Monthly Archives: July 2014

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Slurping Turtle

Slurping Turtle Chicago, ILOur ramen tour continued last weekend with a trip to Slurping Turtle in Chicago. I read about Slurping Turtle in this Thrillist article of the best ramen shops in the country. It didn’t take much coaxing to get Naoto to join me for another ramen adventure on Saturday (even though yet again, it was super hot and humid outside.) Slurping Turtle Chicago, IL Slurping Turtle Chicago, ILThe nice thing about Slurping Turtle for us is that it is a quick train ride away. It’s in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, which is a quick walk from the Clark & Lake station. We made it downtown in time for an early lunch (which may explain why the restaurant is pretty empty in my pictures.)

The restaurant is very different from Misoya. It is sleek and modern, offering booth seating and a giant communal table in the middle. There is a full bar and the Slurping Turtle menu offers more than ramen–there are appetizers, bao, bento boxes, sushi and rice dishes. We went for the noodles though. IMG_7768Because it was Saturday and because we rode the train, we decided to get a drink. Naoto had a Sapporo and I had the Groundhog Day cocktail–gin, Luxardo Bitter Liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse, Grenadine and lime. It was really refreshing and reminded me of a Negroni.

The Trillist article recommended the Roasted Chicken Shoyu Ramen, but unfortunately that was not on the menu. (It seems that Slurping Turtle changes their menu with the seasons, so maybe it will come back?) tonkotusu ramen, Slurping Turtle Chicago, ILNaoto got the Tonkotsu ramen, which is similar to what he had at Misoya. It had homemade ramen noodles, braised pork, bok choy, pickled mustard greens, braised mushrooms and scallions swimming in the salty pork broth. It was really good, and I liked the braised pork. Though it was definitely different than the grilled pork of Misoya, it was seasoned well and was really moist and tasty. Slurping TurtleAs you can tell, Naoto really enjoyed his bowl of ramen. He liked the addition of the chili oil and he loved the homemade noodles.Hiyashi Chu-Ka, Slurping TurtleI went rogue and ordered a cold noodle dish, the Hiyashi Chu-Ka. It had homemade ramen noodles, carrots asparagus, kabocha squash, broccolini, seaweed alongside crab sticks, shrimp, pork and ham gently tossed with a citrus-soy dressing. I am a sucker for anything with a citrus-soy dressing and this dish was the perfect cure for a hot summer day. I loved everything about my dish. It was fresh and hearty. The homemade noodles were firm and held the dressing perfectly. The citrus-soy complemented every bite of noodle, meat and vegetable without overpowering. Between this dish and my cocktail, I was a cool cucumber for the walk back to the train. bathroom sign, slurping turtle bathroom sign, slurping turtleBefore we walked to the train, we stopped downstairs to use the restrooms. I had to take a picture of the cutie turtles on the restroom signs. I’m not sure what the fruit basket turtle was all about but the guy in the smoking jacket pretty much stole my heart.

I can’t wait to go back to the Turtle!

Slurping Turtle is located at 116 W. Hubbard Street in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. 

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Cat Postcard

show and mail, snail mail, fun postcardsI’m still catching up on my pile of mail. I’ve caught up to June…it’s a slow process. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few interesting pieces of mail I’ve received lately. New Zealand postage, cat postcard

I got this cat postcard from April in New Zealand. She wrote it during the LWA Virtual Letter Social earlier this month. I think the card is packaging for maybe a Christmas cat costume? (I’ve bought Presley a couple of hats from Target and they’ve come in similar packaging.) I love that she reused something the would normally end up in the trash to make a great piece of mail! April wrote a note on labels (seen at the top) and affixed plenty of postage to the back. The day I received it, the postcard was the only thing in my mailbox, making it the perfect surprise–seeing that sweet face smiling at me when I opened the mailbox door made my day!!

Thanks, April, for the Good Mail Day!

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Japanese Class

learning Japanese wordsOn a complete whim, I signed up for a beginner Japanese class this fall. I’m taking it at the Oak Park River Forest High School through Triton College’s adult continuing education program.

As an adult, I feel like a total language dummy. I confidently took four years of French in high school…I was pretty good. There were only two of us in French 4 (Stacey D & me!) and I could converse and write well. I had a French pen pal, too. We lost touch in college, unfortunately, and by then I was writing her in English anyway because I stupidly did not take French in college. (Regrets…I have a few.)

