Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our News from 2007

Jan. - Feb.
  >>> It was a very cold winter here in Bloomington, and also in the North and the Midwest of the States.  We had a lot of snow, which we enjoyed as much as we got annoyed by due to the fact that we had to do a lot of snow shoveling. Amar made a long trip for his conferences in Michigan and then in Spain from the end of January to the beginning of February, and he got snowed in in Michigan which unfortunately shortened his stay in the South of Spain (Seville) from original 4 days to just 1 and half a days! (^^;) Nevertheless, he immensely enjoyed his stay in Seville. 

March - May >>> Michiko did several volunteer work with IU's East Asian Studies Center and Asian Culture Center, such as presentation of Japanese tea ceremony to Bloomington community and presentation of Japanese calligraphy at local schools and museums. Michiko also presented a Sevillanas (a flamenco dance) performance at International Spouses Circle at IU.

June >>> Amar had a big conference to attend in Edinburgh, Scotland, and making the most of this opportunity, Amar and I made a major trip in Europe. Michiko visited her friends in the UK (1 in Warwickshire, 2 in London), in France (4 in Paris), in Luxembourg, and in London caught up with Amar who had been to the conference in Edinburgh. Amar and Michiko flew to Denmark together to visit our mutual friends Sune and Anneli, and then came back to London to spend a week with our family. We spent some quality time with Colin (Amar's father) & Kerry, Tennille (Amar's sister) & Nick during our stay there.

July >>> We flew to Japan for Michiko's sister Tomoko's wedding with Koichi in Kobe, Japan. The wedding was beautiful and a lot of fun! We also enjoyed the stay with Michiko's family in Himeji, spending time together and visiting a local famous temple called Engyoji in Shosha Mountain (which happened to be a location for the film "Last Samurai"). Amar also went to Awaji to attend a conference after the wedding, and Michiko joined the last day of the conference and met Fraser (Amar's UCLA supervisor) there.

August >>> We found out that Michiko was pregnant

Sep. - Oct. >>> Michiko continuously suffered from morning sickness, and had to give up doing any baking and much of cooking.  But Michiko survived it with a help of Amar and the families of both sides.

November >>> Michiko's morning sickness was finally over, and Michiko started baking and cooking again, as well as her social life. ^0^

We had two long-stay visitors at home for the first time - Thomas from Denmark in early Nov., and Yuriko, Michiko's youngest sister, in late Nov. Thomas (who used to be Sune's student) came here for a mutual exchange of techniques and knowledge with Amar's research group. He turned out to be a very nice company and we enjoyed his stay in our house for a week.  During Yuriko's stay for about two weeks in the US, the sisters made a short trip to NY to see two Off-Broadway shows (Blue Man Group and Stomp!). Michiko also did a tea ceremony presentation at a local high school while Yuriko was here. 
We also found out that our baby is a boy, and when he heard the news Amar didn't stop saying, "It's a boy! It's a boy!" in rejoice. ^^

December >>> We had two big home parties at our place - one was a potluck with Michiko's Japanese language class students and the other a Christmas party with Amar's research group students.  Both turned out to be very successful and we all had a good fun. 

The 3D image of our baby's face which we got from one of my ultrasound checkups in late November.  Don't you think he looks exactly like Amar?!?!  I was so happy and amused at the same time when I saw this photo...    ↓

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Christmas 2007

Just like last year, I didn't have to do any cooking for Christmas Day --- Amar did everything. (yes!) ^0^/
He roasted a whole chicken with some stuffing in it, and potatoes and onions around it. This dish is one of my favorite dishes. 
We had a guest for our Christmas lunch this year - Natsuki, a very good friend of mine who is also my piano teacher in Bloomington. She also enjoyed Amar's roasted chicken, together with salad and his "famous" NZ Christmas cake.  (The only thing I contributed to this lunch was making a custard sauce for this cake.)
It was a very nice, relaxed Christmas dinner with a good company.  I wonder what it will be like, our Christmas next year ... must be quite a hectic yet exciting one with a little baby in the house!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Amar's NZ Christmas Cake

Last weekend we had quite a bit of snow - the first accumulated snow of this year in the area - and we enjoyed staying and spending time together at home, a kind of "snowed-in" feeling :-)

It was an unusually relaxing weekend for Amar, who usually goes to office both on Saturdays and Sundays and spend at least for several hours there, and so it was a perfect timing for him to make his "famous NZ Christmas cake"!

This fruit cake uses 1.25kg amount of dried fruits (assortment of raisins, currants, sultanas, and apricots) and some nuts to be baked in a 20cm square cake tin!! So it is a very rick, heavy cake. And thanks to the bitter-sweetness of brandy, orange rind and lemon rind, and sour-sweetness of dried fruits, the cake is not overly sweet but just full of rich and complex flavour.

I heard that in the United States "Christmas fruit cakes" have a very bad press, and because it is so unpopular that there is a joke which says "It is often given as a present, but no one likes it. The joke is that the person who receives it, saves it and gives it to someone else next Christmas." I found similar things said on a few websites on the internet, and in one of them a British person declares that it is totally understandable because "American fruitcake that you buy at the supermarket is pretty nasty stuff. It contains artificially-colored glazed fruit that is bright red and green. It is sort of sticky and sort of gummy and doesn't taste real."

But (according to this English person and from what I have observed so far) English and NZ traditional fruitcakes are definitely a "real thing" --- no artificial flavour, no artificially glazed fruits, and just a natural, rich flavour.

Thank you Amar, for making this delicious Christmas Cake!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bad Christmas Sweater Party!

Last Sunday we were invited to a "Bad Christmas Sweater Party" at Erika and Simon's. The invitation letter included the picture like this:

At first Amar and I had no idea where to get such sweaters, but thought that we would need to look for them anyway to attend the party.

Then, during the Christmas party with Amar's research group which we happened to host the day before the Christmas Sweater Party, some American students gave us excellent ideas. At first, when Amar and I mentioned the Sweater Party, Kristy and Joe said, "Oh--- a Christmas Sweater Party!! That's a classic! We always buy such sweaters at Goodwill!" (Goodwill is a sort of recycle store.) So we thought, oh Ok, that's not a bad idea. Yes, we should get such sweaters secondhand, not new ones. We may need to go to Goodwill tomorrow then.

But while we were playing the Christmas gift game (see the previous post), I happened to get a Christmas sock with a Santa Clause on it. Then Kristy suggested, "Well Michiko! Now you don't have to even buy any Christmas sweater --- you can just pin that sock to your ordinary sweater, you see!"
Hmm, what an excellent idea!! Thanks, Kristy!!

Luckily, there was another Christmas sock (with a snow man on it) among the rest of the gifts, and the person who got it kindly left it for us to use for the Christmas Sweater Party.

So we made up our Christmas sweater like this ---

(We happened to have a green sweater and a red sweater for each ... so they look quite Christmas-y together, don't they.)

And on Sunday, we wore these sweaters and went to the party. Erika and Simon loved the sweaters, and Simon said, "Wow! You're the winner!!" the instant he saw Amar's sweater. Amar answered with his "Ho, ho, ho...." ;-)

Other people's sweaters and Christmas-y attires were also quite good. Which one would you pick?

Erika, Simon and Beau (the hosts of the party) had prepared a generous amount of pizza dough and various ingredients for pizzas, so that we guests can also join making pizzas of our own. It was fun and the pizzas came out very nice and tasty!

Their cat Starbuck occupying the very front of the fire...