Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hungry Beauty: Dutch Pancake at De Sneeker Pan in Amsterdam



 De Sneeker Pan in Amsterdam

I had a Dutch pancake for the first time at De Sneeker Pan in Amsterdam and I immediately became a fun of the Dutch style. There were also very pretty and kind waitresses working at the café. The kitchen counter was nicely organized with fresh baked chocolate cake—I wished that my stomach was slightly larger than now—cookies and pasty. Very cute plates and cups were decorated along with fruits in a bowl. The café welcomed us in a cozy morning moment.


I ordered an apple pancake, of course, Dutch style. When they brought my breakfast, I was really surprised.

I said, “It is so huge!”

The waitress said, “This is Dutch style, enjoy!”

The pancake neatly folded over the plate. It was like a thicker style of crepe with many thin slices of apples and raisins. Apple sweet and sour flavors were matched with additional maple syrup and powdered sugar—later I learned that some local people added brown sugar on the top of the pancake. I enjoyed having the pancake along with green salad, French bread, and an omelet breakfast combo. I thought that I might have ordered too much, but my hubby and I ate everything. It was delicious.


When I came back to my apartment, I tried to make Dutch pancakes. So far I tried four times to get it right, but at least they’re getting better. The Dutch pancake needed patience because it was huge, so it is difficult to flip when cooking. In addition, when I searched for a recipe for Dutch pancake, there were many versions and cooking styles available.

I used an iron frying pan on the stove when I made it. I stir fried slices of apples with unsalted butter first, and then I poured flour mix. I waited until the bottom became brown and flipped it with two spatulas. But there was another cooking style; put the iron pan into the oven after cooking the apples and pouring the flour mix. After twenty-some minutes, the pancake will become golden crisp on the top. I have not tried the new style yet. It will be a fun experiment for another weekend breakfast at home. 




De Sneeker Pan

Kerkstraat 48,
1017GM Binnenstad, Amsterdam
Phone: +31 20 6223660






Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#10 Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首)

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English. 

The Tenth Poem:

これやこの
行くも帰るも
別れては
知るも知らぬも
逢坂の関
--蝉丸

This is the way
to go east or back to Kyoto;
farewell for a while,
we’ll meet again
here at “Ausaka no Seki.”

Detroit is my airport
to fly in from Nagoya, Japan;
there is a tea cup shop
where a bald guy used to work.
After nine years, he is gone. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Brilliant Beauty: My Private, Really Private, Silk Factory



Flower Shop in Antwerp, Belgium

One the night a Japanese historical silk factory (Tomioka Silk Factory in Gunma Prefecture) became part of UNESCO, after I took a bath, groomed myself, and screamed—I screamed really hard—my hubby ran into the bathroom. I found a single, silky, white hair in my bikini zone. I knew that I had three gray hairs on my head since my early twenties, but I have never expected to find it in my private area.   

My hubby laughed and said (quoting from his favorite show, ‘The League’), “You got ‘ol smoke crotch!”

The bright white color was sticking out from my black hair like, “Hello! You are officially old!” I grabbed my tweezers and pulled it out. Instead of observing the hair, I flushed it down the toilet. In the following days, checking unborn silky hairs became my routine; and then I found another half black-half gray hair hiding in the underbrush. I was seriously depressed holding the beautiful hybrid hair.

So, I read online articles on how to prevent getting gray hair. There were so many opinions and solutions, like “Always part your hair in different positions,” I could try spiky, nerd, curly, super short, bushy, and elegant styles without problems. Or “Massage the part to ensure the better blood is circulating there.” I should have already had the better blood circulating since I recently adopted a blue rabbit from Amsterdam. And in the last article, “Die your hair dark and accept reality.”

The reality is that I aged. My sister had her first baby, raised him, and went back to her fulltime job this spring. Time is passing and one of my friends sent me a thank-you note. When she was sad and depressed, I advised her to buy flowers, which she did. Now she gets pregnant and is really happy (I was told babies came from something else, but oh well). “Thank you, Naoko, very much for cheering me up.”    

What I need is flowers to forget about my silk factory. My favorite Italian supermarket sold flowers for around $10 - $12. It may add up for our budget; however, spending $12 every two weeks was like having a coffee and chocolate croissant at Starbucks. I bought colorful tulips and made flower arrangements in my apartment.

