Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Little New York, by Waki Yamato

Little New York Vol. 8Little New York Vol. 8 by Waki Yamato
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had no really much idea of what to expect from this manga, except that I knew the mangaka from before (from Hakara-san ga toru).
Similarly to the other manga I read, the protagonist is an "odd" girl, odd considering the epoch and Japan, which encounters her true love and plenty of obstacles on the way.
Partially, the two stories do not differ too much from each other. The protagonist, as Benio in Hakara-san ga toru, is a strong and not conventional feminine character. In particular, Shino has been grown as a boy from her father and has to learn her way to be feminine.
This is also the trademark for oddity and that gives the chance to open an eye on the changes that Japan is going through, when it finally open its doors to the Western world, in particular USA.
What I thought was very interesting of the manga, except for the nice but possibly a bit trivial story, was the possibility to understand this specific historical period of Japan and how controversial certain things that we nowadays give for granted were back then.
The influences and progresses carried on by the Americans are seen as positive by the author, although she doesn't hide the fact that in reality things didn't run smooth at all for several reasons.
A part from the historical background, if the female protagonist is a interesting character, her "true love", is a bit too dull and belonging to some "typical" romantic and idealized stereotype. However, the other characters (both male and females) that become key figures in the plot, have a much more interesting deepnees and provide also a touch of humour there and then.
On top of this, I find the drawings very beautiful, probably because they are typical from the 70s (although this manga was published at the end of the 80s), as Waki Yamato's style is.
As summary, I strongly recommend this manga for whoever is interested in reading an historical romantic story, with a tears-enriched ending.

View all my reviews

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Friday, December 21, 2012

JapanPhoto on the pyre!

It is soon Christmas and, of course, now that we are parents too, we feel the pressure to produce fancy Christmas cards to send to relative and friends, calendars, photobooks, mugs, keyrings...
Last year, I experimented using Cewe Photobook to produce a photobook and a calendar. Everything went very fine and I was very satisfied of the result.
So, this year, I thought of using the same software and service, via JapanPhoto, a relevant swedish chain for photo products.

Well. If you were expecting a cute card of Isabella this year, you will not receive it thanks to them!
After spending an evening working on cards layout and not, we sent out the order. It was the 4th of December.
Yesterday, after 2 weeks of silence, I decided to start to contact support. When I was logging in on the homepage, I could not find the orders made.
The support answered few hours after my first message, providing the order numbers and stating that there had been a problem issuing the products I have been ordering.
Of course, I didn't get notified of this and I asked her why, which problems had been encountered and when I could get the stuff I wanted.
The woman kindly replied for the second time, repeating that if I wanted I could get credited (of what? I hadn't paid yet) and that, due to the holidays, I'd see everything in the beginning of January.
I decided to contact the online support and after providing the order numbers, they could tell me that ONE of the things I had been ordered where in the shop, while the others.. puff! No trace of them.
I ask what I could do, since I was getting penalized by this (thing that I asked also to the email support, which kindly stop replying to me) and they told me that I could not get any benefit from them, except a discount based on the price that I was going to get when I made my order, and that I could print the Christmas cards directly at the shop, after redesigning them.
I tried to call the shop, even, but they gave me a number (the number pointed out to the same support person that had answered me via chat) and said again, that I could print my cards (and hope that Santa will have a magic wand to send them allover the globe in 1 day, sure!) at the shop.

Me and Mattias agreed that at this point it was pointless to print the Christmas cards (sadly, since the one we made was very cute!) and today, I went to pick up what else I had ordered promising myself I'd report the feedback of such experience.
When I explained what happened to the shop assistant she just barely apologize and said "Well, at least, you have this item now". Well, thank you very much!

If this is the way you threat customers, considering that of course we will disappoint some people that maybe were expecting the card and ourselves, we will never never never buy anything from you!
And I hope that, whoever will read this experience will remember that they will never get anything to compensate the frustration of a missing order.
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cardano al Campo - Åkarp

