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Christmas Eve Dinner

It’s been a while since I posted foodie topics. It’s impossible to go out to eat when you have a two year-old child.

Anyway, Hero Material and I finally (!!!!) got a chance to revisit our favorite French Bistro tonight for the glorious night out!

sparkling wine
sparkling wine

First Course
first course

appetizer with pate and other delish things
appetizer with pate and other delish things

fish course
fish course

meat course
meat course

dessert
dessert — the best chocolate in town…OMG…

What are you having for Christmas?


Birthday Cake & Tart

birthday cake & tart


Me and The Boy at Sanzoku

Me and The Boy

The Boy doing his “THOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!” pose with the Mt. Bandits chicken stick prop.


Recipe: Shio Koji Chicken Ball Soup

I got this recipe from Hero Material’s friend. We tried it twice, and both times it came out well, so we wanted to share.

Ingredients

4-5 tbsp of shio koji
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking sake
200 g of minced chicken (or ground chicken)
1 tbsp of finely chopped or minced ginger
10 cm of green onion, finely chopped
2 heads of bok choy
1/2 carrot (peeled)
1 pack of enoki
1 Asian leek (you can just use western leek or green onion if you can’t find the Asian leek)
5 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Chop up bok choy into bite-size chunks. Make sure to separate out the head part and the leafy part. Set aside.
  2. Cut carrot into 5mm-thick half-moons. Set aside.
  3. Cut the root of enoki and throw it away. Then cut the enoki in half. Set aside.
  4. Slice the leek into thin diagonals.
  5. Put the ground chicken into a bowl and add 2 tbsp of shio koji, 1 tbsp of minced ginger and 10 cm of finely chopped green onion. Mix them well and make them into small chicken balls.
  6. Pour 5 cups of water into a deep pan and bring it to boil. Dump the chicken balls one-by-one into the boiling water and let them cook through.
  7. Put the vegetables in the following order: carrot pieces, leek, enoki, head part of bok choy, then the leafy part of bok choy. When you add the vegetables, make sure that the carrot is soft enough for you before adding the rest.
  8. Once the vegetables are cooked, add 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of sake and 2-3 tbsp of shio koji. Makes 2-3 servings. You can serve it with steamed rice on the side if you’d like.

Note

You can add more chicken balls without adding more broth. If you do, make sure to adjust the amount of shio koji, ginger and green onion for the chicken ball mixture.

Metric conversion for Americans

200g = 7oz
10cm = 4″
5mm = 0.2″

I hope you enjoy this soup!


Yes, I Think We’re Finally Moving for Real

i can haz move now

To update you on the housing situation I spoke about some days ago, the seller accepted our offer! W00t!

The financing also came through. Whew!

The contract, OTOH, hasn’t been signed yet. Since the owner isn’t moving out until later this winter, the contract is probably going to be ready in mid-November or December. Then we sign, wait and move in.

I know 2013 seems so far away, but I’m just happy that we actually have a happy ending to our long (6+ months), exhausting and extremely stressful house hunting. I was so anxious that something might go wrong the last minute, and we might not be able to get the place after all.

Special thanks to all the awesome people (you know who you are!) who sent us good vibes, thoughts and/or prayers. You guys are fabulous! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Maybe…Possibly…We Found a New Place to Live!

real estate

Hero Material and I currently live in an apartment that’s at least 25 years old, drafty and small (less than 60 m² or 645 ft²). It was okay when it was just the two of us, but with The Boy, the place is just too cramped. The really nice thing about our apartment, however, is the location. Hero Material’s office is right across the street from our apartment, The Boy’s daycare is less than 2 minutes away by bike, and my physio is 2 minutes on foot. And we’re within 10-15 minutes on foot to the main train station, and 3-4 minutes from a major streetcar stop and a bus stop. (All this is very important since we don’t have a car here.)

But we just have to move. So we started looking in April. New condos near where we live were outrageously priced. Anything approaching 80 m² (861 ft²) cost ¥60,000,000 ($765.5K). And we didn’t want to pay that much for a smallish condo, especially given that the real estate in Japan does not appreciate. Homes depreciate like cars in this country. So it makes zero sense for us to drop over $750k on 861 ft² of space.

