I’m a hardcore Sunday meal prepper. I have to be. We are very busy people, both working full time and then some, & it’s important to me to make as much as of our food as I can, for the sake of cost & health. Don’t get me wrong… I know this post is about hot wings and they are far from the healthiest of food choices but they are one of Rob’s great food loves so they make their way into the Sunday meal prepping fairly regularly. They are also a great freezer option, because they freeze easily, as well as thawing & reheating well. Because of this, I tend to make a massive batch of them so we’ll have them on hand for a little while. This recipe is adapted to be less than my normal enormous batch because I usually go overboard but the convenience of Rob being able to heat up a few when he gets hungry on the weekends is so worth it.
Most people cut the wings in two. I admit it probably makes them easier to eat but I don’t bother with that. I just leave ’em whole! I just find it to be an unnecessary use of my time to cut them up but that’s just me. Before I get started, I rinse the chicken off. When I first started cooking, I didn’t do this and somewhere along the line, I noticed the Pioneer Woman would always rinse her chicken, and realized… that actually makes a lot of sense because it can be so slimy coming out of the package, so I incorporated that into my routine.
We don’t own a deep fryer. I used to want one but instead, opted to save the space another appliance would take up and instead, used to heat up a bunch of oil in a dutch oven and would fry the wings before tossing them in the sauce. In a quest to lead a better, healthier life than the one we’ve been living, I’m looking for ways to change how I cook our food, which can be tough because Rob is not a fan of healthy options but I’m working on that! Now I skip the frying step altogether, omitting the oil and instead, broil them in the oven. Rob hasn’t noticed anything different about the way they’re cooked and I feel good about cutting those extra calories from the oil.
Getting Rob to eat healthy food is no small feat. It wasn’t easy for his mom when he was growing up and it hasn’t been easy for me over the years. You hear stories of parents telling kids they won’t be allowed to leave the dinner table unless they eat their vegetables. I was never this kid but I also assumed that eventually they would give in and eat it so they can leave the table, right? Rob was that kid. He would fall asleep at the dinner table before he ate something he didn’t like. He stood his ground pretty well but so did his parents so I imagine that made for a long evening for everyone. He’s much better than that now! He’s still picky but not to such an extreme degree. The point to this is that I’ve had to get creative sometimes about getting healthy food in his body, which means hiding things in his food. He knows I do it and doesn’t want me to tell him when I do, and he would prefer to just be oblivious. Fine with me! Carrots and celery are the common accompaniments to hot wings, and I’m able to incorporate the carrots here by shredding them directly into hot sauce. Works like a charm.
I use recycled foil. Well, to be fair, I try to use as little aluminum foil as I can, both for our health and the environment. However, when I do, I buy recycled foil and then I often reuse foil to cut down on my waste. Making hot wings is one of the only things I use foil for because they make one helluva mess. It’s also one of the rare times I don’t reuse my foil. You just can’t come back from hot wings on foil.
I find it’s helpful to know your oven well or to at least keep a close watch on your food. My oven tends to run a little hot so I usually bake things for slightly less time than you might have to. It helps that I’m aware of this but I don’t love it when I’m trying someone else’s recipe!
An alternative method to what I’ve done here is to boil your wings before coating them in sauce and sticking them in the oven under the broiler. It’s actually a little faster and easier but I just don’t want the extra dish to wash after boiling them. I don’t like washing dishes any more than the next person and will do what I can to avoid creating more to wash!
If you’re anything like Rob, you don’t like bleu cheese, you’re good with ranch but you see no need to dip your wings in any sauce at all so you skip it altogether. If you’re anything like me, you’re fine with ranch but you’re going to pick bleu cheese every time and you definitely will dip the wings in the dressing. I usually only eat one or two wings, though, so I save making the dressings for when we serve hot wings to company.
This Is How We Hot Wing
One 12 oz bottle of hot sauce (such as Frank’s cayenne pepper sauce)
One stick of butter
2 -2.5 lbs of wings
Two carrots (more if you prefer)
Bleu cheese or ranch dressing for dipping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350.
Rinse the wings in cold water. Pat dry.
Place wings on a cookie sheet lined with foil, spacing them out evenly.
Bake for around 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, melt the stick of butter in a skillet or pot. Don’t let it burn or brown, because this can change the flavor.
Once the butter has melted, pour the entire jar of hot sauce into the melted butter. Stir until combined.
Grate carrots into the wing sauce.
Once the wings are almost done, pull them out and turn the oven to broil.
Flip the wings so that they are right side down. Using a basting brush, coat the bottom of the wings with the buffalo sauce. Once the broiler is hot, put the wings back in the oven and broil for about 5 minutes, keeping an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn.
Remove the wings and turn them right side up. Brush them with the sauce again, coating twice. Put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes, continuing to monitor to ensure they don’t burn. Once the skin crisps from the broiler, remove them.
Coat the wings with sauce one more time.
You are done! I recommend making your dressings prior to baking your hot wings so that it’s ready to go when your wings are done.
TO FREEZE: Once the wings have cooled, place them on a cookie sheet or plate in a single layer, and stick them in the freezer. Allow them to freeze until the sauce no longer comes off to the touch, an hour or so. This will ensure the sauce doesn’t stays on the wings. The wings should be ready for their freezer packaging!
TO THAW: I like to let them sit out, in their packaging, just long enough to be able to remove their packaging. Then place them on a plate or cookie sheet to thaw the rest of the way so the sauce will stay on and not come off when you remove the wings from their packaging.