Tulips were not enough to lift my spirits, so I started growing twenty-day radishes, green onions, and kaiware-daikons. This morning, the radishes’ sprouts overflowed the planters—I was excited—but the colors of the tulips were fading away. Recently I was translating Onono Komachi’s poetry from Ogura Hyakunin Issu. She wrote about how her beauty was going while she was waiting for her love. Of course women were conscious about their beauty since forever ago (thanks society).

My hubby said, “You are still hot.” And, to make me feel better, “Your grandmother is pocketsized, but still very elegant. You will be fine.”

I just did not want to be a wife who is satisfied hearing her hubby say, “You are beautiful TO ME.” But, I will fight for reality, though. I officially accepted the new silk factory branching out onto my body. I will send a welcome flower down there.  



Friday, April 25, 2014

Been There! Tin Tin Museum, Belgium

Surprised? Today's story about Tin Tin Museum in Belgium is written in Japanese. 


Tin Tin Museum, Belgium

小学生の頃、”タンタンの冒険”をNHK衛星アニメ劇場で毎週とても楽しみにしていた。オープニングテーマが始まると(私もタンタンと一緒に橋から飛び降りている気持ちになって)原作者エルジェの世界に引き込まれ、母親にご飯を呼ばれても、聞こえないくらいテレビの画面に集中していた。アニメシリーズが最終回を迎えると、原作の本を丸善の外国語書籍売り場で買ってもらった。ハドック船長が私の英語の先生でもあった。今でも、お気に入りのぬいぐるみをミルー(フランス語でスノーウィー)と名づけている。

エルジェみたいに、漫画よりも映画みたいなカートゥーンが描きたくて、”ナオナオの冒険”と真似して落書きしてみたり、小さい頃の授業中は、いつもタンタンのテーマソングが流れていた。シンプルな絵でも躍動感があるエルジェの絵にあこがれて、スノーウィーを描く練習もした。何よりも、ビーカー教授がサメの潜水艦を発明したり、月旅行の先で、デュポン、デュボン刑事の髪の毛が突然カラフルに長くなったりする、奇想天外なストーリーが大好きだった。


エルジェの故郷がベルギーということを知ってから、私も、いつかベルギーへ旅行して、タンタンミュージアムへ行くぞと決めて、ついに夢がかなった。(ベルギーの入国審査で12歳の頃からの夢だったんだよと言ったら、とても喜んでウエルカムしてくれた。)

タンタンミュージアムはベルギー中央駅から電車に乗って約50分くらいにある。インターネットで電車を予約したり、週末券を購入すると、電車賃はとても節約できる。窓から見える景色は、のどかで、閑静な住宅街や素敵なお庭が見えた。車掌さんも親切で、電車内の治安は特に悪くない。Louvain-la-Neuve駅のキャンパスシティーで下車をすると、周りには、おどろくほど本当に何もなく、乗客もまだらだ。

入り口が工事中で、一見、休館中のように見えるタンタンミュージアムだったが、細い入り口から中に入ると、まるでタンタンのアートに紛れ込んだような気持ちになれる。荷物とカメラを預けて、案内係の人からアイポッドとイヤフォンをもらい、美術館をまわる。館内ではカメラビデオ撮影は禁止である。


最初のコーナーは、エルジェの家族、初期の仕事がテーマでだ。デュポン、デュボンは、エルジェの双子のおじ様達がモデルになっていたり(黒い帽子にステッキを本当に持っている写真がある)エルジェが若い頃、ポスター会社で働いていたときの作品が並んでいたり興味深い。次のコーナーは、エルジェのカートゥーンが、シンプルな白黒の新聞の4コマ系漫画から、フルカラーの細かい背景、多数のキャラクター、世界中を魅了するアート&ストーリーへどう発展されたかが説明されている。


初期のころから、エルジェのカートゥーンは、アートのような、映画のような感じである。美術館でも、エルジェがどう”間”を映画の1コマのように、無駄なくうまく表現したかという説明がある。例えば、夕立が降ってやむ時間をあらわすのに、街に雨が降っている、公衆電話を待つタンタンとスノーウィーが出てくる、二人ともびしょびしょになる、雨上がりにチワワを持った裕福な女性が電話ボックスからでてきて、”フィフィちゃん濡れなくて良かったわね”みたいな独り言を言う。タンタンとスノーウィーがしかめ面をするなどだ。美術館ではその”間”の使い方を、原画の間近で観察できた。エルジェのような”間”の描き方を、現代アート詩に取り入れてみようと思う。次の詩と挿絵作りがとても楽しみだ。


