Mother’s Day 2012 | Thank You, Lakers!

Happy Mother’s Day!

As it turns out, we are spending our Mother’s Day weekend at home, but I have no complaints about this. My little one is still recovering from her cold, and as feared, I came down with a sore throat yesterday.

I should have known I was coming down with a cold when I slept through both Round One Lakers games #5 and #6 this past week. I barely watched last night’s game #7, but thank goodness I stayed awake to scream at the TV, cheer and clap, much to my husband’s annoyance and persistent comments of “YOU’RE going to wake up the baby!” and “Why, sweetie? Why are you so noisy?”

Although I was a nervous wreck, it was great to  watch the Lakers amazingly come back after losing their 16-point lead but finishing strong 97 – 86. This morning, I ♥ Pau, I’m proud of Kobe for moving the ball, I ♥ Blake, and I’m even willing to give Bynum kudos for stepping up, despite his bad attitude that I am always so critical of. Good job, Lakers!!!

Second round of the Western Conference Championships starts Monday night against Oklahoma. While many believe we won’t make it through the next round, and I too, have my doubts about dominating a strong, young and fast Oklahoma team, I can still hope.

The beautiful sushi plate you see above is my Mother’s Day gift from the girls. ♥ Those are Bebe E’s little handprints… so precious! Bebe E absolutely could not wait to give me her gift. Last night as I was putting her to bed she said, “Happy Mother’s Day! – I’m going to tell you that tomorrow morning. An’ I going give you your (whispering) SUUUR-PRIZZE!” :)

Yesterday, I got an early Mother’s Day gift as my first ever photograph was accepted by Food Gawker! There might be hope, after all, for improving my photography. For now, you can see my gallery of one photo here. However, if you want to see photography at it’s best, you’ll need see the photos my brother-in-law, Hideki Ueha, took of my Nobu’s Miso Black Cod, and the wonderful picture he took of my little one at the bottom of this post. ♥ To view his full gallery of professional photography, follow this link.

Today, we are spending Mother’s Day resting at home while we watch the other L.A. basketball team, and clap for Bebe E as she dances to our Glee Concert DVD and the ‘Hot Diggity Dog’ theme song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Last weekend, we celebrated Japanese Children’s Day along with Mother’s Day with both sides of our family, and while we scratched our plans to go out today, my husband made us a nice breakfast and he is making my favorite wonton soup to help nurture my cold (recipe to be shared in the future). Most importantly, I’m spending time with Bebe E, and enjoying being a Mommy.

On Motherhood…

♥ I am thankful for the chance at mommy-hood. After a challenging pregnancy where I spent the last trimester lying on the couch, bedridden, we welcomed a healthy, beautiful little girl (Bebe E) into our family. Note: During my time on the couch I discovered that an entire day can be passed by a) reading novels; b) watching Food Network; c) playing games on FaceBook and d) not cooking or cleaning.

♥ I am thankful for witnessing the beauty of many “firsts”. As an innocent little baby, there are many things in our world which are new. Motherhood has reminded me of all the important “firsts” that we sometimes take for granted as adults, and enjoy these moments as I have never been able to do before. Note: When Bebe E is cranky or misbehaves and I am having a challenging day as the mother of a toddler, I try to remind myself that: a) she is my innocent little baby; b) she is my innocent little baby; c) she is my innocent little baby.

♥ I am thankful for the number of things that I find cute about Bebe E. Here are just a handful of things:

1. Can’t pronounce “s” in: ‘traw, ‘teps, ‘mells, ‘treet, ‘tuff, ‘tamps, ‘piders. Can pronounce “s” in: Santa, some-ting, send, swim.

2. In the bathtub, Bebe E likes to fill a cup with water and toss the water in the air. She says, “look Mommy, it’s ‘World of Color'”. Note: This is often followed with, “PLEASE keep the water in the tub!”

3. When Bebe E wants me to lie down with her at bed time and I ask her why, these are my favorite responses: “because I love you”; “because you pretty, Mommy”. This is usually accompanied with a smile that screams, “I know you can’t say ‘no’ now!” ♥

4. When one of the first of her many fish passed on and sunk to the bottom of the tank, she asked what was wrong with “Guppy” (that was probably Guppy number two or three). I told her that Guppy was sleeping. She then proceeded to look for her favorite blanket, brought it to the tank, and held it up against the tank ‘for guppy to sleep’. ♥

5. When I ask her if she would like to be a doctor and help people when she grows up, she says, “no”. When I ask her if she would like to be a vet and help little doggies and kitty cats, she says, “no.” When I ask her if she would like to cook food when she grows up, she says “yes”. Note: While culinary school wouldn’t be discouraged, I might need to return to work in order to broaden my daughter’s career horizons.