Rob’s schedule really sucks. He works swing & typically starts work at 3:30pm and works until either midnight or 2am so that has really messed with our sleep patterns. We’re actually up many of the same hours as all of our friends & family back home, which has its benefits, even though we have a 16 hour time difference. At first, I was forcing myself to stay up so I could spend time with him after he’s home from work, and we were gradually staying up later and later. We often end up in bed at like 3 or 4 am, but sometimes, we’re up until 6 or 7 am. It’s tough for him to come home and immediately goes to bed, and he needs some time to wind down. As a result, we’ve both spent many days sleeping late into the afternoon. However, I’m regretting this because now I feel like I’ve slept away some of the days here in Japan that I could have been out doing stuff so I’m working hard to get my sleep schedule back on track. This is easier said than done, & it’s been really challenging but I’ve been waking up at 9 am the last few mornings so I’m getting there. We have over two months left here & I want to do a better job of making it count. It makes me sad that Rob doesn’t have all the free time with me to check out the things we want to see, so I just have to save the super awesome things for his days off. I know he wants to see stuff too but the only downside is, that means he’s busy all the time. Most weeks, he’s working six days so then we try to go do something on the 7th day so he can experience something too so he pretty much never rests. I know he thinks it’s cool to be in Japan but I also know he’s looking forward to the end of this trip just so he isn’t forced to work six 10 hour days every week. His supervisor did tell him he has too much overtime right now so hopefully that means he’ll get a weekend off soon but we’ll see.
So, it’s kinda neat because this is the closest we’ve ever been to real city living. This is a place where you really don’t need a car because most things can be found within walking distance. At first, I compared Yokosuka to a clean Bremerton but then we explored more, and it’s way bigger than Bremerton. I wouldn’t say it’s as big as Seattle but it’s definitely the city.
I’ve done quite a bit of cooking since we’ve been here. I bought a big, red Rachael Ray stock pot (I have an orange one just like it at home) that I got on sale at the NEX store so that’s been helpful, plus the dishes I told you about in the early blog about where we’re living, & I’ve gotten a little creative in figuring out ways to utilize the toaster oven. That’s actually been eye opening because we received a toaster oven as a wedding gift and it’s totally still in the box but now we have a new appreciation for the appliance! We might actually open it when we get home… well, I guess, when we find a home. Anyway, cooking has been very necessary here so that we don’t have to eat out every day. Also, with Rob working evenings, I need to have stuff to send with him. I’ve made a few Asian things but I’ve still made a lot of our normal stuff for Rob. Today, he has chicken & mashed potatoes with chicken gravy… all American. Yesterday, I gave him an Asian chicken dish with rice and he really liked that. I eat out a little more often than he does since I have the time to get dinner and because I’m more open to a lot of the foods around here. I have to say that I never realized how often I used Worcestershire sauce until I came here and didn’t have it in my kitchen. The grocery store also offers some seasoned & marinated meats that I buy occasionally and Rob has really liked those so far.
The above picture is beef I purchased that actually came already prepared in some kind of Japanese style sauce, it almost tasted like a BBQ sauce. Anyway, I just cook it, make some rice and make a sauce for the rice & Rob is a happy guy!
I am still working on transferring all my blogs about Japan from my old blogging platform to wordpress, and finishing up the new blog posts about my more recent trips to Japan as well. However, sometimes, it gets a little overwhelming because of the amount I have to do still, and I need a break to talk about something else. So here we go.
To build or not to build, that is the question.
I’ve asked friends for recommendations for realtors and builders, and we started out looking at homes for sale but have transitioned into researching what goes into building a home. Is it an option for us? Hopefully. Our progress hasn’t much surpassed that of research & contacting agents, but I am a planner so I’ll figure it out. It’s a fairly new idea but the more we think about it, the more the idea appeals to us. I decided to see what I could figure out at the Seattle Home Show.
Walking into the Seattle Home Show last weekend was a little bit overwhelming, to be honest. We are brand new to the thought of home building, and I felt like the home show might offer a little bit of information that would help us in the process. One of the issues I noticed immediately was the pictures displayed by some of the custom home builders were of VERY expensive homes that were well out of our budget. It made them unapproachable because I didn’t see anything we would be willing to pay for, which was okay, because I expected some of this. We are unwilling to be “house poor,” meaning that we refuse to have so much mortgage, that we can’t afford much else so we WANT cost to be a factor and don’t want to go overboard. Something else I noticed was that a lot of the vendors offered remodeling services, and only handful offered home building and construction services. If we opt to go ahead and buy, remodeling services could certainly come in handy so I took some business cards and brochures in case we go that route. As I spent a couple hours walking through the Century Link Fields Events Center, drinking my $8 latte (gotta love those stadium prices), I definitely had building on the brain.
Being so inexperienced with all of this, I was reluctant to spend much time chatting with vendors. Being the introvert that I am, I would walk up and grab brochures and business cards from businesses who’s representatives were occupied by other people so I wouldn’t have to listen to a pitch I’m not yet ready for. If I wasn’t able to approach to gather more information, I simply saved the business name into my phone to scope out later. I realize that this isn’t the most efficient way to collect information but I also knew I had no answers to any questions yet.
On an unrelated note, I spent the rest of the day in Pioneer Square, which I always enjoy. Although, the area seems to have more homelessness than I remember? Maybe I just wasn’t as aware. Anyway, that’s a blog for another time.
I always thought I had our buyers agent chosen, and figured this would make it so easy to buy a home! We kept reading not to settle on the first agent you come across or even meet, & Rob read that you should meet with at least three people. I’ve spoken a little with a woman from one company, and met up with a team from another company. There were a couple more who came highly recommended from some friends, which says a lot but these friends didn’t deal directly with the buying or selling, and simply knowing a real estate agent and recommending them to me isn’t enough for us! One gentleman actually was referred to us by two or three people, which is very impressive, so we may still talk to him but I’m not sure. He & I both from the same area and we have quite a few mutual friends and I’m weird about that stuff. Some things are just too close to comfort! The team I met with was recommended to us by a friend who bought his house a couple years back using their services, and will actually be using them again to sell his house soon. This is a friend who has lived the real estate experience, and who is a fairly blunt guy, so I’m confident he would let us know if he wasn’t impressed! I got in touch, and the recommended agent, Carey was prompt to reply to email, and brought her partner, Julie, into it. They were instantly involved and happy to help & so far, any time I’ve reached out to them, they’ve always gotten back to me within a day, usually within the hour! I met with them yesterday at Kimball Coffeehouse in Gig Harbor, my first experience in this coffee shop! I enjoyed it. Anyway, I walked in and was warmly greeted by each of them and we sat down and got right to business. Julie is the land expert and I told them I was pretty clueless about the entire thing, but it didn’t matter because she was well prepared and full of information to give! She asked for the details of what we were looking for, narrowing it down to things/companies that would work, and some that wouldn’t. I’ve read some articles and watched some videos where people chose to cut home building costs by omitting the buyers agent and after talking to them, I believe hiring one will be money well spent, should we choose to go this route. After a single meeting, I felt better than I did beforehand and like maybe we are finally making progress on this. We aren’t 100% committed, we haven’t signed any paperwork or anything, but so far I’m impressed with them. One of the selling points is how well Julie & I connected! She recently built a home on 5 acres, she just planted her seedlings for the garden she is working on, she has chickens and cats, too! I love the idea of working with someone who completely understands my list of priorities because her priorities were the same, and who just build a house on acreage in the area, because she has been through the process first hand and has a great idea of what we’re doing. Plus, she is a professional, after all!
