Monthly Archives: April 2013

Guess Who Got a Garden Plot?


Spoiler alert: I DID!

Shortly after posting this on Thursday night, I got an email welcoming me to the Forest Park Community Garden! They assigned me to plot #6 so Naoto and I went over on Sunday afternoon to check out our space and get a feel for the garden. Plot #6 is in the middle of the garden and it’s looking pretty weedy right now. But, hey, it also came with a few tomato cages!


This week I will be trying to decide what we are going to grow and (hopefully) picking up a few plants or getting a few seeds started here at home to move over to the garden. And we have a gardening orientation on May 11th…just in time to start planting full force. I’m looking forward to the orientation because both times Naoto and I have visited the garden, it’s been deserted…it will be good to get to know some of the other gardeners in our community.

The garden is within walking (& biking) distance of our apartment. It’s located at the corner of Harlem Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway, tucked between those two roads, an alley and an apartment building. It’s very “urban gardening”…kind of a weird spot, but it totally makes sense when you think about open space in a city.



I’m definitely excited to get started and to hopefully (crossing fingers, crossing toes) enjoy some fresh vegetables throughout the summer. And so far, Naoto is just as excited as I am–I hope our enthusiasm continues through the hot summer!

Are you a gardener? What is the best thing you’ve grown? Do you have any advice for two newbies?

Tagged , , , , ,

How To: Spam Musubi (Naoto-style)

spam musubi

Last week I promised a Spam musubi tutorial and today, Naoto is helping me deliver! We had a little Spam photo shoot on Sunday afternoon and then shared the bounty with our neighbor friends. At first, I was thanking Naoto for “taking one for the team” and spending part of his Sunday cooking for the blog…then I quickly realized that whipping up Spam musubis was no great sacrifice. Naoto was in musubi heaven all afternoon (and again for lunch today).

When he was growing up in Hawaii, Naoto often ate Spam musubi for lunch and after-school snacks. His host mom used to make him a stack of musubis as a reward for getting his chores done. I had never heard of a Spam musubi until Naoto and I went to visit his host family in 2003. “Auntie” (Naoto’s host mom) packed us a lunch to take to the beach. I was picturing turkey sandwiches, chips and some fruit (I’m so Midwestern!)…I got Spam musubis. Naoto thought it was hilarious.

Today I am sharing Naoto’s musubi recipe, which is the one he grew up eating. Making Spam musubis takes a few steps but it’s ridiculously easy, and timing is flexible since you can eat them warm or at room temperature.

To make approximately ten musubis, you will need:

1 can Spam

4 cups rice (the short grain sticky kind, we use Kokuho brand calrose rice)

1 package nori (seaweed sheets)

furikake (rice seasoning, optional)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine)

1/4 cup soy sauce

Spam musubi mold (optional, but helpful…you can also make a mold from your empty Spam can)

spam musubi ingredients

First, prepare your rice. We have a rice cooker, so we just start it up and and rice magically appears (pretty much). While the rice is cooking, you can work on the rest of the musubi set up.


To make the glaze for the Spam, add the mirin, soy sauce and sugar to a small saucepan.




Stir and heat on medium/low until the sugar is dissolved. Then, take the glaze off the heat and set aside.

Next, prepare and grill the Spam. Open the can.

opening a can of spam

Look at that glorious canned ham pink.

can of spam

Slice it into 1/4 inch slices. A can will yield about ten slices. If you’d like a thicker slice, then by all means, cut it thicker! There are no rules.

slicing spam

Once the Spam is sliced, grill the Spam on medium heat. If you’re using a non-stick grill pan, there is no need to spray your cooking surface first. A few minutes on each side should be enough. You’ll know it’s done when the Spam turns a darker peachy pink color. When the Spam is done, lay it on a plate lined with a paper towel while you grill up the rest of the can.

grilled Spam

While the Spam is cooking, cut your nori. Naoto likes the nori to cover the length of the entire musubi. He uses his musubi form to determine the size. Some Spam musubis have a thinner strip of nori around them. It’s a personal preference thing.

cutting down the nori

If you’d like to season your rice, you can do that while the Spam is grilling, too. For the party, Naoto didn’t season the rice, but most often the rice is seasoned with furikake. Furikake comes in all sorts of flavors, but most furikake consists of dried fish, sesame seeds, dried seaweed, salt, sugar and MSG. It adds another dimension of flavor to the musubi. For these, Naoto used my furikake: sesame seeds, seaweed and salt. (I bought it because it came in a cute sea otter container.) Just sprinkle the furikake on and stir it in.

seasoning rice with furikake


Once all preparation is done, you’re ready to assemble the musubis!

Dip your cooked Spam in the glaze. (You can leave a few pieces in the glaze while you set up the rest of your musubi.)

spam glaze

Lay a piece of nori on your work surface (Naoto uses a large sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper on top for his assembly station.) and put your musubi form on top.


Fill the form with rice.

Spam musubi mold

Add a slice of glazed Spam.


With your musubi mold handle, press the rice and Spam firmly into the mold. (No need to go crazy here…just press firmly enough to set the rice and Spam into the mold.)