♥ I am thankful for Nene, Bebe E’s big sister, who takes great care of her little sister and makes being a step-mom a serious piece o’ cake! I couldn’t be any luckier to have a buddy to scheme about dessert with, watch teen TV drama on ABC Family (you know, “Pretty Little Liars”) or watch “Iron Chef” and “Sweet Genius” on Food Network, and only occasionally have to ask her to stop texting and pick-up her things off the floor. :)

♥ I am thankful for all the laughter that my little one provides us with. She is silly! As a toddler, she makes very funny comments based upon her perspective of the world. She keeps us constantly entertained. As Nene says, “She is WAY better than a puppy!”

♥ I am thankful that, about a week before Mother’s Day, Bebe E ran excitedly to me with wide eyes and loudly whispered, “We gonna put a SUUUR-PRI-ZE in the oven for you. We going bake it!” A few mornings before Mother’s Day, when I was hugging her after she woke-up, she whispered to me, “I got you a PLATE, Mommy.” The Friday before Mother’s Day, she and Dada went to pick-up THE surprise, but it wasn’t ready. Later that day, we had the following conversation:

Bebe E:”I went with Daddy to the Nice Lady place and she said it not ready. It still in da oven. So we went home. And we stopped at Target.”

Mommy: (Laughing) “Nice Lady place?”

Bebe E: “Yea. Where da Nice Lady is. We had to open our door. It didn’t open.” (I’m guessing she is comparing the Color Me Mine door to all the doors she and I usually walk through – you know the ones at Costco, Target, Sprouts, Trader Joes, the Asian supermarkets – they all open automatically or are already open for us when we walk up to the store. So funny!)

Mommy: “Oh~~~. Got it – the Nice Lady place doesn’t have automatic doors.” :)

♥ I am thankful for the random moments throughout the day when Bebe E tells me, “I love you mommy,” or when she looks at me and simply smiles her smile that melts my heart or makes funny faces that make me laugh. In the picture below, I’m not sure whether she’s trying a modified “peace” sign, or practicing her future age.

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

To My Mom…

Thank you, Mom for always being there for us. Thank you, for all you did for us when we were growing-up: driving us everywhere, making our favorite foods and obento for me. Thank you for everything that you continue to do for us! I’m sorry we couldn’t visit today as we had planned.

Bebe E and I love sleeping over at your house because we enjoy spending time with you and “Ojiichan”, Casie and Stella. We especially like it when you cook dinner for us, and sometimes make lunch and breakfast too. :) Bebe E loves your breakfasts (although I feed her the same stuff you do). Thank you for giving me a Mommy-break whenever we’re there, participating in many tea parties, and bringing the basketball hoop inside when it’s too cold outside to play. Please keep making more gyoza and okonomiyaki for us when we come over, oh and making Jello and buying ice cream too. After we’re over our colds we’ll visit again. See you later in the week! ;)


Your Daughter | Judy

Kodomo No Hi – Japanese Children’s | Boy’s Day 2012

On Saturday, May 5th we celebrated Japanese Children’s Day | Boy’s Day. Our family got together for a grand potluck to celebrate with, none other than, food.

When we pulled into the driveway of my parent’s home, we saw that my Dad raised my brother’s koi nobori on a traditional bamboo stick and the colorful carp were flying in the wind. Koi nobori are wind streamers in the shape of carp that are traditionally displayed above the rooftop homes in Japan to honor Boy’s Day or to celebrate young boys in the family (read more about Boy’s Day history and the significance of koi nobori in my 2010 Kodomo No Hi post) . It’s very similar to how families celebrate young girls on Hinamatsuri or Girl’s Day by displaying hina ningyo, or dolls, wishing for their children’s good health and growth. (Follow these links for my posts on Hinamatsuri: 2012, 2011, 2010.)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

In addition to koi nobori, my Mom displayed my Dad’s gogatsu ningyo (traditional samurai warrior displayed on Boy’s Day). Because this was gifted to my Dad, likely by my great grandparents when he was born, his gogatsu ningyo dates back over 65 years. It looks quite similar to that of my brother’s gogatsu ningyo (above) but the difference is in the details. (My poor iPhoto skills below don’t do my Dad’s doll justice.)

As for the food, we had, as always, too much of a good thing. We had sushi, and my Dad’s chicken wings, soba salad, yakisoba, chicken tsukune (teriyaki seasoned meatballs), potato salad, Korean kalbi, kalua pork, striped sea bass, edamame, and ebi chili (spicy shrimp stir-fry). It was an international mix of really delicious food. I am so thankful for my family and the good eats they provide!

