Friday, December 14, 2012

Fri Field Trip - Part Three - Namiki

No outing with Akikosan and the Gherkins is complete without ice cream...and we scored big time today. Akikosan's parents told her about an ice cream shop near Shichinohe where the ice cream was made fresh daily with milk from their own cows. 

I have no clue what the difference is between Gelato and Ice Cream - but this stuff was GOOD. Yes, I KNOW it's an animal product....and it will be my 10% for this week (and maybe next). 

This is a great find! It's off Hwy 4....we left Misawa via Route 10 out past the toll road heading to Towada, took the cut off towards Shichinohe....I'll have to go again and get better directions and GPS coordinates.  This reminds me of Rice Hill in Oregon. 
 Akikosan says in the summer time the lines are long....down the wasn't so bad in the winter.

We discovered they would make little packs for us to take home. We were going to get just chocolate for Zander and Michael....but then Akikosan mentioned the Caramel would be really good with the Apple...and the rest is history...

Cute little take home cartons....

Yum...we all met up in the room with Michael

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Fri Field Trip - Part Two - Shimekazari Making

New Year's is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, celebration in Japan.  I've been starting to miss the traditional "Advent Wreath Workshop," many chapels have; this chapel hasn't had one in four years. I was excited when Akikosan told us we'd be making New Year's Wreaths today. 

I had a few doubts when we walked into this room filled with straw. I told Arielle I felt like Rumpelstiltskin

Seriously, it's amazing what happens when you fill a room with rice straw and some ingenious, knowledgeable Japanese - along with a few happily inept Americans. ::grin:: 

Making these "wreaths" were  more work than making Soba the time we were done we were shedding layers of clothes.

I was struck again with how precise things are done here. We pulled 30 pieces of straw from the pile.

We then made three piles of 10 each and tied them at the top.  Stacia ALWAYS scores lots of help.

Next you take two of your three, 10 strand piles and tie them together. You put them end to end and tie them in the middle.  You slide your long bundle of straw until you have an X shape. Then you are supposed to SQUAT and put your foot in the middle....while you twist one strand one way and another another way..... As I began to feel the burn and wonder if I'd be able to WALK by the time this thing was done, I glanced over and realized Stacia had found an easier way to stomp on the twists of rice straw. ::grin:: 

After a significant amount of rice straw twisting you have one long rope of straw. Just for fun you take the forgotten THIRD pile of straw and now add it in the middle, make the X and do the squatting twisting with it. ::snort:: 

There was a lot of laughing in the room. They were gracious to help us when needed...and Arielle and I got a kick out of how they decided ours had to be redone as it wasn't "right". I brought the house down with laughter when she picked mine up and gave me a perplexed look. I said, "It's American Style." ::snort:: They made me redo it. (Shhh....I didn't really count my straw). It was all cheerful!

In the end our loops of straw began to look like Shimekazari. We will accessorize them before 1 January. 

They turn out looking like this one....In my search for real directions to post I discovered  there is a lot of symbolism in these things we don't really abide by....and I began to understand why the sweet lady insisted I HAD to have white slips of paper on my decoration. We'll just hang them as a fun Japanese New Year decoration and leave it at that.  

Here's a group shot....all except us are farmers in the local area. They are a fun group. We felt welcomed, had a great time and learned a bit of the culture. They are considering doing more "Green Tourism" in the area for different seasons...and I will join as many as I hear about. 
Look who is tall enough to be in the back row! 

Shichinohe is about 45 minutes from our house. The farm was another 10 minutes out.  They have a Soba restaurant that is open year round....there's a ski area nearby. Follow the signs that say "Shichinohe Ski Area" and you may find this.....It was fairly tucked away.....In fact this is the back side of the building - not the side which faces the road! I was amazed to find a restaurant so off the beaten path - but that's common here. It's really a beautiful area...lots of snow, river and fireflies in the summer. 

Random thoughts: There is a measure of peace in knowing everything from baking to wreath making has a set way to be done.  I am not sure creativity is as valued in the Japanese learning environment as it is in America. I really don't KNOW about that...but I am left wondering as I realize every learning situation I have been in here has had a very clear "right" way for things to be done. 

One sweet lady told me Arielle was "a number one student."  I suspect her blond hair and winning smile have a lot to do with this. ::snort::

I wish we'd found opportunities like this earlier in our assignment.

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Prayer Request

I had the flu.... I've done my share (though I'm just one good flu bug from my goal weight). ::snort:: 

Arielle and Nolan got the flu late last week. There was a break. I thought all were fine. Michael had surgery. 

Today, Zander is throwing up. Please pray with us that Michael doesn't get the flu. The rest of us can cope, but this would be really bad timing for him. 

Oh, Sunday night is the Christmas play. Praying all are well for that.  Thanks. 

