Peach Berry Cake with Spun Sugar

I didn’t have access to a kitchen for two months, so it is only natural (in my mind anyway) that within 18 hours of being back in the country–jet lag or no–that I would spend hours in my kitchen whipping up something fabulous. After waking up at the ungodly hour of 6am, I flipped through all my cookbooks and searched all my boards on Pinterest looking for the perfect recipe. After going back and forth about what I was in the mood to bake, I decided on making a cake which helped narrow the search at least a little bit. I was also in the mood to bake something slightly out of the ordinary, which is how I ended up choosing the recipes for this Peach Berry Cake.

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I got the idea for the peach flavor and the overall theme of the cake from Oh So Sweet Baker though to be honest I only used the buttercream recipe listed on her site. For the other recipes I used Miette’s Hot Milk Cake recipe, for the Spun Sugar I used a recipe from Patisserie by Christophe Felder, and I just made up a simple syrup recipe.

The cake turned out really well, and was incredibly moist and flavorful. However the spun sugar topping was as challenging as it was beautiful. I don’t have much experience with sugar, so even though the spinning of the sugar itself is very easy, it is challenging to get the sugar to the correct temperature, working with the sugar while it is the correct temperature, and then using it before it deflates or melts into nothingness. I have to be honest, Continue reading

Leaving Japan

A person’s emotions are a crazy thing. Coming back to Japan (as you may remember from my previous posts) was very emotional for me, and there were many times throughout my two month stay that I felt anything from sad to worried, happy to satisfied. When I think about the months I spent in America this past year and then look at what I have accomplished in the last two months, I am amazed. True, there were days when it was too hot outside or I was too lazy or I was feeling too introverted and basically stayed inside watching TV and studying. But there were so many days when I spent quality time with old friends and new, productively working or studying, and adventuring and trying new things either alone or with others.

And it is in that light that I can confidently say that I am leaving Japan this time with no regrets. It is my goal in life to live life to the fullest, and not to mope about the things that I didn’t do or could have done. And here I am at the end of my time in Japan, and I can honestly say that I can look myself in the eyes and know that I truly did everything and more that I came to do, and that I don’t regret anything that happened or have any regrets about things that could have happened.

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Speaking of taking chances, yesterday something amazing happened. Something I am definitely taking a mental snapshot of to store away for a rainy day.

I woke up in the morning and wasn’t feeling great. Not terrible, but not very good. And that made me incredibly anxious. To this day I start panicking whenever the slightest thing feels off with my body. I know it is caused by anxiety, but I am not so strong as to be able to stop the anxiety completely from happening.

I had plans to meet with some people later in the day, so of course as the time neared I started to feel more and more anxious. I wanted more than anything to back out–to call my friends and tell them I couldn’t go, that I was sick, that I was busy…something, anything.

And maybe it is because I am in Japan and things literally are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or maybe I have actually gotten stronger as a person, but I gathered my willpower and told myself that the only option was to go.

And so I went. Continue reading

Grabbing Life By the Horns

Whatever you want to call it–grabbing life by the horns, carpe diem, seize the day, YOLO–I have decided to actively live my life in such a manner.

I mean, what the hell is stopping me or anyone else for that matter?

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I have had more and more friends trying to complete the #100happydays challenge, and as I looked into it I realized that it was incredibly sad that it takes that much effort for people to be happy 100 days in a row and that the reality is that many people give up the effort to think about being happy long before that.

What is it about our society that doesn’t value and encourage this kind of daily happiness and life-seizing despite the phrases like carpe diem and YOLO that we throw about willy nilly? Why do people talk about having a “bucket list” and talk about the things they will do in the future or the things they wished they did differently?

Start today.

Like, actually though. Continue reading

The Influence We Have on Others

In the US high school graduation parties are a big thing. The year I graduated I had many parties to make an appearance at to show my support and congratulations for all of my friends and classmates who were graduating as well. On the day of my own graduation party, I went to the party of a girl I had known since elementary school, and as it was not very busy I was able to talk with my friend and her mom for awhile without the distraction of others. I remember vividly how as we were talking about graduating, my friend’s mom started tearing up, saying how proud she was of me and how she was so happy of the things I had overcome.

