Back from Japan!

Back from Japan, Juicers! Wow, I’m only gone for two weeks and look at everything that’s been going on here! People have been buying homes, rescuing sweet dogs, getting shortlisted for major prizes, and cited by major newspapers. Great work everyone!

Here are some of my recent accomplishments:

1) Managed to NOT confuse the “flush” button with the “emergency” button in the toilet, as I did last year when accompanying my partner to a meeting at Doshisha University in Kyoto. (Nothing like exiting to the sounds of an alarm and into a concerned crowd!) Partly this was due to excellent signage, as per this on the Shikansen (bullet train):

toilet sign shikansen

In Doshisha everything was in Japanese, so I made my best guess, and guessed wrong.

2) Hung out in a Catbus. Happy to report that the Ghibli Museum (dedicated to the works of anime master Hayao Miyazaki), which has always had a Catbus for kids, now also one for adults. It’s fun! Even if all we boring adults did was sit sedately in it instead of crawl all over it. (Internet photo because you’re not allowed to photograph in Ghibli.)

3) Visited a coed onsen (spring-fed hot bath). Hey, even most Japanese women won’t do this! No pics, because what happens in the onsen stays in the onsen. However, let me just say that it’s amazing—at least to this insular American—how nonsexual a room full of naked, sweaty people can be.

4) Got to watch superb, nearly commercial-free, jingoism-free, and unobtrusively commentated Olympics coverage on the Japanese equivalent of PBS. (Which again raised the perennial expat/tourist-in-Japan question: “Why can’t we have such nice things back home?”) And, finally…

5) Remained blissfully removed from all things Trumpian—seriously, it was a downer to arrive at Narita airport for departure and see The Odious One on TV for the first time in weeks.

More to come…it was a successful vaca in that I wasn’t ready to return. But I did miss you all, and am happy to be back and posting!

Friday Recipe Exchange: Convection Roasted Chicken

Dinner is Served

Thanks for all the advice on the last recipe thread on how  best to use my convection feature, gave me the impetus to to try it out this past week. That’s the basis for most of tonight’s recipe exchange. From the recipe blog:


After asking for and receiving some excellent advice on how to use my new convection oven, I decided to jump in and test it out. Roasting a chicken seemed like the most logical choice. If I ruined it, I could turn it into chicken salad. Sonoma Chicken Salad to be exact, found here.

This time of year, recipes seem superfluous – farm fresh corn, zucchini from my garden and sliced tomatoes need little embellishment. But I do have Tomato-Pasta Salad, here, that changes up the usual flavors.

For dessert, those plums needed to be used, so I went with a Plum Crumble (or as my cousin christened it, Plumble), recipe here. I used the convection feature,  which helped the crisp brown evenly. Bonus Bixby inspecting the plums here.

I don’t have any recipes from JeffreyW this week, but that could because this guy is keeping him busy:


That’s the most adorable, Gabe, getting himself into a bit of trouble. I am looking forward to seeing how JeffreyW’s figs turn out, hopefully abundant enough for homemade fig newtons. But if not, just fresh off the tree. I love figs! Photos of his fig progression are here.

What’s on your menu this weekend as summer winds down? My grapes are starting to ripen, and of course I’m overrun with plums, so does anyone have some good plum or concord grape recipes they want to share? What else is cookin’ tonight?

Chicken's Done

Tonight’s featured recipe is pretty simple, since what I wanted was to test out how the convection oven treated my ingredients. I started with a local chicken, zucchini from my garden, potatoes from my dad’s garden and local corn.

I mixed together 2 tbsps of butter with dried, crushed rosemary and basil, along with crushed garlic and rubbed it under and over the skin of the chicken. I then rubbed more of the herbs and garlic inside  the cavity.

I put the chicken and the sliced potatoes into the roasting pan. I roasted them at 425 degrees, until the breast meat registered at 165 degrees and the thighs at 170 degrees. The high temperature, combined with the convection created a crisp skin that quickly sealed in the juices. Total cooking time was one hour for a five pound bird.

Convection Oven Roasting

I added the sliced zucchini about 15 minutes before the chicken was about to come out of the oven, so everything finished up nicely. The corn was microwaved for two minutes an ear (for a total of six minutes) with the husks on. If I had been more confident with my oven skills, I would have popped the ears into the oven just a bit before the zucchini and roasted them in the husks.

I am over the moon with what the convection feature can do – the potatoes were perfectly roasted, the chicken crisp and moist, the zucchini tender. The flavors were great and the herbs really permeated the meat.