We are possibly known to always choose perfect timing for certain things, and let's say that taking the car from Italy to Sweden could have been done in another moment of the year, without involving this much snow.
Nevertheless, we travelled just bringing few essentials from my home, leaving on a Tuesday afternoon.
Mattias, the official chauffeur of this tour, took it very easy and according to the speed limits (no comment here...) especially through Switzerland.
The roads were snowy and after crossing even Austria, we landed in Germany.
It was also getting dark, it was time to make Isabella eat (and possibly sleep) and we decided to leave the highway for trying to find a random place to sleep (yes, we were very well organized for our trip).
Pity though that it was pitch black so it was not possible to see anything around us and unluckily, my sim card was not very cooperative when on roaming. After few tricks, we finally managed to use TripAdvisor and landed in a pitoresque and drowned in snow little town, Kißlegg.
The hotel that we managed to find was called Hotell Gasthof Ochsen.
The place was cosy, the staff very professional and helpful and the room comfortable and clean.
The only problem was that it was too warm for us (as almost every place, at night), but otherwise it was very spacious and had a good price as well.
We even ate at the restaurant and the menu was quite interesting and what we ate was very much appreciated: however, we didn't have the time to think through our choices or enjoy fully our food since our daughter was in the way most of the times ;-)
The waitress tried to distract her with some crayons and paper but the result became more work for us :)

After a restorative (sort of) night, we took off again and the driver made a big leap, in the morning, and covered a quite nice distance.
Pity, though, it was very much starting to snow again.
Not too far from the highway

We stopped to eat at some random place on the highway, nothing that is worth even remembering and, hoping that we would be home in the evening, we put ourselves in the car and started the trip again.
800 km to go
Well. That was about it, basically. It some indefinite part of Germany, a queue started to form. We could simply not move forward that much, and the trucks we were passing were standing still or attempting to move in a quite messy road.
We lost 2-3 hours of our trip just hoping something would get better. Luckily, Mattias took advantage of the forced break to read the instructions of the car navigator and learnt that it pointed out the existance of queues or road blocks, so as soon as we could, we decided to go out from the A7 to get into the "road 27", which was almost running parallel and with less queues.
That went fine, pity that when it was time to get back to the highway we managed to take the A4 towards Berlin...and that was definitely not our intention.
After losing so much time (and patience - just imagine singing "Mamma mia" 700 times per hour...) we decided that we could not make an attempt to go home that day: it was too dark and the weather was still bad. It was time to find yet another random place where to stop for the night.
This time, we went out at Kassel but instead of going to the big town we moved towards Kaufungen and the only free hotel was something called Burgerhaus.
Here two waitress were attending too many tables, swirling around them with an impressive efficiency. In all of this, they even managed to give us a room and bring us to it.
The room was far from being as cosy as the other place, and despite the "forbidden to smoke" sign, everything had a fantastic background taste of smoke.
The dinner was the usual show, trying to feed our little overtired beast, and eating some nice steak at the same time.
A room with a view
Collecting energy at breakfast
OK! Just 684 km to go! The navigator was targetting our arrival at destination at 15:11. What a woman! She guessed just right!
The last part of the trip went definitely smoother than the rest. The roads were almost clean and we were just so happy of reaching Denmark, after a short ferry journey, with only 200 km to go.
Last part of Germany, reaching Puttgarden
A familiar danish landscape

 Reaching Sweden was the best part of the trip. It never felt nicer to finally arrive there, even though we were slightly afraid that all our imported food (among other things) would have been confiscated.
But, well, despite everything and the fact that we arrived on a Thursday at 15:11 (almost) extending our trip of 7 long hours, we are very happy that we have done this and that we have managed to bring so much stuff home, especially the "affettatrice" (slicer) which we inaugurated today with great success!
Now, next trip (possibly done in a better season) it will be the turn of carry north books and manga!

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Osteria Qui

We have finally had the opportunity to go out for dinner yesterday. The occasion was to celebrate my mother's birthday and we decided to explore a new restaurant that have quite good reviews.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that I was mostly busy eating and taking care of Isabella at the same time, I didn't manage to take pictures of some of the dishes.

The restaurant, located near a fancy residential area in Malmö, is called Osteria Qui.
The place is quite cosy, although the environment is modern, but it surely is not exactly looking like a traditional Osteria.
The food served though is quite simple, the menu gives me really the sensation of an Osteria menu.

Me and Mattias decided to go for the Christmas menu, which included a marinated anchovies, tortellini in broth or spaghetti with parsley, garlic and anchovies for primo, lamb racks or cod for secondo. And on top of that, there was a ricotta pudding.
My mother took instead penne all'arrabbiata and a caprese salad.

In general the food was actually quite tasty and quite genuine. My broth was very very tasty and both the two secondo were worthy waiting.
However, the penne of my mother dish were most likely pre-cooked, which was a pity because the tomato sauce, although enriched with a bit too much garlic, was very good.
The main issue we encountered with the food was that the portions were too small for our appetite. Especially my tortellini dish. It is not that we went out starving, but we took a complete menu and we were still hungry when we went home.
I didn't appreciate fully the dessert, a bit too much touched by some liquor, while Mattias, as a good Swede, enjoyed it.

