Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tadaima. (ただいま)

Tadaima is a Japanese phrase meaning "I'm back", "I've returned" or "I'm home". One year ago today, I found myself stepping off a plane once again at Narita Airport, ready to embark on a whirlwind, three week adventure in which I saw incredible things, met amazing people and made some of the best memories of my entire life.

I wish that reflecting on this day could be a little more upbeat. With great sadness, almost three weeks ago, the world witnessed the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of northern Japan. I had been reluctant to talk about it until now because there were just so many emotions running through me: Fear that worse disasters could occur as the instability at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant held the attention of the international media outlets, keeping watchers on edge that another Chernobyl might be occurring in the wake of two natural disasters. Sadness for the Japanese people, who I had come to know the warmth and kindness of, as they watched their homes and lives become destroyed in minutes, their families and friends lost in the wreckage,  the outcome of their futures suddenly uncertain.Worry for my friends within reach of the earthquake zone and the potential field of radiation that could spread in the event of a nuclear meltdown, who still are dealing with daily aftershocks, food shortages, rolling blackouts and minimal panic. (I still am finding it hard to truly put all my thoughts and feelings on everything into words, so please forgive me.)

Many of my relatives who know how strong my love for Japan is sent me messages of concern: asking if any of my friends in Japan are ok, telling me that they are glad that I was not there this year and wondering, do I still want to go to Japan? The answer to that question is yes. In fact, I want to go to Japan more than ever before. (And furthermore, on my first visit to Japan, there was both an earthquake which I could feel small aftershocks from in Tokyo - a completely foreign experience for someone raised on the east coast - and a typhoon.) Watching the events play out and seeing the scenes of both despair and hope, tales of heroism and sadness; I just wanted to grow myself to giant size, walk across the globe, and scoop the entire island of Japan up into my arms and keep everyone safe from further harm.I wanted to instantly be there helping the victims, giving them food and water and warmth and shelter and hope, helping them rebuild their homes and villages, buildings, roads and highways, helping restore the beauty of the Japan that I have come to know and love.

The disaster in Japan was just as emotional for me as September 11th had been almost 10 years before. And both events have strengthened my love for both places (Japan and NYC) which I hold intimately dear in my heart. I remember on September 11th refusing to go to bed, refusing to turn the TV off until they showed footage of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. In the same way, post-earthquake & tsunami, I clung to Twitter alerts, Huffington Post updates, CNN news (and not just because Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta are so damn handsome). It's interesting to think how much technology had changed since then. Can you imagine if September 11th had occurred in the time of Facebook and Twitter and the 24 hour news medium? If someone had tweeted that a plane had struck the WTC? If people had posted status updates that they were ok and safely out of the buildings? YouTube'd videos of the buildings collapsing within minutes? Luckily with these technological advancements, when I woke up at 5 AM on the morning of Friday, March 11th and saw a Huffington Post alert on my iPhone that a 8.9 magnitude Earthquake had struck Japan, I was able to go on Facebook and see that all my friends had updated their statuses to say that they were safe & check my Twitter feed to see that there had also been a massive tsunami following the quake - with retweets from friends relaying news from various other bloggers and media.

So, today I will take this time to reflect on those great times that I had only 365 days ago and know that soon enough, I will be able to say Tadaima once again to a newly rebuilt Japan, a Japan that will only grow stronger and more beautiful from this tragedy, and make many, many more memories.And Japan will reach out to me with open arms, hold me close and say Okaeri! (お帰りなさい)

Monday, March 28, 2011

100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

I never claim to be the greatest cook in the world. Most nights, my dinner consists of frozen burritos, bowls of cereal, scrambled eggs, peanut butter sandwiches, etc. Simple, easy stuff because I'm just too damn lazy to cook anything. I am all about finding the easiest, fastest ways to get myself fed because when you're hungry, you don't want to worry about prep time and all that nonsense. One of my best investments was a slow cooker because you can just leave that thing on while you go to work and BOOM! come home and you're ready to go! (I have successfully mastered BBQ ribs and pulled pork thanks to that thing, as well as some delicious & juicy chicken thighs.)

One day, the kitchen angels from above heard my prayers and frustrations. (Ok, actually, it was the wonderful people at GLAMOUR magazine.) They wanted me to eat something better than chocolate covered pretzels and call it a meal. They sent me this great cookbook "100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know" and ever since, my outlook on dinner time has completely changed! No longer am I afraid of my stove or of doing dishes.I am only afraid of being able to decide on which great recipe to try next!

This wonderful cookbook was spawned on a time-treasured, epic recipe that was handed down the ranks of the GLAMOUR staff simply known as "Engagement Chicken". Rumor had it that if you made this delicious, roasted chicken for your boyfriend, he would propose not long after. There's even a list in the book of at least 60 success stories in which the engagement chicken recipe led to a proposal and marriage!

