Sunday, January 25, 2015

Weekend Wrap-Up!

SMS' lunch, a cute little shu-creampuff swan

Last weekend was fairly mellow. On Saturday, SMS and I went to Yokohama. We went to a cute cafe for lunch, if you count dessert and tea as lunch. Yum!  We didn't want to eat too much because we had big plans for Cactus Burrito, an awesome SoCal-style Mexican place.
Bottom left is an enchilada-style burrito.  Photo cropped from restaurant's website
It was delicious. The train trip was long but worth it! It's a small place, so I'd recommend reservations if your group is more than 2 people. We ordered the nachos, which consisted of crisp chips, refried beans, jalapeños, sour cream, cheese, guacamole and salsa. We ordered the medium-size portion which was salad plate size. We also split a California burrito with amazing carne asada (with high quality steak) and yummy french fries. We got it "enchilada-style" with sauce and cheese on top. Oh my gosh, I'm so hungry typing this!  The meal was fantastic and we were so happy!
Hiyama photos and sunset
On Sunday, SMS had two photo shoots. I went for a run and then got ready for the second shoot since I was going to be SMS' photo assistant. The shoot went well with a cute couple, made cuter by my awesome reflector holding skills. Afterwards, we went to Restaurant Don, an Italian place right on the water. There are awesome views of the sunset but we actually watched the sunset outside before dinner. It was gorgeous. There were a lot of photographers hanging out on a beach overlook. On a clear day, the view would include a great view of Fuji. When we were there, the peak was visible through a cloudy haze. 

We got a course set menu, which was nice but a lot of food. Our favorite dish was the crab pasta but we could barely eat any of it since it was the last dish!  We took it to-go so no waste!  We also had cold appetizers. My favorite was the pulpo in green sauce (similar to chimichuri) closely followed but the bruschetta. The hot appetizers were all delicious- shrimp spring rolls (crab Rangoon style), quiche and cheese wrapped in phylo dough. Next, we had garlic chip salad which was a green salad topped with a lot of garlic chips. After that, we had a mushroom risotto which compared to the rest was just ok, but it was still pretty good. It was cooked perfectly but to my taste, seemed to be missing something seasoning-wise. Then came the awesome crab pasta followed by a small assorted dessert plate featuring grape sorbet, chocolate gelato, cake and the world's smallest creme brûlée. 

It was an awesome dinner and so fun to share such great meals with my Sweetie!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Still not a full work week!

Petting Zoo: Looking at the goat on the right, I'd be scared too!
Last weekend was a three day weekend to commemorate the MLK holiday.  On Friday, SMS and I chilled out but Saturday was much more high energy.  We went to Le Soleil, a French countryside-themed park on the other side of the peninsula.  There was a huge playground, small restaurants, a small petting zoo, a plastic sliding hill, rideable mini-trains and a barn with cows and horses.  In order  not to appear like total weirdo creepers, we went with our friend and her two kids.  We had so much fun!  It was a gorgeous day and it was nice to be outside for such a long time.

Unfortunately, this is the only sled run documented in which I caused a sled fail and SMS and I ended up backwards
The plastic sledding hill and the petting zoo were my favorites.  The "sledding" was a lot of fun and climbing the hill over and over kept us warm.  The petting zoo was awesome because there was an aggressive-for-food goat that scared/fascinated my friend's son.  He kept pinching the food between his fingers rather than laying it in his palm so the goat kept lunging at him (without teeth).  John then would drop the food.  This cycle repeated several times until, finally, Rose was tired of paying 100 yen for the food cups.
R: Happy Hoe L: Sad cow
SMS had a great time too although he was slightly sad that we missed the cow milking, which he has always wanted to do.  I checked off that life milestone around age 4 when I went to a farm day camp where we milked cows, fed animals and were terrified of horses (wait, just me?).  But we will head back someday since SMS was unable to get on "the list."

