Smoked Tofu, Kimchi and Gomae Rice Bowl!

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Sorry for the weird lighting in this photo.  The sun was shining brightly through the window and I just couldn’t get it right.  This dish comes together very simply once you have a few things made in advance.  I started making homemade kimchi a while ago to avoid a lot of the salt and fish sauce.  My favourite recipe for kimchi is from Dr. Ben Kim.  I love the addition of grated fruit and the step by step photos are great. 

The smoked tofu recipe comes from Grouprecipes.com and it turned out great.  I will definitely be using this recipe again for sandwiches.  I would just say to ease up on the liquid smoke a bit as that stuff packs quite the punch and can be a bit overwhelming if you add too much.  1/2 tsp. is more than enough!

The spinach gomae is just in my head after years of making it.  This is more like the gomae you would get in Japan and not at all like North American sushi restaurant gomae which usually uses peanut butter and includes a big dollop of sweet, sticky sauce on top.  Regular gomae is usually just sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and ground sesame seeds.  I just kind of wing it.  Steam the spinach and squeeze out as  much moisture as you can.  Grind the sesame seeds in a spice grinder or invest in a Japanese grinder which is kind of like a mortar and pestle with grooves in the mortar part.  Chill the spinach at which point you can squeeze together and slice into pieces or not as I didn’t bother to do in the photo above.  Add sauce and enjoy!

All of this is put atop Japanese short grain sticky rice with some slices of avocado.  Mmmmmmmm…

Summertime in Canada and My Blogging Hiatus…

Hello my blogging lovelies! I am not going to be one of those people that constantly apologizes for their absence and then does the same thing over again (or maybe I’m already that person, I don’t know!) but it’s been quite the emotional journey to get me to the point where I feel like writing anything here, again.  Actually, I had been thinking of it for a while, and I was so touched by a fellow blogger and followers question, asking me if I was okay because I haven’t posted for a few months! It’s true-I haven’t and I guess I felt like I just needed a bit of a hiatus.  Coming back to Canada for me this time, has been quite a challenge and I finally feel like I’m at a point where I feel a bit more settled, emotionally speaking.  (I know, I know #firstworldproblems, right?) And I guess that’s another reason why I felt it so difficult to write anything.  Sometimes, I have a problem with this blog because I feel like talking about myself and what is going on with me can sound so trite and petty, or self-congratulatory and, well, just plain lame.  Like, really, who cares, right? But I do have to admit there is a certain catharsis to getting it all down on digital paper and sharing it with the people who do follow me.  Sometimes it just helps me organize my thoughts, and stay positive and present.

So, why was coming back such a problem? I don’t know.  I guess it was because it was rather sudden and unexpected.  We were just starting to get settled in Tokyo, meet new friends at our guesthouse and I was just getting used to my job.  We didn’t really want to come back to Canada for a long while and we certainly didn’t want to come back and work for the parents’ biz again.  We, quite admittedly, are too old to be staying with them for such extended periods of time, and as sweet and kind as they are, it always presents a series of challenges.  We love our independence and become quite used to it, since we spend a great portion of our year, out in the big wide world, far away from anyone familiar, other than each other.  We get quite used to it just being the two of us and we get into the routines that are associated with that.  For me, sharing a kitchen and any sort of creative space is quite difficult here.  Coming back here, this time was different.  Gone was all the previous excitement and anticipation I had for all the spare time I would have to work on creative ventures.  In a sense, I had lost all ambition for writing anything here, or designing or making anything for my Etsy shop or anything like that.  Everything felt futile and I felt like I really couldn’t be bothered to drag it all out and pack it all up each time I wanted to do something.  I really didn’t feel like doing anything.  After a while of feeling quite depressed about this, I decided just to accept it, and relax with it a bit and not put any further pressure on myself.  I resolved not to do anything creative for the summer if I didn’t feel like it.  This included taking photos.  I really didn’t feel like doing any of this stuff.  Even cooking lost it’s flavour.  I guess it sounds like I was actually quite depressed.  I started worrying about the indeterminable future.  About why we were doing what we were doing and if we were screwing up our lives and if we were making big mistakes.  This was all coupled with a lot of stress surrounding some health issues I’ve been having…

