Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yoghurt making as meditation...

Sorry for the unannounced disappearance the past few days.  I just really needed to knock a few paid jobs on the head.  Thems are the breaks of juggling paid work and parenting without childcare.  I don't really feel like I can complain about it though since I made the decision the kids aren't ready for daycare, a luxury I know a lot of parents don't have.

In amongst the craziness I have been eeking out time each week to bake our bread and make our yoghurt.  I find these simple, rhythmical tasks help to keep me calm and grounded in the moment. 

This is my favourite recipe for our every day bread.  I basically follow the recipe faithfully apart from adding a tablespoon of gluten flour to help everything rise nicely.

Making yoghurt is super easy and so satisfying.  It is so much cheaper than buying store bought yoghurt and in my opinion much yummier.  With milk prices so low, I can make a litre of yoghurt for a little over a dollar!  I usually make a few litres and trade some with family or friends for other home made goodies like fig jam or baked beans.  

Here's how I do it…

-Make sure all your jars and implements are spotlessly clean
-Heat 2 litres of milk (you can do more if you have some hungry friends!) over a medium heat until it reaches 180F
-Cool the milk back down to 110F by putting the pot in a sink full of cold water.
-Then mix in 1/2 cup of starter yoghurt (you can use left over yoghurt from last weeks batch if you have any or just use a plain bought yoghurt with live cultures in it.  Gippsland Dairy works well)
-Put the milk into glass jars.  Make sure you leave the lids off.
-Now you need to keep the yoghurt at 110F for 8-10 hours.  Since I have a dehydrator this is easy but it is also possible to achieve with heat pads and blankets.  If you have a bit of a google people have lots of different creative methods.
-Then it's ready - just pop the lids on and whack your yoghurt into the fridge.  It thickens up a bit more in the fridge.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Japan... day two and three (aka the longest post ever)

Straight up I just want to apologise for this post.  I'm not very good at retrospective blogging.  I guess when I write I usually like to hone in on one small aspect of a day, and try to find the humanity in it, to find the humour, make it relatable or at the very least try and explain where my head is at.  When something big like a holiday or a wedding happens I feel a kind of pressure to give you a much bigger picture, tell you every little thing that happened.  I find myself becoming detached and writing some kind of fleshed out itinerary, like the kind of stories you write in primary school where every sentence begins with 'And then…'.  So I hope you'll forgive me today, as we speed through the last two days of my Japan trip.  I've got a kind of bizarre post planned for tomorrow and then we'll all hop in our time machine and zip back to the present day - hopefully with a few cute photos of the kids, some cooking and news of where our building project is at.

We started off our second day in Tokyo with a trip to the Tsukiji fish market.  The tuna auctions have been closed to the public since the tsunami, but there was still plenty to see in the main wholesale market, and frankly I don't think I would have been up for the 4:30am start even if it had been an option.  We rocked up at about 9am which is when the main wholesale market is opened to the public.  By this time most of the professional trade has already wrapped up so they don't mind tourists coming in to poke around and take pictures.  Even at this time it's a pretty hectic fast paced environment with narrow laneways, and people rushing along with trucks and carts.  It was fascinating to see the fishmongers at work.  They were basically hacking massive tuna fish apart with axes and swords!  

The Mr had sushi breakfast at one of the little restaurants that the market is famous for.  I couldn't really stomach raw fish for breakfast so opted for a prepackaged convenience store cake instead.  To be honest I was kind of freaked out by the possibility of high radiations levels in the fish… probably hyper paranoid but I kept having visions of this…

Next stop was Harajuku.  I'd have to say this was the low light of the trip.  I was thinking there was going to be fantastic people watching and more interesting shopping but it seemed to be more of the same of what we'd already seen in Ginza.  We went to Kiddyland, another multi-storey toy shop but it wasn't as good as Hakuhinkan Toy Park and we got a bit lost trying to find it.  We were planning to go to the Brown Rice Cafe for lunch but it was near impossible to find and when we finally did get there it was closed.  We ended up at a nice cafe for some delicious soba noodles so it wasn't a complete bust.

From there we made our way on the train to Shibuya, home of the busiest intersection on earth.  I think this was the only time during the trip that the Mr. slowed down.  I think if I hadn't been there he would have spent the rest of the trip taking videos of the crowds massing across the intersection.  I spent my time marvelling at the wide variety of socks and hosiery worn by the women of Tokyo and wondering whether thigh high socks and toeless stockings worn with high high heels are fashions that will ever translate here in Australia.  I finally tore the Mr away from his crosswalk obsession so we could do more shopping, and eat.

Bento boxes and washi tape (Japanese masking tape for the uninitiated) are two of my favourite things in the world so of course I stocked up.  I also bought stacks of cute stickers for the kids.  Here is some of the loot…

After a particularly terrible nights sleep at our hotel (more on this tomorrow) and a bought of food poisoning we made a very early start.  We got on the train and headed to Nippori, fabric town.  Just a word of warning if you travel to Tokyo most of the shops don't open until ten.  This meant we had about two hours to kill in Nippori.  Apparently there is a lookout to Mt Fuji here but it was a particularly smoggy day with no chance of a view.  So instead we just killed time watching the locals riding their bikes to work (hardly anyone seems to drive a car) and the Mr had breakfast at a tiny roadside noodle bar which seemed to be a favourite for locals stopping for breakfast on their way to work.  I was still reeling from my food poisoning.