We aren’t poor but we aren’t rich and budget is going to be a real thing through this process. How much we choose to allow ourselves to spend & how we use that money will obviously be determined on which road we take in this process. Our #1 priority is SPACE. Rob has a ton of stuff, including guitars that line the walls, a drum set he wants to set up, football memorabilia that needs a place to go, and so much more. He really is a prime candidate for someone who needs a man cave! Something we’ve noticed is there are a lot of split level homes who have that second living room downstairs. While having that extra living room in nice, especially for someone with dreams of a man cave, the square footage on some of these homes isn’t much more than the other homes on the market. It seems like there are just more rooms in the same number of square feet, making for tiny rooms. I wouldn’t say this is a hard no for us but it’s pretty far from what we want. We would rather wait & continue our search while we save more, and actually end up in the home we want. We’ve watched our friends settle and buy houses that we would never be willing to purchase. We are willing to compromise but we aren’t willing to settle, if that makes sense. In addition the man cave goal, I need room for all of my things! I NEED a decent sized kitchen and am hopeful that I can have a spacious pantry. The majority of our food is made from scratch in our kitchen, because I love to cook & bake, but also, it’s important to me know what’s in our food & where it came from & how it was prepared. I’ve worked in kitchens of all sizes and kitchen counter space is a must for me. I can’t even tell you how many cookbooks I have and I have more kitchen appliances and utensils than I have room for! Property is also high on the list of priorities, which is where buying an already built home gets tricky. In our price range, you can usually find a good house with no yard OR you can find acreage with a very unimpressive house on it. It’s challenging to find both without going way over budget. The more land we can get, the better, within reason, so something like 5 acres would be a dream come true. I can compromise a little on this but I need at least a couple of acres. I told Julie a minimum of 2 acres is a must but more would be great so we’ll see what we can find. I have had a little taste of gardening but I really, really want a large garden, fruit trees and chickens. Rob knows how much this means to me and therefore, it’s important to him also, because he wants me to have the things I want. With that, comes making sure we have a place that gets plenty of sun for our gardens and trees. Additionally, I’m hoping we can have some kind of nook where all of our cat toys and beds can go. We have three cats and they have a ton of stuff, too, so they would benefit from a little space to call their own.
Obviously, space is key, both indoor and outdoor. In this day & age, we are asking for quite a bit, for not an excessive amount of cost, which is pretty challenging because we live on the West Coast, just outside of Seattle, which is one of the most expensive housing markets in America. It’s possible we are asking for the impossible! Someone told me that they live on the outskirts of the city, and are saving to have their home built, and are anticipating to spend $200-$400 per sq ft. $200… yes, that seems realistic but there is no way we are going to build a home for $400 per sq ft. That doesn’t even begin to interest us.
We understand that with getting the space we want, we will have to compromise elsewhere. Location is open to discussion. Poulsbo, Kingston and the areas a little ways north of us are our first picks, but those areas are also in high demand, have high property taxes and may not be realistic and that’s okay. Olalla appealed to us but the property values have gone up there because you can get acreage and the land is filled with legitimate pre-owned farmhouses, which are all the rage right now. Olalla used to be very affordable but times have changed. While we would still be open to living there if the right opportunity came along, it might be just a tad further South than we were hoping for anyway, much like Gig Harbor. Mason County is an option, assuming it isn’t too far out. Belfair, in Mason County, gets deep and goes on for days and I don’t want to have an excessive commute home every day after work. Belfair is kind of like Olalla used to be, where it’s just far enough out that you can get affordable property, and it’s just close enough to Kitsap County that getting to and from work isn’t a huge hassle. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the heart of Belfair. There’s one main drag with one main grocery store, but it would worth it for the right piece of property. Anyway, back on point, we are flexible on location.
We haven’t ruled out buying an existing home. It was a topic of conversation when I met with Carey and Julie yesterday, and we will be receiving emails for both land and homes. Carey mentioned that some of the things we want could be out of our budget by $100k or more, but Julie mentioned our budget is tight but doable so we’ll see what happens. I shoud receive an email from Julie in the next day or so with links to more information to get a better idea of a direction. Should we decide to buy, we will probably look for something that has land & space, but needs cosmetic work. I know myself, and no matter what we buy, I will want to change it to make it more my style, so I may start with something that’s due for an update anyway and save a few bucks. We’re willing to shell out the money, along with our own time and effort, to work on the house. It’s worth it for the space!
I would love to do as much green building as possible. I know there can be great savings in this at times, but there can also be significant costs added on. This is something I will need to ask about! While at the Seattle Home Show, I watched a 45 seminar about green building from the founder of Lasting Nest Inc., and some of the things these people have done and their knowledge is all pretty awesome!!
Regardless of what we end up doing, our other important priorities are structure. Anything cosmetic can be changed over time, but the structure of the house needs to be solid. Things that would take a lot of work to change would be the top priorities, for example, windows. I want the windows that I want from the start. Floors, while still a big job, are a little more doable down the road. We understand that style & details AND a lot of indoor/outdoor space is just getting ourselves up for a massive mortgage, so patience and prioritizing.
