Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

A Busy Week: Elections, Moving, Murray, Turtle and Lobster

Sorry it’s been silent for a bit. Last week Evan and I went on a frantic apartment search, spending nearly every day scouring Craigslist and Westside Rentals, and driving around neighborhoods we liked. We saw nice places that were out of our price range, terrible places within it, and places that just didn’t quite seem worth what was being asked.

After all the calls and meetings, shortly after 5 on Friday we were driving around in an area near a place we’d just seen and didn’t like and we saw a sign for an open house. The building looked nice, so we went in, saw the place — a nice-sized two bedroom, two bathroom, that had cookies and water and flowers out for the open house. The manager was friendly, too. Best yet, it was in our price range and had the lease terms we wanted. By the time we walked out to the car, we decided we would take it, submitted our applications and got the tray of cookies to go. An hour or so later, they told us the place was ours.

We had the homecoming football game on Saturday — a total blowout where USC beat Washington 56-0. I flew up to San Francisco for a meeting on Sunday. Then Monday we started moving. We unpacked Evan’s storage unit into a truck, and while we were heading down to my parents’ place, we found out their dog had died.

A photo of Murray as a puppy

Murray was 12 years old, and he wasn’t doing too well. He had recently gone totally blind and he was very confused and disoriented. My parents had put up the pool fence since earlier in the year he’d fallen in, and though we’d never seen him get past it, he must have wandered past it in the bushes where it’s not completely closed. My mom found him at the bottom of the pool when she came home from work. She dove in a pulled him out, but it was already too late. Though we didn’t think he had a lot of time left because of his deteriorating health, we never expected his life to end like that.

He was a wonderful dog since we got him as a puppy. He was so cute and fluffly and tiny when he was little, people used to ask if he was a stuffed animal. He was independent and stubborn at times, and he would bark during dinner and when you were on the phone, but what he always wanted at the end of the day was to curl up next to someone to go to sleep. He also slept in later than anyone else in the family, hopping from bed to bed to be with whoever was still sleeping, and then sleeping some more.

He only knew how to do a few tricks, and then only when you had a treat dangling above his head, but to see him sit, lie down, and roll over was always great. Especially when he’d sometimes get so excited about the treat that he’d try to roll over without lying down first. He loved having his ears scratched, he loved sunbathing on the lawn chairs in the back yard, and he loved going in the car. He loved my mom more than anyone else, and she always did all she could to take care of him. The house is really lonely without him, and the whole family is really going to miss the Mur-boy, Mur-man and the “stupid pachyderm,” as my dad liked to call him (unfortunately, this led to some confusion as to what a pachyderm is for my little sister).

Needless to say, Murray’s untimely death put a hold on our moving, so we spent the night hanging out with my parents and got back to moving on Tuesday. First I needed to vote, though, so I went to my polling place at 6:45 a.m. and was the 10th person in line. It was the first time I’d voted at the polls instead of by mail-in ballot, and I was excited to be there. Also, I’d been purged from the roster before 2004, so I was duly excited to be back on the list and able to vote.

Such a satisfying little sticker

Of course, it wasn’t that easy. They still had me listed as vote-by-mail, though that was news to me since I never received a ballot. Because of the mix-up, I was only allowed to cast a provisional ballot. I was upset that they were still jerking me around after all these years, but at least I did cast some sort of ballot, and I did get my sticker.

Once that was done, we were ready to get moving. Our friend Jared helped us unload the truck, and we started unpacking and rediscovering all the items we had that had been in boxes for more than a year. We really missed having only a suitcase or a backpack to unpack like in London.

We took a break from moving to go to an election party at our friends’ place in Glendale to see Barack Obama’s historic victory and incredible acceptance speech. As the electoral votes starting pouring in, we were worried we’d still be on our way to the party when they made the call. We did make it, but we weren’t there very long when at 8 p.m. CNN called the race. We celebrated with champagne, and our friend Annie cooked an incredible dinner. However, I’m very disappointed with California that Proposition 8 passed. Maybe if they count all those absentee and provisional ballots like mine…

We spent the whole day Wednesday cleaning and organizing and sneezing because of all the dust. We still have a ways to go, but the basics are set and there are only a few more unpacked boxes.

