Giveaway #3: Kitchen Set

The last giveaway, from Tokyo’s Kappabashi (kitchen) district, includes a boxed set of lacquered chopsticks and two blue and white tenugui (cotton hand towels) in traditional wave patterns (called seigaiha 青海波).

Tenugui are normally around 14 x 35 inches (I am assuming these are the traditional size), made of silk-screened cotton, with the ends of each towel left unfinished. They can be used for a variety of purposes, and the more they are used and washed the softer they become. Tenugui can be cut and hemmed to make napkins, or used to make a table runner, but they can also be used to wrap gifts or for other purposes. They make wonderful kitchen towels.

The chopsticks have ribbing on the ends which makes it easier to pick up and hold things, especially noodles, and the ornamentation at the top show a variety of traditional Japanese design motifs in blue.

Here are the giveaway rules once more:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave at least one comment on this post about anything having to do Japanese design. Additional entries can be as simple as you’d like.
  • For an additional one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • Please only at this post only (not on reminder posts).
  • The giveaway will end at midnight on July 3; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, July 5. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I am looking forward to hearing from you!

We Have a Winner!: Giveaway #1

I used a random name generator, and out of 44 entries the winner is:

PAT!

Congratulations!

Pat: I will be contacting you by email, and once I have your address I’ll mail the obi to you. I’d love to hear or see how you use it!

Thanks so much to all who entered – I loved all your comments about how you would use the obi and what you would like to see in Japan. For those who didn’t win this time, I hope you’ll enter the current giveaway, Supermarket Favorites from Japan!

Giveaway #2: Supermarket Favorites from Japan

For the second giveaway, I’ve put together a few of our favorite food items from Japan:

  • 3 packages of CookDo Chinese sauces: Sweet & Sour Pork (or Chicken), Chili Shrimp & Stir-fry Pork or Beef w/ Peppers. Each package makes 3-4 servings (more like 2-3 American size servings). The three dishes could be served together for a complete Chinese meal, or each made individually, and they are meant to be served with steamed rice. Although there are picture directions on the back, I will include instructions in English.
  • 1 package soy peanut crackers (our favorite snack in Japan).
  • 1 package Asparagus Biscuits. These are lightly sweet cookies shaped to resemble asparagus spears (there is no asparagus in the cookies). They are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea.
  • 1 package dark chocolate KitKat bars.
  • 1 200-gram bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise. Kewpie has a cult following among chefs and others in the U.S. – its creaminess and rich flavor are because Kewpie is made with just the egg yolk instead of the whole egg like most mayonnaise.

Here are the giveaway rules:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave a comment on this post with at least one about your favorite Japanese food, or whatever – each comment you leave equals one entry.
  • For a one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • The giveaway will end on midnight on June 19; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, June 21. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Reminder: Luxe Obi Giveaway

If you haven’t entered yet, there’s still more time (seven more days) to enter the giveaway for this gorgeous brocade obi – I will draw the winner next Thursday and announce on Friday. You can enter every day for more chances to win. Please enter only on the original giveaway post!

There are loads of different ways to use or display an obi (see last Thursday’s post), and it would make a lovely gift for someone who loves fabrics or textiles.

Here again are the giveaway rules:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave a comment on this post with at least one about what you would like to see or do if you went to Japan, or how you might use this obi – each comment you leave equals one entry (you can just say hi too).
  • For a one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • The giveaway will end on midnight on June 5; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, June 7. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Giveaway #1: Luxe Obi

Giveaway #1 is a beautiful brocade obi! Although the obi is not made from silk, it is still a luxurious piece of fabric and full of wonderful detail:While most of us will never wear a kimono, or need an obi, there are many ways these uniquely Japanese items can be repurposed and used. An obi is nearly 10 feet long, so there is quite a bit of fabric to work with. Below are some suggestions for how an obi or the fabric in it can be used in Western decor or accessories:

Wall decor

Throw pillows

Table runner or draped over a chest or buffet

Wedding dress or formal sashes

Unique purses

Here are the giveaway rules:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave a comment on this post with at least one about what you would like to see or do if you went to Japan, or how you might use this obi – each comment you leave equals one entry.
  • For a one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • The giveaway will end on midnight on June 5; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, June 7. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I look forward to hearing from you!

Japan Miscellany

A few things not big enough for their own post:

My surprisingly delicious matcha bagel had tiny white chocolate chips.