That night, we saw Selma at the movie theater.  While it was apropos for the holiday weekend, I also wanted to try and see a "Best Picture" nominee from the Oscars 2015.  It was a great movie.  One of the most well-done aspects of the movie was its depiction of the individual costs sustained during a broader movement.  So many times in the news, broader events and demonstrations are reported along with the "number dead" counts, like it's just a cost of doing business.  This movie showed the four church girls, the white minister, the young black man as people who were killed, not just "the dead." The scenes may have been short but the message was very powerful.
L: The start of my crane collection R: Tomyozaki Lighthouse
On Sunday, we were a bit lazier and didn't head out until the afternoon.  We went South past the Kanonzaki lighthouse to Cape Tomyozaki with a rebuilt lighthouse that was originally from the Edo Period.  It was a beautiful day and I'm glad we got outside.  I also learned how to fold origami cranes, which was awesome since I've always felt very inept at origami.
CW from left: Couple pic by the cave, street performers, near the caves (x2), candle flashlight in the cave
Monday was the MLK holiday and we celebrated by going to a popular Kamakura/Enoshima brunch spot named Bill's.  On weekends, the line is intense but on Winter weekdays, one can walk right in (Summer is another story).  I had the ricotta pancakes which were deliciously fluffy.  They were served with a lot of honeycomb butter.  It was all delicious although ultimately, my stomach felt very heavy!  We headed over to Enoshima to explore/walk it off.  There, we walked up and down many stairs, saw a street performer complete amazing feats of balance and we explored the caves on the back of the island.  It was very beautiful and we even saw the original shrine from the 500s (ostensibly).  I'm so glad I had another outing to Enoshima since the only other time I've been was very rainy!

The four-day work week was nice.  I had a tonsil-a-thon on Thursday with several tonsillectomy cases.  Not my favorite cases but sometimes it's nice to complete a (relatively) high-volume of cases in a day.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Domestic Travels and Hodgepodge Pictures

Fuji-San from the Shinkansen
I came back to work a day late (and a dollar short, ha ha).  I actually operated the day after I came back, but I felt nice and rested so my patients and I felt fine to proceed.  Everything went great.  The next day, I had a clinic day followed by the weekend!

SMS and I stuck close to home on Saturday.  We moved into high gear Saturday afternoon and made a delicious dinner, which we shared with our friends Carl and Liz who live nearby.  SMS made delicious, perfect nachos and I made chicken tinga for tacos with corn tortillas, guacamole, cheese and sour cream.  It was delicious and so nice to hang out with friends.
Potato chips on top of salad- yes, please!
On Sunday, SMS had a photo shoot and I left to head down to Sasebo for a quarterly TDY clinic run.  I saw 20 patients on Monday, including two procedures!  Sagoy!  That's a heavy load for me over here in Japan, although it's pretty similar to residency.  Honestly, it's sort of nice to be that busy because one, I feel very efficient and two, it's what I actually love to do rather than fill my days with boring collateral duties.  Monday night, a small group went to Tonchinkan, which I think has the best yakitori in Japan!

On Tuesday, I saw two more patients before leaving for Iwakuni.   I took the circuitous route and stopped in Nagasaki for a half day.   More on Nagasaki in a separate post.
Okonomiyaki to-go after being upended in my bag.  It may not look like much but it's tasty!
Iwakuni brought more patients in the form of a full day of clinic on Wednesday OR and a half-day on Thursday.  Doug and I went to Yuzu for dinner on Wednesday night and it was delicious!  I headed  home on Thursday, stopped in Hiroshima for a late lunch of okonomiyaki and came home around 8.  SMS picked me up at the train station because it was raining quite a bit.
A Shinkansen snack- ill-advised and unfinished
The TDY trip was a "get it done" trip this time, but I still managed to sightsee a little bit and have some delicious dinners.  I only booked 5 surgeries out of 43 clinic visits (boo on that low ratio) so in that respect, it wasn't that productive.   I also brought my sneakers with me and ran 2 out of the 4 days so that was a win.  Oftentimes, my sneakers languish in the land of good intentions!