Today, we couldn’t spend much time unpacking because we had to do some work, and tonight we went out to a friend’s birthday party a The Happy Ending, a dive bar in Hollywood. We saw Turtle from Entourage–he looked and dressed exactly as he does on the show–and we also gawked at ther claw machine that lets diners pay $2 to try and catch their own lobster. If they catch it, the restaurant will cook it. It was a bit disturbing, though I suppose as a vegetarian, I’m a bit biased. We asked the valet about it and he said that people have caught them before, but some spend a ton of money trying to do it.

Learning to Make Tamales in Vegas

Friday, Evan and I headed out to Vegas to visit his friend Adam, go to Adam’s girlfriend’s birthday party, and just get out of LA for a bit.

I never knew Vegas could be so relaxing: We stayed at Adam’s house, we only went into one casino, and we never drove down the strip. We had some relaxed dinners, made about 300 tamales for Rosie’s party, and learned how to make gourmet jello shots.

For me, making tamales was one of the high points of the weekend. I’d never made them before, and I was very happy to learn with Rosie’s family in the kitchen. We started with premade masa in giant bags, various meats (pork, beef and chicken, all cooked and seasoned before I arrived) and corn husks soaked in water.

We got into an assembly line: one person washed the corn husks to make sure they didn’t have any hairy tendrils left; another person made balls of masa into little pancakes, then put some meat in the middle, folded the pancake over and pinched the ends closed; another person took the finished masa-meat pockets and folded them into a corn husk, by first wrapping the husk around the sides of the mixture, then folding up the bottom of the husk, while leaving top end still open.

I stayed on husk-folding duty until it was time to make some veggie tamales — for those, we put strips of potato, carrot, green peppers and queso fresco in the masa pocket.

When the tamales were all prepared, we arranged them, open end up, in giant steamers on the stove, poured in boiling water, and steamed them for a few hours. Surprisingly, they stayed hot for hours after they were done cooking.

The tamales were a hit at the party, and we got some leftover veggie ones to bring home — thanks for the care package!

Note: I know I should just take my own pictures so I can stop staying this, but photos of the tamale-making process should be coming soon.

Touring Tokyo

On August 14, we took the Shinkansen to Tokyo. We had reserved seats, but they turned out to be in a smoking car — and at the very front of the train. We decided to look for new seats, but all the unreserved calls are at the back of the train. I walked from car 16 to car 4, where there were lots of open seats, then went back to get Evan and our bags. It took until we got to the first stop to get everything settled.

We got in to Tokyo in the early afternoon and made our way to the fancy Keio Plaza in Shinjuku. We stayed a night, then spent the rest of our stay at the brand new Shinjuku Best Western, which was nice and cozy and had decent prices for Tokyo.

In Shinjuku, we went into plenty of fancy department stores and movie theaters and had a nice and filling Indian lunch at Pina Maharajah.

August 15, 2008

Our second day, we set off for Ginza to see the Sony showroom, where we played with cameras, TVs, phones and music players. It was fun, but less interactive than I’d hoped. The we went off to find the Godzilla statue that was marked on the map in our guidebook. We nearly missed it is was so small! It was quite a let-down, though it’s possible that was the original size of the claymation Godzilla. After taking a quick photo, we went to see the parks around the Imperial Palace, which were very pretty, though much of the area is gated off.

Godzilla: smaller than he appears

After strolling around a bit, we used our Passmo cards to take the subway to Roppongi Hills to check out a giant shopping mall. Like Kanyon in Istanbul, it was modern, clean and a nice place to spend an afternoon.

August 16, 2008

The next day, we spent the afternoon at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park, looking at old Japanese paintings, armor, ceramics, sculpture and clothing. It was a nice, concise collection that gave a good overview of Japanese art and culture. The park was also very pretty.

August 17, 2008

We took another museum excursion, this time farther out of the city, to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. We bought tickets months earlier, when we were still in London, because it was recommended to us, and we were not disappointed. The museum was fanciful and fun, with beautiful Zoetrope exhibits, sketches and painting. The building itself was also fun, with lots of small doorways, staircases, elevators and walkways. There was rarely a direct way to get anywhere. We also went to the cafe, where we had a great lunch, topped off by a giant piece of strawberry shortcake.

The robot on the roof of the Ghibli Museum

We went to a great macrobiotic place in Harajuku for dinner and had a lot of fun walking around the area. There are lots of funky little shops, and people make a real effort to look different, with candy-colored hair, Little Bo Peep-style costumes and neon clothing.

