Friday, June 19, 2015

Finding some thankfulness in the middle of mess

Today’s coffee: Kenya

I’m tired. There is a mess at my house. I just want this to be over. I guess the fact that packing is horrible makes we want to be done and leave… I think I will need at least two months to recover from this one month.

So… four more days to pack up, then we move our stuff out, and clean the house. The end is in sight, but the next four days will be very full. I’m feeling rather numb.

I suppose the way to combat numbness (and crankiness) is thankfulness. As a spiritual exercise, I’m going to write some of the things I’ve been thankful for in the last week or so.

I’m thankful I’ve found a place to store the leftover canned goods—pickles, jams, and sauces made with vegetables from our garden. I thought we might just have to throw them out. This may seem like a small thing, but I dislike wasting food. Now to find homes for our houseplants and the herbs in our front yard…

I’m thankful for finished projects: matching bags for Shino and me made from leftover yukata fabric, a recording project, and 5 different photo books—that was a huge project which felt something like writing four years of prayer letters. To be fair, there’s actually a lot left to do on the recording project, but the recording and editing is finished. Probably. I still haven’t listened to the final versions…

I’m also thankful that the recording engineer, a friend of ours, lives (almost) in our neighborhood with his wife and adorable daughter. And we have so many other friends around us. But then again, this makes it hard to leave…

I’m thankful that we found a home for our car. It’s going to a good place, to support a ministry we’re excited about.

I’m thankful for all the sweets and snacks we’ve been “using up.” Chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, dried fruit, nuts… yes, we have been eating like kings. Using leftover azuki beans, old matcha powder, leftover stewed chestnuts and their syrup, I made cream anmitsu! Well, I had to buy some new ice cream to tie it all together…

I’m hopeful, too, thinking about the four days of holiday between a conference and flying back to Seattle. (We’re praying for good weather at Mt. Fuji!)

Yes. That worked. I feel a bit better.

As I mentioned, things are pretty crazy around our house at the moment. I will post if I feel like it/if I have time. Regular posts will probable resume sometime in August. Maybe. We’ll see.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Onsen Manjū

Sometime during home assignment I’m sure I’m going to have insatiable cravings for manjū, so I may as well practice now… and I’m putting off things I actually need to do by working on the all-important “cleaning out the pantry” project. There were beans that needed eating, also brown sugar. We’re moving, after all.

Onsen manjū are red bean paste filled buns which traditionally were steamed using natural onsen (hot spring) steam. They have a lovely molasses-like flavor from the 黒糖 (black sugar) in the dough.

Here’s my first attempt. I might post updates later if I have any better attempts later on…

Onsen Manjū recipe

Ingredients, for 12 manjū:
  • ¾ teaspoon dry yeast
  • 115 mL warm water
  • 175g flour, plus more for kneading
  • 50g “black” sugar (黒糖 kokuto) or muscovado sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 7g melted butter
  • 270g tsubuan (sweet azuki bean paste), chilled
Ingredient notes: I used bread flour, but the dough turned out too… bread-like. I think next time I’ll use all purpose. You can get tsubuan at Asian supermarkets, but it’s easy to make with the recipe I linked. (You need the tsubuan to be pretty thick for manjū.)

Measurement note: yes, it’s metric. Get a kitchen scale. Baking will become so much easier. (I’m feeling rather lazy…)


Put yeast, warm water (~40 C) and a pinch of sugar in a cup, let stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it is frothy.

Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and yeast mixture, stir until all the flour is incorporated. Turn out onto a well-floured board or mat and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. (You may need a lot more flour.)

Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, until it has doubled in volume.

Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape into balls. Let rest for about 10 minutes. (Don’t go longer, since the texture gets weird if you wait too long.)

Meanwhile, divide the tsubuan into 12 little balls.

Shape each dough ball into a disc, so that it’s thicker in the center than the edges. That way it can stretch without breaking.

Set a tsubuan ball in the center of the disc, wrap the dough around, and pinch shut. Roll around in the palms of your hands until smooth. This takes some practice… but once you get it, you will have awesome dumpling-filling techniques for all kinds of snacks!

Put each manjū on a square of parchment paper seam-side down, then arrange them in a steamer.
Place the steamer (with the lid on) over boiling water and steam the manjū for about 20 minutes. (I just put a bamboo steamer directly into a frying pan with about 1 cm of water in it.)

You can eat your manjū hot or at room temperature. They are nice with a cup of green tea!

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Sparrow's New Home

Today’s coffee: Rwanda

Four years ago at this time, we were rushing around trying to get ready to move to Japan. Now we’re rushing around trying to get ready to go back to Seattle. Thankfully we finally managed to book plane tickets to Seattle, get a prayer letter out, and choose a moving company. But towards the end of last week, I was starting to feel numb from all the preparations, goodbyes, and lingering ministry obligations… and then the weekend happened. I can’t remember a busier Sunday. Monday afternoon we escaped to an onsen to recover for a couple of days.

Recently a family of sparrows has taken up residence in a vent on our neighbor’s house. Watching them come and go from the vent as they carried twigs and grass to build a nest, I somehow felt refreshed. Even these sparrows have a home; God has provided for them, and he will provide for us.

We’ve started dismantling our home; two boxes of things we don’t use at this time of year have been packed. Although I’m looking forward to spending 10 months in the house where I grew up, with its gigantic kitchen and lovely garden, when we come back here, we don’t know yet where we are going. But God knows. And somewhere there is a home for us.

Speaking of home, our friends have offered to come help us eat a lamb roast that has been lurking in the freezer. (I can’t begin to describe the stress of trying to eat up all the food we have accumulated without any waste.) So I’m going to limit myself to one coffee and go try to make some order of our partially dismantled home…