Time. Time is something else we need to consider. First of all, a lot can change over time. For example, mortgage rates are amazing right now, like, super low. We could buy & lock in one of these amazing rates! With time, the rates could increase … is it worth locking in these great rates if we don’t find what we want and love our home? If we build, and roll our loan into a traditional mortgage after construction is complete, we lock ourselves into THOSE future home rates, good or bad. Of course, we could always buy now, build equity, and then sell again in a couple of years and upgrade for our next home. However, we don’t really want to do that. I don’t know if this will be our forever home or not because life is unpredictable but it could be. We plan to put a lot blood, sweat, tears, time, work, effort, thought, research, discussion (I’m aware of the redundancy here), both inside and outside. After all that, I can’t see us wanting to sell it and start over. I also worry about the “buy then sell in a couple years” plan, because I watched some friends buy a home in the early 2000’s and then want to sell it… just in time for the housing crisis. They HAD to keep a house they no longer wanted to live in unless they wanted to take a significant, which no one wants to do. I know the housing crisis was extreme but you never know what’s going to happen. We want to end up in something that makes up happy so that no housing market issues will impact us anymore. At the same time, building could take up to two years. Julie’s guess was the our home would not be move in ready until 2022! That’s so far away, but we estimated a year anyway, so what’s one more year if we get what we want? This allows a tiny bit more flexibility in the budget because there’s a lot of paychecks between now and then to use as things come up or as we work on things ourselves.
The meeting with Carey & Julie was so beneficial and informative, but we still don’t have the answer to our question about building. Rob wasn’t able to go with me for he meeting, since he is still in Japan, so this means I’m having to get this ball rolling on my own, & then relay the information to him so we can go from there. I am so looking forward to him return so he can participate and be hearing the information as I do so we can then go home and discuss it. I’m fully capable of making decisions but I want to be sure he is happy too. I want him to be a part of it alongside me.
At the beginning of our first trip to Japan at the start of 2019, I hadn’t been exposed to much authentic Japanese cuisine. Combining that with my not knowing my way around Yokosuka yet, & being in an area that has a heavy American influence right outside the US Naval base, we tried several options around town besides Japanese food.
Lotus Indian Curry House
My first meal in Japan wasn’t even Japanese but Indian, and I was alone while Rob was at work, which was disappointing for me. My first ever meal in Japan… alone. I wandered the local streets until I found a place that worked for me, a little hole in the wall Indian spot at the end of the Honch, called Lotus Indian Curry House. The place consists of only a couple of empoyees and only four or five tables. The waiter didn’t speak much English so there was some pointing to menu options but we got through it pretty easily. I had the coconut chicken curry because I love that stuff, and it came with a small salad & naan bread. The portions were smaller than what I’m used to back home but it was still more than enough food. I truly love Indian food & was so happy I found this place, and a bonus is that they do to go orders, which can be tough to find in Japan! The second time I ate here, I ordered the chicken tikka masala with turmeric rice, and it was delicious. While I waited for my food, they gave me a complimetary mango lassi, which was nice. A lassi is just basically a yogurt based smoothie.
Curry has that deliciously strong scent and there are quite a few places around here that serve it, so we’re smelling it all the time, and I crave it pretty much constantly. I ate chicken tikka, buriyani, butter chicken… that list goes on. I ate at Lotus at least once a week the entire time we were in Japan.
Coconut Chicken Curry. I didn’t take a picture of my naan or salad. There just wasn’t any way to make the coconut curry look appealing but, trust me, it was so good.
Chicken tikka masala with turmeric rice. They make you pay for the rice separately but it was so worth it.
Red Door Ramen
We were in Yokosuka for a few days before we got to go out for a meal together. This was disappointing for me, because my plan had been to get some authentic Japanese food as soon as possible, but it just didn’t play out that way. Our first Japanese lunch was at Red Door Ramen, which has it’s own blog, “Eat the Ramen,” they said. We chose this place because it’s near the hotel, and is well known to the Americans in town and people had good things to say about it. It was also helpful that they had an English menu… I’m just not sure that ramen is for me.
I always find the presentation of ramen dishes to be pretty. I also ordered these little curry filled pastries but I can’t remember what they were called.
Rob enjoys that fried rice. He tried my ramen and wasn’t into it either. He’s also really enjoying how often I make him pose for a picture during a meal.
Our second trip into Red Door Ramen just for their amazing fried rice. We also ordered some spring rolls which I enjoyed but Rob wasn’t a big fan. I was successful in eating my ramen and my fried rice with chopsticks so I was pretty happy with myself.
Rob’s beef fried rice was so good that we went back a couple days later to have pork fried rice for dinner. I don’t prefer to eat much pork but this was so good. This place served decent sized portions (maybe because they’re usually feeding American soldiers? idk) and I asked for the half order which was a good call. They were our first experience with a cash only policy. Rob really likes this place so I think we’ll end up here a lot.
Arabella’s is a little Meditteranean/Middle Eastern restaurant that I’ve been to twice, but unfortunately, didn’t take any pictures of the food either time. My first experience was on my own and I just really needed some hummus and it was so satisfying. The second time, Rob went with me, and he ordered two kebabs, one with chicken and one with a mixture of grounf beef & lamb. He enjoyed the chicken, but I don’t think lamb is for him & he didn’t even finish that one. I had a falafel wrap, which was okay but wasn’t my favorite. I’m sure I’ll end up there again when I get another hummus craving! We both ordered strawberry chu-hi’s, which are definitely the drink of choice for Americans in this area. Arabella’s is kind’ve a small spot, like so many of the other restaurants, and next time I’ll take pictures. They have a friendly staff, and there is a woman who stands outside in the evenings, trying to invite people into the restaurant. I walk by all the time but it took me a while to finally decide to go in and I think she was thrilled when I did.
