Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Tail of the Holidays... and a Little Memoir

Time always rushes away to a new year once it hits Thanksgiving. This year was not an exception. I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas music is on. Christmas lighting is on. Never ending cookies and chocolates... It's hectic, but cheerful and lively. Now Christmas is behind us, I feel the time is going a little bit slower.

My friend in Japan facebooked about the little package I sent to her. Glad to hear she enjoyed the caramel popcorn. Yes, I sent her a trouble... a super addictive, rocket high calorie munch.

My parents called me when they got their package. They put one of the CDs I sent them so I could hear it over the phone. Their voices were full of excitement, which brought me a big smile.

Since my grand mother past away right after Thanksgiving, things haven't been easy. I missed her funeral. As our custom, they have a wake at the night a person past and a funeral on the next day. There was no way I could make it to the funeral. So, my parents didn't tell me until they finished the funeral. My mother was wrecked. She was crying and tying to accept what happened and find more things she should have done for her mother. I was very upset because I couldn't find words to comfort her and be there with her to hold her hands. What kind of a daughter am I? Something like this happens the distance always sits in my way. But this is one of the consequences of my decision on my life... something I need to live with. I never be able to wipe my guilt to my family about this.

A couple weeks prier to the day my grand mother past, Nana, the next door neighbor, crossed the rainbow. It was a very quiet death. She was ninety eight. Marilyn and I visited her a week before she past. She was sleeping peacefully. Marilyn gave her kisses on her face. Nana never opened her eyes. Thinking back, Marilyn knew Nana's time was running out. Kissing Nana was her way of saying good bye. In fact, she doesn't look for Nana anymore whenever we go to her house. Marilyn used to look for her when she didn't see Nana. She knows Nana is gone.

Nana was such a grand mother figure. A little old lady with gray curly hair and glasses. She read newspaper, played cross word puzzles, taught her great grand children crocheting, and enjoyed baking. She had a quite sense of humor, too. Whenever Marilyn visited her, she petted her with her small hand saying "Good dog." She loved company. We always had a great time with her. We just love Nana. She always reminded me my grand mother. Spending time with Nana comforted me making feeling like being with my own grand mother. And, I hoped my grand mother would be hanging out with somebody like Nana did. I feel I lost two grand mothers at once.

My grand mother was also a small lady. She was a determined brave woman. Her husband, my grand father, worked for a government own coal company. This is a story in 1940s. Japan had invaded Manchuria for their resources. The movie, The Last Emperor, describes the history pretty accurately. He seemed to be one of the engineers sent to Manchuria. He took his family there. Then, he received a pink slip. It was 1945. He never came back to his family. She was still in Manchuria on August 15th in 1945. As soon as she got the news that Japan lost, my grand mother started walking toward the coast holding her baby with other Japanese people in the community. It was not an easy trip. A lot of families gave up their children on the way for their survival—both the parents' and the children's. They left their children to Chinese families. Unfortunately, most of the children left behind would have tough lives after that. But, my grand mother never gave up her baby. She brought her baby back to Japan with her. The baby was my mother. My mother never forgets to appreciate her mother's courage and determination to protect her baby. You wouldn't believe she did it if you saw her. She was a small humble old lady.

My grand mother told me the story only once. Something reminded her her husband. She started, "My husband was a great person. He was smart, hard working..." That was her tough memory to talk about. I guess she sealed it deep in her mind. I never asked her about my grand father before and after that. I know one thing for sure. Without her achievement, I wouldn't exist today.

When Chad and I were invited to the Christmas dinner at the next door, Shirley, Nana's daughter, said "Have some apple pie though this is not Nana's..." The table was hard to fill without Nana's apple pie. Nobody believes their parents would die until that happens.

I called my mother one week after they told me the news. My father said "Mother does not keep crying anymore. She is moving forward". My mother said "I'm doing better. My friend is coming over to check on me today. I have your father. Your thinking makes me feel better. I'll be ok". TLC from people around her has been supporting her. She also stepped up to accept their TLC. I think that makes my grand mother happy. I guess people who past would worry about their loved ones they left behind. If they see their loved ones get strength to look ahead and make their positive move, and they have people who support them to do so, that must be a great relief to ones who crossed over.

I miss my grand mother a lot. She was my only grand mother since my father's parents had past before my parents got married. Just so many great memories with her... A good thing is we would lose none of them. I talked about her a lot with my parents. That's comforting to us. So, I visit Shirley. We just talk. Marilyn joins us sometime. Shirley's families often visit her. I hope Nana feels good about what she sees from there.

