Ponyo and Homemade Pizza

I first saw the beauty of his work during an annual screening of “Hotaru no Hakka” (Grave of the Fireflies) — even with the Japanese language ability of a two-month old his animation transcended the major gaps in my vocabulary and deeply touched my heart.  He seemed to have captured every detail from the everyday task of tapping the shoe just right to get it on to shaking a tin of candy drops to get the last ones out.  The work of Miyazaki, Hayao is well known, not only through Japan, but also internationally.  Such masterpieces as “Tonari no Totoro” (My Neighbor Totoro), “Mononoke Hime” (Princess Mononoke), and most recently “Gake no Ue no Ponyo” (Ponyo).  DVD cover to "Ponyo"With the nostalgia that each Miyazaki movie brings me, it almost feels like a betrayal to the artwork and culture to watch his films dubbed in English.  Now don’t get me wrong, Disney and Pixar do great work to assemble a fantastic cast, and they go to great lengths to preserve the integrity of the production, but if I have the option to see the works as they were originally created with English subtitles, then bring it on!

To celebrate our Ponyo-viewing occasion, my husband and I invited some friends over for some homemade pizza ala Trader Joe’s.  We bought the pre-made pizza dough in plain, garlic herb, and wholewheat.  We decided to vary our toppings to create a Thai Chicken, a Works, and a Pineapple Pepperoni  – deelish!  What’s more, it was easy, healthier than our beloved Papa John’s delivery, and easy on our budget.  We sliced and diced a bunch of fresh veggies — green and red bell pepper, onion, carrot, green onion, mushroom, tomato — the works.  Then added some pizza sauce and peanut sauce (respectively), mozzarella, pepperoni, and chicken sausages.  Our favorite was the Pineapple Pepperoni, but don’t let us tell you which one’s the best — check out the pics and judge for yourselves.

Thai Chicken Pizza on Wholewheat Crust

Thai Chicken Pizza on Wholewheat Crust

The Works on Garlic Herb Crust

The Works on Garlic Herb Crust

Pineapple Pepperoni on Plain Crust

Pineapple Pepperoni on Plain Crust

A Classic Yummy — Tuna Sandwich

My father came to the U.S. in his early adulthood – an immigrant from the coastal country of Perú – with big dreams for his life, an innate curiosity about nature, Science, and the world around him, and a great love for seafood.  My mother, a mix of German, Austrian, Irish, and Native American ancestry, is a confessed carnivore — she relishes the experience of chewing meat, sucking the flavor from bones, and being able to sample the rare and highly-prized meat delicacies of the globe — this includes those that make their life below water’s surface.  And then there’s me — I have vague memories as a child of eating shrimp, lobster, and other fishy things, but something happened along the way.  I think when my taste and texture palates developed, they sent signals to my brain further excluding anything which had lived in water from my “like” food list.

As a child I often tested the limits of my mother’s patience, out-waiting and out-stubborning her with a plate of fish on my plate, and no desire, nor intention, whatsoever of eating it.  I didn’t care about the rumblies in my tummy — I could not bear the texture and taste of those scaly-covered creatures.  One finned friend, however, did sometimes make it to the “like” list — usually this was during the season of Lent at my Catholic school.  At the time I didn’t really understand why, but often when other lunch menu options were no longer available, suddenly the tuna sandwich was — so, I ordered it.  Was it was the presence of mayonnaise, bread, relish, onions, celery?  I don’t know.  I just know that I didn’t mind eating tuna sandwiches.

Flash forward about five or six years and I was now teaching English in a rural rice-farming (I thank God, not fishing) village in Japan.  Fortunately, although my palate had not matured, my cultural sensitivity had — I was determined to try everything on my plate at least once.  I ate fish head, I ate little translucent fish, I ate fish with eyes, and I ate lots more fish in other forms.  I can’t say that I enjoyed it, and often I got sick to my stomach, but I tried it all.  About six months into my first year (I was there for three) I noticed on a Sunday evening while brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed that my wrists and stomach were kind of itchy.  When I awoke the following morning the small areas of itchiness had exploded in growth and covered most of my body.  I learned a new Japanese term — “jinmashin” or hives.  Although the experience of recovering from hives is not one of my favorite, the gift that came with it was well worth it.  After visiting the doctor it was determined that I was allergic to certain varieties of sealife – and that I had probably eaten one fish or another at my Sunday church lunch.  From this point forward I could politely let people know (and in a small rural village, most found out quickly anyway) that I had allergies to fish and would sadly (well, not really) not be able to partake of the seafood options.  Fortunately, although contrary to wide-held belief, Japan offers all kinds of culinary delicacies that have nothing to do with fish.  I was happily sustained on all the many other food choices.

