Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An ill-timed shopping spree

Not that there's ever a well-timed one when you're supposed to be saving money, but this one was particularly poorly-timed considering 1) I also had to pay my Japanese dance performance fees--50,000 yen!!--this week; 2) my brother is coming next month & we'll be taking a trip to Tokyo during the October long weekend, so I'll need to pay for travel/accomodations, etc. for that trip, too; 3) after paying for #1 & #2 on top of my spending spree, I'll have to wait almost a full month for the next pay day!! ^^;; Really, I'm usually a bit better at budgeting, but I guess since I so rarely go shopping, when the fever strikes, I don't have much in the way of defense against it...

So yeah, it all started on Sunday afternoon when I decided to stop by Uniqlo after the Kirida Hachimantai Jinja Matsuri (shrine festival). I ended up buying a gray zip-up hoody (it was on sale for cheap, though, 690 yen!) and a brown "neoleather" (it's actually made of polyurethane--like plastic bags!) jacket (again, on sale but not so cheap at 4990 yen).

Being less than bright, I didn't stop there. Having recently realized that I don't have any nicer/cuter going out clothes (pretty much it's just jeans & T-shirts for me), I decided to drop by a couple of reasonably priced clothing shops favoured by younger female co-workers as well as some of my (JHS) students--Shimamura, and Chambre/Avail (attached shops--Chambre has slightly "older" stuff, while Avail is quite casual). I only bought one thing at Chambre, but since it was a fairly "Japanese-type" top, I realized when I got home that I didn't have anything suitable in my closet to wear with it. (Although I think it will go well with the Kimi ni Todoke poncho I pre-ordered...)

So on Tuesday (Monday I stayed home and did laundry and cleaned!) I headed back to Uniqlo in the hopes of finding the right pieces to get that uniquely Japanese "layered" look. (Sorry, if you don't know what I mean, I can't really explain it!) I don't know if I actually succeeded or not, but I ended up leaving Uniqlo almpst 150,000 yen poorer. o_O;; Not only did I buy leggings and a beige turtleneck to go with the previously purchased top, I also ended up buying a gray wool hooded tunic (on sale for 3990 yen) and brown "Neoleather" furry-hooded parka (also on sale for 4990 yen).

Then I needed to go grocery shopping, so I headed off to the Towada Jusco. Not only did I get the necessary groceries, I also ended up buying a pair of high brown boots. ^^;; Considering how many pairs of boots I already have, I really didn't need to buy them, but I couldn't resist because the inside lining is so soft and warm, plus it's not often that I can find high boots that fit because my calves are so huge (thanks for the genes, Dad =P)! While I was in Jusco, I got a message from Courtney about a surprise b-day party for Vi and Sanae, so I also did card/present shopping while I was there. ^^;; (Sadly I'm not good at shopping last minute...)

So yeah, my wallet and bank account are slightly hurting right now... It's not like I'll have to live off of rice and soy sauce or anything, but I may end up dipping a bit into my reserve fund (what else is new?) before the month is out... *sigh* Really need to be more disciplined with my money.

But I guess it was part of my usual pattern of shopping after a particularly busy/stressful time. I always ending going a bit crazy right after exams in university, too...

Anyway, apart from a bit of regret over messing up my budget (I'm really quite happy with the clothes, though, so it's really just "
a bit of regret"), I had a really good weekend. Even doing laundry and cleaning all day on Monday felt really good since I haven't done a serious cleaning in at least a month. Plus I cooked dinner for the first time in a while.

Then Tuesday was the shopping plus surprise birthday party in Shichinohe. I'm glad Court figured out I was in Towada and invited me. Though I haven't regretted regressing back to my hermit-like ways, I must say it was nice to hang out with everyone again. I should probably make it a point to invite people to hang out or to accept invitations at least once or twice a month so I don't become a total recluse... (Well, I've been hanging out more with Japanese friends lately, but I should probably make more of an effort to keep in touch with the ALT community...)

Today was the first big rehearsal for the Japanese dance performance on October 4th. We were on the actual stage for the first time, so it was a bit awkward at first figuring out our positions. Plus it was our first time practicing with live music--which was pretty difficult! (Thankfully I'm right behind the person who we're all supposed to follow for timing, etc.) But apart from a few problem areas, I feel like I should probably do OK for the real thing.

After the rehearsal I came home and baked cookies!! I'm planning on giving them out to my co-workers at the office tomorrow since I'll eat them all if I keep them at home! =P

Oh, and I'm not sure if I've ever posted my recipe for soft chocolate chip cookies, but if you're interested, here it is:

This is a sugar-reduced version of the recipe I found on - Chocolate Chip Cookies a la Anna Olson."

Since I found this recipe five or six years ago, I've probably made thousands of these cookies to give out as holiday (Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc.) gifts! (If I didn't give them away, I'd eat them all by myself--they're so addictive!)

~45-60 cookies

- 1+1/2 cup (~340g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1+1/3 cup (~285g) brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/3 cup (~70g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tsp (~17g) vanilla extract
- 4 cups (~500g) all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp (~11g) corn starch*
- 2 tsp (~9g) baking soda*
- 1 tsp (~6g) salt
- ~3.5-12 oz (100-350g) chocolate,** cut into chunks

* To make crispy cookies instead of chewy cookies, omit the corn starch and replace the baking soda with baking powder
** Personally I like to overload my cookies with chocolate. Also, since the recipe is already sugar-reduced, you don't have to use bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate--you can use anything without making the cookies overly sweet! For Christmas I like to use 1/3 regular milk chocolate (chopped up chocolate bars, usually) and 2/3 Christmas (red and green) M&Ms. For Valentine's Day, I use 1/3 milk chocolate and 2/3 strawberry chocolate. The possibilities are endless!

1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
2. Cream together butter and sugars
3. Add eggs and vanilla and blend in
4. Stir in flour, corn starch, baking soda, salt

5. When mixture has reached a good dough consistency, stir in chopped chocolate
6. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet lined with parchment or baking paper***
7. Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden brown around edges
8. Cool on pan for 2 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely
9. Enjoy immediately or store in airtight container

*** You don't have to use parchment/baking paper--a normal greased baking sheet will work fine--but I feel that I get better results with the parchment paper than without

Oh, and if you're wondering why I have gram measurements for everything, it's because Japanese measuring cups are smaller than (North) American ones! Also, most Japanese recipes tend to give measurements in grams, so I figured if you wanted to share the recipe with Japanese friends, etc., having the grams would make it easier.

In fact, if you ever wanted to know exactly how much a specific quantity (oz, lb, cups, etc.) is in grams, you can use the Gourment Sleuth Gram Conversion Calculator! There's also a more accurate Cooking Conversions Calculator which will allow you to specify the ingredient as well as the quantity to convert to/from grams!! It's pretty impressive and very useful for life in Japan for those who rely on recipes...