In addition to Children’s | Boy’s Day, we also celebrated my Dad’s birthday and an early Mother’s Day so I opted to make kalua pork (follow link for recipe) for my Dad, since it’s one of his favorites. Then I made a two layer Jello with fruit, since Jello is a favorite of my nephew and Bebe E. To my brother’s EXTREME disappointment accompanied with groans and a few whines, I did not make Jello jigglers – to which he says, “BOO!!! Double BOO!!!” (I can’t help but to laugh and tell him to make these himself since he claims it is SO easy to make.)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

After lunch, Aya-chan offered to take my nephew and Bebe E out for a walk. I love the photo above that my bro-in-law took of the two of them walking hand-in-hand. It gives me warm-fuzzies. (Never mind the times they spend fighting over toys or refusing to share with one another!)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

For dessert we enjoyed a delicious cake from Angel Maid Bakery, a favorite among Westside Los Angelenos. The cake is marble sponge cake, vanilla pudding, fresh strawberry slices and real whip cream. It was oh-so-delicious!!! Thanks to my brother for selecting the important details about the cake. Angel Maid – you’re the best!

Happy Mother’s Day! I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!


Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs | Decorating Eggs | An Easter Egg Hunt and A Pony Ride

I considered a non-food related, no-recipe blog post about our pre-Easter weekend extravaganza. However, after a little thought I changed my mind and decided on a post about “perfect” boiled eggs, how to color them with simple food coloring, as well as to share a few crafty ideas for decorating eggs.

Before we get to the cooking and decorating of eggs, I’ll share what I really wanted to write about, which is our pre-Easter weekend extravaganza at the Irvine Regional Railroad Park.


We took Bebe E to what I will refer to as her first “public” egg hunt and she had fun. (Mommy and Daddy might have had even more fun simply watching her!) She seems to remember last year’s egg hunt in Yin Yin and Papa’s (her paternal grandparents) backyard and how her cousins helped her hunt for eggs and put them in her special quacking-duck-Easter-basket, so she was excited when we told her that we were going on an egg hunt at the park with other children; a first for Bebe E. Continue reading

Curried Chicken and Grape Salad with Walnuts

One of my favorite restaurants on the Westside of Los Angeles is the Urth Caffe. They serve a delicious chicken curry salad sandwich that I absolutely love. It’s fresh, flavorful, light and hearty, all in one delicious bite. I should also mention they have the BEST organic tea lattes EVER. Matcha tea latte and English Breakfast tea latte are my favorites!

Because of geographical challenges, I don’t always have the opportunity to dine on the Westside, but these days, one of my favorite ways to use leftover chicken is to make curry chicken salad sandwiches. In the past, I’ve never enjoyed fruit mixed with proteins or salads, but my taste buds are changing with age. I made a curried chicken and grape salad with walnuts on wheat toast and it satisfied my craving for Urth Caffe’s yummy sandwich.

While it doest have the same ambiance as Urth Caffe, not too long ago I packed a lunch for Aya-chan, Bebe E and I to enjoy at the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Continue reading

Hina Ningyo Sushi (Dolls Made of Rice) | Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day) 2012

The week leading up to March 3rd, or Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day), I was busy running errands to different Asian supermarkets. Bebe E was excited about her Hinamatsuri party and when I mentioned that I needed to cook or that I needed to run an errand, she started asking, “for my hina-ma-sri party?” :)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Many thanks to my bro-in-law for taking some amazing photos at our Hinamatsuri party! He has great shots from trips, hikes, surf competitions, race cars, Rose Parade floats, the list endless! Please take a moment to view his photography by clicking on the link.

This is also the same week that I somehow managed to french braid Bebe E’s very limited, and very fine hair and tie the ends with pink ribbon. I discovered that my husband’s hair gel does wonders for baby fine hair, making it much easier to handle. After taking pictures of her braids and showing them to her, she asked, “please, Bebe E have these for my hina-ma-sri-party?” :)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha

Crafts is one of Bebe E’s favorite activities and it’s a great way to make a holiday more memorable. We also enjoy gifting our crafts to our loved ones. Last month, for Valentine’s Day, we made cards, paper hearts, lady “luv” bugs, and cupcakes.

For Hinamatsuri, I found a cute Japanese paper doll bookmark dressed in a kimono (traditional Japanese garment) and obi (sash). The doll had three pieces that needed to be cut out and assembled with glue.