Rob loves to make jokes about me and Alibaba, an Egyptian restaurant directly across the street from the hotel. At first, I was skeptical about eating there, because they open for the bar crowd in the evenings and they’re one of a few hookah lounges in the neighborhood, but I was curious about them. They offer the option to go in and sit down, or they have a window in the front of their restaurant where people can do to-go options. I was standing across the street, checking out their menu from a distance when the guy working noticed me and starting waving and talking to me so I figured, I might as well just try them out. So, I went over and ordered Egytpian shrimp curry, and the guy was very nice and chatty so we talked for a several minutes while he got my food together. Apparently, he’s been here for a little over four years and says he still doesn’t speak great Japanese. The owner and chef was there, too, and he was also a chatty guy. I’ve eaten there a couple more times since, and each time, it’s been good. I’ve only tried the shrimp curry and beef curry so far. Anyway, the reason Rob likes to make jokes is because of how I became fast friends with the people who work there, because they wave when they see me out & about, they’re very friendly when I order from them, and the owner hollered across the street to me to let me know they have new menu items. Hey, they are very conveniently located, they do to go orders so I can just take it right back to our room, they offer great service and I love curry so how can you blame me for wanting to keep going?? They also have chicken kebabs that are a lot better than some of the other places around here and Rob enjoyed those. They’re maybe like the “fast food” version of curry around here. I don’t say this because of the quality of their food, because they offer good food, which they take a lot of pride in, and I assure you, they’re cooking it… none of it’s from a box or frozen, and none of it is “fake.” I say this because they have a very small menu so it’s easy to just have everything ready to go so they can serve meals without a wait.
They also have some Egyptian shrimp tacos and a couple other things on their menu I’m interested in trying.
The owner is, in fact, from Egypt, and the employee I see there most is from Algeria.
Socially speaking, I think I enjoy these guys the most.
As I write this blog post, I am realizing that I’m probably eating too much curry and should expand my horizons a little more. As I say that, I am currently eating a pork curry from Coco Ichibanya, a Japanese curry restaurant. Pork is far from my favorite meat but I’ve never tried it in a curry so I decided to give it a go. Many of the restaurants who make curry ask how spicy they should make it, generally on a scale of 1-5. Sometimes, a 3 is really kickin’! I say that because the food I’m eating right now is especially spicy and I’m wishing I’d said 2. The cool thing about this restaurant is that they have a food truck that regularly parks right in front of the hotel. I can even see them from our balcony! The annoying thing about that is they seem to only park there when I have no intention of ordering from them, so I had to walk to their restaurant tonight. The curry I’m eating is pretty alright although next time, I will order the chicken cutlet variety. This place has good reviews online and was actually full of Americans who are curry lovers!
I’m trying to think of where else I might have eaten curry. Rob hasn’t joined me on any of my curry excursions, because I generally get it while he’s at work. If you ask him, he’ll say he’s not interested and doesn’t like curry, but I’ve made a couple of different curry dishes, and he liked them both so I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about! I’ve had Japanese, Egytpian and Indian curry and I imagine the base of the recipes are all similar to one another, but I love Indian food so Lotus makes me happy and, as of right now, they’re probably my favorite of the places I’ve eaten.
One day, just before I fell ill, we were wandering around the Honch, trying to pick a place to eat. Already realizing that I might be coming down with something, I wasn’t in the mood to play the “Where do you want to eat…?” game and we weren’t really agreeing on anything. We finally decided to stop in this tiny place, with no real tables, only a bar with a few stools. They’re just a little food stand where you can get things to go and take shots while standing outside their to go window. You can also choose to stay and eat at the bar, which is what we opted for. They’re going for that Southern California surfer vibe, calling themselves Surf Taco. I actually really like their name and think it would be perfect for a food truck down on Venice Beach or something. Anyway, we went at a good time because no one else was in there. Sometimes that place is empty but other days, I walk by and it’s packed. Rob ordered chili cheese fries and hot wings, I ordered a fish taco and a chicken taco. There’s really nothing authentic about this place, with a menu that also featured burritos, burgers and several more “Mexican” and non-Mexican options. Rob’s fries came with a cheese sauce, my tacos had pre-shredded cheese, but we knew what we were getting into so it was okay. It was like a cute version of Taco Time that also serves burgers & alcohol. For some reason, that fish taco was extremely satisfying, and I’m not sure if I was just that hungry or if it was just that good but we had an enjoyable experience at the un-authentic Mexican taco stand in Japan. It’s a cool little place if you want something simple and low key. I didn’t take pictures of the tacos… because they were tacos… with pre-shredded cheese… I can’ remember what kind of chu-hi Rob ordered but I got the Blue Hawaiian. They’re definitely appealing to the people who need a break from the local cuisine.
Being new to Japan, we thought all the shrines were so cool and we wanted to see them all! It didn’t take us long to realize that these shrines were literally everywhere throughout Japan and seeing them all is impossible. We also soon realized that visiting the famous, touristy ones was worthwhile, and occasionally checking out the small ones you come across can be neat, but a lot of them are pretty much the same in appearance, although it can be interesting to learn about the different God’s each one is devoted to. When we first arrived, we wanted to see some of Japan’s ancient history so the first tourist thing we did was take the train to Kamakura for the Great Buddha and Hase-dera. One day while Rob was at work, I decided to see what Yokosuka had to offer. Yokosuka doesn’t have anything quite as grand as what Kamakura has to offer, but I was able to map a shrine that was just up the hill from our room. We could almost see it from our balcony, and it’s a historical, free, nearby option.
Suwadai Shrine is located just outside the Honch, up a small hill, on the left side. When you reach the bottom of the high stone walls below the shrine, you have to climb quite the flight of stairs to reach the top. In the Spring, like so many other places, you can find trees full of cherry blossoms. The shrine takes up a small space and you could easily explore it and take everything in within 30 minutes of your arrival, probably less. Once at the top, it’s tranquil and nothing like the bustle of Yokosuka below!
To learn a little more about it, here is a link. It’s obviously translated and I didn’t want to pass along any inaccurate information.
