Category Archives: uncategorized

French New Year holiday 2017-2018

In between our stay at my husband’s mother’s place in the south of the Netherlands, the three of us took a short trip to Paris for our New Year’s holiday to visit our friends & relatives. We took Thalys, the express train service that runs through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Two and a half hours after we left Aachen, a small German city bordering the Dutch city where my mother-in-law lives, we safely arrived at busy Gare de Nord.

This time we took a nice Airbnb in an area called Wagram, not too far from Champs-Élysées. It was our first time staying at an Airbnb, and in spite of some reservations we had about the apartment, it was a good choice with great location and ample space for the three of us.

On the New Year’s eve, my best friend and her partner invited us to their lovely home for a special dinner. As is always the case in Paris, we started a pre-celebration at 7:00PM and opened a champagne, munching on foie gras and smoked salmon, which seems to be THE things to eat on the New Year’s eve in France.

img_0682

Foie gras and smoked salmon, the must haves on the New Year’s eve

For dinner, Chef F made this delicious chicken filet with foie gras sauce. And the mashed potato… mmm I can still taste this creamy, sweet mash only a French person can make…  I’m pretty sure he used generous amount of butter, but maybe it’s better not to find out exactly how much… The sautéed mushroom was nutty and hearty, which was a perfect combination with the chicken and mash. Chef F served the same dish sans the foie gras sauce for their son and our daughter, on a small red kids table. Our daughter absolutely loved it, especially the mash. At the age of five she already knows the divinity of the French cooking.

img_0685

Chicken filet with foie gras sauce, with amazingly creamy tasty mashed potato & fried (morel?) mushrooms

By the time we finished the dinner, the four of us finished two bottles of champagne and a magnum red bottle. Embarrassingly enough, I fell asleep before the countdown began. I managed to wake up when they started counting 10, but could hardly open my eyes and collapsed on their cozy sofa hugging their cute little doggy (she was so soft and warm). At 1:00AM we decided to call the night, and we took an Uber home.

On the New Year’s Day, without fail, our daughter jumped on to our bed at 8 o’clock. Dragging ourselves out of bed, we took a hot shower, got dressed and went out. We found out that Centre Pompidou would be open so headed that way. As soon as we got out of the nearest Metro station to the museum, it started pouring, and of course our daughter jumped in to a large puddle. Lucky us… As such we went to a crêperie close by, most likely one of the worst tourist traps you could find in the centre of Paris… We had the crêpe as our early lunch, as we were still quite full from the evening before. Later that evening, Chef F cleverly cooked us some simple pasta to give our stomach some rest.

img_0696

Crêpe avec Nutella

On our last evening in Paris, to return the favour to our host, I cooked some Japanese meal with local ingredients. I loved shopping in a local supermarket and get inspired by all the unfamiliar ingredients. I could easily live in Paris and create locally adopted Japanese dishes… well, in my dreams. For the meal this time though, I stuck with the basics and made ginger pork and hamburg steak with Tokyo rice (that’s how my daughter calls the Japanese sticky rice). I realised, if I have soy sauce at hand, I can improvise many Japanese dishes even without (the very important) dashi broth. Of course it wouldn’t be perfect, but close enough. I used white wine where I needed to use Japanese sake, and honey and/or sugar for mirin. The result? Empty plates at the end of the meal.

img_0767-1

Grocery shopping at a local supermarket. Nice trolly for little kids.

Ginger pork, Hamburg steak with my mum's special sauce, Boiled green Moroccan beans, Fried Aubergine, Iceberg Salad, Tokyo Rice

Ginger pork, Hamburg steak with my mum’s special sauce, Boiled green Moroccan beans, Fried Aubergine, Iceberg Salad, Tokyo Rice

Cooking at their kitchen made me feel at ease. All of a sudden Paris became less overpowering, as if something has planted a seed somewhere deep in my mind that one day we could possibly start our life here.

Well, that would certainly be added to my bucket list.

Dutch Christmas holiday 2017

Over the past Christmas holiday, we visited my husband’s family and relatives in the Netherlands. After about 18 hours since the departure, we safely arrived at my husband’s mother’s place in the south of the Netherlands, two days before Christmas, where the year-end chaos back in Tokyo felt like distant past. I love the quiet, serene, family focused and heartwarming atmosphere of European Christmas, which is quite different from what we have in Japan (more commercialised with strong attention to romantic setting, in some cases involving expensive jewelry and an overnight stay at a luxury hotel). The following day on Christmas eve, we were ready to kickstart the festive season to begin, only to find out our poor girl got some tummy bug somewhere along the way and had to give a miss to all the Christmas celebrations. Luckily, a few days later she was fully recovered, and all of us resumed to enjoy our time-off.