また、タンタン美術館にあるレストランは、とても親切でおいしかった。ベルギーの人はフランス語が母国語なため、英語をしっかりと話せる人がわりと少ない印象を受けた。私も、フランス語は”メルシー”ぐらいしかわからないので、ウエイターさんが、英語でお料理の説明をしてくれる心遣いがとてもありがたかった。ちなみにレストランでは、サーモンのサラダとハンバーガーをいただいた。大きなチョコレートのクロワッサンもいただき、ひとつじゃなくて、みっくらい食べたくなるぐらいおいしかった。

12歳の頃からの夢を達成して、うれしくもあり、ブルーでもある。これから先、こんなに大ファンになって、原作者の母国まで旅行に行きたくなるぐらいのアートにめぐり合えるだろうか。。。私のことだから、しばらくしたらブールーな気持ちもすっかり忘れて、突拍子もなくエジプトへ行こうとか、ショパンを聞きにポーランドへ行こうとか思いつき、無責任に言い出すのだろうけど。



タンタンミュージアム行き方:クリック


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) #9

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English. 

The Ninth Poem: 

花の色は
うつりにけりな
いたづらに
わが身よにふる
ながめせしまに
--小野小町

Cold spring rain falls onto
cherry blossoms; fading
their color slowly over time
just like my beauty
while I think of you.
--Onono Komachi
--Translated  by Naoko Fujimoto

返歌
A poem written in response from me to Onono Komachi

You are pieces of
dried skin and bones
under the graveyard,
but your poem is still
like a grayish pink spring day.   

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hungry Beauty – a Pizza-Ninja at La Place in Amsterdam


La Place in Amsterdam 

“How would you like to cook salmon?”
“Could you grill it until the surface becomes golden and crispy, but juicy inside with sautéd spinach?” I asked. I am picky about fish.
“Do you need potatoes for a side?” the chef asked.
“Yes. Could you add salt and rosemary?”

At La Place in Amsterdam, Netherlands, I could enjoy a restraint quality meal in a more casual environment (attached to a shopping mall). After my hubby chose a cute Miffy’s shirt for my nephew at the mall, we decided to have dinner.

I also made my own salad. I selected a plate from small, medium, and large sizes, which dictated the salad’s price. Some people put everything (cooked carrots, ham, organic carrots in vinegar, broccoli, cus-cus, raw carrots, etc) in the smallest plate and pay the minimum price. Maybe it’s about cost efficiency, but I wonder if their taste buds work that way. And they do not always finish whatever they placed in their plates (and toss it away!). I preferred nicely selecting side dishes with colorful vegetables enough for my hubby and me. 


My hubby ordered a pizza. He selected vegetables and ham. The chef was a pizza-ninja who kept adding ham after an ham… He picked fresh herbs from the counter, added (and added) the ingredients, and quickly tossed it in the oven. My hubby wanted to ask for less ham, but the pizza was covered (like a mountain) by ham. It was definitely meaty.


My hubby and I had dinner on the second floor of the kitchen, consisting of crispy/juicy salmon, bite-sized potatoes, a small salad, a ham pizza, and a banana smoothie. I noticed that around us many people enjoying dinner. Some families spoke French with three adorable kids. Some people read a book or laptop on the table. Four young women celebrated a birthday. They had dinner and shared cupcakes on the table. They dressed up so colorful and fashionable—everyone had a black leather jackets—when I gazed at them, they suddenly changed from speaking in English to Dutch.

At the casher’s desk, I got a free meal coupon for the next purchase. I wanted to give it to the birthday party girls (or family that were dining), but I was shy, so I left it on our table. After seven o’clock in the evening, most of the shops were closed and the streets were already dark.


La Place
Kalverstraat 203
Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 900 2358363

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) #8

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English.

The Eighth Poem:


わが庵は

都のたつみ
しかぞすむ
世をうぢ山と
人はいふなり
--喜撰法師

My house,

South East of magnificent Kyoto,
a relaxing, rural life,
but people call me “Ujiyama;”
hiding from this world.
--Kisen Houshi
--Translated by Naoko Fujimoto 

返歌

A poem written in response from me to Kisen Houshi

Nowadays,

it doesn’t matter where you live,
I just need a finger
to read your poem
in a nameless city by daffodil fields.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Brilliant Beauty – Simply Relaxed Morning at Hotel Egmond in Bruges

 The Hotel Egmond in Bruges, Belgium


How important to feel finally refreshed after I slept on clean sheets and had a breakfast at the Hotel Egmond. The hotel is located close to Begijnhof (buildings used by Beguines) in Bruges, Belgium. Before I entered the hotel property, I saw a romantic small lake known as ‘Love Lake’.
At the moment, my hubby and I were not yet romantic when we got lost in Bruges with many one way streets (mostly under construction). We drove through the tiny historical district three times screaming, “Why can’t the GPS find the hotel?!”

