Wednesday Morning Tea Bliss


Delicious wagashi and matcha tea

It’s been awhile since I posted about my chado, or tea, lessons so here it is…

I’m still trudging along and learning new procedures. A fellow student and I applied for the basic certificate of chado through our school. Our sensei (teacher) helped us prepare the application form which she submitted this past weekend. Woohoo! We’re on our way to becoming official tea students!


Fellow tea student practicing tea ceremony

In the meantime, we are practicing several new procedures. Over the past few weeks, I have learned a soothing summer tea ceremony, how to properly serve tea to Japanese royalty, using a leaf to cover my mizusashi, how to serve tea to royalty and their assistants, and how to perform tea ceremony with a shelf. Yes, there are literally numerous variations to each procedure I learn. It’s been fun and challenging but I love every minute of it.  We have 16 procedures to learn for this basic certificate and I’ve only covered about half. I definitely have my work cut out for me by this November!


Fellow tea student enjoying tea during our weekly lesson

I won’t only be preparing for the tea certificate but several performances in late October and early November. I am excited to get out and try my skills again in front of guests. But until then, I will thoroughly enjoy what I refer to as my Wednesday Morning Tea Bliss. It’s my mid-week recharge where I get to enjoy delicious wagashi (Japanese sweets), matcha tea, and girl time.


Top 3: Seoul, South Korea


View of Seoul at dusk

I recently had a friend write me to ask for my top three things to do in Seoul. He had browsed my blog knowing that I went to Seoul this spring but found no general travel info (other than the awesome cooking class post HERE). It’s true. This spring/summer has been a whirlwind and I haven’t gotten around to blogging more about my Seoul trip.

So here it is: My Top 3 for Seoul, South Korea!


Locks of Love – Seoul

1. Seoul Tower/Locks of Love.
I seriously thought this was going to be über-cheesy. But the view alone over the city is worth it. We went up a little before sunset so we got to take pictures with daylight and at dusk. We didn’t go up the Seoul tower but just walked around the area at the foot of it. There is a gift shop, restaurant, coffee shop, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view (or a picnic if you planned well enough!).  You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain (which we did) or there are walking paths up to it. Don’t forget to bring a lock to leave behind!


Near Seoul Tower at dusk

2. Nanta Show.

This is a long running show in Seoul and for good reason. It’s Stomp-esque but they use kitchen knives, pots and more to make the beats. They engage the crowd as they work to get the meal complete for the wedding party. There are several theaters showing Nanta around Seoul. We went to the Chungjeongno which is the biggest theater.
Location: Various locations; Click on Nanta Show link above.


We learned to make kimchi at Kimchi World

3. Food, food, & more food!

Koreans take their food very seriously. From street food to restaurants and coffee shops, their passion for good food is evident. We definitely only grazed the surface of this delicious cuisine but here were a few of our favorites from our short time there.


Stone bibimbop Cooking Class
Credit: L. Cordes

O’ngo Food Communications

They offer cooking classes and food tours. You can check out my blog post on the cooking class or head to their website for the full offerings.
Location: Jongno-gu, Nagwon-dong 55-1 3rd Floor, Seoul, Korea


Green tea latte with green tea tiramisu at O’sulloc

O’sulloc Tea House
This tea shop is famous for good reason. Stop for an afternoon tea/pick-me-up here. Their desserts were amazing. I got the matcha tiramisu. Heavenly!
*Note: Seoul in general has a lot of tea and coffee shops. They have unique offerings that I haven’t seen many places. Plus most have free wifi making it great to check-in if needed.
Location: Cheonghwi Bldg. 1st Fl.; 33-1, Myeong-dong 2(i)-ga; Jung-gu, Seoul


Enjoying some street food in Seoul
Credit: L. Cordes

Street Food
Quite possibly my favorite part of Seoul. I could just eat my way all around! Topokki, hot and spicy rice cake, were my favorite. Another good choice is ho-ddeok, or Korean pancakes on the go.Sanchon – Korean Temple Food


The many vegetarian dishes of Sanchon

Sanchon – Korean Temple Food
This was definitely an unique experience for Seoul. It wasn’t cheap at about $60 per person for the set meal but you will NOT leave hungry. There was so much food that we actually felt bad sending it back. The setting was tranquil and pleasant. And where can I please find these lotus flower lanterns?!?
Location: 14 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Yes, we live in Japan so Japanese cuisine probably shouldn’t have been on our list but I’ll be honest, we went for the desserts. They had some unique combinations such as chocolate cake with miso caramel. Their overall food was delicious as well.
Location:  Various locations; Click Kyotofu link above.


