Monthly Archives: June 2013

Boston Bound

IMG_2517Naoto and I are Boston bound!! Presley is less than happy about it, too. (Thankfully our friend Karen is on call from across the hall to take care of our little furry girl!)

Our flight is ridiculously early, but we are super excited for our first vacation since Iowa last year. Neither of us has ever been to Boston and there’s a long list of things we want to do and see. (Mine includes stocking up on Necco candy!) And, we’re staying with friends so we’ll have two locals to guide us around and show us the best Dunkin Donuts in the city. (I’m only half kidding…heading to Massachusetts is like heading to our coffee home land!)

So, I still have to pack our clothes and things, and–most importantly–my address book and postcard stamps. Our flight leaves in a few hours…before the crack of dawn.

I’ll be back next week to share some pictures and details. Have a good weekend!


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#30DOC Week 3

This week was another “catch-up” week. It’s like I lost all steam. But the end is near, and it would be silly to quit now! I was tempted to count my new tomato as a “creation” but let’s be honest…it did that without much help from me. Besides, it’s bad enough that I’m counting cocktails!

IMG_2435 IMG_2440 IMG_2445 IMG_2484 IMG_2486 IMG_2488 IMG_2491From the top: 6/16 Letherbee gin & tonics (recommended by Kathy & Chicago-made), 6/17 popsicle themed mail (I stayed up super-late writing letters & had so much fun making these!), 6/18 more mail art, 6/19 birthday card (made at work), 6/20 pun card (made at work…I love a good pun), 6/21 another pun card (I’m not proud of these), 6/22 notecard

If I create something tonight (which I will), I will be all caught up. And, even though we are traveling over the weekend, I’m hoping to remain on track and finish strong.

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Knox On-Camera Recipes


Knowing my love for all things vintage & gelatin, my friend Karen snagged this book from her grandmother’s collection (don’t worry–we gave it back!) It is the Knox On-Camera Recipes Gel-Cookery Guide. Printed in 1960, the guide is a print-version of TV demonstrations and (according to the introduction) “gives you a new look at the many rewarding uses of Unflavored Gelatin(e).”

Basically, the recipe book takes delicious dishes–like gazpacho, spinach salad, Waldorf salad, deviled eggs…and gelatin-izes them…which creates beautiful and yes, slightly weird, molded presentations (as seen below).



DSC_0016While I am super-interested in trying to make a savory gelatin dish just for the nostalgia of it all, the thought of molded avocado and tuna kind of makes my stomach turn. Part of me thinks that there’s a reason Jello survived in its sweet form…and maybe we should just leave savory gelatin in the past.

How about you? Have you ever had a savory gelatin dish? Would you ever try one?

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Garden Update: We Have a Tiny Tomato


The garden is booming with excitement this week. We went last night to water and check on the progress and I found a teeny, tiny Juliet tomato!! (Pictured above in the center of the picture…isn’t she a beaut?) I couldn’t contain my giddiness! All of our other tomato plants (the two Big Boys, the Brandywine and the three Early Girls) have blooms but so far the Juliet is in the lead.

DSC_0007Everything else is doing well, except the loofah that never grew and the slug-devoured limas are still up in the air. We’ve harvested a few daikon and they are pretty small…tasty, but small. We want to buy another pack of seeds and try them again.


This weekend, when we aren’t eating and working, we will be gardening. We can’t wait very much longer to get a handle on our vining plants. So far they are behaving, but it’s only a matter of time…




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Simple Summer Suppers: Lemon Chicken Pasta


DSC_0021It’s hard to pick a favorite summer supper…but this one might be it. Naoto and I have been making this for years and it’s become our go-to recipe for guests because it’s no stress and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

Just like the Greek Orzo Salad, Lemon Chicken Pasta is a Giada de Laurentis recipe that we modified and made better (well, better for us, anyway.)

Lemon Chicken Pasta

1 pound angel hair pasta

2-3 chicken breasts (roasted)

2/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup grated parmesan

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

extra parmesan for serving

Roast your chicken breasts. (As I said here, the only no-fail way I know how to cook chicken breasts is to season them with salt and pepper, fold them up in little foil pouches and pop them in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until my meat thermometer says 165 degrees.)

Boil a pot of water for the pasta.

While the chicken is roasting and the water is coming to a boil, make the sauce: whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and grated parmesan in a large serving bowl. Set aside.

When the chicken is done, slice it into bite sized pieces and add it to the serving bowl.

Boil the angel hair until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta, but reserve a cup of the pasta water for later (just in case).