We drove through the beautiful Begijnhof streets without knowing which places were historically protected areas (yeah, we drove through a wildlife reserve, even though other employee cars were parked alongside the road). At some point I screamed, “Watch out for the person!”, “too narrow street!”, or “One way again!” My hubby drove backwards several blocks when necessary.

The hotel owner waited for us for almost two hours after our estimated arrival time. He gave us a key and immediately left with his two dogs. When I entered the room, I felt like I time-traveled into the eighteenth century, it was that large and comfortable. I learned later that he went into town to buy fresh cheese and ham for our breakfast.

I opened the windows in the morning. I let an early spring breeze in the room while my hubby was still sleeping. I saw an old church. Crocus and daffodils started blooming—I was just thankful to be there to see it—and I smelled chocolate croissants.


After I shook my hubby awake, I greeted both dogs, a squirrel statue, and several beautiful women—I did not expect so many women to be staying overnight here—to find various cheeses, ham, pastries, bagels, and chocolate croissants beautifully lined up. I was not a big fan of cheese in my life even though my husband had a passion for it. I really love cheese now after tasting a lot of it in The Netherlands. They were fantastically delicious. In addition, all the pastries and croissants were made by the hotel’s caretaker. Only he and his mother took care of the hotel (cleaning, cooking, laundering, gardening, etc…), providing a simple breakfast depicting their art in hospitality.

After the breakfast, I was talking to the owner about how he prepared the chocolate croissants. He easily said, “I used pasty sheets with Belgian chocolates and put it in the oven. It works out well for everyone that way.” 

I decided to adapt the hotel Egmond’s simple style into our apartment. I decorated it with tulips and washed our sheets and pillowcases with no problems—and I baked. I baked chocolate muffins and sponge cake. I used fine chocolate from Belgium. When I showed it to my mother over Skype, my mother asked, “Is this a burnt rice cracker? It looks so flat…” My hubby ate only one piece. I defended myself by saying the taste was not that bad. “Of course, the chocolates came from Belgium,” my mother said.
My next challenge is to use pastry sheets and make chocolate croissants. I already ate all the chocolates from Belgium I saw, so that is another great excuse to buy more chocolate.

Hotel Egmond

Minnewater 15
8000 Brugge
BE0453 730 168
Home Page: **Click**

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lunch with Cupmen



My three little cousins gave me "Cupmen," which is designed by Akira Mabuchi. The orange man holds a lid of a cup of noodles. He always supports me for a lazy lunch.


H-Concept 

3-24-8 Asakusabashi, Taito-ku
Tokyo, Japan



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) #7

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English. 

The Seventh Poem:

天の原
ふりさけ見れば
春日なる
三笠の山に
出でし月かも
--安部仲麿
--Abeno Nakamaro

In the night sky,
looking up to find
the moon, 
is it the same one 
over Mt. Mikasa in Kasuga, my home?

返歌
A poem written in response from me to Abeno Nakamaro

Interstellar light 
travels thousands of years to the Earth;
when it was born,
you were missing home;
finally here, in my foreign sky.


**Note: Abeno Nakamaro was an exchange scholar about 700A.C. He went to China to study poetry and politics; however, he could not come back to Japan. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hungry Beauty – Le Point de Chute in Brussels, Belgium


 Le Point de Chute, Brussels

Thanks to Google map, I could identify an organic café in Brussels, Le Point de Chute. I will explain why I forgot to take a picture of the café. The café was located right under the Palais de Justice (Law Courts of Brussels) by the glass elevator. It is also on the way to the antique market, the Place du Jeu de Balle.

The café serves organic food and fruit drinks. I really enjoyed having croissant-like pretzel sandwich and berry smoothies. The chef and waitress were very nice along with their friendly cat by the windows. 

But we did not realize the menu stated remember is “NO CREDIT CARDS” in the biggest and loudest impression at the bottom of the first page as we were too entranced by the awesomeness of their breakfast selection. 