Finally, after about two months after arriving, I started feeling a bit better.  And then a lot better.  Things started happening for me creatively.  A local shop wanted to carry some of my items on consignment, so I pulled my stuff from Etsy and decided to go exclusive with them.  This eliminated the annoyance I had around selling my stuff online, which was, mainly, that I had no way to promote my stuff and it was very difficult to get new viewers with something as massive at Etsy.  Now my things are on consignment, in a small, beautiful, local store filled with my more amazing and talented artists than myself and this has been humbling and inspiring.  It has given me some ambition to make more.

I am practicing learning how to relax and be present and not worry about the future or what we will do in the fall, this time.  We have lots of ideas but it will depend on our savings and what they will allow.  We are also considering what our plans are AFTER this next winter, which has added some extra pressure, since before, we just assumed we would come back here if all else fails.  I’d really rather not do that, like REALLY, although I am grateful, always, for the option.  I now don’t feel as worried about our choices and options, particularly when I look at other people around me that are doing things more traditional and more “organized” with their lives and I always feel these things are not necessarily for us, or attractive.  Kids, mortgage, etc.  Unconventional, yes, but I’ve never regretted the choices we have made regarding these issues, even though I am happy for my friends and family that are following these paths.  I do not know too many people that have financial stability or overwhelming blissful levels of happiness, so I think we are doing okay.

Regarding my health issues-this is something that continues to worry me, and I suppose I am just going to have to keep telling myself that worrying isn’t going to change anything.  In fact, it will probably just make things worse.  To make a long story short, I had a neurological attack of sorts in April, while in Tokyo, that has symptoms which are now pointing towards Trigeminal Neuralgia.  Known to be one of the most painful conditions a human can experience, I am not particularly excited about this (potential) diagnosis and I am further distressed by the fact that this condition can be a warning sign of Multiple Sclerosis.  Other symptoms I have been experiencing lately, have only served to deepen this concern, although my doctor assured me that it is not necessarily a link to MS and can be it’s own condition on it’s own, with no other problems associated.  I have a neurologist appointment next week and then I’m assuming, an MRI would be the next course of action.  Again, I realize stress and worry does nothing to help this issue and I don’t know how much of these symptoms I’m experiencing are just things I’m noticing because they are on the list of MS symptoms and I’m over associating, or what.  Trying hard not to be neurotic and annoying.

Lack of personal space here means my spiritual practice is currently virtually non existent.  This has been a great contribution for me, I feel, for the levels of angst and depression I’ve had over the past few months.  I’m still working on how to manage this problem as best I can given the tools I am currently working with, while also lowering my expectations on myself, which I am always, in any regard, struggling to meet.  I am my worst enemy and my greatest critic.

So, spending a lot of time trying to relax with myself, accept things as they are now, and enjoy the present.  I am always excited about our unconventional and indeterminable future and there is always a lot of potential there.  In so many ways, the world is always our oyster and things always have a way of working out, to sound cliche.  I am going to spend more time now, taking photos, enjoying the little things, taking time for myself to relax and taking each day as it comes, since that’s truly the only true thing I have right now, is just today. 

Believe it or not, despite the long-windedness of this post, it’s actually quite the summary of a bunch of other little sub-topics that I’ve tried to wrap up as best as possible into something resembling a few clear thoughts.  There have been other struggles and other good things and a lot of ups and downs that have made up the past few months but what I’ve taken from it all is what I always am working on which is to be present and RELAX! Oh, and any advice is always appreciated in this regard.  I am, after all, a work in progress.  Thank you all for sticking with me.

xo