Monthly Archives: January 2014

Warm up with a bowl of pumpkin porridge

January 30, 2014



1.5 cups rice

2 tbsp fresh grated ginger

4  green onions, chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 cups pumpkin, chopped

1 tsp oil

egg(s) (1 egg per bowl served)



walnuts (optional, for added flavor and flare)

Fill up a large pot with water and add the rice. Bring the pot to a boil and let boil, slightly covered, for 30 minutes. Add in the ginger and pumpkin and allow to cook on medium-high heat for an additional 30 minutes. The longer porridge boils, the softer and tastier it gets. When pumpkin is soft and mixed in well, add salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate saucepan, stir fry the walnuts with a little salt and pepper and a small amount of oil. When the porridge is ready, ladle out each bowl and immediately crack an egg in each individual portion. The high heat will cook the egg whites and adds a delicious flavor to the dish. Add in the walnuts for a lightly smoky flavor and crunchy texture. Top off each bowl with a little cilantro and a handful of green onions.

Remember to eat around the edges since the middle will likely be very hot! The perfect dish if you’re living in the midwestern United States and are getting bombarded by chunks of the polar vortex, like my sister, Mary!

Traveling for 1 week in Japan

January 23, 2014

planning-guide-japanPhoto courtesy of Japan National Tourism Organization

Diarmuid and I are headed to Japan this Saturday, horray! I figured I would write our itinerary ideas to help get my own thoughts together and maybe serve as a guide to anyone else who may be thinking of heading to the Land of the Rising Sun.

We have our plane tickets booked (we have fun red-eye tickets via Hong Kong Express … a budget airline we had never heard of before, but ya know, fingers crossed).

I’ve only been to Okinawa (which I wrote about here), but I loved it, and the people were really nice. Diarmuid spent a long weekend last year in Tokyo and has decided that it is his favorite city in the world. He came back and was like “forget Hong Kong. We’re moving to Tokyo!”


There’s so much to see. I definitely want to see Shibuya Crossing (pictured above).

I also want to wake up early and go to the Tsukiji fish market. After 78 years by the water, it’s set to be dismantled and relocated in the next couple years, so you definitely should check it out while you still can. You have to get there by 4:30 a.m., though, and only the first 120 people are allowed in.

Seeing the Harajuku area of Tokyo is on the top of my list as well. A Pair & a Spare did a great travel guide on this trend-setting and colorful part of the city known for its teen fashion. You might even spot a Harajuku girl, and you can buy FABRIC. (sorry, I just love Japanese fabric too. much.)

And D and I have already decided we are definitely going to this cat cafe and to this robot restaurant.


We’re going to go skiing! Sure, it’s been a couple years since I threw myself down the slopes, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. There’s a ski resort about 45 minutes outside Tokyo called Gala where we’re thinking we’ll spend two days.



We’re pretty set on spending a morning hanging out with Japan’s snow monkeys, who happen to like to keep warm by hanging out in the hot springs. They live in a national park in Jigokudani, and once you hop off the train it’s apparently a 30-minute hike to go see them.


It’s a mountain I feel like I should see and take photos of (like the one at the very top of this post). You can even ski on it if you’d like! But the resort and slopes look rather small compared to other ski options in Japan. It’s a short train ride from Tokyo, and so I think we’ll just make a quick stop on our way to hopefully see Kyoto.


A great resource I found is on the blog Tofugu, with their 1-2 week Japan itinerary ideas. Kyoto may prove to be too ambitious (it’s about 3.5 hours from Tokyo on the bullet train), but it’s where the emperor lived for a thousand years, so shrines and temples it has. And who doesn’t want to see some shrines and temples? At least one. I would love to see the Golden Pavillion, made out of, yes, gold.

So those are all my ideas for now. If anyone has traveled around Japan and would like to offer some tips of what to see, please do. Or if you know of any more guides written by bloggers, I would love to read them!

A Day Trip to California’s Mono Lake

January 21, 2014

monolake-mainCalifornia has been bone dry lately. This couldn’t be more apparent than when I took a trip last weekend to Kirkwood, California, just south of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Typically during this time of year the Northern Sierras are a winter wonderland, but a lack of rain means a lack of snow, rendering the landscape brown and arid.

The water levels of California’s rivers and lakes are at all-time lows. A visit to Mono Lake served as a stark reminder of the increasing water scarcity in the Western United States.mono-lake-landscapeIn 1941, canal and aquifer systems diverted much of the freshwater in Mono Lake and transported it to the dry and highly populated city of Los Angeles. Its water levels have never returned. (Read the lake’s story here.)

Large tufa towers, which were once completely submerged in the lake, jut out over the water and make you feel like you have left Planet Earth and have entered into another atmosphere. Be sure when returning from this alternate reality to leave behind any tufa you may have collected, or the Native American spirits will curse you for all eternity.


My friend Nate reminding everyone that elephants should be the only ones wearing ivory ;)



On the drive home the moon blazed a fiery orange and I found myself wondering if I had indeed entered another realm.