Needless to say, I am not a big fan of fish.  Every so often I am tempted — like that time when I was reading “Angela’s Ashes” and just had to see what all the fish and chips fuss was about.  And for whatever reason, my body decides every so often (and lately it is more often) that it wants tuna.  So I buy the little tin can filled with water and tuna (and which, might I add, resembles nothing of the creature from which it came) mix it up with some mayo, yummy, yummy relish (I love the dill pickled relish, but am such a fan that it doesn’t matter sweet, dill, or other), some pepper, maybe some raw onions, celery — the works!  On my latest favorite — Orowheat Sandwich Thins — loaded with fiber (5g), and not so much with fat (1g) and calories (100), the tuna sandwich is a true classic, very easy, and absolutely tasty — even in my humble non-fish-loving opinion.

Tuna & Swiss Sandwich on Orowheat Sandwich Thin

Tuna & Swiss Sandwich on Orowheat Sandwich Thin

And as always, for fellow weight-watchers – the total Points value for this number (will vary depending on your mayo and bread, and additional toppings) is 3.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Orowheat Sandwich Thin – 1 serving – 1 Point
  • Trader Joe’s tuna in water – 1 serving – 1 Point
  • Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat mayo – 1 serving – 1 Point
  • Heinz Dill Relish – 1 serving – 0 Points
  • (Optional) Trader Joe’s Lite Swiss or Lite Havarti Cheese – 1 serving – (Add 2 Points)

Thank you for applying

I remember back in the day (and my days don’t even go that far back) in the world of job hunting, one would scour the want-ads, agencies, and weekly publications for potential jobs.  Then after spending due time updating, revising, and reordering the resumé, construct the best sales pitch of themselves, and print the final products on quality-grade resumé paper before snail-mailing off the documents in letter-sized envelopes.  Within a week to two weeks one could expect a response from prospective HR departments, confirming receipt of the documents, and giving a general picture of the hiring process.  After, say, another month, one might then receive an invitation to interview, or receive a discouraging letter containing some sort of “thanks for applying, but we’ve selected another candidate”.  Although those letters were never fun to receive, something unexpected was also contained within the paper walls of the envelope — closure.  The knowledge that either a door had been opened along with an invitation to step inside, or the confirmation that the door had been closed, and the push to continue searching.  Nowadays, with the presence of technology (among other factors), the job-hunting process has changed.

One can still scour for job openings, but instead of having to “pound the pavement” and make the rounds to prospective companies, or travel from one free employment circular dispenser to another, one can now surf the employment opportunities worldwide with a computer, Internet connection, the right sites, and dedication of time.  The process still requires a resumé that captures attention and properly sells the candidate; cover letters still need to be constructed just so, however, in addition to printing them out on textured papers and mailing them off, job hunters now also have the option of sending their documents almost-instantaneously to HR representatives by email.  In addition, many organizations also have online applications which require the near-recreation of one’s resumé, however, with more detail.  Now it’s in the steps after applications have been submitted where I have experienced the most changes in the process.

For the most part, after I have thrown my hat in the ring, whether electronically or by post, I will receive some sort of “we have received your application” email from HR departments.  I appreciate this message at least to know that my documents have not gotten lost in some sort of unemployment black hole.  The content of the message might vary to include a general idea of the process, or even to provide a timeline for the particular position in question, but for the most part it will at least thank me for applying, and let me know that I will be contacted if I am being considered, but to otherwise refrain from following up with the HR department.  In rare cases, I will later receive a follow-up communication thanking me for applying and letting me know that the position has been filled.  Sometimes I get these within a couple months of applying, but I have had cases where I receive this closure as late as six to eight months after submitting my documents.

I have to say, I really miss the concrete fork in the process of “sorry, but the position has been filled” or “we’d like to schedule an interview with you”.  With the many advances we have in technology, it seems like one could create an email list and send off a mass communiqué updating applicants on the successful filling of a position.  For those HR offices that find themselves swamped with applicants, and consider the idea of sending out mass emails to bring closure to applicants as an undue burden, they could also try another approach.  I have come across some institutions which regularly (on a weekly or semi-monthly basis) update and publish their list of open positions with job search notations — open until filled, reviewing applications, interviewing, closed, etc.  This puts the responsibility back on interested job searchers to go back and visit the organization’s site if they want to know how the search is going, but also provides the most-powerful gift of closure.  Ironically, for me, this closure not only closes the door, but also helps provide the fuel for me to continue.  Without the communication, one way or another, it can often feel discouraging to go through the process yet again with no apparent results.  Now, logically, in my head, and also in my heart of hearts I open up the files, and go through the process one step at a time — over and over again, because I am filled with the hope and belief that it will eventually pay off.

