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Mosaic of entries for June Whip Up!

This month seven participants entered nine recipes for the Whip Up Something New! challenge. Two of those were potato recipes…

Raksha shared some spicy Baked Baby Potatoes from her kitchen that look absolutely yummy in their flower presentation. What a lucky coincidence I recently bought some amchur (mango powder)!

Uniflame reviewed mouthwatering Sweet Potato Fries from the Vegan Family Meals cookbook.

And since both these tater recipes are vegan, I certainly plan to put them on my dinner table!

Carol found the ‘thyme’ to cook up a Greek Sandwich that will probably end up in my lunch box someday — without the feta cheese of course, but with home-made hummus.

As always there were several sweet-tooths around. Joanna from It’s all about me made a Gluten-free Banana Bread to celebrate her part in Hello Dolly!, while Kristina baked another favorite: a red, white & blue Patriotic Pie — which closely resembles the Dutch flag!

Uniflame had 1 kilogram of cherries to use up in her White Chocolate & Cherry Muffins and Margot is harvesting the joys of her retirement with an abundance of raspberries from her garden, turning them into Raspberry Chocolate Scones. I have a raspberry plant on my balcony, but will never be able to grow enough berries for baked gooooods like this!

I did however submit two recipes this month too: an easy Savoury Summer Picnic Pie and Orange-Basil Tempeh from the same vegan cookbook Uniflame reviewed.

Now I don’t know if you remember but… We haz prizes! I promised to reward one of the vegan entries. Here’s the loot I put together!

June Whip Up Something New! challenge (Sur)Prize

I let Mr Random.org do his thing and the winner is… (drumroll):

Winner June Whip Up Something New! Challenge

Raksha! Please send me your address and the parcel will be on its way!

Since there were only two vegan entries this month (besides mine) I decided to offer Uniflame a consolation prize: something that’s on her wishlist… I’ll give her my gently read copy of Bento Box in the Heartland by Linda Furiya — if she can wait a little because I still have to write a short review for the Foodies Reading Challenge?!

Cover Bento Box in the Heartland, Linda Furiya

Before I finish there’s just one more thing I need to mention in this wrap-up post. I made a pledge. And I failed. I did not start organising my recipe cut outs and neither did I cook from them… It’s terrible, but there’s always next month! So hop over to Margot from Joyfully Retired and submit your JULY recipes in the Whip Up Something New! Challenge!

Whip Up Something New! button

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Hello Japan! mini challenge logoHello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan.

MAY’s mission was ‘Mystery and Mayhem‘: to enjoy a Japanese mystery story. And I did, but never got around to telling you about it. Until today! :)

My reading comfort zone is literary fiction. But every once in a while I’m in the mood for some suspense. A bookcrossing copy of All She Was Worth, by de Japanese author Miyuki Miyabe (translated by Alfred Birnbaum), dropped into the mailbox to meet my needs at exactly the right time.

Cover All She Was Worth (Miyuki Miyabe)All She Was Worth can be read as a straightforward detective story about the beautiful office girl Shoko Sekine who goes missing the night after her fiancé informs her the bank has turned down her request for a credit card. Police inspector Shunsuke Honma, single parent of a 10 year old boy, is asked to conduct the search.

But this book contains more than just the solving of  a mystery. It’s an intelligent tale about [this is a spoiler so you will have to check out the remark below if you want to know], contemporary Japan and life in a big city (Tokyo). I learned about how different it still is today being male or female, and about the pressure on women to marry before their early twenties — or you’ll be considered a spinster and not worth much. Hm, rather sounds like the age of the Brontë sisters! But we’re in 1992, after the money bubble exploded. The story unfolds linearly from January 20th on.

To be honest, all the background on the credit-based economy of Japan was the only thing that made me zone out every once in a while. Miyabe does a good job explaining but I just wasn’t interested. For the rest All She Was Worth is a real page turner and I would love to read more about Inspector Honma; an imperfect but likeable human being to whom I could really relate.