We definitely have some LOVE for Seoul after this short trip!!

Soda Cracker Pie


Preparing soda cracker pie with Japanese white peaches.

Yes, I just said that.

Soda. Cracker. Pie.

I realize this is an odd choice for my foodie page but sometimes you just need some good, comfort food!

This pie reminds me of my mom since she was the one who introduced it to me. And it works well in my family as my husband has an aversion to any fruit altered from its natural state. So that means no pies, crumbles, and fruit sauces (sad face).  I get his point. Fruit is delicious and best enjoyed fresh; and that’s the brilliance of this pie. Fresh, juicy fruit is what needed to make this pie a success.

The pie crust is basically a meringue with crushed soda crackers (i.e. saltines) and nuts mixed into it. You bake the crust, layer fresh fruit on it, and then cover with fresh cream. Put it in the refrigerator and you’re done.  It’s definitely not the prettiest pie around but the chewy crust and fresh fruit more than make up for it!


Perfect for summertime!

Soda Cracker Pie
14-15 saltine crackers, finely crushed
3 egg whites, stiff
1 cup white sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
½ cup chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fruit (peaches or strawberries are best)
Fresh whipped cream or tub of Cool Whip

Whisk egg whites until stiff. Add sugar and saltine crackers. Fold in baking powder, chopped nuts, and vanilla extract. Bake for 30 minutes at 325F in 10” pie pan. Cool completely.

Top with fruit and cover with fresh whipped cream. Chill for 6+ hours or overnight.

Note: Stone fruits work best such as peaches and plums. Strawberries are also a delicious choice but tend to be too juicy so less time in the fridge.

Note 2: I like to use fresh whipped cream but you will need to stabilize it or it can start to weep. The easy option is using Cool Whip.

10 Years Later

BG graduation - with BA sign

Standing by my college’s sign at BGSU after graduating.

Last night, I was feeling reflective. Probably because I realized that ten years ago, I was in this same spot. Not life point, but location. Currently, I live in the Kanto Plains of Japan and in 2003, I also spent a summer here. During that summer, I was completing my final internship with MWR. It was my last adventure before entering the “real world” to find a job, home, and possibly a husband. That summer, however, was all about being young and having fun!

10 years ago…I was at the start of my career. The world was full of possibilities. I was single. I had spent the majority of my life in America. I wanted to live overseas and travel. I didn’t have a full-time job. I worked insane hours but loved every minute of it.

Greece 2002 - Court at Greek Church

Summer 2002 internship in Souda Bay, Greece

Japan 2003 - Mt Fuji

Summer 2003 internship in Atsugi, Japan. Hiking Mt. Fuji

Now 10 years later… I am married. I have a dog. I have lived overseas for the past 8+ years (At this point, Ohio is more of a travel destination to me than “home.”) I have worked a variety of jobs. I have lived in Europe and Asia. I have climbed peaks in several countries. I am always trying new recipes. I speak in a jumbled mix of English, Spanish, Japanese, and other languages. I’ve tried backpacking and loved it. I have experiences the good and bad of living in other cultures; I have experienced the good and bad of America when I return. I walked the Camino with pilgrims from around the world. I spend plenty of time in my kitchen, writing my blog, or researching upcoming travels. I’ve made friends with several like-minded people around the globe. I became a foodie.


Kyoto, Japan

Grand Canyon - Goddess pose

Backpacking Grand Canyon in 2004 with friends.

Spain - Carriage ride in Sevilla

My husband and I on a carriage ride around Sevilla only a few short days after getting engaged!

Yum - Okonomayaki

Enjoying Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, Japan


Our little “Spanish” dog who loves hiking as much as we do!