“The total is forty seven Euro,” said a pretty waitress. 
My hubby gave her our credit card.
“I am sorry, cash only, please,” she responded.

My hubby and I were frozen because we had only thirty Euro.

So, my hubby ran out to find an ATM. It took about thirty minutes for him to return, wherein the waitress kindly asked in a mix of English and French if I wanted to drink something while I waited. Of course we didn’t have enough for the meal we just ate, so I didn’t want to add onto it with another drink. But they were very kind.

I kept thinking though, what if my hubby could not use an American credit card in Brussels and we could not pay the bill. What could we do for money? Were we going to wash dishes? Peal carrots? I searched every pocket in my bag while he was hunting down an ATM. I found fifty US dollars. If he could not find the ATM, I decided to pay thirty euro with fifty dollars. It was too much, but hopefully they would accept the situation. The waitress asked me again, “Anything? Tea?” I smiled and acted as an innocent Japanese woman who did not understand English nor French.

What we did not realize was that the banks all close for a 60-90 minute lunch hour, and we finished eating right after they closed. My hubby actually tracked down two banks since the first one did not work, and even the first ATM in the second bank would not make a withdrawal. But since he had done this in other countries, he patiently read the icons above the different types of ATMs in the bank’s front room and waited for someone to make two dozen consecutive withdrawals from one he assumed would work. 

When he returned with the cash I was relieved. We paid and left a good tip for their patience (Europeans rarely leave tips). The waitress reminded us that a lot of small cafés does not accept credit cards, so customers should carry some cash. We quickly left from the café when the chef said, “Thank you very much!”



Le Point de Chute

Rue de l'Épée 10
Zwaardstraat 10

1000 Brussels




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) #6

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English. 

The Sixth Poem:

かささぎの
渡せる橋に
おく霜の
白きを見れば 
夜ぞ更けにける
--中納言家持

A magpie crossing the galaxy
like an ancient story of the bridge,
frost covers it;
deeply white,
time passes after midnight.
--Chunagon Yakamochi
--Translated by Naoko Fujimoto


返歌
A poem written in response from me to Chunagon Yakamochi

My toe is frost bitten,
foot prints left on the hill
when I cross the bridge 
to your warm room,
don’t let the lamp go out.
  
**Note: Chunagon Yakamochi referenced an ancient love story in China in his poem. A woman and man could meet once a year over the Milky Way on July 7th. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Brilliant Beauty – “How Much?” at Place du Jeu de Balle

The Place du Jeu de balle in Brussels, Belgium

“HOW MUCH?” I asked an old man with the loudest and slowest tone I could manage.
My hubby was whispering that I should have respectfully asked in French and he repeated, “How much” in French (c’est combien).

The old man showed two fingers, so I assumed that it was two Euros.

My hubby and I visited the Place du Jeu de balle in Brussels to find our cat’s water bowl. The place is a publically known antique market place– just like a huge garage sale without a ceiling – and we found buckets after buckets of junk called antiques.


There were buckets of typewriters’ keys, metal handles, tea cups & plates, rings, some paints, old maps (and I mean old), family photos…surprisingly I could find everything that I could think of, we just couldn’t think of what would compel someone to buy personal family photos of a stranger’s family. We could not, however, find a perfect water bowl for our cat. Our princess cat is very picky, especially about china.



The old man was selling buckets of broken chandelier pieces. Pieces of crystal and wires were simply in huge yellow buckets. Those broken chandeliers reminded me of “The Phantom of the Opera”. I imagined that the old man swept those pieces up after The Phantom dropped it. It also reminded me of an old melodramatic Japanese comic, “Haikara san ga Tooru”, where a wealthy Russian woman was crushed under a chandelier during an earthquake in Japan, and an old man carefully collected sad remains from the scene. Anyhow, it was too tough to break chandeliers into that many pieces under any usual circumstances.


I started picking through those pieces and found some in great condition. Beautifully cut, round shaped crystals were beaded together with a wire at the end. I assumed that it was used to connect a larger decorative piece.

As if knowing what I was thinking, the man suddenly took it from me and attached the huge crystal decoration. He made me a beautiful crystal ornament from those broken pieces. When I said, “Merci,” he showed three fingers. The decoration was simply raised from two Euro to three Euro under the name of antique shopping. 

From the beginning, I did not have two Euro anyway. I showed him inside of my coin case. He smiled and waved his hands with acceptance.  I only had 1.57 Euro.