There’s just one more thing I feel I should add. Although the crime(s) described in this book may be horrible, the narration doesn’t contain any ‘gore’ like one might expect from a Japanese thriller. So don’t let that keep you from reading All She Was Worth! And don’t just take my word for it. ;) It won the prestigious Yamamoto Shugoro Literary Prize, which is awarded annually to a new work of fiction considered to exemplify the art of storytelling.

Original title: Kasha (火車)
ISBN: 0-395-96658-2
Publication date: 1999 (first publication 1992)

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

*** SPOILER ALERT ***
I learned a lot about identity theft — how scary: it sounds so easy!
[back to where you came from]

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

Postcard from Takayama

This fabulous Easter Monday I’d like to share with you the goodies I found in my mailbox last week. Starting with a postcard my friend R. sent from Takayama. Her journey to Japan went through since she wasn’t really going near the disaster areas – and she had been preparing and looking forward to her trip for a long time! Remember we went to watch Chef of South Polar with her and our hostess had made us a mega batch of sushi?

That day I made shiro miso soup for January’s Hello Japan! mini challenge, ”Something New’. It was good training for the cooking topic of the following month, in which I made rice patties & vegan gyoza. And I won! Here’s the prize I found in the mail this week: an ultra cute tiny bento box and Norwegian Wood postcard set. Kawaii! Thank you so much Tanabata!

My prize in February's Hello Japan! mini challenge (What's Cooking)

There’s still time to enter this month’s Hello Japan! challenge at In Spring it is the Dawn. Your mission is to learn something Japanese / about Japan. You can either write a blog post about it or comment on the challenge post — please do, because for every participant Tanabata will donate an amount one of the following good causes: JEARS (Japanese Earthquake Animal Rescue Support) or the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Then I had two books delivered:

  • De filmvertelster (‘The Movieteller‘) by Hernán Rivera Letelier, a gift from one of my Wandelgrrls hiking buddies after she’d heard I was doing a short course on film reviews. A big Thank You to L. too!
  • a Bookcrossing book ring I have been awaiting quite some time: All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe.

I already started reading Miyabe’s “Best Mystery and Best Novel of the Year” and will be taking the book to the park once I’ve published this update.

Now what happened to Kenzaburo Oë’s Voetballen in 1860 (The Silent Cry)? You may remember I wrote I really felt like reading a detective story but picked up Oë instead because of the Japanese Literature Book Group. Well, discussion on the novel starts today and I’ve only gotten to page 20… So I put it aside. It’s not that I don’t like it — and I do want to read it — but right now I need some easier stuff: suspense, plot & pageturning. Not having the right book for my mood kept me from reading. And that’s no good at all! ;)

Book 'De filmvertelster' ('The Movie Teller')Bookcrossing book All She Was Worth

It’s Monday, what are you reading? is hosted by Sheila from Book Journey.

This week’s pile of organic vegetables consists of romaine lettuce, carrots, zucchini, Collina apples, yellow common beans (gele spekbonen) and cilantro.

Amelis'Hof CSA vegetables week 33, 2010

Due to our ‘culinary vacation’ we have been eating out a lot so these lovely but perishable items were added to most of last week’s loot. Now we need to process all of it a.s.a.p.!

Menu plan

  • Carrot soup with ginger, coconut & cilantro, fennel-tomato salad. Apple crumble for dessert.
  • Indonesian night: nasi goreng (fried rice with leftover leek & chili pepper), sambal goreng boontjes tahoe (beans and tofu in spicy coconut sauce), tempeh goreng manis (fermented soy beans fried in sweet soy sauce), atjar ketimoen (pickled cucumber & gherkin), boiled egg, seroendeng and emping. Melon for dessert. [Friday]
  • Lasagne with grilled veggies (mainly courgette, half an eggplant, some fennel, navet, tomato sauce and home-made pesto with crème fraîche & Parmesan. Green salad with fresh herbs. Prosecco with limoncello ice cream for dessert. [weekend]
  • Eastern beet Leftover ginger-carrot soup, osèng-osèng of pointed cabbage & tempeh, rice noodles.
  • Leftover lasagne, stewed zucchini & basil (dish to be decided).
  • Red beet risotto with garden herbs, salad, courgette.