After fabric town we hopped on a train to Rikugien, which was probably my favourite stop of the whole trip.  These stunning gardens are so peaceful and quiet it's hard to believe they're in the middle of a big city.  We had a bento box for our lunch from a little kiosk in the middle of the gardens.  They had set the outdoor tables with lace doilies and little vases of wild flowers.  It was really beautiful sitting there sipping green tea and watching little children picnicking and playing with a kite under the shade of some enormous trees.  Most the garden is rambling and informal, but there is a more manicured, formal section with a lake with carp and turtles swimming around.

And then we flew home…

I hope this wasn't the world's longest and most boring post ever!  Props if you read this far!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When I die I hope heaven is in Fabric Street...

One of the main reasons I've always wanted to go to Tokyo is to check out the amazing fabric shops.  I wasn't disappointed.  I'm not sure why, but sewing seems to be a lot more popular there.  There is a place called 'Fabric Street' in 'Fabric Town' where the whole street is filled with just about every kind of fabric shop you could imagine.  It's in Nippori which is about a half hour train ride from Tokyo Station.  My favourite shop in Nippori was called Tomato.  It was massive - I'm talking multiple buildings, each several stories high.  I think it's kind of like our spotlight… except awesome and with stuff you'd actually want to buy.  People were crowding out the front waiting for Tomato to open (though maybe this has something to do with the fact that shops in Japan open pretty late at 10am).  When it finally did open the store was abuzz with shoppers.  I was struck by how many trendy looking young men there were (both working and shopping) - it would appear that sewing isn't so divided on gender lines in Japan.

I also went fabric shopping in Shibuya at a shop called Marunan.  It is a pretty awesome shop and right in the heart of Shibuya (across the road from the train station) which is a big entertainment and shopping district.  It's multi storey (about 6 levels if I remember correctly) - with lots of fabric treasure to be found.  I found some gems in their clearance bins for some pretty awesome prices.

I really wanted to go to Okadaya in Shinjuku, as I've heard it is amazing, but the Mr. really wasn't up for enduring another fabric shopping trip.  It will have to wait for next time!

Fabric Street Fabric Town in Nippori

Here are some of the treasures I brought home with me… (keep in mind I was on a tight budget seeing as we are about to build our house - it was VERY hard to be restrained!!)

I seemed to buy heaps of purple on this trip which is odd since I normally hate purple - the fabric on the left in a double gauze and the other two are mid-weight linen blends.

Left: top two prints are double gauze and the rest are cotton - Minty just LOVES the dogs! 
Right: I had to get myself some Nani Iro fabric while I was in Japan - this will have to be saved up for a special summery project I think!

This was the only Heather Ross I managed to find - about $4 for a meter - bargain!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Japan... day one.

Going on holiday with the Mr is a little like training for a half marathon.  We spend the whole day from 7am through 10pm walking running at high speed between destinations with little more than a half hour sitting each day.  If I ever suggest that we stop and have a drink, he'll point out a vending machine on the side of the road or hand me a bottle from his bag like some kind of high speed relay baton pass.  Though it can get a little exhausting at times, at least we cover a lot of ground.

A few days before we were due to fly out for Japan, the Mr managed to fracture his pelvis in a surfing accident (seriously it isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds).  So I was thinking that for once we might slow down a little and smell the cherry blossoms so to speak.  I was wrong.  

Ours is certainly a marriage that fits into the stereotype of 'opposites attract'.  Though I do enjoy going for a walk, in our marriage I am definitely the bookish, sedentary one, while the Mr takes the role of the fit, sporty, outdoors type.  By the end of the trip my feet were covered in blisters and I was hobbling around like an old lady while the Mr was still powering around with no visible signs of discomfort.

Our first day in Japan was a Sunday.  It was incredibly quiet with many of the streets closed to traffic.  Families were riding down, what would usually be busy four lane roads, on tandem bikes and other old style push bikes.  We spent the morning exploring the imperial palace gardens.  The gardens are very tranquil, with everyone speaking in hushed church-like tones.  I came away feeling like some kind of raucous hooligan.  It didn't help that the Mr kept telling inappropriate radiation jokes.

Next we went to Oedo Antique Market.  It runs once a month so we were pretty lucky to be there on the right weekend.  Stalls were selling everything from antique gas masks, to what appeared to be embalmed foetuses, gorgeous antique lace, hundreds of kimonos and kimono fabric, exquisite handmade clothes from vintage fabrics, and a veritable sea of second hand camera gear.  At this point in the trip I was being restrained in my spending so I only left with a couple of vintage buttons (I wonder what the reaction would have been at customs had I attempted to bring home a foetus??).  I was struck by how incredibly quiet and calm the sea of people were moving around the stalls set beneath the dappled shade of the trees in the courtyard of Tokyo's International Forum.

From there we headed to Ginza, one of Tokyo's major shopping districts.  The streets here are closed to traffic on Sunday.  All the high end brands have stores there - Chanel, Louis Vitton, Dior, Prada.  Not really my cup of tea but interesting none the less to see.  The highlight was definitely Hakuhinkan Toy Park, a 5 storey toy store with just about every kind of toy you could imagine.  I also loved Tokyu Hands, a department store with so many cool bento accessories, and fun stationery too.

department store bedecked with liberty prints - heaven!

Left:Hakuhinkan Toy Park        Right: cute kids clothes in Ginza - great sewing inspiration!

We ended the day at Daimaru, which left me feeling very nostalgic for the days when we used to shop in Daimaru in Melbourne.  The most astounding discovery was to be found in the produce hall.  A boxed melon for 31,500yen (about $370)!!  Merry Christmas have a melon?