  • The other day at the commissary Brett and I bought a loaf of American-made seven-grain bread. I used some for sandwiches the day before yesterday, and the first comment from both of us was, “Wow – the bread is so sweet!” This was our favorite kind of bread back in the States, and we never noticed it before, but after two months here we have become accustomed to things being a lot less sweet. Yesterday our daughter-in-law brought me a matcha bagel with white chocolate chips. I was a little wary about how it might taste, but the chips offered a tiny bit of sweetness, and otherwise it was a nice chewy, yeasty bagel with a slight matcha flavor – delicious! Besides enjoying foods with little to no sugar, things here also seem to have a lot less fat – our palates are going to have to readjust when we get back to the U.S.
  • Spring has arrived – flowers are blooming everywhere and the cherry blossoms have come and gone – so when it was 70+ degrees yesterday we figured it was time to ditch the jackets and break out the spring clothing. I went without a jacket, Brett put on shorts . . . and boy did we get some looks! Most people seem to still be wearing darker colors I associate with fall and winter along with sweaters, jackets or a coat. I remember once I wore a sleeveless dress here on an especially hot day during Indian summer, and got many stares because I was apparently not dressed appropriately for the fall season. Maybe there is a dress code in Japan, and certain dates when can safely switch one’s clothing from one season to the next, but I have no idea if that’s true or when that is.
  • Above is a page of calligraphy Brett produced last week in his class. Lots of orange corrections from the sensei, but see the small circle-like strokes in a couple of places? Those indicate his brushwork is correct! He studies every day, practicing his kanji and learning both characters and the kana, although the brush he bought last week is too large and causing him problems. One of the things I love about Japan is that while his teacher is considered a master calligrapher, she still studies under her master! The pursuit of perfection is a lifetime goal here, no matter what form of art you pursue.

    I’d like to say I’m sitting in this chair as I type, but actually I’ve slid down to where I’m practically lying flat! 
  • We don’t have a sofa in our apartment, just two big leather armchairs (and one ottoman). They are mostly comfortable, but the leather is slippery so as I read or write in my chair I slowly slip down, ending up almost on my back after a while. Also, I had to put tape on the bottom of the ottoman because it was slipping across the rug and I was ending up in the space between it and the chair (which was annoying but also funny). Lower furniture is just one of those things we have to deal with in Japan, with the chairs nearer to the ground than we are used to, and it can require extra effort (especially in the knees) to get up. Brett usually sits at the dining room table to read and work, but those chairs are low as well. We like our apartment but I have to admit we’re looking forward to having a good old American sofa to stretch out on again.

    Three of our CookDo favorites here: sweet & sour pork, chili shrimp, and stir-fried pork & peppers. The instructions are in pictures on the back so they’re very easy to follow and prepare.
  • It’s been difficult at times coming up with ideas for meals when all we have is a cooktop, a small microwave, a rice cooker, and a small kitchen. We eat American foods occasionally when we can find stuff we like at the commissary (things like bacon or sausage, or Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese or stuffed green peppers), but I mostly use things we find in the supermarkets here. I miss being able to make casseroles or put something into the slow cooker. My favorite product here is CookDo, sauces for making easy and delicious Chinese dishes. I used CookDo back in Hawai’i to make mabo nasu (ground pork with eggplant) and mabo dofu (ground pork with tofu), but we only could afford them when we could find them on sale, and even then it was $3 – $4/package, a real splurge. In Hawai’i a store might have three or four different sauces, but here there are over 30 varieties (!!!) available, and a package costs around $1. The bottom of both of our suitcases will be filled with packages of CookDo when we return to the U.S.
  • There will be giveaways after we return to the U.S. – three of them! I have been having a great time putting things together and hope you’ll be motivated to enter. Stay tuned!
  • Finally, I am currently unable to comment on Blogger. I have made comments using the Name/URL selection on several blogs, but when I hit submit the comment vanishes. I don’t know if it’s a WordPress thing, a Blogger thing, a Japan thing, or a combination of all three.

Even More Portland Miscellany!

Life for us Nomads right now is just small things happening every day – some good, some not-so-good, and some very, very sad.

Please pray for Strasbourg.