We actually have two bunches of carrots so I’m also thinking about baking a carrot pie!

Now, “what’s that about a culinary vacation,” you may ask? Our summer holiday started last week and since we’re not really going anywhere — except for some single night sleepovers — we decided we could treat ourselves to several nights of dining out!

On the evening of our last workday we started of with Turkish mezze at my favourite restaurant of the moment, Sinni in Apeldoorn. The next day we had a ‘spicy Asian sauces tasting’ with @variomatic before going to a recommendable Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam: Long Pura, where we thoroughly enjoyed our vegetarian rijsttafel. On Tuesday we had a delicious 4-course wholesome meal in a vegetarian guest-house called Het Volle Leven (Appelscha):

  • Brie with honey on toast as amuse
  • wild mushrooms in a pastry basket with lemon-green bean salad for starters
  • vegetable ‘moussaka’ with spelt and blue berries, garden salad and fries
  • mango meringues for dessert

Next week we’ll be treated to another 4 course surprise menu in Silk Road, a grand restaurant with water view on the IJ, and thanks to the yearly Restaurant Week it’ll only cost 25 euros. Ha! After that our last culinary adventure (as far as we know now) will be a Veldkeuken garden dinner at our CSA veggie provider Amelishof next Saturday. Let’s hope the weather holds up! Huge disappointment: the garden dinner was cancelled because of too few participants! How can that be? :-o

Prize won: outdoor eating set

The picture is of a prize I won this week in a slogan contest: an outdoor eating set. I don’t often participate in this kind of competitions but since I quite liked the plates and bowls I decided to enter. Oops. Only after I had won I realized I had mistakenly assumed that they were made of plastic! It’s all real porcelain and crystal though — not the kind of thing you’d bring on a picnic. LOL Oh well, I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth ;)

– – – – –

Join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

Cover Decorative Food Carving

I’ve been away form the computer a bit longer than the week I expected, but now I’m back :) And… we’ve got a winner in my 3 year bentoversary giveaway!
Random.org decided on Bentoversary Giveway

The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carving goes to…: Lena from Lenas Abentoyer! She started bentoing on Easter Monday this year and her (vegetarian) bento sounds absolutely delish for a first! I hope the book will inspire her to new bento adventures — when she’s back from her concert trip in Bolivia ;) Please check out her weblog: there’s a link in the right sidebar that’ll translate Lenas Abentoyer (such a smart variation on Abenteuer = adventure) into English. If we all ask her nicely, she might share a Bolivian bento recipe! ;)

Congratulations on winning the prize Lena, I hope you’ll make good use of it!

The book
I’m still reading part 3 of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki, a Japanese classic from 1907.

The tea
I’m drinking some Chung Hao Jasmine in original Japanese tea cups made from Arita porcelain. This Chinese tea is also a classic.

The comfit
With my book and tea I’m relishing the #1 award winning Dutch bonbon of 2009: ‘bullet’, by Visser Chocolates. It’s a luxurious cherry flavour, with a soft mochi-like filling at bottom.

Thursday Tea buttonDo they go together?
The protagonist of my book is (obviously) a cat and I don’t see it drinking tea, but its master Sneaze could definitely be enjoying this classic beverage during the many languishing hours in his study or on the veranda. In the early 1900’s Chinese tea had been an imported product in Japan for many centuries.

The cat is a sweet tooth and likes mochi… so the candy is perfect too! And look at those gorgeous colours: all gold, green and burgundy red in the glow of a soft winter sun!

Thursday Tea is a fun meme for tea loving readers, hosted by Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.

Usually I don’t win any prizes… But lately I’ve been really lucky!

Velvet from vvb32 reads gave me not one, not two, but four awards!

Click on the award pics to go to the different blogposts on vvb32 reads. From left to right: I received The B for Beautiful of the The BINGO Award, the Ohh la la! I love your blog Award, The Lemonade Award (a ‘feel good’ trophy that shows great attitude or gratitude), and the Honest Scrap Award for bloggers who write from the heart.

I’m so honored! I have to answer a few questions to actually pick two of them up, so I’ll do that at the end of this post.