Cooking class in Seoul, Korea


Learning the chado, Japanese way of tea, and performing for others


Cooking with Annie B in Andalucia, Spain


My husband and I along the Camino de Santiago, Spain

And I have made my way back to Japan. I realize I’m pretty lucky to be able to come back to a place that had such an impact on me years ago. This time however, I feel that I appreciate it more as a world citizen than just an American living in Japan.


Dirty Tom’s Rice


Dirty Tom’s Rice

Dirty Tom’s Rice. Yes, I realize it’s an odd name for a dish. I blame my husband. This was the name he jokingly gave it as we were working on this recipe creation….and it stuck!  He’s arguably as good of a home cook as I am, and spends plenty of time there since I work late three nights a week. He is the resident master of meats, risotto, fish, and his delicious Jamaican jerk creations. This is a recipe was the results of his efforts to find the perfect side dish for grilled Jamaican spiced meats.

In our house, Sundays equals grill day. It’s the perfect end to the weekend as we tend to stay at home to prepare for the week. We catch up on housework, run  errands,  take our dog Zion on a walk, and usually spend a good chunk of time in the kitchen.  Of course, you need something to go with the grilled meat and there enters Dirty Tom’s Rice. It started with weeks of sampling different recipes but nothing wowing us. We decided to take the highlights of all the recipes we tried and make it our own. We’ve worked and tweaked this recipe to get it to this point…and I’m pleased to say that after our final run-through on Sunday night, it is DELICIOUS!

Dirty Tom’s Rice & Beans

A lug of olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ lb. smoked turkey kielbasa
1 TBSP garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 can kidney beans (or black beans?), rinsed
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried sage
½ TBSP dried parsley
½ tsp Cajun seasoning
1 cup brown rice

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook kielbasa until browned. Add in onion, bell pepper, and celery over medium heat for approximately 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for one additional minute.

2. Add spices, beans and water to the pan. Bring to a boil and add brown rice.  Return to boil then reduce to simmer.

3. Cook for 45 minutes, or until rice is cooked. 

A Weekend with Friends


Beach near bills Shichirigahama

So you’ve probably been wondering why I’ve been MIA. I’ve been slowly trying to get myself back into the groove of work, household chores, exploring Japan, and transitioning back to reality after the Camino. It hasn’t been an easy transition and there are days when I just want to hop the next plane back to Europe!

This weekend, however, was not one of those times. My good friends from Iwakuni came up to visit me. It’s always great fun catching up with friends but we also had a pretty epic weekend! We checked two major Japan to-do’s off my friends’ list; Kamakura and Mt. Fuji.

On Friday, we headed to Kamakura to see the Great Buddha and Hase-dera Temple. We stumbled upon an awesome macrobiotic/hemp café where I had some  delicious hemp curry in this groovy little spot. In the evening, we headed to the coast between Kamakura and Enoshima to enjoy dinner at bills. My friends are foodies too so we ooh’d and ahh’d over the meal.  We all got different main dishes so we were able to sample the menu as much as possible. We also followed it up with his famous ricotta hotcakes with bananas and honeycomb butter. Delicious! (It is also noteworthy that we all walked away with one of his cookbooks to continue recreating his dishes at home!)

The following day, we hiked Mt. Fuji. It was a nasty day with typhoon-level winds, clouds obscuring any views, and rain. It was the epitome of my husband’s phrase, a “memory maker,” which basically means probably not the most enjoyable hike but one that you will forever tell stories about! Our friends and family will hear stories of being pulled off our feet by these winds, getting our “exfoliating” scrub by lava rocks with each gust, and walking in the clouds.

So with that, I’m going to share my attempt at bills’ wonderful Rosewater Lemonade. I had it for the first time over a year ago and have tried to recreate it several times. It’s delicious and a little bit of rosewater goes a long way. An easy way to dress up a simple lemonade!

Rosewater Lemonade
inspired by bills restaurant

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx. 5-6)
3 cups water
½ TBSP rosewater
Simple syrup, to taste

Simple Syrup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

To make simple syrup, place water and sugar in pan on stove top. Bring to a slight boil until all sugar has dissolved. Cool.

Squeeze lemons and place in pitcher. Add water and rosewater. Mix well and add as much simple syrup as desired. I typically like tart lemonade but I find with the rosewater, a sweeter lemonade works better. Add ice and lemon slices for garnish. Enjoy!