Christmas Has Been Postponed…

We wanted to post photos from a sightseeing trip we had planned for Christmas Day, but Santa delivered this instead…

As a result, we decided to postpone our Christmas celebration and travels until we are feeling well. Things are moving in the right direction for both of us now! The house has been cleaned from top to bottom, so guests are welcome to visit again!

A few ornaments from our tree…


We were able to take a few photos on Christmas Eve as we walked home from church…

Christmas Eve / Day is the biggest day for KFC in Japan…….and Christmas Day is not a recognized holiday here…

Thank you to everyone who sent e-mails, cards in the mail, and left comments on the blog. We hope you had a Merry Christmas.

Look for photos from our delayed Christmas celebration in the future!


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends!

Posted in Japan. 5 Comments »

Homemade Applesauce


This is the easiest and quickest recipe for a tasty (and healthy) homemade treat!

Homemade Applesauce

3 Jonagold apples (soft apples)

1 Braeburn apple (tart & firm apple)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

  • Cut the apples into small pieces and place into pan.
  • Sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the apples.
  • Turn the heat to a medium temperature.
  • Cover and allow to cook for 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Turn down the heat, remove the lid, and stir.
  • The apples should have softened and there should be juice in the bottom of the pan.
  • Mash the apples with a potato masher.
  • Add the cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Serve!


This recipe can be adapted an endless number of ways!

Other things I have added to the applesauce at various times include:

  • Lemon juice
  • Lemon zest
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Dried cranberries
  • Raisins
  • More or less sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples
  • Vanilla
  • Honey
  • Various spices including – allspice or ginger

    In the photos, you can see I chose not to peel the apples. For a less rustic applesauce, peel the apples before slicing them.

    This applesauce is a perfect side to any meal. It is also excellent served warm over vanilla ice cream!

    Orange and White Chocolate Cookies

    These cookies are a nice change from the standard lime, white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie. Once again, this cookie is not too sweet and the orange is a great combination with the white chocolate.


    Orange and White Chocolate Cookies

    6 tablespoons butter, very soft

    ¼ cup brown sugar

    ¼ cup fine white sugar

    1 egg

    1 ½ cups flour, sifted

    ¼ teaspoon baking powder

    ¼ teaspoon baking soda

    ¼ teaspoon salt

    Zest from 2 clementine oranges, finely grated

    Juice from 1 clementine orange

    ½ to ¾ cup white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate)


      • Beat the butter and sugar together.
      • Add the egg.
      • Sift the dry ingredients.
      • Grate the zest from 2 clementine oranges.
      • Juice 1 clementine orange.
      • Add the white chocolate.
      • Mix the orange juice, zest, white chocolate, flour mix, and wet ingredients together.
      • Do not over mix.
      • Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.
      • Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.


        • Refrigerating the dough really helps the orange flavor spread through out the cookies.
        • Regular oranges could be used as well. If you use a regular orange, I would use the zest from 1 orange and the juice from ½ the orange.
        • If the dough is sticky after mixing, sift a little more flour and mix into the dough.
        • Similar to the Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, the dough should be stiff when forming the cookies (but not at stiff as the chocolate chip cookies). As a result, the dough will not flatten during baking. Half-way through the baking process, remove the cookie sheets from the oven and use the back of 2 spoons to gently flatten the cookies. This will help them spread just a little bit, but also makes them chewy and moist.
        • Once again, I have guessed at the cooking temperature and time. I have been baking mine at 180 degrees Celsius for 5-7 minutes (in a small convection oven).
        • You could easily add macadamia nuts to the dough for added flavor.
        Posted in Recipes. Tags: . 11 Comments »

        Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

        The first batch of cookies I baked in Tokyo turned out dry and flavorless. Since the first attempt, I have continually adjusted a few different recipes (and the baking time) to create my own version of chocolate chip cookies. These cookies are not too sweet, they don’t use too much butter, and they have whole wheat flour in them. What more could you want in a cookie?!


        Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

        5 tablespoons butter, melted

        1 to 1 ¼ cups brown sugar

        1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

        1 egg

        1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

        1 cup whole-wheat (pastry) flour, sifted

        1 teaspoon baking soda

        ½ teaspoon salt

        1 to 1 ½ cups chocolate chips

        1 handful of chopped walnuts or pecans

        • Melt and cool the butter.
        • Stir the brown sugar and vanilla to the melted butter.
        • Add the egg to the butter/sugar mixture. Stir to combine.
        • Sift the flours, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter/sugar mixture.
        • Add chocolate chips and nuts. Stir to combine.
        • Cover the bowl and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
        • Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.