I also found a cute hina ningyo (Japanese Girl’s Day dolls) calendar/coloring sheet on a Japanese website. Bebe E colored a hina ningyo sheet especially for Obaachan (her maternal grandma). She said her picture was “the same as Obaachan’s hina-ma-sri” (referring to the dolls on display) and wanted to give it to her.

Bebe E colored this all by herself. I like how she is doing a good job staying within the lines! Look at those oranges! I think that she might have inherited more than a few of my personality traits. :) 

The Hinamatsuri display has between one and seven platforms. I taught Bebe E that on the top row of the hina ningyo display is where the Prince and Princess sit. The girl on the right is the Empress, or “Hina-Sama” in Japanese, and the boy on the left is the Emperor, or “Odairi-Sama” in Japanese. Together, they are known as dairi-bina (or imperial dolls). (More info on Hinamatsuri available here.)

On the the second row is where the three ladies sit. These are the Ladies in Waiting, or “San-nin Kanjyo“. That’s a lot of info for a 2 year old. What she retained is that there is a princess and a prince – she was happy. :)

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Ohina-sama (Empress) from our hina ningyo collection.

My mom displayed just a handful of my (now Bebe E’s) hina ningyo from the nana-dan (seven platform) set that my maternal grandparents sent from Japan when I was born – – – decades ago. :) We joked that the hina ningyo set is now “vintage” but sadly, it really is fairly old! Unfortunately, a small handful of the items from our set were damaged due to unforeseen circumstances but I’ve almost reassembled the set, thanks to my Auntie & Uncle in Japan.

Next year, we should be able to display all seven platforms… stay tuned in 2013! In the meantime, it is important to keep in mind that parents in Japan traditionally celebrate Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day) to wish their young daughters happiness, good health and marriage in life. (See my 2011 Hinamatsuri post here.)

Over the weekend, I hosted a family Hinamatsuri party for Bebe E and my baby niece. We celebrated with 17 family members. It was as though we were re-visiting our Oshogatsu celebration, sans 20 Japanese dishes.

I made a simpler version of last year’s Hinamatsuri chirashi sushi. This year, I kept the toppings simple: kinshi tamago (thin egg omelette), snow peas, kaiware (radish sprouts), kamaboko (fish cake), ebi (shrimp), amazu renkon (pickled lotus root), and ikura (salmon roe).

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Chirashi sushi recipe post is available here.

I also made edamame gohan. In addition, we ordered a platter of nigiri sushi, inari, and futomaki sushi from our local Japanese deli, and my Dad grilled our favorite salt and pepper chicken wings and salmon.

Photo Credit: Hideki Ueha
Edamame Gohan (rice with soy beans, seaweed and namesake mushrooms).
Recipe post is available here.

Typically, for Hinamatsuri, asari no sumashijiru (clear soup with clams) is what my Mom used to serve us when I was a little girl, but one year I made asari no miso shiru (recipe post here) and this year, I asked my Mom to make miso shiru (miso soup recipe post here) and tonjiru (pork miso soup), just to change things up a bit.

For dessert, I considered making sakura mochi (follow link for recipe post) which is a traditional Hinamatsuri wagashi (Japanese sweet rice cake dessert), but our lunch menu consisted of chirashi RICE, edamame RICE, inari RICE, futomake RICE, and nigiri RICE. Too much rice/carbs! Instead, I served fresh fruit and of all things, jello, because that’s what Bebe E enjoys. My brother purchased some kashiwa mochi from our local Mitsuwa.

While I made quite a bit of food for our Hinamatsuri party, I made special sushi shaped in the form of the dairi-bina (imperial dolls) this week for Bebe E and Big Onechan. I used leftover white rice and a little help from packaged foods (yes, I am resourceful at times).

 Hina Ningyo (Girl’s Day Dolls) Sushi
Left – Emperor carrying a sword made of snow pea; Right: Empress carrying a fan made of decorative kamaboko (fish cake). *The empresses hair is slightly wilted – mistake putting on the hair while rice was still warm. Sadly, Hideki was not available to take photos of my hina ningyo sushi. I’m guilty AGAIN of hastily using my iPhone. :)

Bebe E, Big Onechan and Bebe Dada all got a kick from the little hina ningyo sushi. I thank my friend Aloha Girl for sharing this wonderful recipe from her mom who made a set of hina ningyo sushi dolls on Girl’s Day (March 3rd) over the weekend. ♥

Hina Ningyo Sushi


1. I remembered that I had a package of pre-seasoned and pre-cooked inari ageh in my refrigerator, thinking I’d make a few quick inari sushi either for lunch or dinner. This is sold at the Japanese supermarket.