August 18, 2008

It was surprisingly hard to find vegetarian food in Japan, especially at standard restaurants. It was even harder to find menus in English. I learned to say “I’m a vegetarian” — “Watashi wa bejitarian desu,” but that didn’t always mean I’d get a vegetarian meal.

Evan wanted to get some good sushi while we were in Japan, so we tried to go for a nice sushi lunch. The nice place recommended by our guidebook was closed, so we found a small place with a good lunch special nearby. I told them I was a vegetarian, hoping to get a selection of vegetable rolls, but it apparently translated to “Don’t serve me anything.” I ended up picking some veggie rolls off Evan’s place while he enjoyed the fish, soup and other small dishes.

For the afternoon, we took the elevated train on what felt like a fancy urban monorail ride to Odaiba, in Tokyo Bay to go to Toyota Mega Web in Palette City. We checked out cars, rode in simulators, and went to an arcade to play some air hockey. We also did a reaction-time race car driver test, where we had to press buttons as they lit up on a big board. I did a bit better than Evan (sweet!). The elevated train back to Ginza was fun again on the ride home since it was dusk and the city’s lights were coming on and the towering glass buildings were becoming even more transparent.

Ginza by night

We went to Harajuku for dinner again and spent time in an English pub before getting a fantastic feast at Fujimama’s, where I had a pink Hello Kitty cocktail and Evan had an orange Crouching Tiger one. We shared a grilled vegetable salad and Evan had something meaty while I had some really delicious handmade noodles with mushroom and truffle sauce. Of course, we had dessert, too, though our Oreo mousse was my least favorite course.

August 19, 2008

For our last day in Japan, we visited the Toto Super Space to check out — and test out — some fancy toilets and other homewares. The Japanese sure have a monopoly on fancy toilets, they have ones with auto-up seats, adjustable sprays and bidets that can move around and change temperature and intensity, and they have toilet sound cloaking noises you can turn on.

We stopped briefly at the Nikon showroom, which is just a couple of floors up from Toto, then we picked up a picnic lunch to take to the park. Unfortunately, since it was our last day and the ATMs would only let us take out a minimum of 10,000 yen (about $100), we were back to where we started in Japan — with no cash. We had just enough to buy lunch, but we couldn’t scrounge up 400 yen ($4) to get into the park. Instead, we ate on some benches by the visitor’s area, then went shopping in the department stores.

Late in the afternoon, we hopped on to the Narita Express from Shinjuku station to go to the airport for our flight to Hawaii.

Check out our Tokyo photos in Evan’s Facebook Gallery.

6 Days in Kyoto

Getting to Kyoto from Bangkok involved a very long day of traveling, which seems to be a recurring theme on this trip. First we took a 5-hour flight to Tokyo, then had to hop on an hour-long train to get to the 3-hour-long Shinkansen — where we had to stand in the unreserved smoking car for about 45 minutes before getting seats. We also had a bit of a failure in planning here — we had no baht left to exchange for yen, so we didn’t get any in Bangkok. Then we missed the exchange counter at the Tokyo airport, leaving us with 0 yen, and thus no food or drink possibilities. We thought we’d be able to find an ATM at one of the train stations, but that didn’t happen, and when we finally got to Yamashina, where we just needed to take a Kyoto subway 4 stops to Daigo, we got stuck. Our Japan Rail passes wouldn’t cover the trip, the ATMs we found wouldn’t take foreign cards and at 10:30 p.m., we didn’t have any exchange options we could see. We were also caught in a thunderstorm. Thankfully, we were able to call the person we were staying with, Ted, to come pick us up. He even had dinner ready for us when we got to his house.

The front gate at Kiyomizudera

We spent our first few days in Kyoto exploring the city — going shopping, eating at vegetarian restaurants and checking out the temples. Kiyomizudera was my favorite, with its pretty trails, beautiful views and quaint wooden shrines. The complex also has a waterfall that people drink from to gain luck and knowledge — we made sure to drink up! We also spent some time in Gion, where we saw a Geisha in her full get-up, with white face makeup and all. Tons of people were snapping photos of her just crossing the road. There were many other women in traditional kimonos, but not many were fully made up.

We visited some other temples in the hills that form the city’s border, like Nanzen-Ji, where we walked through an enormous gateway and under a red-brick aqueducts and up into the woods to visit a small shrine by a waterfall. And we walked down the Philosopher’s Path, a quiet walkway by a canal, until we found Honsen-In, another temple, which was closed for the day.