Himeji Castle from the Shinkansen, South of Kyoto

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Montreal, part deux

Left: My new BFF Center: My new ears Right:  A double-tusked Narwhal skull!
SMS and I continued our Montreal adventures on the 4th.  We learned the difference between the BioDome and the BioSphere.  The BioDome is the converted velodrome from the 1976 Olympics.  It now has 4 different climate zones with representative plants and animals.  The highlights were the rainforest (so warm!) and watching beavers and pelicans swim (they were in different climate zones). Beavers swim by paddling their limbs and have feet that open open into flippers only when swimming.  Pelicans look like they're flying through the water and are so cute!

It started snowing and we went back to Chinatown, which was close to our hotel.  We went to a noodle shop that we had seen the day before when we saw the guy making noodles in the picture window.  The noodles are made out of long ropes of dough that are smacked against the floured surface several times before they are hand-pulled apart.  The noodles are Lanzhou beef hand-pulled noodles, which is made with beef and five colored ingredients- clear broth, white radish, red chili oil, green coriander and garlic.  It is one of the three great Chinese fast-food dishes as designated by the China Cuisine Association.  The noodles come in about 8 different sizes and the soup was really good, especially in the cold weather!
Left: Put some clothes on those girls, they're freezing! Right: SMS contemplates the old foundation.  The stone was supported by wood pilings, which he thought was stupid since everyone knows wood rots (which in fact, it did).
Next, we went to the the Pointe-a-Calliere, Montreal Museum of Archeology and History.  We saw the old town fortification wall and old foundations.   We also went to a special exhibit called "The Greeks," which contained over 5000 years of artifacts from ancient Greece, from the Minoans to Alexander the Great.  It was really awesome.  My favorites were the gold diadems, which so intricate and beautiful.
Awesome Ile Flottant du caramel dessert and the awesome SMS!
For dinner, we had reservations at L'Express.  We took the bus in the snow, which made us a little late but fortunately, we were still seated.  They had delicious bread, which was really just a vehicle for the even more delicious butter.  SMS ordered the endive and watercress salad, which I had the sautéed cauliflower with parmesan and bacon chips.  Not the lightest way to serve a vegetable but delicious!  For our mains, I had the quail which had rightly been highly recommended.  SMS got the poached salmon, which was also quite tasty.  For dessert, we split the Ile Flottant du Caramel, a merengue with a caramel sugar shell floating in a liquidy caramel custard.  It was ridiculously good.  The dinner was an extravagant treat and totally worth it.

The next day, we were off to the airport.  The flight leaving Montreal was delayed by an hour due to luggage loading, which caused 20+ of us to get kicked off our connecting flight to Haneda out of Toronto.  Big, huge boo!  We even made it in time for final call but it was too late, our seats were gone.  We were rebooked for the next day after wasting the afternoon in airport lines.  We had a voucher for the Holiday Inn.  Normally, I would want to do something in the city we're stuck in but between the cold and our fatigue, we just hung out and waited until it was time to go the next day.  I have sworn off Air Canada (not that they'll even miss me) but even though our return was a pain, the overall vacation was absolutely amazing.  Amazingly cold.  Ha, ha!  It was great and SMS and I had such a fun time with the family!  We should do it again next year!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Montreal

On the 2nd, it was time to start the second part of our Canadian vacation.  We said our good-byes at the condo to Mom, Dad, Ed and Meg.  I was sad because it always feels to short but I really had a wonderful time so I tried to focus on that.  We drove Brady and Nicole to the airport in our packed rental car.  After dropping them off, we drove into the city to drop our bags off at the hotel which was a great move.  I definitely over-packed this trip but even if I hadn't, skiing requires a lot of gear!