So, to those who have impact and influence in your organizations, check in with your HR folks — let them know how valuable those few keystrokes can be to bring hope or closure to applicants.  And to my fellow unemployed, I hope that you, too, can sustain a sense of hope, and if you don’t hear it from potential employers, hear it from me — Thank You for applying.  Keep it up.  I believe it will pay off.

Nostalgia in a Bowl — Potsticker Soup

Many favorite childhood memories include visits to a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant called “Mrs. Wong’s Kitchen”.  In addition to being a favorite dining stop for my dad, Mrs. Wong’s Kitchen also had a large, jolly Buddha statue, and in my young opinion — served the best Won Ton soup on the planet.  Even now, and especially after having taught for three years in Japan, my fondness for a good Asian soup has not diminished.

In one of my recent visits to the library I came across what is now one of my new treasures — the “I Heart Trader Joe’s Cookbook“.  It’s loaded with delicious combinations of favorite Trader Joe’s ingredients.  You’ll understand why I chose to try this first one in particular…

Bowl of potsticker soup

Potsticker Soup

In a large pot I put together vegetable broth, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, frozen chicken potstickers, frozen stir fry vegetables, and green onions.  There’s a lot of room for flavor customization — adding ginger, making it vegetarian by choosing to use vegetable potstickers, etc.  Not only is this soup incredibly easy, very tasty, but it’s loaded with vegetables…and for those counting their Weight Watcher’s points — the grand total is about six points if you have a serving with three gyoza (dumplings).

Enjoy!

He’s Goin’ the Distance

Today I had the distinct honor of participating on the Colloquium Committee for a colleague and friend.  As part of concluding his Master’s program he was presenting on all that he has learned over the two years, his vision, and upcoming plans.  Having completed the program myself just last year, I know how busy and stressful it can be — especially at the very end.  So to celebrate I, of course, had to make him a card.

As I was trying to think of the best way to convey the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, Cake’s song, “Going the Distance“, began playing in my mind.  To understand why, here are a couple lines from the song:

He’s going the distance.
He’s going for speed.

Because he’s racing and pacing and plotting the course,
He’s fighting and biting and riding on his horse.
He’s going the distance.

I then had a vision of a runner’s silhouette breaking through the finish line — exactly how I wanted to convey my excitement for my friend’s final, graduating presentation.

Card with a runner breaking through the ribbon and the message, "You did it!"

You did it! card

Alternate view of "You did it!" card

View of the runner bursting through the ribbon

"Celebrate" message inside the "You did it!" card

“Celebrate” message inside the “You did it!” card

Through some Google searching I found the perfect image.  I printed it out, and cut it out with the curvy finger-swivel blade.  I used a contemporary black and white striped designer paper as the background, and decided it needed a little extra color.  I then used a bright yellow cardstock and cut out a circle — as the sun behind the runner, also a perfect place to stamp the message, “you did it!”.  I used red wraphia and cut a jagged edge through it to create a ripped effect in the finishing line ribbon.  I used the 3D adhesive squares to add dimension to the runner and set him over the sun and paper.  I glued the wraphia across the front and curled up the edges to give the effect of the bursting through the red ribbon.  On the inside I stamped “Celebrate” with red ink and embossed it with red dragon embossing powder.

Ingredients:

  • “Me and My Big Ideas” Black & White decorative paper
  • Bright yellow cardstock
  • red wraphia
  • alpha rubber stamps
  • Celebrate clear rubber stamp ($1 bin at Michaels)
  • Stamp N Stuff Red Dragon embossing powder
  • Cranberry ColorBox Ink

Hope you enjoy the final product as much as I did.  And to those of you who are finishing your own “races” — may you continue going the distance and enjoy your own celebrations!

Oh yeah, Baby!

As promised, I have the pics from some recent baby shower cards that I made.  With both of these I was experimenting with somehow incorporating wraphia in the card design.