This was trip #3 to Japan for me in the last 13 months, so that’s pretty exciting. I booked a 6:29am flight out of Seattle so, like I always do, I showed up to the airport far earlier than was probably necessary. Back before I’d ever been on a plane, I’d alway heard people talking about the need to arrive extremely early for a flight. Then, the first time we flew to Japan, TSA employees were on strike so it was suggested we arrive 4-5 hours prior to our departure time, & I still have a tendency to show up super early like that. Necessary? Probably not but I’m unwilling to risk missing my flight for any reason under my control. I got a ride to the airport at 2 am, meaning I forced myself out of bed at around 1:15am. It was really hard to do but I wanted to get a little time in with our cats before I took off and couldn’t see them for a week and a half. They make it really emotionally challenging to travel because I love their little faces and miss them when I’m gone, and I know they miss us, too. I feel especially bad for Emilia because she is very attached to Rob & I know she doesn’t understand why he’s been gone all this time and I think she strongly dislikes it when I take off, too. I believe that Rob’s absence has made her even more attached to me than she was. I also think she suffers from a little bit of separation anxiety so these trips are hard on her. I wish I could have taken them with me! To be honest, I wish we could take all three of them everywhere we go!
Anyway, while getting up that early was unpleasant and saying goodbye to our cats made me a little sad, getting to the airport at this time made for a great experience. It wasn’t long before the cafes, restaurants & stores opened so I could get some coffee & a snack, plus the airport was dead. This was my fastest experience ever getting through security, because it was just me and a handful of other people… no lines! There was no rush to get my shoes back on or to stuff my lap top back in my suitcase because there wasn’t a massive group of people following directly behind me! I didn’t even have to stand in line at Starbucks, which is a brand new airport experience for me. It was awesome. I think I might take really early fights as often as possible just because of how smoothly and quickly this all went… it made my time at SeaTac really relaxing!
I love being able to select my plane seats online and I always choose the aisle seat. I do not care about the window views and I want no part of being in the center seat. Pretty much, I don’t want to have to climb over people if I need to get up for any reason. I’m not a fan of someone else climbing over me either, but I detest the awkwardness of being the one doing the climbing! There was a girl who took the window seat, I was in the aisle seat, and there was no one in between us. Perfect. It seems that a bonus to the early flights is fewer people. It was great… until they told us that our flight would be taking off late! I was flying United Airlines, and after I booked my ticket, I read some very inconsistent reviews about them, many complaints mentioning how the flights always take off late, which made me uncomfotable but in their defense, they have a high safety rating, which is priority #1. Anyway, here I was, my fear of taking off late, coming true. Apparently, there was an issue at SFO and our plane wouldn’t be able to land until further notice. I mean, as annoying as this all was, if SFO is telling you that you have nowhere to land your plane and won’t for some time, what are you gonna do?? Usually, when flying to Japan, I make a point to take a direct flight there with no layovers. In this moment, I was really wishing I’d done that, because they were telling us that our flight woud get us to San Francisco at 11:30am… one hour AFTER my connecting flight to Japan takes off. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t worried about getting to Tokyo… I knew they would get me there, and the credit card I used has travel benefits so I was covered regardless of what happened with the airline, but WHEN would I get there??? How many hours would this tack onto my day? The flight attendants suggested that anyone who could potentially miss a connecting flight get off the plane and go talk to front desk staff and see if there’s another flight to get on. There was a direct flight from SeaTac to Tokyo Narita around 11:30ish, but that flight was five hours away. I’d already been at the airport for three hours, so the thought of eight airport hours before a 10 hour flight, then followed by a two hour train ride sounded pretty unappealing. I was running out of options though. Here I was, thinking it could be cool to catch an extra early flight, have a layover in San Francisco, I would eat a little lobster macaroni & cheese at Cat Cora, which would cut my time close but I would watch the clock. The real reason I chose this flight was because, even though the layover made my overall flight time a little longer, my departure time was so early, I would arrive in Tokyo sooner than the other flights. In addition to that, this flight would take me to Tokyo Haneda International Airport, which is significantly closer to my destination than Tokyo Narita. It would cut my train time in half. Obviously, this whole plan was backfiring now! However, when I got to the desk, there was an update saying that my flight would be taking off only an hour late, which would allow me one hour’s time between getting off my first flight to get to my connecting flight. I asked the United employee what she thought I should do, and she said she thinks I can make it. She said just get off the plane, ask someone which direction you need to go, and get going. I figured I have nothing to lose! Hopefully I’ll make the flight, if not, I’ll deal with it in San Francisco. I got back on the plane, which was now scheduled to take off at 7:30am. I’d gone to bed after 9pm the night before, so I was running on very little sleep, I was exhausted, and I’m not good at sleeping on planes but I managed to get a little power nap in, which really helped. By this point, there obviously wasn’t going to be any food at Cat Cora’s Kitchen! One of my favorite things to do is try new restaurants and some airport restaurants are totally worth trying. Cat Cora is a famous food personality who once won the Iron Chef contest on the Food Network. She is very interested in humanitarian work, sustainable efforts & eco-friendly products, all of which I can get behind and am happy to support. Anyway, back on track again. I was supposed to be jumping off that plane at 9:30 to get to my 10:30 flight, but the plane didn’t land until well after 9:30, I didn’t get off that plane until after 9:50, which means they were already boarding for my next flight and would close the doors at 10:15. Come on. I got off that plane as fast as I could, which wasn’t very fast at all because unloading a plane takes time. I walked into the terminal, got directions and headed towards my next flight. This was the first time I’ve ever literally ran through an airport but I MADE IT with 10 minutes to spare. It was such a relief. Thank goodness for luggage on wheels! I would be getting to Japan on time! I have never been to SFO before but I have to say, that aiport really makes sense and I was so grateful at how easy it was to navigate through the place. Thank goodness for small favors! Once I was on the plane, it was an easy flight. Flying from Seattle to Tokyo Narita takes about 10 hours but flying to Tokyo Haneda from SFO was about an hour longer, which was totally worth the earlier arrival time and cutting more an hour off my train commute. It just meant catching early morning flights but again, worth it. I was so impressed with United’s movie selection! I don’t watch a ton of movies generally, but that’s pretty much all I do when I’m on a plane. Again, I had an aisle seat and there was no one in the center seat. I was sitting in the middle section of the plane, so on the other side of the empty seat was a guy who also had an aisle seat. His girlfriend was actually seated in the section across the aisle from him, and she had an empty seat next to her as well, so he moved over to be next to her, and I had an entire row of seats to myself. The introvert in me loved everything about this!
