Monday, February 27, 2006

Shoe Cream

Almost a year ago, the last time I mentioned cream puffs, I never imagined making them. For one thing, most of my exposure has been in Japan, where they are called "shu cream," which is pronounced "shoe cream." You intelligent readers will immediately realize this is a reference to choux, the French name for the pastry part of cream puffs, eclairs and profiteroles. The connection you just made in a moment took years for me, during which I periodically and earnestly wondered what cream puffs had to do with shoes.

Anyway, cream puffs being the airy confections they are, the thought of making them at home has never crossed my mind. As much as I like to bake and cook, I shy away from attempting most recipes that seem delicate or overly difficult...and I'm afraid of yeast.

Getting to the point, the other day I thought I'd make some chocolate pudding with the four egg yolks I had left over from my recent obsession with meringue cookies. Having no idea how to make pudding, I consulted my kitchen go-to book. Though I have quite a few cookbooks and can think of more I wouldn't mind collecting, this is the one I often run back to for basic advice and instruction.

On the page facing the chocolate pudding recipe, I found the following and decided to try it and fill the end product with the pudding. It was SO easy and the resulting puffs looked as though I had known what I was doing. You'll have to take my word for it, since the ladies in my book club snapped them up before I remembered to take a picture. Maybe you can try it and send me a picture of yours!

Cream Puffs (Shoe Cream)

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
Whipped cream, pudding or ice cream
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 C). In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.
2. Drop dough by 12 heaping tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet (or just line baking sheet with parchment paper). Bake at 400 F (205 C) for 30-35 minutes or till golden. Cool on a wire rack.
3. Cut tops from puffs; remove soft dough from inside. Fill with whipped cream, pudding or ice cream. Replace tops. If desired, sift powdered sugar over tops.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

An Evening Out, In

For the last week, since Aogu's been away on business in Tokyo, many friends have come around me and Koji, helping to distract us and allowing us to spend our time in good company. All of the visits we had were great, but the best was likely tonight.

Jess came by, bringing dinner, salad and dessert. Right there, she's above and beyond, but that wasn't all she did. She also brought over a movie, and it wasn't just any old movie, it was In Her Shoes, which was worth watching! (But perhaps fast forward through the book-reading scene...) We thought it was going to be a "chick flick" but it was much better than that.

Obviously, I'm not a professional movie reviewer since all I can say about it is "it was worth watching," so I'll just stop here and let you watch it for yourself. THANKS, JESS!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day Celebration Part 1

Knowing we're off to the marriage retreat this weekend, we didn't feel obligated to make much of Valentine's Day today. But I couldn't stand to let it go without some kind of commemoration, so I made some white chocolate fondue. You'll know that my efforts were minimal though, when I explain the reason the fondue is in a bowl; that is, I couldn't be bothered taking out the fondue pot for just the two of us!

Wise husband Aogu brought home these lovely flowers, which you see here with the heart shaped cinnamon chip cookies I made the day before Valentine's Day. Speaking of minimal efforts, I didn't want to have to chill and roll out dough, so I made big cookies and cut them into these heart shapes after baking.

Sometimes Silver is Better Than Gold

Did you see those Chinese pair skaters last night? Wow. They were amazing. We actually missed the first part of their program, as we happened to switch to the Olympics just as they were getting going again after Zhang Dan fell. Had the commentators not been exclaiming about the accident, we might never have known it occurred. That's just how determined and graceful Zhang and Zhang were. Good for them!

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day to all, but especially my Great Husband~

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


My sister or my parents probably remember better than I when it was that we started playing that simple but addictive card game called "Fours". Is that the real name of the game? Who knows, but the general idea is, you start with four cards upside down. You get to look at one of them (or is two--shame on me that I can't remember, just shows that I've been married to the ultimate anti-game man for five years...) and the rest are unknown. Every time you go around, you choose a card from the stack in the middle and turn one of your four cards face up. You keep the card you turned up, or replace it with the one you drew. The idea is to have the lowest score, aces being low and kings being high. However, turning up a king isn't the end of the world, as long as you can come up with another king, as pairs cancel each other out to zero.

If you're still reading, know that this post isn't actually about playing cards or the fact that I never do any more. Sad but true. No, it's about the list I found on Kathleen's blog, in which I was honored and delighted to be named! The list is also, coincidentally, called "fours," and my version is below:

Four jobs I've had:
Sorting green beans at a cannery
Making imitation crab at a factory (stinky!)
Assistant to the owner of a Century 21 office
Teacher of "Oral (English) Communication" at a high school near Tokyo

Four movies I can watch over and over:
The Lord of the Beans (that's more like one I have to watch over and over)
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings
Princess Bride

Four places I have lived:
Fort Knox, Kentucky (though I don't remember it)
Salem, Oregon
La Mirada, California
Tokyo, Japan

Four tv shows I love to watch:
Battlestar Galactica
Stargate SG-1/Atlantis
What Not to Wear

Four places I have been on holiday:
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Brisband, Australia
Nagano, Japan

Four of my favorite dishes:
Braised hijiki with rice (and I stand by that even though wikipedia says I'm at risk for arsenic poisoning...huh? can millions of healthy Japanese people be wrong?!)
Pasta with pesto sauce
Clam chowder or most any kind of thick soup/stew