Baby Shower card using rubber stamped buggy image

Baby Shower Buggy card

For the Baby Shower Buggy card I chose a plaid pastel design paper as the base, and then cardstock in light green and light yellow.  In the green I punched a large and small tag, and in the yellow I punched a medium tag.  On more yellow cardstock I stamped the letters for b-a-b-y with Black ColorBox ink, and punched them out with the Fiskars square punch.  I then used rounded off the corners with another punch.  On the small yellow tag, I

stamped the buggy image with Black ColorBox ink.  I layered the tags and used a small strip of green cardstock to create the hanging part of the tag.  I layered a fuzzy, sparkly piece of yarn around the wraphia, and then wrapped the thin strip of green cardstock around both before gluing it to the back of the tag.  I took a small blossom punch from the yellow cardstock and glued it to the topmost layer of the tag

and green strip.  I wrapped the two ends of the yarn-wrapped wraphia around the design paper, glued them there, and glued the bottom edge of the layered tag to the paper.

Voila — Baby Shower Buggy card — say THAT 10 times fast!

Ingredients:

  • K&Company Designer paper
  • white cardstock card
  • cardstock paper in light yellow and light green
  • alpha rubber stamps
  • baby buggy rubber stamp ($1 bin at Michaels)
  • Black ColorBox ink
  • Fiskars square punch
  • Marvy tag punches: large, medium, small
  • McGill Petite Petals punch
  • wraphia in natural color
  • light green & yellow sparkly yarn
Baby Shower card using pastel colors and Changito Knee-Hugger  rubber stamp

Pastel Changito Knee-Hugger card

For the Pastel Knee-Hugger card I chose another pastel designer paper as the base, used the same light yellow

and light green cardstock, the wraphia, and added some brass-looking fasteners.  Similar to the Baby Buggy card I stamped out b-a-b-y in black ink, punched them out with the Fiskars square punch, and rounded the corners.  I then fastened the letters to the wraphia with the brass fasteners at different angles for a more whimsical look.  I used the mini pop dots to secure the backs of the fasteners to the designer paper, and glued the bottoms of the letters down.  I wrapped the ends of the wraphia around the back of the designer paper, and glued them there.  I

then used double-sided tape to adhere the designer paper to the front of the card.  On the light yellow cardstock I stamped the image of the Changito Knee-Hugger, and embossed the design with clear embossing powder.  I used my special colored pencils to first fill in the images, then with the watercolor brush smoothed out the color.  I angled the light yellow and light green cardstock and glued the pieces together.  I used mini pop dots to fasten the pair to the designer paper.  On the inside of the card I stamped the “welcome baby” message — and presto — another cute baby shower card.

Inside the pastel Changito Knee-Hugger card reads: Welcome to the  world, little one

"Welcome baby" message inside Pastel Changito Knee-Hugger

Ingredients:

  • K&C Designer paper
  • white cardstock card
  • cardstock in light yellow and light green
  • alpha rubber stamps
  • Changito Knee-Hugger rubber stamp
  • Welcome baby clear rubber stamp ($1 bin at Michaels)
  • Black ColorBox ink
  • Stamp N Stuff clear embossing powder
  • Kimberly watercolor colored pencils
  • wraphia in natural color
  • Recollections fasteners

Put on a Happy Face…

…after all, the show must go on.

No worries – the title of the post is not implying that I’m in a down mood and in need of cheering, but rather that sometimes when I don’t want to do something, I just need to move myself through the steps of preparation and then before I know it, I’ll be doing my thing. I think about actors sometimes, having to display emotions on their faces and bodies that may not necessarily match what they’re feeling inside, yet as they say, the show must go on, and like Tony Bennett crows — “Pick out a pleasant outlook…Slap on a happy grin…spread sunshine all over the place…and put on a happy face.” So today’s challenge is to get back on the wagon. Yes, I’m talkin’ about the walking/running wagon.

I’d been diligently following my Active plan and had completed the fourth week, when changes in weather, visiting Contractors for a week, and my internal lazy monster made their visits.  This isn’t to say that I ditched my exercise plan altogether — I did compensate with in-home cycling sessions at varying levels of intensity, and did continue my beloved walks admiring beautiful homes, and scaling the various hills in my neighborhood.  However, when I tried incorporating some running into a walking errand last week, I did notice that my body was not havin’ it.  Although I do try to push myself further, I also value listening to its signals, so I jogged the bits and pieces that I could, but knew that I needed to get back into THE PLAN.

So, today, Monday — I am moving myself back to the start of week 2 of my Active plan, and will work my way back to where I was.  Although I am even more utterly convinced that I am NOT a runner, I am determined to thoroughly complete this eight-week plan.  My end goal, besides improved health and the joy of completing the challenge, is to get myself to a point where I can run a good part of a 5K event.

My running attitude may currently be gray and gloomy, a “full-of-doubt-look” may be covering my outlook, but I’m in my cutest exercise clothes, the Nano is charging, and I’m determined to spread some sunshine, and Put on a Happy Face!