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Fri Field Trip - Part One - Soba Making

 Akikosan asked if we would be interested in going to Shichinohe to learn how to make Soba Noodles and Shimekazari.  We agreed it would be fun. We always enjoy the Friday Field Trips Akikosan goes on with us. She knew a group which would like to get into Green Tourism. I didn't realize we were their FIRST group....they did great. I hope they continue and are able to work out the details. One thing we discussed is the need for someone who can coordinate with groups of Americans, can speak both Japanese and English....because it would really be overwhelming if Akikosan hadn't been along. ::grin::  This would have made a GREAT PWOC outing...or a spouse Christmas get together...something a bit out of the ordinary.

Michael suggested we go even though he is recovering from surgery. At the last minute we all agreed to leave Zander home. He really wasn't looking forward to the outing and I really wasn't at peace leaving Michael alone. It was a good call for several reasons....not the least being that Zander was throwing up as I walked in the door. ::sigh::

I'm going to write the day up in two or three posts...... Here we go.....Soba Making...Buckwheat Noodles....this was fun!

OH - you should know it was COLD...much snowier up in Shichinohe....I hadn't realized there is a ski area right up there....and the big rooms in Japanese houses are just we were told to wear old clothes, wear warm layers, aprons and bandannas.

I wondered what these were for when I walked in

800 Grams of Buckwheat flour and 200 grams of Wheat flour are mixed......

THEN - using a SPECIFIC motion you mix it with your hands to get out all the lumps.....

500 ml of  water is added a CERTAIN WAY (NOT just poured in), and then your hand motions change and you continue to mix, knead until the dough starts to form....

 Note - the ladies in the back know what they are doing! WOW - they are professional...the men...not so much. Our Soba was better than theirs. ::snort::

 This is to show the dough but also - note the hole...which is made as you handle the dough in the prescribed you have to change hand motions again to get all the air out of the dough and to close the end up with a shape that looks like a giant Hershey's kiss....

Which you flatten on a floured table...the next step is to pat around the thing - making it bigger....must be patted and not rolled at this point....

 Finally the long rolling pins come out. NOW you have to roll it up one end of the table, SLIDE it back towards you, then hit the pin up to the other end of the table again, rotate the pin, unwrap the dough, give it a quarter turn and do it again. We weren't sure WHY we were doing all this - but we followed the steps....

This was SERIOUS and yes my TONGUE is OUT. LOL 

Eventually the dough stretches to cover (or nearly cover in our case) the long pin....

Nolan was best at "hitting the pin up the table" and so we came up with our own system to stretch this stuff.

Folding....nifty way to roll the dough on the pin as it it's really too thin to move...fold, rotate, fold...

They later told me they were worried about kids using these knives...they are HEFTY and HEAVY and SHARP....I was more worried about ME than them....we earned kudos for our knife handling skills.
Note Stacia's worried expression 

Stacia seemed to get more alarmed as her turn drew near

She did it

Akikosan - a dear friend
 These are OUR noodles...we made them all...and we got to EAT them too!

I love Japanese homes. I love the walls of windows and the bright light it lets in, the wide open spaces, the moving walls...but they are often COLD. THIS was VERY welcome....a fire pit in the middle of the main room! I will have a fire pit in my living room in my dream home.

When we arrived we were given Mochi (pounded rice cakes) Sesame paste. YUM.....and now we were served grilled Soba (Buckwheat) Mochi....with some sort of seed paste. They showed me the seeds but no one could come up with the English name. I hope to figure it out before I move.

Wonderful lunch! Top left is onigiri (sweet rice ball) wrapped in a pickled leaf of some sort, a big plate of Soba (our SOBA), the bowl on the right had some picked veggies and evidently crab (it was on my hashi (chopstick) heading to my mouth when Akiko told me not to eat it - I'm allergic), bottom right is pickled Daikon (if we were here another year I'd seriously learn to make this myself - I love this), and bottom left is the Soba Soyu (Soba Sauce).  Note the Soyu is covered with a small plate which has chopped onions and wasabi (hot) on it.  This was a totally PLANT BASED MEAL....score. I have a policy to eat whatever Akikosan brings, regardless...but I was excited to have a great meal and stay basically on my eating plan.

 You add the onions to the soyu, mix a bit of wasabi with your soba noodles, dip your noodles in the soyu and slurp. I find my missionary kid upbringing serves me well here. While the others tried to figure out HOW to eat without making a mess - I OBSERVED. I picked up my bowl and began slurping. Arielle looked slightly alarmed until I pointed out everyone but us was eating it this way. LOL

We were STUFFED! I was a bit surprised the Soyu and Soba were cold. I knew about cold soba in the summer but assumed we'd have it warm today. Nope. We were given a tea pot full of the hot water the soba cooked in. When we were done eating the Soba, we added the boiling water to the soyu and had a soup. The soyu is salty and fishy....well it's made with fish.  Nolan liked the soba but not the soyu....I suppose we can adapt.

If you'd like to watch a Soba Chef teach what we did today watch this clip.

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...