We tried to go to L'Express for lunch but without reservations, it was complet.  It was so cold, we decided to go to the first café we saw next.  We had an excellent lunch at Brulerie St Denis.   We didn't explore the world of coffee to much, but our meals were excellent.  SMS got a sandwich and I got a bagel sandwich topped with multiple toppings including egg, lettuce, tomato, cream cheese and salmon.  Montreal is known for its bagels and it was pretty delicious!  It's also known for poutine which we didn't have there but we had an excellent version at Mt. Tremblant.
Hotel and Notre Dame
We dropped off our car and then bought a 3-day public transport pass and took the express bus into the city.  Over the next three days, we definitely got our money's worth out of the ticket!  Montreal was almost as cold as Mt. Tremblant, which put a damper on our willingness to be outside.  That night, we went a few blocks from the hotel to the delicious Dolcetto & Co café.  It was an Italian restaurant that served tapas portions.  We ordered five dishes and all of them were delicious.  My favorite was the decadent lobster and fennel cannellini, but we also enjoyed the almonds with truffle oil and salt, the antipasti of the day (roasted squash), the Bianca pizza with pancetta/mozerella/squash and the delicious polenta dish.  Everything was terrific and we were really glad we ventured out!  We went to bed really early- this entire trip has been a pretty difficult one regarding jet lag.

The next day, we went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  The main draw was a special exhibit (curated in part by LACMA, yeah!) called Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900-1914.  The history and interplay between culture, politics, and art that the French and Germans experienced during that time was very vibrant and robust.  My favorite part of the exhibit was seeing an almost neo-Impressionist style painting by Kandinsky since I was only familiar with his later abstract work (one of which was included in the exhibit.  There were also some terrific Paul Signac works in the exhibit.  While Expressionism isn't my favorite art period, it was a great exhibit and I'm so glad we went. 

We took a break for Lebanese food at the Restaurant Boustan.  It was delicious and ridiculously filling.  So much so that we didn't eat much for the rest of the day, apart from leftover yogurts from the ski trip (thanks Mom!).  We went back to the museum and looked at their contemporary art gallery, Napolean gallery where we saw an actual hat (!), and their early to modern international art collections.  It was a lot of artwork and an excellent museum.  Someday when I live near a museum I can frequent often, I might go more slowly and examine only a few pieces at a time but since this was a likely OTO (one-time-only) visit, I wanted to get my fill.  (Maybe this goal can be filled at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford....oh my gosh, they have a huge Rodin sculpture exhibit.  I will definitely be there!!!).

Ok, part deux to come!

Bonne annee avec ma famile!

The family on New Year's Eve, sans Joe.
SMS and I are a long way from Japan and is weather that will make Yokosuka feel balmy when we get back!  We are in Mt Tremblant, Canada on a ski vacation with my family. It's absolutely freezing (and colder!) and we're having a great time.

Everyone arrived on the 28th with SMS and I arriving the latest. We decided to get a GPS with the car since our phones are very expensive to use in Canada.  The GPS would cost $16/day and for the low price of $4 more/day, we could upgrade to a very nice car.  The counter person was an excellent upseller so we went for the upgrade and got an Audi A4.  Such luxury!  We also wanted the all-wheel drive and it ended up being a lot of fun to drive.  I don't think I would get one because it felt very low (similar to how I felt in the Ford Mustang rental a few years back) but I'm glad SMS and I got the experience!

The skiing was great and I had so much fun hanging out with our family.  It was very cold the first day of skiing and gradually warmed up over the next 2 days before snowing the last two days, 1-2 inches.  BTW, when I say warm up, it was still well below freezing.  I think the max temp reached was 20F.  Seriously, Yokosuka will feel like Spring!
Left: The sibs showing off the awesome Messmer frown- we miss Joe! Right: Our significant others, laughing at us

The condo had 3 bedrooms and a loft.  The couples (Ed/Meg, SMS/me, Mom/Dad) got bedrooms while Nicole and Brady shared the loft.  It was really nice to share one large building- it felt very homey.  A bonus was that Meg and Ed found a ski-in/ski-out path just across the street which was pretty awesome for the last three days since it meant a much shorter walk lugging equipment.  It's funny how graceful I can feel on skis but then so weighted down when walking in the boots and carrying the equipment.

Mom chose not to ski and instead, relaxed around the condo and cooked multiple feasts.  For dinner, we had an Italian "Chili" dish (28th), Shepard's pie (29th), Tortellini au gratin (30th), Leg of lamb (31st), cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese (lunch 1st) and refrigerator night (evening 1st).  I am still unclear if I will ever need to eat again.