A temple garden in Kyoto

We were able to scramble over to the Ginkaku-Ji, the Silver Pavilion, shortly before closing time, but were disappointed to find the structure undergoing a complete restoration — it was basically a shell of a building covered in tarps. The gardens, however, were well worth the visit, with clear ponds, stone steps leading up to a view point, sunny and shady areas, plenty of moss groundcover, and a sand garden shaped to represent Mount Fuji and the sea. We took a second loop around the grounds because we liked it so much.

The rest of the time we were based in Kyoto, we took day trips to nearby cities. Also, we were surprised by how hot Kyoto, and Japan in general, was — the heat and humidity made Thailand feel temperate, and we had to buy little towels to wipe the sweat from our faces. Who knew?

August 11, 2008

First, we took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, where we visited the peace park. We saw the A-Bomb Dome, the ruins of a neoclassical building that was very close to the hypocenter of the blast, which was eerie — parts are still standing, other parts are totally mangled, and there are Japanese families taking photos giving the peace sign in front of it. From there, we walked on to the island where most of the park is, and saw all the paper cranes that comprise the children’s memorial, then went by the eternal flame and the cenotaph, which looks back on the A-Bomb Dome.

The A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima

We also visited the museum, which gave a detailed history of Hiroshima and a good amount of insight as to why it was bombed. It also had a lot of information on nuclear weapons and really showcased the devastation of the city through photos, models and artifacts from the day it was bombed, like warped metal girders, burned clothed, melted roof tiles and some gruesome victim portraits. The museum isn’t only a memorial of what happened there, though — it is truly a call for peace and an end to nuclear proliferation. It was very powerful to see such a tragedy turned into a positive mission.

After taking in the museum, we also checked out the memorial hall, a large, echoing sunken space with a fountain at its center and the names of Hiroshima’s neighborhoods set around it. Also, we noticed that water played an important role at the peace park — many visitors were leaving water bottles at the memorials — and we learned that it’s because many of the bomb’s victims died begging for water.

The floating gate in Miyajima

Once we’d toured the park, we were ready for some lighter fare and headed to Miyajima to see the tori gate in the sea. We took a ferry over to the island and were surprised to find lots of deer to greet us. We walked down the coast to the shrine, which was closed because it was a bit late in the day, then watched the sun set pink behind the bright orange floating gate.

August 12, 2008

Our second day trip was to Himeji to see the castle. From the train station, we walked right up the main road until it stopped at the big, scenic moat. We walked across the bridge and onto the castle grounds and went to the main tower — a big, white, multistoried building on a tall stone foundation. There were lots of small spaces for people to throw rocks or boiling water down on invaders, and these came in square, circle, triangle and rectangle shapes. It was also a no-shoes building, so we climbed the stairs to the top barefoot, carrying our shoes in bags. I don’t know why they insist in putting metal caps on the ends of the stairs for people going barefoot — it’s quite an uncomfortable climb.

Himeji Castle

The view from the top wasn’t all that great — Himeji looks pretty industrial — but it was nice to see the castle.

When we returned to Kyoto station in the evening and took the escalators up to the roof garden on top top of the cool modern bulding to take in the nighttime view, then walked across its glass walkways.

August 13, 2008

Our day trips started feeling like doing suicide sprints backwards — we started with the longest, Hiroshima, and just kept on the same train lines, going shorter and shorter distances each day. We definitely made the most out of our JR passes. The bullet train was basically our daily transport, which really helped us get back and forth quickly, though we wish we could have ridden the super-speedy Nozomi trains, which had better, longer routes.

Osaka is only a short ride away from Tokyo, yet it feels quite different. It’s much more modern, and much more crowded. We first went to the aquarium, since it was highly recommended. Apparently it was highly recommended to all of Japan, though, since there were some really incredible crowds. There were people blocking every tank and sign and women on bullhorns yelling announcements every few feet. It made for a pretty stressful visit, though we did manage to at least get a glimpse of the dolphins, otters, penguins, rays and whale sharks. The best part was a smallish exhibit with baby otters, which was set apart from the main path and nowhere near as packed.