  • Brett and I are deeply grieving over the terrorist attack that took place on Monday in Strasbourg. The city is currently celebrating its annual Christmas market, so there were lots of locals and visitors out and around, and we can’t see the attack as anything but planned and intentional. They know who the terrorist is, and hopefully he will be caught soon. When we saw the path he took we knew exactly where it had happened, just a tram stop away from where we stayed and in an area where Brett and I had often walked. I hope you will hold Strasbourg in your thoughts and prayers.
  • Both Brett and I got our teeth repaired on Monday – yeah! Brett’s was a permanent fix but I will have to go back for more work when we return to Portland next May. The angle of the break made it look a bit scary at first because it appeared that part of fracture had occurred below the gum line. If so, it would mean a couple of extra procedures in order to attach a permanent crown. But, on closer examination the problem didn’t exist so I will only need a crown. I am also going to have the bridge on my lower teeth replaced this summer too – it’s almost 30 years old, and frankly a miracle that it’s still in place. Thank goodness for good dental insurance!

    I think we cleaned up pretty nicely!
  • We also both got our hair cut yesterday, and boy does it feel great! I am so glad I no longer have to walk around with whatever that thing was on my head. The host at one of the places we’re staying in New Zealand happens to be a stylist and you can arrange to have her do your hair during your stay in her home. It will be the perfect time for both Brett and I to get trimmed up again so I’m going to set that up and then we’ll only have to worry about finding a stylist later in Tokyo. There is no way I am going to let my hair get so long again. (First world problem, I know.)

    I wanted something useful made with marbled paper from Florence, and this phone case is perfect (apologies for the poor lighting).
  • It took me a while to decide to do it, but back while we were in Florence Brett and I decided it was time for me to upgrade my phone, so that’s something else we did on Monday. T-Mobile currently has an offer that let me trade in my old phone (almost four years old) making the new phone quite affordable. My old phone worked, but it was very slow when we were traveling compared to Brett’s newer model, and at times downright useless. As a sort of promise to myself, I bought a phone case when we were there for the new phone, one made with beautiful marbled Florentine paper. My Christmas present has been taken care of!

    I found a box of cheap tiny ornaments at Target and added some to the plastic succulent arrangement that’s on the coffee table in the house. We also bought a string of lights to hang around the doors in the living room, and along with our poinsettia we finally feel like we’re decorated for Christmas!
  • All of the gifts we bought for the girls are wrapped and ready to put out on Christmas morning. I’d love to show and tell what we got for them, but they may be reading the blog now in hopes that I would do just such a thing before Christmas. Brett and I came up with a plan before we set off and stuck to it, and were able to find everything we wanted all while staying within our budget. With one major exception the girls are pretty much getting the same things, but we’ve personalized each item to each girl’s taste. I still have to purchase a gift for my Secret Santa recipient but will take care of that once the girls are here.
  • It feels like ever since we arrived in Portland that we are hemorrhaging money – we seem to stop in at a grocery store almost daily, or at a Target to stock up on travel needs. I also got the new phone, we got our hair cut, etc. Intellectually I know we’re getting stuff done that needs to be done, and we’re getting ready for the girls who will be eating us out of house and home if past experience holds true. Travel stuff also has to be replaced. I think it’s because after just buying food for the two of us the past few months I’m having a somewhat difficult time now buying the amount of food required to feed five people. We’ve paid cash for everything and are still well with-in our budget, and under our daily spending average, but it still seems like it’s too much at times.

Can I just say again that we’re greatly enjoying our Portland “downtime” even if the weather is lousy? We’re getting plenty of rest, slowly getting over our jet lag, and we love being able to eat lots of Trader Joe’s and other goodies that we’ve missed these past few years. Our colds wax and wane depending on the weather, but on the whole they are diminishing every day. All that’s missing for us now are the girls, and they’ll be here next week!

Some Florentine Miscellany

This many biscotti should last us for a while (or so we hope).

Just a few things that have been going on here recently:

More Italian cookie favorites

  • Our favorite snack in Italy (well, outside of gelato) continues to be . . . cookies! We’re talking the kind you can find at the supermarket – they are tasty, affordable, and w-a-y less sweet than U.S. cookies. We usually enjoy two or three for dessert in the evening but have been know to nibble them during the day if the desire arises. Some favorites are pictured above (don’t know their names), and we have also been enjoying different flavors of biscotti.
  • WenYu and YaYu’s FAFSAs are done and submitted for next year, and they and Brett will finish up other financial aid paperwork when we’re together in December. Brett carried along our financial information on a thumbdrive for just this purpose, and even with all the time differences, multiple questions and so forth he and the girls finished everything up in a few days. This is our last year of filling out the FAFSA for WenYu; after this we’ll have just two more years to do with YaYu and then we are done with the FAFSA for good!