        • The dough will be very stiff when mixing all the ingredients together.
        • Our oven is very small (I’ll post a photo sometime) and is a convection-type oven, so I’ve made a guess on the baking temperature and time above. I have been baking mine around 180 degrees Celsius for only 5-6 minutes (total).
        • Due to the small oven, I bake 2 sheets at a time to speed up the baking process.
        • When forming the cookies, scoop out mound of dough and place it on the cookie sheet.
        • Since the dough is very stiff, the cookies will not flatten. When you remove the cookies to rotate the baking sheets, take the back of 2 spoons and gently flatten the cookies. This will help them to spread just a little bit, but also makes them chewy and moist.



        • You might need to adjust the recipe based on your taste and ingredients. You can easily use all-purpose flour for the entire recipe, add more sugar, omit the nuts, etc.
        • The whole-wheat flour I found in Tokyo is a very fine consistency when compared to the wheat flour I’ve used in the U.S. I believe it might actually be whole-wheat pastry flour.
        • Chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate do not really exist in the area (unless you want to buy a very small bag, for a very high price). Instead of chocolate chips, I have been chopping up small milk chocolate and dark chocolate bars.
        • The brown sugar is different than the typical brown sugar I am used to using in the U.S. as well. The first time I made cookies, I used a brown sugar that appeared to be white sugar with brown food coloring. I am now using a very natural-type brown sugar, which has a stronger molasses smell and is less sweet than the brown sugar in the U.S.


        If you make this recipe, let me know how they turn out! I don’t know if this is a recipe everyone will enjoy, but I’d be interested in hearing your feedback if you try these cookies.

        Posted in Recipes. Tags: . 8 Comments »

        Kamakura – Part 5

        Prior to departing Kamakura, we tried a local specialty…Sweet Potato Ice Cream…


        …then it was time to board the train to head back to Tokyo.



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        Kamakura – Part 4

        Our next stop in Kamakura was the Kencho-Ji Temple.

        Kencho-ji is the first-ranked of the five great Zen temples of Kamakura, and is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan. It was constructed by order of the Emperor Gofukakusa during the regency of Hojo Tokiyori (1227 – 63). Work was completed in the fifth year of the Kencho Era (1253), from which the name of the temple is taken.




        The Founder of Kencho-ji was Rankei Doryu (Lan-hsi Tao-lung, 1213-78), a Chinese Zen master of the Sung Dynasty. He left China in 1246 to teach Zen in Japan, spending several years in Kyushu and Kyoto before coming to Kamakura to found Kencho-ji. After his death the memorial title “Daikaku Zenji” (Teacher of the Great Realization) was conferred upon him by Emperor Gouda. This was the first time in Japanese history that such a title was given to a priest of the Zen sect.

        Something of the nature of Rankei Doryu’s teaching can been seen in the following quotation from his “Recorded Sayings”: If you have lost your true self, all phenomena bring you nothing but annoyance. If you discover your essence of mind, you can follow nothing but the true path.

        Sanmon (Main Gate): The present Main Gate was built in 1754 by Bantetsu, the chief priest of Kencho-ji at the time. He was aided in this project by donations from the people of the Kanto (Eastern) region of Japan. Legend has it that a badger helped the cause by transforming himself into a monk, in order to repay the kindness he had been shown by the priests of Kencho-ji. Thus even now the Main Gate is called “Tanuki Mon” (Badger’s Gate).

        Now I know why Shawn wanted to go to this Temple (and why his halo was shining so bright)!






        Bonsho (Temple Bell): This bell, cast in 1255 and bearing an inscription by the Founder, Rankei Doryu, has been designated a National Treasure by the government of Japan.



        Junipers: These trees, designated as Natural Treasures, were planted over 700 years ago from seed the Founder brought from China.



        Hojo (Main Hall): This building was moved to Kencho-ji from its original location at the Hanju Zanmai-in Temple in Kyoto. It was first used as the chief priest’s residence, but is now used in the performance of religious services for the believers of Kencho-ji.


        You are required to remove your shoes to walk around the Main Hall and the Garden behind the hall. We were able to see the sights inside the hall, but were not allowed to take photos.

        Garden: Located behind the Hojo is a large garden, designed by Zen master Muso Kokushi. The pond in this garden is in the shape of the character representing “mind”, and thus the pond is known as the “Shin-ji Ike” (“Mind Character Pond”).




        The information in italics is from the temple info pamphlet.

        Before we end this post…the newest g-pa is is having a birthday today! Rather than post incriminating photos of you, we decided to just go with this…


        Have a good birthday!

        Posted in Japan. Tags: . 4 Comments »