Lift off the musubi mold and wrap the nori around the Spam and rice. Naoto uses a touch of water to help seal the nori seam.



And you’re done! Eat and enjoy! (Naoto didn’t even set this first one down before he ate it!)

enjoying Spam musubi

The Spam website has its own recipe for musubis, too, if you’d like to see another way to prepare them. (They use a small nori band on theirs instead of the full coverage nori that Naoto uses.) If you try Naoto’s recipe or another, we’d love to hear about it!

Tagged , , ,

On April 26, 2005…


…Naoto proposed. (Finally.)

It was a random Tuesday night, and I worked late…as I always did. Naoto was waiting for me at our friends’ bakery, the Prairie Bread Kitchen. We decided to go to Chipotle for dinner and I asked Bonnie to join us. She declined, saying that she had things to do. But I begged and I begged, so she agreed to join us. As the three of us walked down the block, Bonnie suddenly remembered she had forgotten something at the bakery, so she ran back, telling us that she’d catch up with us.

So we kept walking and made it to the Rocking Horse, a children’s clothing store down the block that had previously been the coffee shop where Naoto and I met (recently seen here). Naoto pulled me over to the Rocking Horse’s big windows. There were baby swimsuits on display. I thought it was a little weird, but I also thought we were just waiting for Bonnie. Then Naoto sentimentally mentioned that we had met there, on the other side of the glass (we had, at a small table for two), that we had started our first chapter there at that table. Then, as I’m half listening, he started talking about our next chapter and I stopped listening. Everything is a little fuzzy from this point, but all I remember is him dropping down to one knee and me crying out “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!” over and over again. Loudly. So loud that other shop owners on the block came out to see if I was getting mugged.

Needless to say, Bonnie was in on the plan–the ring had been stored in her store’s safe. We ran back and told her the good news (I said yes, after a lot of shouting.) and we went out to dinner at our favorite place and toasted the moment with champagne. It was a good night, followed by a surprise day off the next day. I couldn’t believe he surprised me (because Naoto has the worst poker face in the world). I couldn’t believe it had (finally) happened.

The picture above is from our wedding (more than a year later). We took a moment to enjoy our meeting place, our engagement place during our walk from the ceremony to the reception.

I wish we had a picture of ourselves in the actual moment, but that’s okay…I still feel the butterflies and sheer (relief?) excitement of the moment as if it were yesterday.

Tagged ,

A String of Lazy Days



I scored a really light work schedule this week (and next!) Unfortunately, any dreams of getting a ton done around the house have vanished. Presley and I have been such lazies for the past three days! I’ve been updating my calendar & address book, reading bits of books, watching TV, catching up on photography homework, playing fetch, cooking lazy meals (fried rice is surprisingly easy!) and nap roaming (where Presley & I move from room to room in a long string of catnaps…Presley is pictured lazing on the Roseanne couch, which really should be donated but P & I both love it).

In all fairness, I thought I’d be outside on the balcony sweeping and putting the furniture out for the spring or shopping for vegetable seeds for my community garden plot…but spring is never coming, it seems and I still haven’t heard from the community garden yet!

I’m at the mercy of Mother Nature and the community gardeners…


Screen Printing at the Library


Last night I went to a screen printing workshop at the Forest Park Public Library. I’ve always wanted to learn about screen printing and what better place to get a taste of something than the library?

Because it would have taken a lot of time, materials and a dark room to create our own screens, Maureen-the-librarian had two screens prepared for us. One, a fist with the word “READ” tattooed on the fingers and the other, an image of Maureen’s cat reading Moby Dick. I’m sure it will come as no surprise which design I chose!


There were six of us in the class and we all took turns printing on paper and on little totes. It was actually pretty easy to print on paper as long as someone held the screen steady and you squeegeed the ink on with enough force. It was harder to achieve “perfection” on the bag because the fabric absorbs more ink, but I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. I’m going to frame my print and continue hanging artwork above the desk on the right side.

I love library events. They are a great, low-pressure way to learn a little bit about something new. In this case, it made me want to learn a lot more about screen printing. I picked up a copy of Christine Schmidt’s Print Workshop book so I could read about more projects and ideas. I hope this isn’t the last time for screen printing and me! Thanks to Maureen and the Forest Park Library for hosting such a great workshop!

To see other fun library adventures, go here.


And P.S. That was my 200th post!

Tagged , , ,

Naoto Eats


We celebrated Naoto’s return to food last weekend with our Naoto Eats party…and I have to admit, everyone loved the Spam musubis…Naoto was thrilled to share his favorite Hawaiian snack with such a receptive audience. (It made me happy, too, because that meant more leftover meatballs for dinner on Sunday!)


I went simple (or lazy?) with decorations. I turned my paper musubis into a garland  for the wall and I littered the table with some Spam postcards from the Spam store (yes, it exists and I have shopped there more times than I’d like to admit). As usual, I took zero pictures of the party, but I think I can say everyone had a blast and Naoto was a happy little Spam clam.