But when it comes to Japanese, I’m convinced I will never learn. Someone said I’d probably know the most in our class, but I seriously doubt it. Naoto has tried to teach me phrases and either I cannot pronounce them correctly to save my life OR I forget them within moments of learning. Maybe I’m too old…or maybe (hopefully!) I just need a structured class to help make things stick.

So I dug out my old (children’s) Japanese vocabulary book for the occasion. I’ve had it for years, long before I even traveled to Japan. I think the next logical step is to make some flashcards.

Whether I catch on or not, I’m really excited to take the class. It was only $140 and it goes from the end of August through the middle of November, and it will be a good opportunity for me to meet some new people and to hopefully learn some basics for our trip next spring.

I’m really hoping we can devote a whole session to donut flavors and ordering at Mister Donut, but maybe that’s wishful thinking?

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen Misoya

Ramen Misoya ChicagoTuesday definitely wasn’t ramen weather–it was humid and in the nineties, but that didn’t stop us from visiting our favorite lunch spot out by Mitsuwa, Ramen Misoya. Misoya is a Japanese chain that is fairly new–only a year old–to Chicagoland. We’ve eaten there a few times and although I’m not always the biggest ramen eater, I absolutely love this place. Ramen Misoya ChicagoRamen Misoya ChicagoThe funny thing is, Misoya took over the space of one of our old favorites, Tori Shin, a Japanese izakaya that was run by the husband of a woman I used to work with. The place looks almost the same as it did in the old days, but instead of a sushi counter, there is a tiny kitchen with boiling pots of noodles and delicious broth. The restaurant is pretty small and rumor has it that there is sometimes a line to get inside, especially for weekend dinners.

If you are looking for sushi, teriyaki chicken or green tea ice cream, this is not the place. There are very little offerings outside of ramen, but that’s a good thing because the chefs are working on making bowl after bowl of tasty ramen. They have it perfected.

The ramen noodles, handmade at the California location, are firm and thick and they hold up well in the broth. Misoya offers three options of broth for their ramen and then loads of options of meats and vegetables to have with the noodles. The three broth options are pork based broths with different types of miso mixed in. They are described by the regions of their origins:

The Kyoto-style is made with shiro miso and is light and fruity.

The Nagoya-style is made with mame miso, which is aged and is dark and slightly bitter.

And, my favorite, the Hokkaido-style is made with kome miso and it is full bodied and oh so delicious. Ramen Misoya ChicagoI order the Hokkaido-style Kome Miso Cha-shu (pictured above). In the bowl, swimming with the noodles are  marinated bamboo chutes, fried potatoes, scallions, corn, bean sprouts, sweet ground pork and to top it all off, three slabs of marinated grilled pork. I am not a big pork eater, but I have to say, this stuff is amazing. The charred flavor really adds a fantastic smoky taste to the ramen. Next time I’m going to get the same thing, but add a soft boiled egg just to be adventurous. Ramen Misoya ChicagoNaoto always tries something new. This time he got a special tonkotsu (pork bone marrow) ramen with clams. It included a lot of the same toppings as my bowl, but his had a soft boiled egg, fish cake and nori (seaweed) as well. He loved it.

Ramen is super salty, so thankfully the staff is attentive to the water glasses. Oh, and just like izakaya in Japan, the entire Misoya staff stops to greet you when you arrive and to thank you when you leave…I love this place!

Misoya is located in a tiny strip mall at 1584 S Busse Road (Busse and Dempster) in Mt. Prospect. It’s only a little over a mile from Mitsuwa, making it the perfect dinner spot after you shop! 

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Day Off At Mitsuwa

Mitsuwa ChicagoOn Tuesday Naoto took a rare weekday off. And miraculously, it coincided with my own day off. (That never happens.) We decided to head out to Mitsuwa because we hadn’t been there since February and we were out of our usual Japanese staples like Calpico, somen noodles and wasabi. Naoto treats Mitsuwa shopping trips like Christmas, so it seemed like the right way to pass the time on his day off. It’s lovely being married to someone who gets joy out of the simple parts of life, even if that means you might have to wait for him to read the labels of alllllll the soy sauce bottles in the aisle. 