Toss the pasta and the chicken in the lemon sauce. If the mixture seems dry, add a little bit of the cooking liquid to loosen things up. Once everything is mixed in well, add the chopped parsley and lemon zest for garnish.

Serve with extra parmesan.

If you don’t want to turn the oven on during the hot summer, you can pick up a whole roasted chicken from the deli section of the grocery store and use that instead of the chicken breasts. And, of course, you could leave out the chicken and just make the lemon pasta (as Giada originally intended in her recipe.)



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#30DOC Week 2

This week was a lot harder to manage because life got in the way…in a good way! We had some unexpected get-togethers with our neighbors last week, which is always a good thing in my book. I used my Sunday afternoon to catch up on a few days, but now I’m back and ready to stay on track this week. I have a few projects planned, so that should help with the “what should I make today?” dilemma. This is what I created during week 2:

IMG_2379 IMG_2392 IMG_2394 IMG_2395 IMG_2409 IMG_2421 IMG_2431 IMG_2433

From the top: 6/8 etagmai practice, 6/9 somen, 6/10 handmade business cards, 6/11 sun tea, 6/12 Father’s Day mail art, 6/13 rope plant hanger (using this simple tutorial by Elise) 6/14 glittered bomb pop stationery, 6/15 glittered neon stationery (I’m clearly in a glitter mood! Both glittered stationery projects used the Sakura Quickie Glue Pen from my Little Red Toolbox.)

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San San Kudo

san san kudo ceremonyWhen Naoto and I got married we wanted to incorporate a Japanese tradition into our ceremony. We were married at Unity Temple, so we had a lot of freedom to create a ceremony that suited our beliefs and desires. Naoto suggested the san san kudo ceremony as an option.

093San san kudo (translated: three, three, nine times) dates back to the 1600s and is a binding ritual of sharing sake. During the ceremony, the sake is served from a special set of three cups symbolizing heaven, earth and humankind. The bride and the groom each take three sips from each of the three cups, making nine sips total. Nine is an especially lucky number in Japan. For our ceremony, Naoto’s sister Hisae poured and served the sake. Our set was a gift from Naoto’s mother, who also included a jar of sake for us. This sake was horrible!!! My three sips were not sips, instead I briefly touched the sake to my lips, hoping I wouldn’t taste anything. Naoto polished off the rest of the cup for me during his turn. (Thanks to our marriage vows, I can always count on Naoto to finish any sort of food or beverage!) Little did I know at the time, but the sake isn’t supposed to be delicious–just like all moments of marriage are not perfect, the terrible sake is supposed to remind us that we are bonded in marriage through the good times and bad (or the good cocktails and bad?) But the taste of the sake didn’t matter–we loved taking part in this small ceremony and having Hisae play a part in our wedding!

san san kudo set

Now we keep our san san kudo set on the sideboard in the dining room as a little reminder of our wedding day.

This was the last (& slightly delayed) post in my series celebrating Loving Day

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Loving Day


In 2007 Naoto & I did an interview for the Chicago Tribune. The article was written to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court decision that invalidated any state laws that outlawed marriage between interracial couples. Our friend Erica worked for the Tribune and when one of the reporters mentioned that she was seeking out interracial couples, Erica gave her our number. The reporter came to our home one night and sat in our living room and asked us a bunch of questions about our marriage, how our families responded to our relationship, how others responded to our relationship and how we felt about the fact that our marriage would have been illegal forty years before. A few nights later a photographer came to our home to take pictures of us (and Presley). We also took a little walk downtown Oak Park with him so he could get outside shots. I wish I could have seen all of those pictures because we had a great time…but it is no secret that I was thrilled to see my little Presley in the paper! (Can you tell that she reeeeally didn’t want to be held?) You can read the article in full here. (Please note: we over-used the word “like” in the interview. Also, yes, that was my hair.)

To be honest, before we did the interview, Naoto and I had no idea about the Lovings or Loving v Virginia. We knew interracial marriage was not a common thing, especially between an Asian man and a white woman (from an all-white farm town nonetheless), but we lived in such a progressive community, we never gave it much thought.

Sure, there have been occasional head-turns over the years.

Sure, there have been people who’ve asked me “what” Naoto is and people who have refused to learn his name because it’s different. (“Can I just call him Bob?”)

Sure, there was that guy at Trader Joe’s who said, incredulously, “Yoooouuuu’re Naoto’s wife???”

But, for the most part, because of friends we surround ourselves with and the community we live in, we are insulated from the interracial marriage “haters”. It isn’t until things blow up like a Cheerios commercial that we realize how important Loving Day is.