Now, the piece is in our bedroom above the night lamp. The crystal shines through before I go to bed every night. I realize again how important it is decorating one special piece of my memory makes me feel relaxed and thankful at the end of a day.


Location: 
Place du Jeu de Balle in the Marolles District (BRUSSELS)

The market is open every day, all year round, from 6am to 2pm on weekdays and from 6am to 3pm on weekends.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Announcement



 Thank you very much for posting my blog!
Bistro Maurice has a Facebook page.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kusa-Kusa White Hyacinths


























White Hyacinths with My Art

Bulbs from the Chicago Botanical Garden are blooming so well! I got them when I went to the Orchid Show(They are super stinky, though...)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) #5

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English. 

The Fifth Poem

奥山に
紅葉ふみわけ
鳴く鹿の
声聞くときぞ
秋はかなしき
--猿丸大夫

I hear from the deepest forest,
deer steps on red maple leaves, 
and cries;
cries,
I feel the autumn.
--Sarumaru Daiyuu
--Translated by Naoko Fujimoto

返歌
A poem written in response from me to Sarumaru Daiyuu

The autumn is not so lonely,
for the longest night,
I write a letter
remembering my first trip to Kyoto,
picking up maple leaves with my mother.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Food – Waal Kootwijkerbroek, the Netherlands



On the way to the Kröller-Müller Museum while my hubby was driving, I found two bakeries where I would have loved to stop by. After visiting the museum, my hubby and I ‘accidently’ passed by one of them. It was a random opportunity for trying new pastry.

Inside, a woman greeted us and started preparing my tea. The bakery and the person reminded me of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki’s movie, “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” And loafs of bread were lined on the walls. There were many colorful chocolates for Easter celebrations—chocolates shaped like little birds and flowers were deliciously decorated in a case. Since my hubby was still recovering from Brussels’ water, I ordered a croissant, caramel, a walnut cookie, and an almond cookie. He just had an apple turnover.

The best apple turnover I ever had!

It was shaped like a triangle, and inside the apple was not too sweet, and had a little sour flavor. I tried apple flavored meals in the Netherlands—even the hotel had complementary apples at the front desk—but this apple pie was amazing. I’m glad my hubby ordered it (for himself).


While I enjoy eating there, a local woman bought a huge Easter basket full of chocolates and cookies. I wished that I could send a basket like that to my mother.

Address:
Veluweweg 1 - 3774 BK
Kootwijkerbroek 
Tel. 0342-442423

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) #4

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English. 

The fourth Poem:

田子の浦に
うち出でて見れば
白妙の
富士の高嶺に
雪は降りつつ
--山部赤人

On the Tago,
I walk by the seashore.
On the highest,
whitest edge of Mt. Fuji,
it’s still snowing.
--Yamabeno Akahito
--Translated by Naoko Fujimoto 

返歌
A poem written in response from me to Yamabeno Akahito

The cold sea water soaks
your tabi-socks,
shells still sleep 
under the sand, 
spring is not yet coming.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Brilliant Beauty – Meeting Windmill Masters and Walking at Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

I drive forty minutes to work. I sit down in front of two computer screens from eight to five. My office exercises are to get coffee, go to bathroom, and laugh with coworkers. I try to walk during lunch time; however, it is difficult to devote a good amount of time to exercise. My energy is super low after work on the couch with chocolate cookies.


I wish that my neighborhood is an exciting place to walk like Kinderdijk!

Kinderdijk is a village in the Netherlands and protected by UNESCO World Heritage. There are nineteen authentic windmills. Visit their home page:


I gasped when I saw the windmills between small houses. I was really surprised and moved by the scenery. Nineteen big windmills randomly stood along small river banks. They stood like great god-like figures—now I really understand why Don Quixote was crazily attached to the windmills in Spain—On the day we visited, the main park office was closed, so my hubby found a perfect parking spot and we decided to walk around.


At first, we did not know that we parked in a residence area. But the people were very nice to us when we approached them. A man and his son were working to restore the windmill when we approached.

The man said, “Come in! Where are you from?”


We then had a private windmill tour after we parked in the private residency area. I noticed that people from the Netherlands are very kind and super relaxed.

“Are you Red Sox fan?” asked the man after seeing my hubby’s ‘South Side’ shirt. It was an unexpected question but he answered, “What? White Sox!”