Our first stop is always the Kinokuniya Bookstore. Kinokuniya has a huge selection of Japanese pens and other stationery items. The selection on the stationery changes pretty often, but the pen selection is pretty stable. If you like pens with finer points (0.5, 0.4, 0.38) this is THE place to go in Chicagoland. They also have every color of ink in the rainbow and a large selection of mechanical pencils as well. There is also a small section with craft supplies like sumie brushes, origami papers, rubber stamps and ink pads. Gabutto Burger, Mitsuwa ChicagoRemember when I talked about furu pote? Well, Rebecca from Hugs are Fun mentioned that Gabutto Burger in the Mitsuwa food court offered seasonings for their fries. Sure enough…there they were! We ordered a small fry and kind of went crazy with the seasonings. Gabutto Burger, Mitsuwa ChicagoThis is wasabi, nacho cheese and garlic butter. We liked the garlic butter the best. The wasabi was a little disappointing because it wasn’t very strong. We also added ranch dressing to the mix as we ate more. The other choices were original spice, corn soup, sour cream & onion and curry & cheese flavors. It was fun to enjoy furu pote here in the US and I think this might be my new second stop every Mitsuwa trip from now on. (It might be a toss up between furu pote and green tea soft serve from ReLeaf Cafe.)

Mitsuwa ChicagoAfter the fries, we filled our shopping cart with all of our usuals. Naoto gets natto (fermented soybeans) and other perishables. I mainly get snacks, beverages and bread from the Hippo Bread store. (It’s just plain white bread but the texture is lighter and better than American white bread.) This time we found fresh lychees and I wanted to try a sparkling sake from the refrigerated section. Luckily we came prepared with our cooler. Mitsuwa ChicagoWe always bring our little cooler to Mitsuwa. In the fish section, you can fill a bag or two of ice to keep your perishables cold during the drive home. We always run a few errands and go out to lunch or dinner while we are out by Mitsuwa so this extra convenience allows us to buy cold things without worrying about them going bad.

After Mitsuwa, we went out to lunch at Ramen Misoya. Stay tuned for a post about that on Friday!

Mitsuwa is located at 100 E. Algonquin Road in Arlington Heights, IL. 


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Greer Goods

greer chicagoI was really excited to learn that the Midwest Buddhist Temple was in the same neighborhood as everyone’s favorite stationery shop, Greer. I’ve been trying not to buy stationery, especially since I still have a ton of stuff to use up from my last trip to Japan, but a trip to Greer is always good for the soul. And, after being sick and shut in for a week, my soul needed some stationery. (How’s that for excuses?)City of Industry envelope pinThe City of Industry envelope pin was a must-have. I’ve worn it almost every day since Saturday, sporting my stationery love on my sweater. (I’m on my way to having my own “letter sweater“!)  inside the Secret Garden postcard bookThe Secret Garden postcard book was too good to pass up! The postcard book is a companion to the Secret Garden coloring book by Johanna Basford. The coloring book and the postcard book are filled with detailed drawings of gardens and flowers and birds and butterflies just waiting to be colored in. (That link is from the artist’s blog and includes so many great pictures of the coloring book.) I think I might color in some postcards and send others blank so my friends can decorate a card for themselves. plastique, paper trail ring stamp setAnd finally, a YAY! ring. Made by Plastique and Paper Trail, the ring is a rubber stamp…because you never know when you need to stamp a little YAY on something. Greer has several of these stamps to choose from, including their own exclusive “THX” stamp. I tend to overuse YAY! so it just seemed like the right purchase for me.

Those were my purchases…chosen with restraint. I will be going back for some new paper-y goodness at Greer. But for now, I just need to get back into letter writing so I can use up some of my stationery hoard.

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Plot #6: The Garden is a Forest (Again)

plot 6, garden jungleI’ve been sick and Naoto has been working like a dog (every day since he’s returned home from Japan) so the garden has been a bit neglected. I finally went yesterday afternoon. Boy, was it a perfect day for gardening! Our weather has been unseasonably cool, getting down to the 50s at night and into the 70s during the day. It’s the perfect weather to me.