I was curious to see how my experience would go once I arrived at Tokyo Haneda. It would be my first time at this airport, because we’ve always flown in and out of Tokyo Narita. I’ve read that Tokyo Narita is the main hub for U.S. fights into Tokyo but Tokyo Haneda is actually the bigger, busier airport of the two, because it’s the airport where most other countries fly the majority of their flights into. Tokyo Narita seemed pretty dang big to me and now you’re telling me that Tokyo Haneda is BIGGER AND BUSIER? Alright. Well let’s do it. I got off the plane, followed the crowd through immigration then customs, both of which were a breeze to get through. I was lucky because the woman who helped me at customs spoke English, so I was able to ask her how to get to the train. She gave me some directions that would take me to the Keikyu line, which was perfect because the Keikyu line was exactly what I needed! I exited the customs area, and immediately saw signs directing me to the trains, caught the 3:10 train and was at Yokosuka-chuo by 4:10. Other than the stress of my first fight running late, this was like the easiest travel experience. I was so appreciative that the train I needed was a short walk from where my plane landed, and I was so grateful that my train ride was much shorter than what I’m used to. The stress from earlier in the day was totally worth the ease and time saved once I arrived in Japan.
I did have to transfer trains one time but it was so easy. I disembarked the first train, and simply had to walk to the other side of the platform to catch the next train, so all of about 13 feet. Really easy!
Rob and I were messaging this entire time and counting down the minutes until we saw one another.
When we were younger and in the early days of our relationship, Rob & I put a lot of effort into Valentine’s Day. For us, the day rarely consisted of the traditional candy & flowers but instead, we would usually try to make a day of it by going to do something fun in the city. As the years passed, & we wanted to put our money elsewhere, those Seattle dates turned into a simple dinner somewhere in town, more than likely one of the Mexican restaurants because it’s the one we can usually agree on.
This year, Valentine’s Day was a little different in the fact that we were in Japan! This was actually our second consecutive Valentine’s Day in Japan so that’s kinda neat. However, it’s much the same in the fact that we went out for a simple, low key dinner not too far from where we’re staying. We are those people who have difficulty agreeing on a place to eat because we tend to enjoy different foods. I wanted to go out for udon (I am in Japan, after all!) & Rob actually agreed, but it was obvious he wasn’t excited about it. Somehow, we ended up on the top floor of More’s City at a “Western” style restaurant literally just called ” Steak & Hamburger Shop.” Rob has mentioned trying this place a couple of times and I’ve never been interested, but he works so much while he’s over there, & he’s constantly exhausted, so he doesn’t go out to eat often. I’ve spent less time in Japan than he has but evenso, I’m certain I’ve tried more restaurants than he has so I decided to let him choose where to have dinner. Anyway, you know how everything in America is Americanized? The American version of Italian food is different than what you would find in Italy, or the menu at a Chinese restaurant in America will differ from that of a Chinese restaurant in China? Well, at this restaurant, what they call a burger varies slightly from what we’re used to ordering! The “western” menu isn’t quite what you would see at an All American place back home. Their burger is more like a unique version of a salisbury steak. Most restaurants we’ve encountered open in the late morning or early afternoon, so the good news is that, even though it was nearly 5pm, we ordered just before the lunch menu ended so our meal was only like $20. If I’m being honest… it wasn’t our favorite meal but it was a good time nonetheless! Plus, we were together and that was the important thing. Being on the ninth story of the mall, we had quite a view overlooking Yokosuka & were seated directly in front of the window so that was a sweet deal!
This is our eleventh Valentine’s Day together!
Since I wanted to stick with Japanese food, I opted for the Japanese curry, one of the only Japanese options available. I admit, Japanese curry isn’t my favorite and this specific dish was interesting. Japanese curry is mild & made with different flavors versus Indian curry, which is my absolute favorite. They also provided an all you can eat salad bar but with my huge plate of curry and rice, a single trip to the salad bar was enough! Anyway, it was an experience.
Valentine’s Day isn’t a THAT big of a deal in Japan. They do tend to cater to tourists a little bit, so here & there, you’ll see some novelty gifts or the candy stores will set up outdoor booths, but Japan isn’t a Christian country so it makes sense that they wouldn’t celebrate St. Valentine, the Patron Saint of Love, even if the holiday is mostly about retail sales at this point. It is celebrated but not on such a grand scale as what we do in America. I’ve read several places that for them, Valentine’s Day is more about women gifting men and then exactly one month later, on March 14th, Japan celebrates “White Day,” which is when men reciprocate.
Side note: St. Valentine was also the Saint of Epilepsy and beekeepers. Who knew?
After dinner, we returned home, watched some reruns of Grey’s Anatomy, had a couple rum and cokes & spent the evening together.
As I write this, I am sitting on the Seattle ferry, wishing Rob was riding it with me. Only six weeks to go until he’s back home with me!
Fingernails are a work of art in Japan. They take it very seriously here, however, I tend to keep my nail designs a little on the simple side. First of all, I think those incredibly fancy & intricate nail designs can get pretty pricey, but also, you don’t see those often in America so I think I woud have a difficult time finding a person who could maintain them for me.
I meant to get my very outgrown nails done before I came to visit Rob but… life. Anyway, I googled places here in Yokosuka and came across Jelly Nails, who received rave reviews. It was nearby and people had awesome things to say about them so it was an easy choice. On top of that, they were prompt in getting back to me to set an appointment. All huge wins!