That’s it for this week. I’m sitting here watching the welcome rainstorm drench my very thirsty yard, while contemplating my long list of things to do this weekend. Have a great weekend! – TaMara

Trump’s Wisconsin Rally – Now a Policy Speech on Law & Order

Apparently the rally is now a teleprompter driven policy speech on law and order. Live feed embedded below:

Afternoon Open Thread

Another busy day- got Walter a new collar (like Lily and Thurston Howl’s but bigger), some chew toys, some daily vitamins, some calorie rich wet food for puppies and some science diet kibble for dogs with joint issues, and treats for everyone. Ran into one of the vet nurses while there and she demanded updates. He’s eating everything I feed him, and so far today he had two sample bags of prescription food for breakfast, two for lunch, and at about four I gave him a can of puppy food and two cups of kibble, and he inhaled it. He had another healthy bowel movement and isn’t puking it up, so I’m going to give him another can and two more cups tonight. Basically, as long as it keeps coming out the rear in good form, I’m gonna keep cramming it in the front.

I’m going to take a nap and then cook a big dinner. I haven’t been eating the past couple of days (and Steve ate part of my lasagne last night and then the kids came home after work while I was in bed and finished it off, the fuckers) because I get freaked out when I make big purchases. My first car I bought for 1,000, my second car for 4,000, and my third car (the current one) was 12,000 and I didn’t sleep for a week, so a house shot me into a whole new orbit of anxiety. And that’s before the renovating starts.

First gold medal for the US went to a WVU student!

Friday Recipe Exchange – No Really, I Mean It And It’s Garden Fresh

DSC_8715 (1600x1060)

JeffreyW makes Caprese Bruschetta, yum

Hey! How ya been? It’s been much too long. I owe you recipes and a house update. Lots of eventful stuff going on at Balloon-Juice the last couple of days, but I thought I’d sneak this in here anyway. Enjoy!

From the cooking blog:


It’s been a busy month and I have some more house details and photos. Buying a house in seller’s market was the most challenging house I’ve ever purchased. But I found a cute one with a great garden area. Garden photos at this link and house photos at this link.

Today is my birthday and I’m celebrating with friends and Dutch Chocolate Gelato, recipe here. I served it with a variety of chopped nuts: hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds.

Dutch Chocolate Gelato
But wait, there’s more! Click to read

Late Late Night Open Thread: One Day’s Trump Recap

trump get the baby out toles

(Tom Toles via

Even apart from this and this and also this plus not to forget this

trump workplace harrassment sheneman

(Drew Sheneman via

Read more

Shafted by American Airlines

The reason I’m writing this instead of winging merrily over the Pacific Ocean, sake in hand, is that American Airlines shafted us. They canceled the local flight because they didn’t have a crew. (Which I’m guessing is airline speak for being chronically understaffed to inflate profits.) And so we missed our international flight.

The woman at the gate of our local airport was rude and unsympathetic, not to mention incompetent:

1) She told us that if the flight is also canceled tomorrow (wtf!) we should just drive to Chicago and board the international flight. First, driving three hours on one of the most epically congested roads in the U.S. and then paying hundreds for two weeks of parking is not a great option. Second, someone later told us that if we don’t check in with AA first, even despite the cancellation, our entire ticket would be voided.

2) She also supposedly reticketed us, but hadn’t actually booked the seats. If I hadn’t called our Japanese travel agent just to keep her in the loop, we would have arrived in Chicago and been marooned there.

So I guess we’re “lucky” we have seats tomorrow. I know airline horror stories are common as spit, and mine is small potatoes compared with many—missed family reunions, funerals, etc. But this still sucks, and the part that sucks worst is that AA won’t be held accountable at all.

When I posted on Facebook, a fair number of people wrote back and said they were former US Airways fliers, but that ever since US Airways merged with AA in 2015 flying has been dreadful.

Meanwhile, here’s AA CEO Doug Parker bragging about how mergers have made the airline industry loss-proof:

Parker spoke on the industry’s recent transformations at American’s annual meeting last week, reports, furthering his argument that airline consolidation has made the major names relatively impervious to the slings and arrows of business.

“My personal view is that you won’t see losses in the industry at all,” Parker said. “We have gotten to the point where we, like other businesses, will have good years and bad years, but the bad years will not be cataclysmic. They will just be less good than the good years.”

Unregulated capitalism ftw!

FYI, Parker earned nearly $18 MM in in 2013 and $12 MM in 2014. (Now he’s being paid in stock, so the numbers are less clear.)

Anyhow after spending 45 minutes on the phone—mostly on hold—an AA rep offered me a $300 credit on a future flight. I told him I didn’t want it. What I really want is more regulation. Oh, and to break up the “quadropoly” discussed in the above-linked article. (Four carriers now control 80% of the U.S. market.)

In any case, if my sad tale moves you in any way, kindly refrain from flying American Airlines.