The little kids' like excited voices of my parents were the best Christmas gift to me... especially this year. To get this again, I might even break my bank.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

クリスマス

感謝祭が終わると本格的にクリスマスの準備が始まります。ハイウェイを運転しているとクリスマスツリーをてっぺんにくくりつけている車を目にすることしばしば。日が落ちると様々な電飾が家々を飾り、凍える夜気の中にも温かさを感じるような気がします。

クリスマスの時期の習慣のひとつがクッキーのお裾分け。職場や友人、ご近所さんにホームメイドのクッキーを配ってまわったり、クッキーパーティーを開いたりします。我が家でも友人を招いてクッキー持ち寄りのオープンハウスを12月の始めの週末に開きました。

これは今年作ったクッキーとキャラメルポップコーン。クリスマスの特別なクッキーと言えばジンジャーブレッドだろうけど、それにこだわらずみんなそれぞれいろいろなクッキーを作るのが主流。

マリリンがいつもクッキーをごちそうになるご近所さんにお礼代わりに配ってまわり、職場のクリスマスランチにデザートがてら持っていったら、我が家の分が全然なくなってしまいました。私たちの口に入るはずのクッキーは残らなかったけど、マリリンはクッキーを届ける先々でクッキーをもらって大満足。「今日はもらう日じゃなくて、あげる日だよ。」と言ってもマリリンには聞こえない様子。

いつも誰かがクッキーやチョコレートを差し入れする12月はおデブ危険度がとても高いのです。今朝もマリリンと朝の散歩途中、久々に会ったご近所さんのお宅にちょっと立ち寄るとコーヒーと朝ご飯をごちそうになってしまいました。朝ご飯ってバターたっぷりクランベリーのパウンドケーキ。アメリカ人って朝からこってり甘いものを食べるのが平気な人たちなのです。

クリスマスの朝、お隣さんからおおきな骨のプレゼントをもらって誇らしげなマリリン。30分後にはほとんどたいらげてしまいました。

これは私のクリスマス一番のお気に入り。町の広場のクリスマスの電飾。毎年12月の第一土曜日に点灯式が行われます。毎日広場の横を通って家に帰るのでこの時期はこのライトを見るのが楽しみ。

年が明けると電飾が見られなくなるので今のうちに見納めしています。冬の寒い暗がりを灯す華やかな電飾がなくなると長く暗い冬を強調するようで気が重くなります。

もともと町役場だった建物を復元した図書館もこの時期、クリスマスらしく変身。シンプルな一色の電飾で品よくまとまってます。

今年もクリスマスが駆け足で去っていきました。さて、またまた今から来年のクリスマスに向けてプレゼントのショッピングが始まります。みんなプレゼントの交換をやめればもっと気楽で楽しいクリスマスになるのに、物質主義のアメリカ人にはなかなか理解できないみたいです。

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beef Tongue... Stew

Lately, I find things I'd never seen on the shelves of their meat section at the local grocery store. Beef tongues are one of them. The store is not a fancy one like Whole Foods. The area the store locates has various ethnicities. Thankfully, the store is flexible enough to accomodate residents' tastes.

When I saw beef tongues there, I couldn't believe my eyes. I'd never seen one anywhere since I came to the US. "I've got to get this!" They remind me my mom's home meal. She used to sauté thin slices seasoned with salt and pepper. This simple dish was a full of flavor. It had a happy flavor with an indulging moment.

Yes, it looks intimidating, but it's quite a delicacy. This is a part closer to a throat. It's already prepped. Prepping a beef tongue is easy. Cover the piece with water in a pot and cook it for two hours. Then, remove a top layer skin turned white after cooking. That's it.

This time, I decided to make a stew. Another benefit of prepping a tongue is that you get broth at the same time. Its flavor is light. I would add some broth made from bones, too.

Rich broth is the key for a simple dish like stews. The depth of the flavor is up to a quality of broth. A watery taste stew is just awful. Rich broth is not necessarily fatty one. I refrigerate broth once it cools down, and remove any fat. Majority of fat is gone, but its rich flavor stays.

Cook onion, celery, carrots in olive oil and butter and a bay leaf. I like to add extra onion for sweetness. Add potatoes, sprinkle some flour, then add broth. Let it boil, then add demi-glace, tomato paste and red wine. This time, I added some dried oregano and a pinch of Herb de Provence. I don't like to add more than a pinch of this herb mix. I don't like to taste lavender in the stew. It turns me off.

Tomato, mushrooms and beef tongue are added. At this point, you just need to wait the tongue gets tender. I add salt, pepper and soy sauce. It might sound strange to add soy sauce, but it actually adds some depth to the flavor.