My appointment was with nail tech and salon owner, Angela, who spent quite a bit of time living in America and is fluent in perfect English. While my design request was a simple one I pulled off Google, I walked away a happy customer! Angela’s customer service was great and she was pleasant to talk to. Usually, I prefer it if people just do their job so we can get through the appointment and I can go on my way, but I actually enjoyed talking to her. We chatted about our husbands and where we’re from, time she’s spent in Washington, why I’m in Japan, and American vs Japanese nail salons, education, laws, etc. My experience at Jelly Nails was way better than that of any of the nail salons I’ve used back home (and I’ve used quite a few over the years) & I wish this place was near my home because I wouldn’t go anywhere else! I’m sure there are some wonderful nail techs back home and I probably just haven’t found them yet but this experience has inspired me to do some research and find someone awesome. I don’t know when or even if we will be back to Yokosuka after this trip, but if we ever are, I would love to pay another visit to Jelly Nails and have Angela do a new design for me! Angela wasn’t nearly as rough as some of the nail techs I’ve worked with before, she took her time and paid perfect attention to detail & my nails are flawless! She has an instgram & a Facebook page, featuring the hands of yours truly, but also, all the other works of art she and her employee have created. Some of them are pretty but not over the top, much like mine, but some of them showcase those amazing, wild nails that are so popular in Japan. There is one specific set on there that is ocean themed, with blue nails and little gold starfish that I especially like.
Bonus: I asked her if she likes ramen. Naturally, like so many others here, she loves it. I told her about my ramen experiences and where I’ve gone, and told her, “If that was ramen, I don’t like it.” She looked at me and laughed, and said, “We don’t even call that ramen!” She said she’s pretty sure people only go to these places because of the convenience and because they don’t know better. Thank goodness! I told her I thought I was the only person on the planet who must not like ramen but this makes me a little less scared to try it again. I always plan to give it another try but always back out. Good to know!
Before our first trip to Japan, Rob & I kept hearing how great the convenient store’s are. Anyone who has ever been to Japan already knows this and raves about them but we were still skeptical. I mean, how great can a 7-11 really be? Before arriving, we couldn’t grasp that they would be that much better than what we were used to… but they are pretty great. There was a 7-11 across the street from our hotel, although it was called the 7-i (7-11 International? I’m not really sure) and I admit, over our four months living in the New Hotel Yokosuka, we spent a lot of time and money at the 7-i but they aren’t the only option. You also have Lawson’s, Family Mart’s and more. They still live up to being a convenient store, but they are probably even more convenient that the ones back home! First of all, they are everywhere, and if you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a convenient store, that place could easily have a convenient stand. For example, if you walk anywhere, you will pass the convenient store, but if you go near the train stations, you will find a mini version of one of these convenient stores, OR if you’re catching a train, there’s good chance you’ll see a convenient “stand” right there on the platform, featuring snacks & sodas from these same convenient companies.
Back to the actual stores– they still sell the basics you would find in any convenient store, like chips, cookies, candy, soda, even Cup Noodles. There are still warmers at the front of the store to buy your ready to go fried food, but the quality of these options is a little better, so they sell quicky and I think it’s rare you would purchase something that’s been sitting for any length of time. I’ve seen some options that might appeal to American taste buds, such as hash browns, corn dogs & pizza buns, but a lot of the options are better than that! You can buy karaage (Japanese fried chicken, Rob loves it), yakitori, pork buns and more.
The option for prepared salads, curries, pastas, rice dishes, egg dishes, udon, sandwiches, etc., was like a small grocery store. They offered shelves and shelves of these. You can buy little bags of fruit, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, raw eggs, ramen, packages of already cooked & seasoned chicken, a variety of cakes, puddings, pies, liquor, frozen french fries, frozen produce… it was impressive. I still tried to go to the grocery store for the majority of our food but there were definitely days where I just wanted to buy some already cooked rice, or a quick dessert to throw in Rob’s lunch, and would just run down to the 7-i. Our next trip to Japan didn’t have one of these as close to our hotel and it was definitely something we missed!
Vending machines in Japan are something to be marveled at. Some vending machines offer beer and cigarettes. Most vending machines offer you a variety of hot & cold choices. Do you want to grab some hot coffee on your way to work in the morning? Swing by a vending machine. It’s summer and you want cold coffee now? Done. Are you starving?? Grab some already hot soup from the vending machine. Ice cream? Some of them have it. Soda? Juice? Hot tea? Cold tea? Water?
The beginning of 2019 was our first trip to Japan and even though Rob was there for work, it was new and exciting for both of us. Even though we were a 45 minute train ride from Yokohama or Kamakura, and in most cases, an hour+ from the fun attractions in Tokyo, it was so neat just walking around the streets of Yokosuka, exploring our new but temporary home. Rob was able to do some of the exploring with me but while he was at work, I did quite a bit of it on my own, which allowed me to see some things I might not have seen otherwise. In comparison to someplace like Tokyo, Yokosuka isn’t a very big place but there are some nice spots. It was also great to get all my steps in while checking out the town!
Verny Park is named for French engineer Francois Verny, and is a waterfront park that sits on the water with a view of the Yokosuka Naval Shipyard. It is well landscaped and full of a wide variety of trees, plants & flowers in french style flower beds, french fountains and park benches, and consists of a cafe and small museum. My first trip to Verny Park was in February, so it was still cold and not much was in bloom yet but it was still a nice spot. I went a second time because the first time I went, the little museum was closed and I wanted to check that out. I made a point to go back a third time, in Spring before we left because I wanted to see that place at its peak. The third trip was the best because Rob went with me! This visit took place just a day or two befor we returned home so it was a little bittersweet.
Francois Verny came to Yokosuka in 1865 to oversee the construction of the Yokosuka Naval arsenal. Verny participated in the negotiations for the start of foreign training missions in Japan, helping to train the Tokugawa army. Under Verny’s management, he hired 65 Japanese technicians, 2500 workers, constructed & built up the shipyard, established schools for training workers and built four lighthouses (including the Kannonzaki lighthouse). In 1876, the Japanese were able to take over and Verny returned to France where he had great success working for a major mining company. He was also awarded the Legion of Honour before passing away in 1908.
Visit to Verny Park, trip 1: winter
Visit to Verny Park, trip 2: The Museum
Visit to Verny Park, trip 3: Spring! One last day to wander around Yokosuka before returning to Seattle.
Update: Kinda cool — for my third trip to Japan, while visiting Rob for another of his work trips, we stayed at Libery Cove House, which overlooks Verny Park. We had a great view of the park and the water!