And I hated it. I hated that someone else felt that strongly about my life and the experiences I had had. If anyone should be proud, if anyone should cry, it should be me. At that point in my life, I thought, how dare you pretend to understand my life and feel this intensely emotional about whatever it is that I have done in my past or will do in my future.

Throwback to the awkwardness that was my Senior Graduation Pictures >_<

Throwback to the awkwardness that was my Senior Graduation Pictures >_<

At that time in my life, three long years ago, I didn’t understand how much we have the potential to influence the people around us. For a long time I wanted to be a positive influence for people, but I thought it had to come through some grand gesture–that I would need to become more well known or write a book or do something to change the world in order for people to be influenced by me. Continue reading

すごいね、日本語: Hidden Meaning and Translation

先週日本語を勉強したかったのでカフェに行った。これは普通なことだ。今日本語の能力試験のため勉強しているので、毎日ぐらい単語や漢字など少し勉強している。

カフェに行って、教科書を開けて、ちょっと読んで。。。

え?

日本語の会話を分かったけど、英語の翻訳のところを読んで、ちょっと。。。

Studying at a cafe in Yoyogi

Studying at a cafe in Yoyogi

日本語で、特に話す時に、一つのことを言うけど、他の意味とか他の言語で他の意味がある。

例えば”おじゃまします”という表現は本当に面白いと思う。他人の家に入る時にこの表現を使う。聞いたこともあるし、使ったこともあるし、表現の感じを分かるけど、ほんとうの意味あまり分からない。

他人は”よくいらっしゃいました。どうぞおあがりください”とか”いらっしゃいました、どうぞ”を言ったら、その人の家を入りながら、”おじゃまします”で答える。英語でそいう会話を翻訳したら、他人は”Welcome! Please come in!”という感じを言って、家を入りながら、”Thanks for having me”で答えるかもしれない。

でも。

私の教科書で”おじゃまします”の翻訳は”thank you”だけで書いている。でも”ありがとう”という表現と全然違う。 Continue reading

Becoming a Local

My current stay in Japan has been very different from my previous study abroad experience was. Sure I was “living” in Japan for four months, but everything was so new and exciting and I was constantly on the go. This time I watch the new students with amusement as they run out to explore Tokyo after their classes finish while I stay in with friends and watch movies in pajamas or walk a few blocks away for dinner.

Every time I look in a guide book or search “things to do in Tokyo” or even “things to do in Japan,” there are only ever a few things I can’t check off. Now that in no way means that I have done everything there is to do in Tokyo, but I have certainly gone to many or even most of the tourist-y places, been to the famous parts of town and made the most famous day trips from the city. And because I have had all of these experiences I am more satisfied with living a more normal life–one that involves laundry and grocery shopping and marathoning tv shows until all hours of the night. And even though there is still a part of me that still feels like a tourist here and craves adventures and trying new things, there is a large part of me that is satisfied by being a local here.

In the last week it has hit me that my life is closer to that of a local’s than that of a tourist’s life. Over the weekend I went to a convenient store and chatted with the store clerk I recognized as she rang up my items. I went to the local Korean restaurant and felt comfortable enough to speak a bizarre mixture of Korean, Japanese and English with the Korean Obachan who works there. And then last night clinched the “local” feeling when I went to the little okonomiyaki restaurant down the street.

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One of the other RAs really wanted to experience being a local this time in Japan, and from the time we moved to Yoyogi, he wanted to find a few restaurants to go to regularly. We stumbled across this okonomiyaki place called えん (En) a few weeks ago, and have been going there every Tuesday since.

The first time we went, the staff tried to give us an English menu–as many restaurant staff are prone to do because of how obviously Gaijin we are. We did our best to assure the staff that we didn’t want the English menu, Continue reading