Four websites I visit daily: (tied with

Four places I'd rather be:
At the movies/dinner without Koji
At a Thomas/Veggie Tales show with Koji
Uganda (want to see the Willisons!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Good-bye St. Valentine, Hello Obligation

Valentine's Day in Japan is something like that dreadful Sadie Hawkins thing we used to be forced into in junior high (or maybe it was university? even worse!) during which women were somehow propelled into chasing after men. Call me strait-laced, traditional or even old-fashioned if you like, but I'm against the notion that women should be chasers.
In any case and for whatever reason, Valentine's Day in Japan is not about men giving flowers and other thoughtful gifts to their women--instead, it's like this. And as this article explains, someone somewhere, perhaps a member of the "Let's Make All Things At Least Appear To Be Equal" council subsequently invented White Day.
White Day, which is March 14th, to my knowledge, has never been heard of or recognized outside of Japan, but nevertheless, it's important there because it's what Valentine's Day is supposed to be. That is, a day for husbands to shower their wives with gifts that will benefit them (I prefer Flame, in case anyone is curious).
Hypocritically, I am willing to go along with Japanese thinking and marketing if waiting until White Day should pay off!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Taking Suggestions

In the last few weeks, I read the following books:

Baudolino by Umberto Eco...and I say to you, do NOT read this book. I finished it, but it was really a struggle, and the only reason I succeeded is, I was sick and didn't have anything else to read. Once I recovered, I still hadn't finished but I persevered, hoping it would improve. Um, no.

14 Hours 'Til Bedtime by Jen Singer, which is about her life with her sons, who are less than two years apart and were both extremely colickly babies. It's funny, easy to read and easy to relate to if you are a mom! Good one for keeping in the bathroom? That is, if your kids let you use the facilities alone...

The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks; as I recall, this one was started and finished in an evening, which was not a bad thing. I recommend it for a road trip (if you don't have to drive, that is) or a lazy afternoon (if you ever have such a time!). Oh, and you have to not be disgusted by romantic plotlines or disturbed that the characters sleep together first and everything else comes later. I wish I was disturbed; that is, I am, but not enough to give up reading these books.

Or maybe I can if Dee Henderson's series starting with The Negotiator continues to engage the way this one did. It's a "Christian" book, that is, some of the principal characters are Jesus followers (and some are not, but don't let me give too much away) but it's well written and the characters are relatively believable, well-developed and interesting. I'd like to read number two in the series, though I probably will go ahead and read the follow up to "The Rescue" as well.

Finally, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; unfortunately or fortunately, I knew this was a "Cinderella" based story, so though it was well-written, I couldn't avoid reading it as quickly as possible to try and identify the parallel elements. Overall, I would recommend it, but it wasn't always comfortable reading because some of the characters were so mean, nasty and unlovable!

Can't we all just get along?!

Speaking of getting along, if you have any books you've "gotten along" with recently, I'm up for recommendations!


It's been a few weeks, or maybe even a month now, since Koji suddenly stopped taking naps. I don't really want to know how long it's been because it feels much longer than that. As many readers of this blog have likely already heard me explain ad nauseum (thanks for listening, friends!), if I try to force him to sleep, it takes him more than an hour to go to sleep, and then he sleeps too long, and then he doesn't go to bed until 11 p.m.!

No one ever warned me that "sleep" would become such an obsession! To think of the days when I would go to bed, sleep all night and then wake up in the morning and not even have the courtesy to thank God for that privelege. Well! Just proves that annoying cliche "you don't know what you have until it's gone" is oh so true...

My point here is that today, right now, he is taking a nap. I am SO HAPPY, and yet, so bewildered. I hardly know what to do with myself! Should I read the newspaper? Make a phone call? Take a nap myself? To think that I can do all this and more is almost too much. Next time you do these things without anyone shouting MAMA MAMA MAMA at you, please say a prayer of thanks.

As I am.

P.S. The end result of Koji's three hour nap and then, quality time with some washable window markers and a mirror is that I've been able to put up eight posts! However, some of them aren't visible on this page, so if you have time and interest, please click on "January 2006" under "Archives" for full access to all I've worked on today. Happy looking!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Gymastics Update

As you know, Koji is taking a gymnastics class. Tonight was his fourth class. He loves it! As soon as it's over, he starts asking when we can do that again. A week is a long time in the life of a two-year-old, so I just tell him he is with his girlfriends Chloe and Ashleigh. They're "making pizza".

This is called "making a table" though it looks more like a crabwalk. May not seem like a big accomplishment, but then again, wouldn't it be hard for you to lift your rear end off the ground if you had an inseam of about 10 inches and you were wearing a diaper?

Though it's a bit hard to discern, this balance beam is actually only six inches or so off the ground. Koji has fallen from greater heights and bounced, but for some reason, the balance aspect of things brings fear into him, which then brings in the intense concentration you see here. Who says two-year-olds can't focus?

Koji's friends Chloe and Ashleigh are a bit more daring than he is, so they got kicks out of hanging from the top bar of the uneven bars and then letting go and dropping down to the mat. Koji would have none of that, in fact, he didn't even seem to notice what they were doing. His game was bringing his legs up and over the bar so he could rest there on his hips and then swing back down to a hang. But note, none of the above can be accomplished without him howling "HYELP!" and then me doing most of the work...are we having fun yet?!

I think so.