In general, it was a quite ok evening (if we exclude Isabella getting a bit too tired and exploring my bag and the fact that my diners were a bit too quiet), but for us, it took about 2 hours and something to get through the food and between each dish we waited too long time. That was also having a bad effect on Isabella's patience, of course.
But we were also very unfortunate with the ventilation. Something went wrong and at a certain point the whole restaurant was filled with a thick "grilling" smoke. The only way to solve the problem was to let us freeze a bit, opening the main door. That didn't help our "parfume" on our way home: we all smelled like grilled meat.

So, a positive experience considering that the restaurant have been opened for three months, but the price/portion ration can be improved and they surely need to speed up the service and fix the ventilation!

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

An improvised pizza

Last sunday we actually forgot to plan for our standard Sunday pizza and we ended up putting as topping some leftovers.
Specifically a green pepper and some spring onions...

It wasn't the best pizza ever, but it worked for that occasion!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

A practical tool for the kitchen

Since we moved, we have been having our disk tray in the middle of the kitchen. Very annoying and very unpractical.
My dream would be to have it built in in some shelf, as I have seen it in most of the kitchens in Italy, but it seems this system has not yet reached the nordic side of the world.
So, since we have to find a compromise, while shopping hastily some food, I spotted this item and, with the authorization of his majesty, my husband, purchased it the second shopping round.

Ours is in grey and so far, it has been a great substitute for extra-wet and useless towels, since it is in microfiber, and more compact than our beloved blue dish tray.
A recommended item for all modern housewives ;-)

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Guess what?

Yes, this is yet again another pizza!
The last Sunday pizza
This time we tried a classic of the classics, which has not a specific name!
The base for the pizza is the same as a standard margherita, but we add some slices of tomatoes as well. After the pizza is coming out from the oven, we add some rucola and fresh grated parmesan.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mila or Mimi'?

This can be possibly understood only by italians, but...
It is not the number 7 of Mila, neither the number 2 of Mimi', but it is maybe a beginning and a multiplication of the two numbers?
(Disclaimer, Mimi' wears a t-shirt with number 1 in some cases...)
Front and back of my first "real" volleyball t-shirt

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Red chicory and pancetta

And for the serie belonging to the sunday pizza, almost with one week of delay, the red chicory and pancetta is served.
The procedure for the dough and the topping is basically the same as always.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Zuppa & Pappa: MV% Ceramics

Thanks Sofia for this nice present from MV% Ceramics.
Zuppa & Pappa plates

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Another pizza with fruit

Yes, we are quite monotone.
This time the pizza was with pears and gorgonzola (and nuts). A classic!
The pizza of the day

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Again pizza and risotto

Ok, it clearly doesn't seem like we eat anything else these days, but that is not the case!

For the traditional Sunday pizza we have tried this version: pancetta and grilled squash.
Ingredients for the topping:

  • Mozzarella
  • Tomato sauce
  • A squash
  • Some slices of bacon/pancetta
Meanwhile the dough is being prepared, slice the squash in thin slices. Then, grilled them with some olive oil.
When the dough is ready to be "topped", start by putting the tomato sauce spreading it with a spoon. Add the mozzarella breaking it in small pieces (I do not slice it up, I break it with the hands and place it randomly). Finally add some of the squash and the pancetta slices. 
Cook it in the oven that was previously warmed to 200 degrees for about a quarter and serve!

Pizza with pancetta and grilled squash
The risotto I proposed this week was instead a pumpkin risotto, in theme with the season!
  • one onion
  • 750 ml of vegetable broth
  • 2 fists of rice for person + one for the pot
  • half of a butternut pumpkin peeled and sliced up in cubes
  • 100 gr of parmesan
  • 50 gr of butter
  • a bit of olive oil
  • 1 glass of white wine
The preparation is quite basic and follow the majority of the risotto recipes.
Light fry the finely chopped onion in a bit of olive oil and then the pumpkin until it softens up.

Add the rice and let it toast for few minutes: pour the wine in and lower the temperature. Start to cook the rice adding slowly the broth and after few minutes add the pumpkin.

Cooking the risotto

When the rice is ready, take the pot off the heat, add the butter and the cheese and mix carefully for one minute or so. 

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shoes, babies and Sweden

At least during winter, this is a quite interesting dilemma.
The kiddo should be able to roll in the snow, leaves, dirt, soil, mud and whatever, and still have the possibility to walk without damaging forever his/her capability to walk when he/she will be 50.
What to dooooo! You might need 700 pair of shoeeees! One for the rain, one for walking elegantly with mamma and papa', one for being in the snow/rain/mud/etc. And although I support the second-hand concept, being italian (and from Gallarate, I'd add) the shoes can't be second-hand. It is a no-no!