And he explained that there were many visitors from Boston when he ran tours for the area, so he became a de-facto Red Sox fan. He even joked that he made people with Yankees hats remove them before his tours.

His son then released a rope, and suddenly the windmill started moving. The wind raised and it made a ‘whiz’ sound. It hypnotized me, making me slowly walk closer to the moving wings.

“Don’t go to close. It is lethal!” the man said with his Dutch accent. We eventually left, having felt thankful to meet the two men and see the windmill so closely.



On the apartment couch, I said again, "I want to walk through Kinderdijk!!" My hubby said, “Well, it is little far from here. But we have very nice forest preserve nearby.”

So, one Sunday afternoon we walked in the neighborhood park and saw a fisherman by the river…

Taking time and walking is fun!

Address:
T: 0031(0)78 6912830
F: 0031(0)78 6918294

Overwaard 2
2961 AT Kinderdijk
Netherlands

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dining Table Gardening - Kaiware-Daikon Planter


I found a kaiware-daikon planter in Amsterdam that goes perfect on our table. The second harvest has almost arrived. Dille & Kamille is a popular kitchen store in Brussels and Amsterdam.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Poem - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) #3

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka-poems by one hundred poets in the thirteenth century. My challenge is to translate the poems and write a return poem (返歌) in English.

The Third Poem:

あしびきの
山鳥の尾の
しだり尾の
ながながし夜を
ひとりかも寝む
--柿本人麻呂

Pheasant tails are
often so long;
dragging
like endless nights
sleeping by myself.
--Hitomaro Kakinomoto
--Translated by Naoko Fujimoto

返歌
A poem written in response from me to Hitomaro Kakinomoto

I did not know
a male pheasant sleeps
miles away from his wife,
thinking of
how soft her tail is.



***
Back Issue:
#1) Emperor Tenchi 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Food – Bonsoir Clara Brussels, Belgium



Bonsoir Clara Brussels, Belgium

The receptionist at the Hilton in Brussels recommended Bonsoir Clara as a good place to dine on our first night in Belgium. She drew us directions and stated, “It is close to St. Catherine’s, you cannot miss it.” She called the restaurant for us and made a reservation (in French) for 7:00PM.


A lot of dinner restaurants in Belgium open at 7:00PM. Around Grand Place (a public square surrounded by amazing historical buildings) or famous sightseeing spots, restaurants and cafes are open all the time. However, small, local restaurants are not open all day. Even for lunch, they rarely open before noon. Those shops, cafes, and restaurants gradually open, but always close at 6:00PM sharp.  


My hubby and I are quick to get lost, so we decided to find our reserved restaurant at 5:00PM before exploring the area. We walked around a large church and crossed many streets on our way there; but of course, we got, as my hubby calls it, ‘temporarily misguided’. We were so hungry from our hike to find our restaurant that we bought sugar donuts and croissants at a local bakery to fuel up.

We finally found a spot to sit down and snack around the church we circled so many times. Many people were there enjoying cigarettes, tea, and huge soap bubbles provided by some random entertainer. There are many fish markets in that area, so some people had mussels and other seafood. After we recharged with the pastries, we continued looking for our evening culinary destination. 


Finally, at 6:40PM we found the restaurant; but it was empty, pitch dark inside. So we read over the menu fixed to the window over and over to mask our panic that the place was closed for the evening.

When we visited the restaurant again (just after 7:00PM), there were several waiters, chefs, and other customers inside to greet us. I almost looked for the magic lamp they all appeared from so suddenly. My hubby and I ordered shrimp croquettes and steak. Croquettes are very popular in Belgium and the Netherlands, as we saw shrimp croquettes in nearly every restaurant we visited.


The restaurant was contemporary—with stained glass windows and romantic candles—and the appetizer consisted of a bean soup and delicious bread. The steak was so juicy and soft that my hubby (whose appetite was actually debilitated during the trip) wanted to have a second one. To top it off, the French fries were served in an adorable container. I have never seen such big shrimp croquettes before. The texture was perfect, with no sogginess. And the crème brûlée was not too sweet like in American. I loved it.


The waiter gave us a small French lecture, and my hubby was excited to finally put his high school French to use and order in the local tongue (we later learned that we should have ordered a large bottle of water instead of four smaller ones). I was hesitant to speak to the waiter in French, but after dinner I could loudly say, “Merci Beaucoup!”

Bonsoir Clara
Rue A. Dansaert 22-26
B-1000 Brussels