2. I also remembered I had a package of Sushi Taro brand instant sushi mix (yes, I keep a variety of unusual items in my pantry, fridge and freezer). I didn’t have any leftover awase-zu (seasoned vinegar) from the chirashi sushi that I made over the weekend, so I used Sushi Taro. It has a retort package of gomoku mix and also a packet of powdered awase-zu. Not glamorous, but it works. Sprinkle hot rice with powder awase-zu and allow to cool slightly. Use desired amount of seasoning to achieve desired sushi rice flavor. I did not use the gomoku mix for the sushi dolls.


1. Prepare kinshi tamago. (See my chirashi post for more on kinshi tamago).

This is a very thin egg omelette. I’m used to making tamagoyaki, which is a thicker egg omelette so the first kinshi tamago omelette I made was rather THICK. Proper kinshi tamago is never browned. You might be able to tell from my photo that the emperor’s egg kimono is thick AND browned. Oh well. Not perfect, but cute nonetheless! :)

Combine 2 eggs with dashi shoyu. If you don’t have seasoned soy sauce, use a dash of salt or combination of soy sauce with dried dashi (bonito stock) powder. *Homemade dashi recipe post available here.

Using a very small pan (24 cm), heat a very small amount of oil, pour a very small amount of egg (just enough to cover the pan) and cook on medium low until just cooked. Flip omelette over, cook another 2 minutes until firm. NOTE: I have a very small rectangular pan so I ended up with rectangular egg kimono. These required trimming.

Remove egg and allow it to cool. Don’t slice the egg. Make a second thin egg omelette.

2. Make sushi rice (recipe post here) or use my short-cut, “Sushi Taro” package, and mix powder awase-zu with warm rice.

Set aside a small portion of the rice for the sushi doll’s heads.

Using saran wrap, place a heaping scoop of rice on top of saran wrap. Close saran wrap and shape rice into an oval. See my onigiri post on details regarding use of saran wrap for working with cooked rice.

Make two (2) oval rice balls. Rest on a dish, side by side. If you do this while the rice is still warm, it is more pliable and can easily be made to stand.

3. Prepare inari ageh according to package instructions. I highly recommend this short-cut over cooking and seasoning inari ageh for this project.

Cut each end of the inari pouch along the SIDE folds to create one large rectangular piece of inari ageh.

4. Wrap the rice balls with the inari ageh. I made my rice balls TOO big and therefore needed two (2) inari ageh per sushi doll. Oops! Now I know better!

5. Wrap the inari kimono with the tamagoyaki kimono. I had to trim the edges and then I rounded the back “cape” of the kimono. Bebe E enjoyed eating the trimmings from the kimono. :) I must admit that I had difficulty with the emperor’s tamagoyaki kimono because it was too thick and wouldn’t properly close. I considered using toothpicks to hold it together but decided, it didn’t have to be perfect.

6. Make little rice balls for the heads of the sushi dolls. If you do this while the sushi is relatively warm, it will easily adhere to the body of the doll.

OPTIONAL: The original recipe called for boiled quail eggs for the heads of the sushi dolls. The quail egg is held in place using a toothpick. I felt this was an expensive item for the doll’s head (especially as I only made two dolls). A less expensive alternative is sato imo or taro root. The Japanese supermarket sells frozen satoimo balls for relatively cheap, but I didn’t have this ingredient in my freezer, which is why I went with the cheaper and more readily-available rice!

7. Accesorize!

Cut nori (seaweed) into desired hair pieces. I made bangs and long hair for the empress and a Japanese chonmage, a traditional male hairstyle from the Edo period seen on men (you might recall images of samurai with the little loop of hair on the top of the head) for the emperor. NOTE: I recommend waiting to add the “hair” until the rice cools a bit, otherwise your hair will wilt! (Oops, that’s what happened to mine.)

You don’t have to make eyes, but I did – out of scraps of nori. It was difficult to pick-up the little scraps of nori but I managed. It easily stuck to the warm sushi. Kitchen tweezers might work well in this situation.

Trim snow pea lengthwise, using the flat portion of the pea and discarding (or eating) the portion with the beans). Shape this into a sword for the emperor. Place this in front of him.

Slice kamaboko to become the empresses fan. Place this in front of her.


Hina Ningyo Sushi Dolls – Emperor and Empress!

Special thanks once again to Hideki Ueha for the amazing photos on this post!
(I am credited with the not-so-hot photos – haha.)
A warm-hearted special thank you to Aloha Girl’s Mom for the sushi doll recipe!

This concludes our Girl’s Day celebration for 2012. I’m looking forward to celebrating many more Hinamatsuri in the years to come.

Happy Hinamatsuri!!!


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