (fu) represents wind and the second character (ran) represents an orchid.

My lovely student had a special はんこ (name stamp) made for me with the kanji characters (and cute sakura - cherry blossoms) on it.

Not only is it very cute, it is very useful…

The Japanese Wedding

The preparation - attending a wedding in Japan is no easy feat. The financial part itself is enough to make some people run for cover! If you attend a Japanese wedding, you are expected to give a cash gift. For friends of the bride and groom, that amount is usually set at 30,000yen, and for family and senior employees at the groom`s company, the amount is much higher (50,000yen or more).

When giving the money to the couple, it must be inside a special envelope (a shugi-bukuro = 祝儀袋) - pictured below... with your name written on the front using a black felt tip / calligraphy pen. The notes inside must be brand new, which indicates that you have prepared well for this wedding.

The reasons behind all of these things (the numbers 30,000yen, 50,000yen etc, the new bills) are all superstitious. It is difficult for 2 people to evenly separate 3 x 10,000yen bills, so it is good luck for a new couple.

It is also important to dress conservatively. Many female guests wear kimono, and others choose …

Stamp geek

New Zealand Post recently released the cutest stamps (an A-Z of all things NZ). Not only do they reflect things loved by all New Zealanders (young and old), but they are really well designed...

Of course there are 26 stamps, one for each letter of the alphabet, and each showing something uniquely New Zealand. Where else would an ‘L’ stand for ‘log o wood’ – referring of course to the hotly contested provincial rugby Ranfurly Shield; or ‘G’ for ‘goodnight kiwi’ the lovable little chap who’s bedtime ritual used to signal the night’s end to TV viewing.
Some of my faves are below...
D is for Dog – there could be no other dog on a New Zealand ‘D is for Dog’ stamp than Wal’s faithful friend from the Footrot Flats cartoon strip. Footrot Flats, showcasing elements and antics of our rural community, still graces some of our newspapers today. And, we still don’t know the dog’s name… S is for Southern Cross – another New Zealand icon in its own right, yet the stamp takes this a step further by sho…

Happy Smiley People

INDIA - no I`ve never been, but someday I want to, and looking at these beautiful pictures makes me want to go even more...

Holi Festival -

Anything goes in India this week as people welcome Spring with a week-long festival of colors. The festival, much like Mardi Gras, is a celebration of mischief and merrymaking, but the holiday honors Hindi mythology instead of commencing Christian Lent.

Wednesday 11th March was Holi, the main day determined by the full moon, and people celebrated by throwing colorful powder and water at each other.

7 pounds

So, I went to see Will Smith`s new movie last night... and cried... and cried...

It was a cool movie, very sentimental - Will Smith plays the role of a man who falls in love while trying to kill himself.

Mr Smith was hot, of course, and Rosario Dawson was also gorgeous (even without any hair and makeup styling).

Can`t say too much because according to a lot of reviews and press releases the ending is very mysterious (was I the only one who figured it out in the first couple of minutes?) and I don`t want to ruin the `surprise` for anyone else.Enjoy!

I used to love spring...

When spring arrives in Japan, so do the runny noses, itchy eyes, and other discomforts associated with hay fever (known in Japan as kafunsho - 花粉症).

Allergies are a common ailment in Japan, afflicting one in 10 people. The culprits of hay fever include pollen from the Japanese cypress and white birch trees, but the worst offender by far is cedar pollen. Because of last year's exceptionally hot summer, the cedar pollen count in many parts of Japan is expected to be much higher this spring than usual. In the most severely afflicted parts of the Kanto area (the region where Tokyo is located), forecasters are predicting up to 10 times the amounts measured last year; this is likely to cause many new cases of hay fever.

The picture above shows people shopping for hay fever prevention items at a Tokyu Hands store. The store has set up a corner with about 150 items for hay fever prevention, such as masks, goggles and nose cleansing kits. The goods will be on sale through March 31.

The saddes…

Thought for tonight

Have to write this quick note because suddenly I feel super lucky to be alive.

Last weekend when the boy and I were driving on the highway (a regular 2-lanes on each side highway), we got a call from his big brother who was driving a few minutes ahead of us (because we were coming home from the same place) and he shouted for us to move over to the left hand lane because there was some mad-man driving the wrong way down the highway.

A split second later we saw the headlights coming towards us and swerved out of the way.

It was terrifying at the time, but we composed ourselves, called the police and continued on our way.

I just got a call from him before I wrote this post, because he heard on the news that a few minutes after our highway encounter, that guy hit a car coming in the other direction and caused a fatal accident ...


a few seconds really can change your life.

Big hugs and love to all xoxo


雛祭り = Hina Matsuri

The Japanese doll festival (雛祭り = Hina Matsuri) also known as Girl`s Day, was held on the 3rd of March (the third day of the third month). It is not a national holiday in Japan, but it is one of the most important festivals of the year. This is the day that families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful.

Large, red, tiered platforms are used to display a selection of dolls (representing the Emperor and Empress and their attendants and musicians). These displays are erected in people`s homes and at shrines and other places around Japan. The boy`s sister has 2 daughters, so they have a big one in their home too!

This custom began during the Heian period, when people believed that the dolls had the power to contain bad spirits. Another superstition related to the dolls requires that the displays (which are put up in mid-February) are taken down on the day of Hina Matsuri, otherwise the daughters may never marry!