But even if you're single or not interested in marriage (or dating a vegetarian - don't worry, there's a section for meat free meals too, ladies), "100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know" has plenty of other delicious recipes in this book to help your feel fabulous and boost your chef-esteem! From simple snacks like the Get Skinny Dip and hearty homemade treats like Prove to Mom You're Not Going to Starve Meat Loaf, to the full-on Easy and Elegant Dinner Party extravaganza, you'll be starring on your own Food Network show in no time! There's even a section on Cheap & Easy Meals so you don't have to break the bank or live on ramen noodles any longer. (Which means more money for shoes!)


100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life, by Cindi Leive and the Editors of GLAMOUR is available in stores April 5th. You can pre-order on Amazon.com through the links above.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Post: I Love Fukushima

Hey all, I know I haven't updated in a while, but I wanted to share something special and really important from a friend of mine, Doug, whose life has been deeply impacted by the disaster that is going on in Japan right now. Please take a moment to read his message and pass it along to anyone else that you know. If you haven't already donated to the Red Cross or another generous organization dedicated to helping those suffering from the Earthquake & Tsunami in Japan, please consider making a donation to the New Orleans Japan Quake Fund. 

Thanks xoxo


Japan's Impact on My Life and New Orleans and a Plea for Your Help by Doug Tassin 

I'm sure everyone is aware of the current situation in Japan regarding the earthquakes, tsunamis, and the horrifying events taking place at the Fukushima Nuclear Plants. Last night, the radiation radius around Fukushima Daini Plant was expanded another 10km, moving it into Iwaki City. Hopefully, the cores can be cooled and contained, and any meltdown at any plant in Japan is prevented.  All the events that have decimated the Tohoku region of Japan since Thursday have really taken their toll on me, but the fact that this radiation "bubble" has expanded into Iwaki has me really sad.

Iwaki, like all of Fukushima, is a wonderful place.  It is home to beautiful beaches, fantastic hiking trails, wonderful and caring people, and some of the best food I've ever eaten. It's a place that I hold near and dear to my heart. Iwaki houses 3 years worth of memories that I will never forget.  It is my second home and a place where many people who I consider family still live.  Every night and day I pray for their safety and hope that some kind of relief can come to them (and all of those affected by this disaster). 

In fact, this is very similar to how I felt after Hurricane Katrina. About 2 weeks after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, I moved to Tokyo, Japan to study at Sophia University, at that point fulfilling my lifelong dream of going to and studying in Japan. However, it was a bittersweet fulfillment. I had left all of my family and friends behind to battle the destruction that Katrina had left in her wake. I felt horrible about leaving and even told my dad I didn't even know if I could go.  But he told me, "Go. This is your dream. It could be your only chance. We'll be okay." But not a day passed while I was in Japan where I didn't think about the troubles and struggles my friends and family were going through.

But then one day on the news in Japan, I heard that Japan had sent military assistance and relief to Katrina-affected areas.  In a recent editorial in the Times Picayune (http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2011/03/time_to_repay_japan.html), a writer commented on what the Japanese provided New Orleans:

After Katrina, the Japanese government offered material and monetary assistance that surpassed $1 million and that included tents, blankets, power generators and portable water tanks. Japan also provided $200,000 to the American Red Cross to aid hurricane victims. In addition, Takashi Endo, a private businessman in Japan, donated $1 million from his personal funds to Katrina relief efforts.  I don't know if you have already donated to a cause but if you haven't, please consider this one.
At the end of the article, they also note ways to give relief and pay Japan back for its past generosity.  However, there is one more way.

The New Orleans Japan Quake Fund is currently in the process of being established.  It is being formed by a coalition of New Orleans-based, Japan-related groups: Japan Club of New Orleans, Japan Society of New Orleans, jetaaNOLA (JET Program Alumni Association, New Orleans Chapter), and Japanese Garden Society.  With the full support of Honorary Consul General of Japan Donna Fraiche and hopefully the endorsement of the govenor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans, we are creating this fund as a means for all of New Orleans to repay the generosity and care that Japan showed us in our time of need.  This donor administered fund will be created through the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), and we plan to raise money in the fund and give it directly to an organization in Japan. GNOF has a long history of successfully administering funds, and we will still be able to direct where the money goes.  As mentioned, it is still being set up and should be available VERY soon, but in the meantime, feel free to sign up for the New Orleans Japan Quake Fund mailing list at http://www.japanclubofneworleans.org/donations. You will receive updates, news, and information about the fund and future fundraising activities.  Also feel free to contact me if you are interested in making donations: doug.tassin@gmail.com.

My total four years in Japan were the greatest time in my life, and I will never ever forget that. I am forever indebted to Japan, and my love for the country runs deeper than I had ever realized.  Especially now, after Japan has experienced the worst natural disaster it has ever experience in its documented history and one similar to (but much worse than) one experienced in New Orleans, I want to give back to the country that has given me so much.  New Orleans, Louisiana, America, World. Are you ready to help Japan recover? I sure as hell am. 

One last request: Could you please share this note with your other Facebook friends and pass along the link for the New Orleans Japan Quake Fund? I would greatly appreciate it... Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!