Looking up at the Osaka Sky Building

Next on our sightseeing tour was the Osaka Sky Building, a transformers-looking structure, with two tall buildings attached at the top, with long escalators running to the roof garden observation point and a thin bridge at the 22nd floor. We made it to the top just in time for sunset, when the clouds and sky turned a beautiful pink over the sprawling city. And riding up to the top in the glass elevator and then taking the glass escalator the last five stories was quite a thrill.

Check out more photos in Evan’s Facebook gallery.

And You Wonder Why I’m a Vegetarian?

If you thought the full rabbits and pigeons were bat at Spitalfields market, check out some of the sights I saw at the market in Barcelona. Maybe I’m too far removed from eating meat, but I just don’t get what’s appealing about it. Especially when it comes to the heads of animals. I don’t think it’s unusual to see fish with their eyes in and heads on, but the mammals were really something else.

Fish Heads

Animal Heads

Check out more Barcelona photos on Evan’s site.

The London Rambo Premiere

rambo premiere

Last night, Evan and I went to the Rambo premiere in Leicester Square. We dressed up and walked over, not quite knowing what to expect, and were greeted by palm trees, fires, an announcer and a huge red carpet — which we got to walk down! No red carpet entrance and normies entrance here, which was fun. It was quite intimidating having all the paparazzi and gawkers just staring at you. We asked one of the superfans to take a photo, too, but you can’t see the exciting, flame-throwing Rambo display at the end of the carpet.

The movie was, as expected, very bloody. It’s definitely not my favorite of the films Evan has worked on, and I spent a good deal of our movie-watching time clutching his hand and turning away from all the throat-ripping-out, limb-severing horrors on screen.

The afterparty at Rex was much more fun. There was plenty of champagne, mango martinis and hors d’oeuvres, which included mini caesar salads, various skewered meats, veggie sushi, mini burgers (both veggie and meat), asparagus, and fish and chips. There were some self-important people hanging around, but nobody I could recognize as famous except for Sylvester Stallone. Best of all, though, is that I finally got to meet him.

I spent a good portion of the party just sort of staring at Sly — he was so close, though in his own private area. Evan didn’t see him for a while (I thought maybe he was just being shy), but when he finally did, we started trying to find a way to say hello. Fortune was on our side, and Sly was headed across the room and walked right by us, so Evan said hi. I was introduced. Sly told me how smart Evan is and how he was the only person who ever knew what was going on with his movies, and he told me that I was very lucky to be with him (I agree!). He also said the movie should have been more violent (I disagree, but I think I just smiled). We shook hands, and that was about it.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get any photos — it would have been weird to ask. But it was a really neat evening, and it was great to finally meet Sly — and have him say very nice things about Evan.

rambo premiere

Churchill Museum and Chinese New Year

London Chinese New YearSunday, Evan and I went to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, then went to Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. The museum had some interesting displays, but the part about Churchill seemed a bit disorganized, since we were skipping around through different parts of his life. There were some really neat interactive exhibits, though, like a very long, tabletop timeline that had folders you could click on to expand and open.

The cabinet war rooms were actually pretty interesting, but we were a bit rushed getting through them since we got to the museum about an hour before closing time. It was definitely a bit creepy down there, since there were of course no windows and everything was pretty cramped. I read in my guidebook that it wouldn’t have survived a bomb, either. And it was in a pretty obvious spot to target, since it’s right by 10 Downing Street. Guess they got really lucky.

We walked to Chinatown after the museum closed, just in time to miss all the shows and fireworks. It was still pretty ridiculously crowded, but we fought our way beneath the festive red lanterns to a Chinese restaurant Evan had been to before called Fung Shing. We had a bit of a wait and ended up chatting with a couple we were sitting next to while waiting who were a bit ahead of us in line, and they invited us to join their table.

ChinatownI had a great tofu and stuffed peppers dish and Evan had duck. Our new friends, Robert and Annette, had curry crab and lemon chicken. It was great to talk to some new people — he is from Manchester, she is from Zurich — and we all shared a bottle of wine.

Evan and I went to see Juno afterwards, which was great. I’d seen it already, but liked it just as much the second time, even though the ending makes me sad. I don’t know why the happy ending is so sad for me. Maybe it’s the dad telling her that she’ll be back there someday on her own terms. Or maybe it’s the sweetness of the love story and how everything magically goes back to normal. Whatever it is, despite the sometimes over-the-top dialog, the movie has a lot of heart (wow, that’s so cheesy, I can barely believe I just wrote that).