But my luck does not end here. I also won the cutest maki-e stickers (shiny things are excellent for a magpie like me) and mobile phone charm in the Japanese Literature Challenge at Dolce Belezza. I’m not linking to the post because I want to show them to you once they’ve arrived ;) Now I definitely need to buy an iPhone so that I can personalize it with my new goodies! ;) In situations like these I’m always thinking of Ren & Stimpy: HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY!

Won: Traditional Framer's Gouda Cheese

Now for those of you who are wondering what that cheese is doing in this blogpost… It was a prize also! We’ve got a fabulous new cheese shop in our shopping center and although we missed out on the first prize, a garden kitchen, we were lucky enough to win the 2nd: real Gouda farmer’s cheese. Yum! We are actually happy to have come second because we wouldn’t have been able to fit the kitchen on our balcony anyway! LOL

Now that we’re feeling lucky we’ve bought a ticket to the New Year’s Lottery..! Keep on dreaming eh? ;)

As promised, here’s my acceptance speech for the awards…

Ohh la la! award
J’adore your blog!

Where is your favorite place to read a book?
Actually… while commuting by train! And in my reading chair at home, cosying up with da kittehs.

Bookmarks or dog ears?
Bookmarks.

What is the best book you have read so far this year?
It’s almost time to compile my top list for 2009… Best read so far is either John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath or Yasunari Kawabata’s The Old Capital. Both classics..!

Do you like to snack while reading and if so, what is your favorite snack?
Not especially, just when I feel like snacking. I have a taste for salty — but potato chips & reading do not go well together… (no grease spots in my books please ;)

Book borrower or book collector?
In 2009 I was mostly a book collector.

For the Honest Scrap award I need to disclose 10 honest things about myself…

  1. I still prefer a nickname when socializing on the web.
  2. I’m keeping my blog separated from my professional life as a museum employee.
  3. I’m a vegetarian but I sometimes crave meat.
  4. Thankfully my lust for meat vanishes when I recall why I’m a veggie.
  5. I wish I was strong enough to stop eating dairy as well — but I’m not.
  6. I feel I’m the slowest book blogger on the planet when it comes to writing reviews.
  7. Making bento’s usually takes more time than it should too :\
  8. I can’t decide on a favourite book of all-times, nor a fav author.
  9. I lied. I think David Mitchell is the best writer ever ;)
  10. I’m not very good at passing awards along.

Well, that’s pretty honest, isn’t it?! And because of confession #10 I’ll just round up with a big THANK YOU!

As I told you on Sunday, I was showered with books last weekend.

Cover The PillowbookTo begin with I was very happy to find a Dutch copy of The Pillowbook by Sei Shonagon in my mailbox: Het hoofdkussenboek. This book fits almost all my current reading challenges! It has been on the list of my personal challenge of ‘Best Foreign Translations’ since 2008 and because of that I also entered it in the Classics challenge of 2009. I figured I could also add it to my JapLit challenge, even though I already accomplished the mission of just 1 book. Why stop? It seems like I will be reading The Pillowbook together with another participant: velvet from vvb32 reads, so that’s FUN!

This Bookcrossing book is a RABCK of stephen-1702. Too kind! I hope she likes the little present I sent her in return…

Cover Be With YouAnother book that I can add to the Japanese Literature Challenge is Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa. I read about it on Chick With Books’ blog (another JLC participant) and it reminded me of Taichi Yamada’s book Strangers, a much loved story! I could not help myself and ran directly to Bookdepository.com to order Be With YouCover TrespassAnd being in a bookshop (although online) I couldn’t resist buying something else: Trespass, by Valerie Martin. I liked her Orange Prize winning novel Property (2003) but I am not sure about her Mary Reilly, so now that she’s got a new book out I decided I should try some of this author’s other books. The story seems to be somehow compatible to Amy Bloom’s Away, which I recently read: that book being about an immigrant to the US from Eastern Europe a century ago, Trespass at the beginning of this century.

So, Mt. TBR has grown again… With lots of reading challenges to finish I hope I’ll be able to keep myself from hoarding anymore until the new year?!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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