So we thought maybe we’d rent, except most are just as small as our current apartment, and some landlords were outright against renting to foreigners. (“Gaijin wa dame!”) So we considered building a home, but even that proved to be really expensive. During all this time, our realtor Mr. I’s been very patient, explaining our options, etc.

Finally we found a “used” condo that we like. It’s about 14 years old, about 870 ft² big (balcony extra), and in the most perfect location.

  • Two major malls, grocery stores and gyms: 6 minutes by bike
  • The Boy’s daycare: 8 minutes by bike
  • Hero Material’s office: 10 minutes by bike
  • A general clinic: 5-6 minutes by bike
  • University research hospital and a major hospital full of specialists: 10-15 minutes by bike
  • Night-time ER: 5 minutes by bike
  • Pediatric ER: 13 minutes by taxi
  • Parks — everywhere
  • Riverside view: check

Mr. I agreed that the condo was excellent and reasonably priced, given what we’ve seen. (Some were outlandishly priced, and didn’t even have a working elevator!!!!)

So Hero Material and I were all happy and returned to Mr. I’s office to discuss the specifics of the transaction. And then it got really really weird because Mr. I said he couldn’t represent us in the deal!!!!!

He explained that though he’d like to continue to help us, he had to hand us off to Mr. S, who is another agent from another company because of some strange corporate situation with his firm and the other firm (representing the seller). We were, of course, flabbergasted and somewhat nervous. Flabbergasted because we really liked our agent and wanted him to get the commission since he did all the work of showing us various properties and explaining the real estate market situation and financing options. (In Japan, buyers pay their own agent out of pocket: 3% of the home price plus ¥60,000 ($765)). Somewhat nervous since it’s our first time buying in Japan, and things are different from America. We really wanted our own agent representing our interest.

Anyway, we met Mr. S, who is very nice and told us that he is actually our agent because the seller has this other agent who has no real experience (even though he’s licensed, and yes, this gets even more Byzantine). But the seller wants this 3rd agent with no practical experience to draft the contract, etc. and so this mysterious 3rd agent is someone we may never meet, but is involved in the transaction somehow. So anyway we are to pay Mr. S as he will act as our agent. Trust me, I was listening to his explanation of this entirely too bizarre arrangement with my mouth slightly open. (Of course, I do have a cold at the moment…) And I don’t think Mr. S was trying to blow smoke or anything as he works for a very large and well-established real estate firm with a good reputation (just like Mr. I, whose firm was just as big, well-established and reputable).

Mr. S and his assistant Mr. H gave us a few thoughts and opinions about our concerns and points of negotiation. He didn’t think anything we asked for was outrageous or unreasonable. And he explained our options in more detail since we’re about to plunk down a set amount of money for a very specific property.

Anyway, sometime later today or tomorrow, we’ll know for sure if we’ll be able to get the condo or not. The seller wants to show the place to one more prospective buyer before giving us his answer. Wish us luck!

P.S. I have to mention here how Mr. I and his professionalism and dedication to his clients touched me. He knew before we went to see the condo that he wouldn’t be able to get a commission should we decide to buy that one. He could’ve easily told us that the place was in a bad building or that the seller was a jerk and unwilling to sell to foreigners or any number of perfectly plausible excuses to avoid showing it to us.

Instead, he never tried to discourage us or point out why we should buy some other condo that would’ve gotten him his commission. He even said he thought the condo we were most interested in was the best one for us given our wish list. And as we were saying farewell after his bombshell explanation about not being able to represent us, he still came all the way out of his building to bow us off (the proper and official ninety-degree bow!) and wish us luck.

I can’t think of too many people in sales who would be willing to do the same. And trust me, when people want a referral for a realtor, he’s going to be the one Hero Material and I talk about. (And should we ever decide to sell the condo or rent it out or whatever, he’s going to be the first agent we talk to.)