For us, Loving Day is just another day for us to celebrate what we are: just a couple of people who happened to meet at the right place in the right time who happened to be from two different continents, two different races and two different nationalities. And, as we celebrate forty-six years of legal interracial marriage, it’s hard not to think about Loving Day’s relevance in today’s fight for gay marriage. In 2007, Mildred Loving issued this statement regarding Loving Day and its relationship to our modern-day fight for marriage rights:

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

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Exchanging Business Cards (the Japanese Way)


The night that Naoto and I met (a story for another time) the one big conversation catalyst was my job at a Japanese company. Because our offices interacted so often with Japanese colleagues, part of my training involved Japanese business culture. And, because I grew up in a town that was 99.9% white and was never a Japanophile before I started working there, I found this training so fascinating.  As it turned out, part of Naoto’s job at that time was to deliver Japanese business culture trainings to doctors who would be traveling to Japan for conferences. Naoto and I had a great conversation comparing notes and stories of accidental rudeness. We laughed as we presented our business cards to each other that night. We followed the strictest Japanese protocol in the middle of that coffee shop, all while snickering at the bows and the close inspection of each other’s cards. (Okay, we weren’t really following strict Japanese protocol…)

The exchange of business cards (meishi) in corporate Japan is a huge deal. It is almost ceremonial and it is filled with all sorts of social nuances. These are the basic “rules”:

  • Business cards are exchanged right after introductions, often in order of “rank” with the most highly ranked associate presenting his/her card last.
  • Cards are presented with two hands and with the information facing the recipient.
  • Upon receiving a card, you should take the time to read it carefully.
  • When you are done reading the card, you should place it carefully in a business card holder. (Don’t just shove it in your pocket or purse.)
  • If you receive cards during a meeting, you can leave them on the table as the meeting is conducted, but remember to carefully pick up each one at the end of the meeting and place them in your business card holder.
  • Never write on, fold or damage anyone’s business card in from of him/her. Business cards are seen as an extension of the person.
  • Never present a damaged card to someone. Again, the card is an extension of yourself.
  • Always carry plenty of cards. It would be rude to be caught without one.
  • Have a business card holder. (And probably one that’s a little more professional than my old Chococat one!)

I have never missed working in corporate America, but I do miss the exchange of the business card since I do not often have the opportunity to exchange cards in person very often these days. I should make a point to get them out more often and practice my meishi exchange.

kimberlyah business card, chococat card holder

This week, I am sharing some little aspects of our multi-cultural marriage in celebration of Loving Day on Wednesday. 


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Simple Summer Suppers | Somen

Cold Somen

During the summer, Naoto & I like to eat simple cold dishes that we can enjoy on the balcony. Last summer I shared two dishes, but hopefully this summer, I will be able to share more. We are looking forward to eating our own community garden grown vegetables.

This somen dish is an old favorite. I had it for the first time at Naoto’s host parents’ home in Hawaii. Auntie Judy, Naoto’s host mom, made it for lunch and I found it so refreshing and tasty. There are many variations of somen dishes, but this one is probably a slightly Americanized Hawaiian version of the Japanese dish. Oh, and I shared this recipe back in 2011 on my old blog, so Mom, it might look familiar.


Simple Summer Somen

For the broth:

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup mirin

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then allow to cool completely.

For the noodles:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and drop in one bunch of somen noodles per person. (Somen typically comes in little paper-bundled bunches.) Boil for 2-3 minutes, or until noodles are soft. They cook very quickly! Drain, and rinse with cold water.

For the toppings:

Slice any or all of the following into thin strips, or “matchsticks”:

turkey (or ham) lunch meat




naruto (fishcake)

thinly sliced scallions

wasabi (I like the wasabi that comes in a tube.)

To assemble: 

Place a serving of noodles in a bowl. Add some broth (not too much, this isn’t a soup!) and the toppings of your choice. Squeeze on some wasabi and mix well. (Mix well enough that you don’t get accidentally eat a hunk of wasabi…although I kind of like the suspense of knowing my sinuses might be cleared out at least once in a bowl of somen!)


We almost always just use turkey, cucumber, scallions and wasabi because those things are always on hand and readily available for somen cravings. I like mine with extra wasabi and I always eat mine out of my Hello Kitty bowl with Cinamaroll chopsticks…because it’s tradition.


This week, I will be sharing some little aspects of our multi-cultural marriage in celebration of Loving Day on Wednesday. Somen is one of the first Japanese dishes that made it into our regular dinner routine back when we were dating. 

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