NYE was celebrated in the village of the Mt. Tremblant resort with awesome fireworks shot off from the slope right above us.  It was cool to be that close to the fireworks since the last several shows that I've seen in Japan have been from a pretty good distance away (but still fun!).  We also went to the casino briefly which was fine.  I lost, won and lost $20 in roulette and it was fun to hang out with the group but I'm really not much of a gambler.

On the last day, I left the condo early to take advantage of the "First Tracks" pass we had received.  It was really nice quality, short lines and I got 3 runs in 50 minutes!  Nice!




Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reflection on 2014

Well, I started this list in 2011 (after finding it on another blog) and I really like continuing the trend of reflecting back on the year.  I like the summary without being too self-consciously deep.  It's funny how some of the answers are pretty much the same 2-3 years in a row (4, 12, 16, 15,17).  So, here we go...

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Passed my oral boards to become a board-certified otolaryngologist.

2.  Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My resolutions last year were vague.  This year, I would like to use my time more as a gift, rather than something to waste or let go mindlessly.  This article from Brain Pickings focuses on the writings of Seneca to offer guidance and wisdom on the topic.  Also, I slacked off a little bit on exercising and I'd like to get some inspiration on consistency from the older Japanese folks who are always out exercising on the seawall near our house.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Two college friends.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No

5. What countries did you visit?
Singapore, Japan, Canada

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A whole year of living in the same place as my husband, although things have been pretty awesome since May!

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
10 May 2014: SMS arrives in Japan!

Aug 2014: Our trip to Oregon for Laddie's wedding and sightseeing in Portland!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Passing my boards

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not matching to an ACGME neurotology program

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Travel, rent, savings

13. What did you get really excited about?
Seeing a LOT of Japan.  At this point, the two places outside of the local Yoko-Yoko-Tokyo area that I still want to see are Sapporo (Feb 2015) and Kanazawa (hopefully long weekend, TBD).

14. What song will always remind you of 2014?
"Happy" by Pharrell Williams

15. Compared to this time last year, are you: 
– happier or sadder? Happier
– thinner or fatter? Weigh the same but less toned without my Pilates (*eyeroll at myself*)
– richer or poorer? Richer (continuing to save)
16. What's one thing you wish you had done more of?
Meditate.  Really, there are so many studies saying it's good for a person and their brain- I really want to give it a sincere shot.  I've started doing 3 minutes a day on most days and I think it's calming and leading to more even-keeled responses.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Same thing as last year- read stupid websites.  This is one of the things I'm focusing on eliminating as part of living widely.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Here's a post, but the short version is SMS and I exchanged gifts.  I got an Instamax 8!  We spent the afternoon and evening with friends.  It was a lot of fun and felt very full of Christmas cheer!

19. What was your favorite TV program?
House of Cards; Orange is the New Black, Season 2

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami; The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
This wasn't the year of new bands, or even new-to-me.  I still love The Killers.  I also listened to Beyonce's new releases and I'm looking forward to listening to more Ok Go.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I saw more movies this year due to my many trans-Pacific flights.  My favorites were The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy.  I have to confess, I had to look up movies in order to see what came out this past year- movies aren't really high up on my list of things of how I entertain myself.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
34.  My birthday was spent cramming for the boards but 31 March was a great dinner with SMS at Fig & Olive followed by a small birthday party at his grandfather's house.  It was so fun and really sweet to have a birthday celebration even during a time of significant stress.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Things worked out the way they did and it's time to go forward from there.  I'm looking forward to our upcoming move and my future training.  SMS and I continue to grow in our marriage and it's a lot of fun.  I think we each picked a keeper :)

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Classic with some trendy pieces.  I'm going to pare down this year on the stuff that's just hanging around, mostly things that almost look right but not quite.

26. What kept you sane?
SMS, family, deep breathing, perspective checks, reading, exercising at least a few times a week.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
It's time to start turning potential into action.  A large part of why I did not match to a neurotology program is my lack of research, which I had the ability to address but I did not finish the paper.  I need to work on continuing on my enthusiastic starts into completed projects.