After our rather miserable Christmas, the three of us were invited by the mother of my husband’s Dutch friend, who lives in the small village close to the city called Tilburg. The farm house where she lived was filled with holiday atmosphere with handmade Christmas decorations all over the place. Our daughter’s eyes widened with excitement as she walked into the front door. The house was warm, kind, and sparkly, just like an old house you’d see in a fairly tale. In her lovely kitchen there was a large pot heated in the gas stove, and whatever inside it gave an amazing and appetizing aroma of winter dish along with the heaping steam coming out of it. The candles were lit, the dinner table was perfectly set, we were all seated, and it was time for the dinner to be served… And I was dumbstruck when the lid was opened – I just didn’t expect how it would look like, and I couldn’t resist myself taking a photo. Voila, this is as hardcore Dutch as it can be – the famous Dutch “Stamppot.”

img_0594

This was followed by delicious vegan Rhubarb Crumble, which apparently was not necessarily a traditional Dutch dessert. Nevertheless, it was absolutely divine. I wish I didn’t eat the second potion of the gigantic sausage so that I could eat more of this amazing dessert.

img_0595

Talking about the traditional Dutch delicacy, they have this pudding like, or maybe more like custard type of dessert called Vla. To me, it’s like eating vanilla (or cocoa) cream that usually comes with spongy cake, but any Dutch people I’ve met strongly insist Vla is not cream nor pudding, but is Vla. OK then, it is Vla. Well, our half-Dutch daughter loves it, especially when mixing vanilla & chocolate Vla before eating. During this holiday, she’s had it numerous times, including her last cup of Vla 10 minutes before leaving her Oma’s place back to Tokyo.

img_0918

Kindergarten bento – Sandwich (1/Dec/17)

My strained back is gradually getting better, but I still cannot carry anything heavy, including groceries. The stock in our fridge is running out, and there’s one more day until the weekend when my husband can help me with groceries.

I managed to drop by at a bakery on the way back from my daughter’s afternoon activity and bought a loaf of white bread. By the way, in Japan, this white fluffy toast bread is super popular and can be found mostly any bakery (except for the modern fancy ones). Anyway, I knew there was still some eggs, bacon and cucumber in the fridge, and we always have cheese and appelstroop being the Dutch household, so I decided to make sandwich for my daughter’s lunch.

Menu: Sandwich (bacon/cucumber/cheese & appelstroop, Broccoli omelet, Peanut butter & banana, Strawberry jam), Cherry tomato, Cucumber sticks, Leftover potato in pesto sauce

Strawberries & mikan tangerine for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Another busy but short week (31/Oct, 1 & 2/Nov/17)

It’s been another busy but short week for us. Monday was a school holiday since our daughter’s school was open on last Saturday for an art event. Tomorrow, 3rd of November is a public holiday in Japan called Culture Day. As such, there’s only 3 days of school, but since I took up this translation assignment for 9000 words of text, which is due tonight, I’ve been working non-stop since Tuesday. 

Anyway I thought I’d take a break and post our daughter’s bento images because the bento making happens every day no matter what as long as her school is open!

Tuesday 31/Oct – Soboro bento


Wednesday 1/Nov – Macaroni in  tomato sauce with aubergene & bacon


Thursday 2/Nov – Picnic tortilla wrap bento 


Our daughter & her friends are on their way to the sweet potato farm for potato digging today. It’s their first time to take a chartered bus on their own, without being accompanied by their parents. Hope they’ll have fun.

OK, back to my assignment, 2000 more words to go!

Kindergarten bento – Variety (23-26/Oct/17)

Since the start of this week, I’ve been working on my translation assignments and didn’t have a chance to post my daughter’s bento. No matter how tied up I can be, the bento making happens everyday. When you are busy, time passes in an incredible speed. I can’t believe it’s already Thursday, and I hadn’t posted any of these bento pictures. 

23/Oct/17 – Tori-don


24/Oct/17 – Chinese stir-fried beef & green pepper 


25/Oct/17 – Sandwiches


26/Oct/17 – Onigiri


Looking back, I’m pleasantly surprised how versatile my daughter’s bento’s are from one day to the other. I wonder if this makes any difference in my daughter’s perception to food. I hope this means something to her, and that she’ll one day realise how much variety of food she is exposed to on a daily basis.

Kindergarten bento – Tortilla wrap (11/Oct/17)

Following the precious advice by a fellow blogger Antonio, I heated up tortillas directly on top of the gas burner. As a result, they stayed soft after being heated, and I was able to roll them all up very easily. Thank you again for such a spot-on advice!

Menu: Tortilla wraps (Cheese, ham & cucumber with appelstroop, Broccoli omelet, Strawberry jam & peanut butter, Apricot jam & butter, Nutella), Boiled okra, Steamed broccoli, Cherry tomato

Kiwi & banana for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Onigiri for the field trip (10/Oct/17)

After being postponed on last Friday due to forecasted rain, the field trip to the Ueno Zoo was finally on today. This means I need to prepare another field trip bento, and this time, our daughter requested onigiri balls.

Actually there was a specific instruction from her school for what kind of bento we should prepare for the field trip. Onigiri, sandwich and the like, something that the kids can easily pick up and eat, rather than using chopsticks or cutlery. They told us to make sure the kids bring a water bottle with a strap so they will be hands free at all times. On top of that, they advised us to pack “oshibori“, the wet hand towel, so the kids don’t have to look for a water fountain to wash their hands at lunchtime, and no waste will be produced at the same time. Despite the fact I occasionally feel a little annoyed to be instructed in such great detail, I highly respect their teachings. With years and years of experience spending time with small children, these teachers know what they are talking about.

Oh and just FYI, our daughter and her friends (around 60 of them) went to the zoo without being accompanied by their mum or dad, which means they walked from school to the nearest metro station on foot (10 minute walk), took a metro to the nearest station to the zoo (10 metro stops), walked around the zoo (quite large), took the metro back (another 10 metro stops), and walked all the way back to school (another 10 minute walk), solely with the handful of teachers (7 – 8 of them).

They all came back safe and sound.

Menu: Onigiri balls (grilled salmon & goma-konbu), Spinach omelet, Steamed broccoli, Cherry tomato

Japanese Nashi pear for desser