Next week, Naoto & I will be sharing his Spam musubi recipe…I’m just waiting for some daylight for clearer pictures, and Naoto is just waiting for another excuse to make a batch of musubis!


*Thanks, Karen, for sending along a picture of us in party-prep mode!

Tagged , , , ,

How To: Paper Spam Musubi


I realize this little how-to might not be of interest to most of the population.

Spam musubi is a Hawaiian snack food that is made with grilled Spam (yes, that canned meat that no one in the continental U.S. really eats) on a bed of rice, wrapped in seaweed. It looks like an extra large sushi.

Full disclosure: I do not eat Spam musubi. It’s a Naoto thing. (He grew up in Hawaii…but really, he just eats pretty much everything.)

Making the paper version is quite fun though, and maybe some people in Hawaii would like to make a little paper version of their favorite local treat? Maybe there are other Spam musubi fans out there?


To make a paper Spam musubi, you’ll need:

black paper

white card stock (I used Paper Source Luxe white, because it has some texture, like rice)

pinkish paper (I used Paper Source rhubarb, a discontinued color, but a very “canned ham” shade of pink)

tape or glue (I used this tape runner)



corner rounder (optional, but I used this)

a can of Spam

1. Trace the top of the Spam can onto your pinkish paper and cut it out


2. Cut your white paper into a 2.5 x 4.25 inch rectangle.


3. Round the corners of your white rectangle.


4. Cut a 1.5 inch strip from the black paper.


5. Assemble. Tape your pink “Spam” onto the white “rice” and then wrap the black “seaweed” around the “musubi” and tape it in the back.


And there you have it…a paper Spam musubi.


I made Spam musubi invitations for Naoto’s party tomorrow night. We don’t have a printer, so I just typed up the information on the back of the musubi. (I also used other pink paper for the Spam.)


We are serving Spam musubis and a Hawaiian-style potato salad, along with meatballs, cheese and other snacks for non-Spam lovers. I can’t wait to share more next week.

Tagged , , , ,

Up & Attem’



This was my sweet Presley yesterday morning when I got up to get ready for the first Honor Flight of 2013. It was 1:30AM and, as usual she gave me the cutest little send-off ever (all while Naoto snored, mind you). I got home from volunteering around 8AM, ate breakfast and took a long nap. It was dark and stormy all day yesterday, setting the mood for snuggling on the couch, reading Relish and occasionally checking on a frightened Presley.

Today it is still raining…and flooding, so Naoto is working from home. Presley is out of hiding for a moment…another storm is supposed to roll our way shortly. And I’m trying to clean up our apartment for Naoto’s party on Saturday.

I still have my invitations and a little paper Spam Musubi-making tutorial to share, so hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit brighter so I can take pictures. And, while all of this is happening, I’ll be stalking my email as I continue to wait for word on our (potential) community garden plot.

Tagged , , ,

A Sunday in Spring


Sunday was the first day that had a real taste of spring in Chicago. It was warm enough to finally go coat-less and the sun was shining with a brightness that hasn’t been seen in months. Naoto and I took advantage of the warm afternoon and took a walk downtown Oak Park. We stopped at Sugar Fixe, a local pastry shop, for coffee and pie. (Lemon meringue–highly recommended!)

Sidenote: We sat at a table in the actual spot where Naoto and I had our very first conversation in 2001. Sugar Fixe replaced a children’s clothing store which replaced the coffee shop where we met. 

During our coffee break, I pulled out my camera and took a few shots of Naoto enjoying his coffee. I’m taking an online photography class this month and I’m trying to get more comfortable using my camera out in public. There is nothing more awkward than pulling out a big ol’ DSLR and then feeling like you are stumbling through your technique (if you can even call it “technique”). Naoto was my model as I played around with depth of field.

DSC_0079 DSC_0081 DSC_0082 DSC_0083 DSC_0088 DSC_0089

A perfect day for practicing…

Tagged , , ,

Relish Book Signing


Last Wednesday night, Naoto & I headed into the city to Challengers Comics & Conversation for a book signing party for Lucy Knisley’s book, Relish. I’m not a huge graphic novel follower…I’ve only read a few, but Relish is about food, and I know food. I had to work, so we missed Lucy’s talk about the book, but we did buy a copy and had it signed. Lucy asked us for our favorite food and she included a drawing of it with her signature. We chose sushi…mainly because my favorite food is pizza and tacos and Naoto’s favorite food is whatever he is eating at the moment…we can agree on sushi. Challengers had food and drink on hand to lend to the celebration. I had a delicious slice of pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company. I shall insist on the visit to their shop soon…now that Naoto can (almost) eat again, I’m sure he won’t object to joining me!



Along with the book, we both fell in love with a print of cat positions. Naoto insisted on buying it (because it reminded him so much of Presley). We had Lucy sign it “for Presley” and then we exchanged pictures of our kitties (like the proud parents we are!).



I’m pretty sure Presley was thrilled. We laid the print on the table and she promptly flopped down on it and took a nap and soaked up the love.




Tagged , ,