Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hauling the Chili, North Shore, flying Carps and Clear Sailing

Hauling the chili- No, we weren't going fast, but "Zen" of Sakai II fame was as he and his wife flew across the Pacific to attend the 1st Kyudo World Cup in Tokyo, Japan last weekend. Kyudo is "the way of the bow" - Japanese archery. He has been blogging about his most recent adventures - which includes advance planning for their up coming eco-voyage to Japan - at "Zen's Sakai I - by Land". As for "hauling the chili", he was too kind: after reading how I missed Mexican food, he brought some excellent vegetarian chili all the way to Japan for this Panda and K to enjoy! Gochisosamadeshita. Oishikattadesu. Arigatou Gozaimasu, Zen sama!

"North Shore" has a special meaning to Hawaii folks like Bonnie and world to class surfers, triggering images of towering surf, but in this case I'm referring to the North Shore of Lake Hinuma. K and I recently explored the area to see what it was like on the "Far Side". We found a lot of interesting things, some beautiful cherry blossoms, a nature park, and old style Japanese house with unusual lawn ornaments.

The figures are "Tanuki", a Japanese subspecies of raccoon dog. Tanuki are prominent creatures in Japanese folklore.

Then last weekend we went to the Yacht Harbor to get Bluesette ready for sailing. At this time of year, many Japanese households fly "koinobori" - carp streamers - from flag poles in celebration of Children's Day. The number of carps and their size, corresponds to the family members. A beautiful tradition. The carp is symbolic of strength and perseverance needed to overcome life's obstacles and lead a happy, healthy, successful life.

When we pulled off Bluesette's cover, we learned why we should visit her more often in winter months - a good 10cm of water was covering the bottom of the cockpit. We bailed and sponged it out, then decided we should just wash her and wheeled her down to the launching ramp to use the hose. The old sails had gotten wet too, so we spread them on the lawn to dry. I won't ever leave Bluesette unattended for that long again.

After a break for lunch at Mama's Kitchen (where else?) we did a dry run with the new Ulman sails just to see how they went up and check out how they look. I should have bought Ulman sails to begin with, but didn't know better. The old sails are adequate, but the new ones are wonderful. They are lighter and hoist more easily. The cut of the main makes for easier use of the downhaul and the simple, yet robust, snap attachments for the jib mean a lot less fuss when raising and lowering it. Perhaps the best feature is the large sliding glass doors clear windows in both sails. Big improvement in visibility which means less work and more safety.

Tomorrow, we sail!

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Frostbiting In April?

Two weeks ago we were enjoying a change in the weather with hanami - cherry blossom viewing.

The weather was warming and it seemed we could soon look forward to lighter clothing, sunny days, and sailing on lake Hinuma. In the following two weeks, however, the weather has swung between warm sunny days and cold rainy ones. And then, this morning, April 17th, it snowed!

Our front yard on this fine spring day!

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the record cold April is due to fluctuations in the Arctic oscillation combined with the influence of el Nino conditions in the Pacific. As a result, air masses have been clashing over the Japan archipelago bringing us the wild weather.

I'll be happy when it all gets sorted out and I can trade my winter clothing for shorts and an Aloha shirt and we can try out Bluesette's new sails!

Until next, sweet sailing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chili con Vehículos

As our local temperatures keep dipping into the "no sail" zone, I cooked up a batch of Panadbonium's Chili con Vehículos - Vegetarian Chili.

Image hosted by
This recipe with shredded cheddar cheese topping.

Here's the recipe, with some options...

1 small onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
(I use a combination of green, yellow, and red ones mixed for visual interest)
3/4 cup (180 ml) chopped celery
3/4 cup (180ml) dry red wine
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped - I love that aroma and it keeps vampires at bay
2 (14.5-ounce) (428 ml) cans recipe-ready diced tomatoes, not drained
1 1/2 (354 ml) cups water
1/4 cup (60 ml) tomato paste
3 teaspoons (15 ml) vegetable bouillon granules
1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped fresh cilantro - also known as corriander
1/3 tablespoon (2.5 ml) chili powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground cumin
2 (15-ounce) (443 ml) cans kidney, black, or pinto beans, very thoroughly rinsed and drained
OR - what I use, which is freshly cooked organic beans.

To prepare:

Combine onion, bell pepper, celery, wine and garlic in large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add tomatoes with juice, water, tomato paste, boullion, cilantro, chili powder and cumin; stir well. Stir in beans. Bring to a boil; cover. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Serve over brown rice with cheddar cheese, sour cream or yogurt topping.

Makes 6 servings.


1) As I've mentioned before, I am sensitive to hot spice, so I use a relatively small amount of chili powder. If you like it really hot, and I know some of you are used to much more spice, you can use up to six or ten times as much as I show here - after that I take no responsibility. ;^) Experiment a little. This amount tastes plenty hot enough for me without overpowering the other flavors.

2) Sour cream for accompaniment (optional) or yogurt, or.... We like to use a little grated cheddar cheese on top, when we can get it, or some yogurt. Here in Japan sour cream is very expensive and most cheese is depressingly bland. Besides, plain yogurt is a healthier choice. Try it. It's a great substitute. If you don't do dairy at all, you can use a soy substitute.

3) The rice: I use brown rice. White rice is just brown rice stripped of a lot of fiber and nutrients. Brown rice is so much more healthy and flavorful.

You can freeze the chili and rice (separately) for up to two months. Pop it in the microwave or heat in a saucepan for a quick meal that will satisfy the biggest of appetites.

Itadakimasu! Bon appetit.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Turning The Corner

And sailing is not far behind.

The weather has been teasing us with sunny days of up to 20°C (68°F) followed by a day of wind, cold rain and a plunge to below freezing at night. But the trend is clear now. John Papadopolous at DoubleWave tells me our new Ullman sails are ready for shipment. Very soon we'll be able to take to the water with Bluesette for another great season on lake Hinuma.

Today we visited Shiroyama (castle mountain) Koen (park) in Kashima City. For 400 years this was the site of a castle of the Masamoto Kashima family, overlooking the south end of lake Kitaura. The castle is long gone, and Shoryama is now a park with lots of azaleas (which bloom in May and June) and cherry trees. Now is the season for sakura hanami (cherry blossom viewing). The trees were about 50% in bloom - a nice time to see them, as the buds give the trees a pink hue. Later, the blossoms will be more full, and the trees more white with a slight greenish tinge coming from budding leaves. It is a time for family picnics and company parties under the trees until late at night.

An earthen stage had been prepared and ladies in kimono performed traditional dances to celebrate the coming of sailing season. Well, that's my interpretation.

Spring has sprung at last.

Until next, sweet sailing.