When I saw our little Plot #6, I couldn’t believe how overgrown it had gotten in just over a week! Even the smallest tomatoes were huge, growing into their neighboring tomatoes. And, as you can maybe see from the top picture, the tomatoes are again spilling out into the walkway. I’m going to have to fix that this weekend to make sure none of my tomatoes get stepped on. plot 6, garden jungleBoth Brandywines have some fruit on them. And all of the Juliets and the Yellow Pear are producing too…no red (or yellow) ones yet though…I can hardly wait! plot 6, garden jungleI harvested almost all of the peas, which is a good thing because that will open some space for this guy. The loofah is growing out of control. (This is not a surprise…yet it was still surprising.) I had to unwind it from a tomato and from some of the peas. I think we *may* have waited too long to lasso that crazy grower!

Now that I’m feeling better and Naoto (hopefully) is going back to working normal hours, I’m hoping we can spend time fixing up the garden together this weekend.

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Obon Festival

midwest buddhist temple obon festivalOn Saturday night, Naoto, Karen and I went to the Midwest Buddhist Temple to experience the Obon Festival. Obon is a Buddhist tradition of honoring and celebrating the dead. According to Naoto, it is the “period of time we believe the spirit of the dead come home.” In Japan, people return home to clean and pray at the graves of their ancestors.

The festival includes folk dances that celebrate and welcome the spirits. Each region in Japan has its own style of dance and music. The dances are repetitive…like line dancing (for lack of a better example) and the dancers circle around a stage where a drummer pounds a giant drum. Some dances include props like fans, towels or wooden clackers and everyone participates to welcome back the dead.

Obon at Midwest Buddhist TempleObon at Midwest buddhist templeUnfortunately for us, the rain forced the Obon inside so we weren’t able to experience the beautiful dances under the light of the lanterns. Instead we met inside the temple…slightly less scenic but the dances and the music were still a great experience.

The Obon announcer shared the regions in Japan where each dance originated and it was interesting to learn a little bit about how the culture of the region influenced each dance. The Midwest Buddhist Temple offers Obon lessons leading up to the festival so members can learn all of the different dances. I didn’t know this, so we were observers…next year I would like to go for at least one lesson so we can participate. It felt a little weird to just watch, as most people–men, women, young and old–were dancing throughout the night. Some people, especially the older ladies, were very skilled at the dances, and other people were a little bit rusty, but it didn’t matter…only that you were dancing a celebrating your loved ones. It all felt really laid back and festive…a nice way to connect with each other and with those who have passed.

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Sakura Decorese Pens

Sakura Decorese PensLast time we were in Japan, I tried one of these Sakura Decorese pens. I didn’t know anything about the pen, just that it looked a little fancy and that the ink was a little bit glittery. It wrote beautifully, leaving a thick layer of ink behind that was vibrant and a bit glittery. Fun! I bought the red one thinking it would be perfect for addressing holiday cards or Valentines. (I tend to enjoy glitter at the holidays.) Sakura Decorese PensNaoto picked up a few more colors for me when he was in Japan last month. I did some research about the pens and learned that they are really made for writing on metal, glass and plastic. Of course they work on paper as well, and I feel like on paper you can appreciate the shimmery ink a little bit more, but it’s always fun to have a writing tool that works on multiple surfaces. Sakura Decorese Pens, writing on ball jarI used one to label my simple syrup jar. The ink is not so permanent that it will stay on the lid forever, but it will survive a light hand washing. Sakura Decorese PensI do find the “make-up design” of the pens a little bit odd…they kind of look like they belong in a cosmetic bag instead of a pencil pouch because of their odd shape and their flowery barrel. In fact, one Ebay store is selling the pens as nail art pens. Meh, I will stick to using them on paper and other non-human surfaces…

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Plot #6: Peas & Tomatoes

tiny pea harvest, plot 6This is our first tiny harvest of sugar snap peas for 2014. It may not look like much, but there are plenty more in the garden almost ready to be picked! I’m thinking stir fry this weekend! peas, plot 6Once these are all harvested, I will plant some more for another harvest later in the season. juliets, plot 6 brandywines, plot 6Only one of our Juliets and one of our Brandywines have tomatoes on them so far. But every plant has blossoms, so I’m still hopeful for a tomato explosion. We’ve been pretty diligent about picking off the yellowed leaves. And we’ve been trying to keep up with staking and tying wayward branches…a difficult task with the wild Juliets!

This week was rough because I was sick and Naoto was busy. These pictures are from Sunday and Naoto made a watering run at dusk on Wednesday night. He said everything is looking good and I’m looking forward to seeing for myself later this afternoon.

Cheers to a good weekend!

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