    Candy Ninja and his sidekick, Bubble Gumby!
  • We loved the several Halloween pictures from Japan our daughter-in-law sent (yeah social media!). She made the kids’ costumes this year from an idea she found on Pinterest. Our grandson was a candy machine (his costume won first prize at his school!), and our granddaughter was a gumball machine. So cute! Neighborhood trick-or-treating is not a thing in Japan, but they go to friends’ homes and parties to celebrate, and our son always carves a pumpkin with them.

    The money bag with its expanding collection of coins.
  • We’ve been saving coins and bills along the way for our grandson to help him start a currency collection. By the time we get to Japan he’ll have some assorted Argentinian pesos, Uruguayan pesos, all sorts of Euros, some British money (thanks to our long layover in Gatwick on the way back to the U.S.), Indian rupee, Hong Kong dollars, and Australian and New Zealand dollars (and of course American bills and coins). We’ve also managed to pick up the odd coin here or there, like a five peso coin from the Dominican Republic (?????), and we plan to help him find a book when we’re in Japan where he can keep and display his collection. You can find a book for any sort of collection in Tokyo – the fun part will be the hunt!

    The remainder of our Florence souvenirs.
  • Earlier today we did some planned shopping and bought ourselves some gloves as well as a beautiful spring green stovetop espresso maker that we’ve been admiring in the window of a small hardware store we pass almost daily. The gloves are cashmere-lined lambskin. Brett got a black pair, and I got two pairs: black and bright purple. They should last us for years.

    This is a copy of Michelangelo’s David that stands in the Uffizi courtyard – the original is in L’Accademia.
  • We are going to take it easy again tomorrow because we will be up early, early, early on Sunday morning to begin four days of Operation Museum Overload. Sunday is a free day for national museums, so we’re going to head over to L’Accademia and get in line early. We’ll be back in line again early Monday morning at the Pitti Palace where we’ll pick up three-day passes to see it, the Boboli Garden on Monday and finally the Uffizi next Tuesday.

Last Bits of Miscellany Before We Go

A delicate white hibiscus out by the pool – I will miss the unlimited variety of these beautiful flowers.

A few final things not big enough for their own blog posts:

  1. My number one concern right now is getting my back into shape for travel. I really messed it up last Saturday working at the election, more than I realized. We sat almost the entire day at middle-school cafeteria tables, with no back support, and three hours in I knew I was in trouble. By the end of the day I was a wreck, but figured time in the hot tub, pain medication and proper sitting conditions all would be well in a couple of days. Nope. It’s getting better, but one false move and it seems I’m right back at the beginning again.
  2. This past Tuesday was the deadline for our former landlord to return our deposit, or an itemized list of deductions (which has to include receipts, not just figures he comes up with). If he mailed it to us he was required to supply us with proof of mailing before or on Tuesday, and if he didn’t, by Hawai’i law he is required to return the entire deposit to us. Brett messaged him on Tuesday afternoon and asked about the status of our deposit and got a message from him just a few minutes before midnight that the check would arrive by 8:00 p.m. Wednesday (at Brett’s sister’s house). He asked us to “confirm receipt of the tracking number” but of course never gave that to us and nothing from him has arrived in Texas so far. Maybe something will show up there later today, but at this point we’re doubtful, and there’s a better than good chance we’ll be coming back to Kaua’i next year to meet him in small claims. Update: We finally heard from the landlord on Friday morning that the check had been mailed . . . to a completely unknown-to-us address in Texas, in a different city from Brett’s sister! Where he got that address is anyone’s guess, but it’s definitely not the one we gave him. Supposedly now it will be delivered to the correct address in three days, but I will believe it when I see it.
  3. We’ve all been throwing away pieces of clothing for the past three weeks, things we’ve worn almost the entire time we’ve lived here and but that are now past the stage of being saved. All this tossing away though is rather bittersweet as it means we’re very close to heading out on the Big Adventure, but also marking how very close we are to the end of our time on Kaua’i.
  4. Brett and I packed our suitcases yesterday, and except for a last few items to go in on Sunday evening that task is done. Neither of the suitcases is anywhere near full, and they both weigh 37 pounds so we each have some wiggle room (our goal was to have each suitcase weigh no more than 44 pounds). Of course, we still have YaYu’s suitcases to re-pack and will do those on Sunday. She calls her biggest suitcase “the body bag” – it is huge, but has to be to hold her comforter and other linens.
  5. We’re eating some very interesting things these days (like curry over leftover spaghetti) as we finish cleaning out the fridge and cupboards here at the condo. I have no idea what we’re going to do on Sunday because we’ll be out of everything by then, and tired of going out to eat.