November 26, 2015

The Turkey-less Thanksgiving Dinner


Happy Thanksgiving (to those who celebrate Thanksgiving)!!!

This is definitely one of those holidays that will probably never come into Japan, despite this country's love for importing holidays, such as Halloween and Easter. For one, Japan never had any Native Americans that taught the pilgrims, that never came to Japan, how to grow corn and sat down together for a meal after a good harvest season. But more importantly, it's almost impossible to roast a whole turkey in Japan's tiny microwave ovens.

But I'v always loved this holiday from my childhood days growing up in Michigan and since my sister was heading over to my place for the weekend, I invited the girls over for an early Thanksgiving dinner, sans the turkey.

I was up and early, running back and forth to the supermarket, cooking and baking my butt off. It's always fun putting a dinner together for family and friends, I get pretty excited about things like this. At the same time, I often get in over my head with ideas too difficult to execute by myself. This year though, I was surprisingly level headed throughout the whole process and had a great time in the kitchen, even though it was just me, my oven and reruns of Sherlock in the back ground.

The menu consisted of apple cranberry walnut salad, pumpkin soup, blooming onion bread, mashed potatoes, broccoli and macaroni casserole, green bean avocado fried rice, spinach balls, and bread stuffing. For dessert, there was pumpkin pie and apple pie, which I baked the day before.

When everyone came over, they helped set the table and then (after a quick photo session of the food, hehe) we all dug in! It was all SO GOOD!

I've learned that get-togethers like this are not really about the food. I mean, it kind of is...but it's not. We could have had conbini bentos and it still would have tasted good, although not as Thanksgiving-y. For me, what makes the difference is that we were all enjoying this meal together. I personally miss my family the most around the holidays, so it was nice to have a full house (because my apartment is tiny, you know?) filled with chatter and laughter over dinner. The fact that we were all there enjoying the meal together is definitely what made it delicious!

I hope you're enjoying time with friends and family this holiday season, too! x


Here are some photos:
 














Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What is your favorite dish? x

November 20, 2015

The Picnic and Chrysanthemums at Shinjuku Gyoen


Slow weekends are the best.

My best friend and I walked to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden again one weekend. We found a good spot to settle and had a brunch picnic. What is it about eating outside that makes everything taste so good?

We also stopped by the chrysanthemum festival. I'd never seen so many different types of chrysanthemum and was very impressed with the dome shaped chrysanthemum art. Did you know that it is all just one chrysanthemum plant? There are over 550 flowers and each one is placed in a specific position over the course of a year as they grow. Pretty amazing.

The sun was shining from between the clouds and it was a really great morning. Then suddenly the clouds started getting heavier and we had just enough time to see the chrysanthemum festival before the sky opened and it began to rain.

We headed home, patting ourselves on the back for our perfect timing.

Here are some photos:






















November 16, 2015

The Mount Takao Hike


What do you do when your head is ready to explode?

Why, you go to the mountains, of course! Or anywhere quiet really. The lake, the woods...snuggle with a book on a rainy day. But we were headed for the hills, aka Mount Takao, on this particular day and that suited me fine.

Like I said before, Mount Takao is a very popular spot, which I've managed to avoid all these years. I mean, if a mountain offers a beer garden at the top, you know it's going to be packed with people. I don't even know if a mountain with a railway is even a real mountain (it is, I checked...but still).

But that being said, it's a very convenient mountain from the city, especially Shinjuku. Just one train ride on the Keio Line and you're there at the foot of the mountain within an hour, and only 390 yen! And because Mount Takao only stands at 599 meters, it's a very easy hike for people of all ages. Not to mention the lift and railway that easily takes you straight to the top.

So for some, it's worth the crowd.

My best friend and I went on a week day, and the crowd of people getting off at the station mostly headed towards the railway, so we nearly had the trail all to ourselves! My first time there and it was exactly what I needed to relax both mind and soul.

I admit, there's a lot of concrete on this mountain. But the cool mountain air and warm sunny rays felt wonderful. The hike wasn't difficult at all. I just enjoyed being surrounded by nature and seeing the views as we got closer to the peak.

We took Trail 1 and Trail 3, so by the time we reached the peak I were starving. Good thing for us, we packed a lunch! But I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture. Oh well. You'll just have to believe me when I say it was delicious, especially with that mountain air. I did remember to take a picture of our tumbler, that held hot water for coffee, and mikan. Yum!

The peak was getting quite crowded when we finished eating. And even though the kindergarten kids were adorable, we decided to escape into the quietness of the mountain.

We made our way down the mountain on Trail 6, which was a bit more wet than our hike up, due to the water running along (and sometimes on) the path. There are certain places you can stop and sit, to look out across the mountain or just to chat. We were definitely slower hiking back down but then again it's not every day you get to discuss life with your best friend on a mountain, so you can bet we took full advantage of that. It was great :)

So my advice? Go on a week day and you may have the hiking trails all to yourself! x

Here are some photos:

At Shinjuku Station, ready to get away from the crowds of people.
Mount Takao is part of the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park.
My love of moss is eternal.


Nature's gradations are the best.
There were several different bridges along the trail.


Breathing in the greenery.
So many lush views, like this.

Aren't the shades of blue gorgeous?



Our lunch break at the peak!

All the while, this huge spider was sitting right above us...eek!
These kids were just too cute!
Our path down from the peak began like this.

It was pretty wet in some places.
Shades of fall beginning to appear!



Taking in the mountain air by the a river.



Have you ever hiked Mount Takao?