So, this is the result of our little nordic hunt, which we will evaluate if working or not for all the possible circumstances...
Elegant autumn shoes (Austrian brand: Superfit - very common here o.O)
Boots for outdoor activities - no elegant restaurant dinners (Reima)
Oh, life in Italy it is much simpler from a shoes perspective..

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Apples and Taleggio

With the abundancy of apples in our garden, the only thing to do except trying to find a way to give them away, is of course to eat them ourselves. For not going to traditional, this weekend we have combined apples with taleggio (an italian cheese from nearby Milano) in two different dishes: a risotto and pizza.
Ingredients for two people that eat a lot:

  • 5 fists of arborio rice 
  • 750 ml of vegetable broth
  • 2 apples
  • 100 gr of taleggio
  • 40 gr of butter
  • a bit of olive oil
  • a yellow onion
  • one glass of white wine
The procedure is basically the same as always: warm up 20 gr of butter, light fry the finely chomped onion and then add the rice for toasting it. Pout the wine over and then cook the rice with the broth.

The rice is cooking
After 10 minutes of cooking the rice with the broth, add the apples that have been sliced in little cubes.

We add the apples
Meanwhile, we cut the taleggio in small cubes and when the rice is ready we remove the pot from the heat and let it rest one minute or two. Then we add the cheese and the remaining butter.
Mix everything carefully until both the butter and the cheese are properly melted.
Mix the risotto for the final touch
Serve it with a bit of grated parmesan cheese for the most cheesy people, a tiny decoration of parsley for the ones that care about presentation or a little shower of black pepper for the spicy ones.
The risotto is ready!

  • The usual dough + mozzarella + tomato sauce
  • One apple
  • 100 gr of taleggio
After preparing the dough and put the tomato sauce and the mozzarella on top, as usual, add the sliced apple and the sliced taleggio. 

Ready to be cooked!
Let it cook for 15-20 minutes in 180 degrees warm oven (or until the cheese is melted and the pizza is golden).

Take it out of the oven, and make sure that you are not one hour later respect to your daughter schedule. She will eat you alive with the pizza ;)

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Friday, October 19, 2012

What to do when you need to pick up too many apples..

So, too many apple trees means also too many apples and how to pick them up. Of course, hands and a ladder are usually sufficient tools, but why making life "so complicated" when one can use practical tools!
The tool!

  With this quite simple but very effective tool, even abnormous-quantities-of-apples-picking operation can become a decent family activity.
Carefully "cherry picking" the apples. The Tool is in action!

  Maybe I should start to sell this amazing gardening tool, because picking up apples becomes easier and doesn't require too much stretching, cursing and of course, effort. The result is guaranteed as well as an happy customer!
Ten minutes of apple harvest

  Now, there is only one problem left. Still too many apples to eat... post signature

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Pizza: Aubergine and Salame

Today we have inaugurated a new tradition (let's see how long it lasts ;-D): every Sunday we will prepare a different style of home made pizza.
The first one (if we exclude "my" classical corn and bacon one) has been Mattias' choice: aubergine and salame.

Ingredients for the dough:
300 gr of flour
25 gr of fresh yeast
lukewarm water
a pinch of salt

Preparing the dough is quite easy: I put the flour in a bowl (although traditionally, one would need a wooden surface - which I don't have ;D), I start to add a bit of the yeast that I have melted in a cup of lukewarm water.
I mixed it around, after adding a bit of salt, and start to work the dough with the hands until I get a quite compact and soft ball of dough. If it is too sticky, I will add some flour, if it is too dry some lukewarm water.
After obtaining the ball, I cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
Working the dough
When the time has passed, it is time to stretch the dough.

For today's topping, we went a bit lazy and bought a pre-made sauce (just to save those 15 minutes of cooking your own sauce) but we had to prepare the aubergine.
The premade sauce
We cut them in thin slices and put them in layers with salt. Once the layers are done, I put a big heavy object on top and let it rest for half an hour.
The aubergine
Once this is done, I wash carefully the aubergine and dry them by squeezing them.
We fried them today, but possibly also grilled would have worked fine (fried have a nicer crunchy surface).
After strecthing the dough, we spread the tomato sauce, added the aubergin and sprinkled everything with some mozzarella.
Ready to be put in the oven!
We have let it cook in a pre-heated oven (180 degrees) for about half an hour and once ready we have put the salame on top. 
Still smoking
Buon appetito!

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