I've seen many recipes say adding salt and pepper before serving. I like to add them while simmering. I think salt and pepper blend into a dish better this way.

Sprinkle minced parsley and ready to eat. It came out very savory. The meat is so tender and melts in the mouth. I found topping with some sour cream is also good. Chad doesn't like stews, but he actually enjoyed this one.

I told my dad that I made the beef tongue stew. He was quite satisfied that I actually prepped the tongue and made the dish. He is a Foodie, too.

I'm going to hunt a couple more beef tongue recipes to try. Cheers to the grocery store! This didn't happen without you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting Ready for Christmas

Here comes again, the Holiday Season. We love Christmas. I started decorating the house the weekend before Thanksgiving. Many routines this time of a year are fun for us except for holiday shopping. Also, this is the time a little bit of coordination makes a huge difference. Timing is everything.

December 1st

It was a busy day. It started with Marilyn's appointment with Mr. and Mrs. Santa. She had a picture with them. We make Christmas cards with it. This year, she was nervous while shooting for some reasons. She might worry if she was on the naughty list. Was she a bad puppy this year?

Barkery, her favorite store, offers pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Santa for pooches every year. We got an early appointment. The store was still quiet. We didn't get a chance to see many dogs this day, but usually it is quite entertaining to watch how all dogs respond to the photo shooting situation.

Here, Marilyn meets her new fiends and treats. She always finds everything here is her favorite. She enjoys their recognition, "Hi Marilyn!" whenever she comes into the store. We never see any unhappy dog at this place. Marilyn is not an exception. Whenever we get to the parking, Marilyn recognizes where she is. She goes banana. She gets anxious to get out of the car. Her excitement takes her to a wrong door every time, guaranteed. I guess she is so focused to get to a door, not "the" door.

While we were there, she started Christmas shopping. "Sniff, sniff... This looks good. That smells so yummm. One for me, one for me..., two for me..." To her, Christmas is time for giving to "herself", oh well. If she could talk, she would give Santa a long long list after the photo shooting. It could be easy shopping for him. Everything on her list should be in this store.

She checked out every squire inch in the store. All her reachable shelves, the kitchen and behind the cases. She looks like helping, but she was checking out the goodies.

Their cases are filled with Holiday theme cookies. Marilyn was ready to try out every single one of them.

They just look like treats for people. Of course, we can eat them. Probably they are healthier than people treats since they don't have any suger, plus all natural.

Anyway, that was the first stop. We headed out to a Christmas tree farm in Littleton. The snow set a mood for holidays. We saw many families and their dogs here.

To Marilyn, this is the first time to join us to get a Christmas tree. The place we used to go doesn't allow dogs in their farm. She was pretty excited with her first Christmas tree farm and motivated to find a perfect one. Her footwork was light.

It is like a treasure hunting to find a perfect tree. You never know what you find. Trees' imperfections stimulate our imagination for how they could be our perfect tree. We walked around, circled around trees, compared some, then finally Marilyn approved. "This is it."

That night, her accomplishment for the two missions of the day brought her early night-night time.

This evening, there was a tree lightening ceremony at the town center. The common is beautiful and I look forward to it everyday I come home. This is the only thing to be happy to come home after dark.

December 2nd

The tree was set in the dining room. It was ready to get decorated.

Another big thing for Christmas is cookies. I spent a day for baking. I hope they are enough for people we give them.

This year, I used 7 boxes of butter, two dozens of eggs, 5 lb. of flour, 0.5 lb. of almond flour, 5 lb. of sugar, 2 lb. of brown sugar, 1 1/2 lb. of confectioner sugar, and some nuts, cocoa powder and spices. I cannot imagine any other occasions for this much intense baking session.

Surprisingly, it was not stressful at all. I had a great time making them though I'm not a cookie person. I think this is the only occasion for me to make cookies in a year.

Only thing I need to be careful is the caramel popcorn. I'm not a big popcorn person either, but caramel popcorn could be my big trouble. It's so addictive. I have to give it away real quick, otherwise I find myself empty the whole container. Yes, it is wholesomeness of butter and sugar... Tell me about it.

By the end of the day, we finished decorating the tree.

December 8th

We had an open house with our friends. We asked our guests to bring a dozen of cookies. Yes, it was a cookie gathering. It was a bit crazy with a lot of people, but a nice and relaxing time. It was nice to see friends we hadn't seen for a long time. It looks like it's going to be our yearly event.

December 15th

I shipped out all packages in the morning. Once this is done, I can be finally relaxed. This year, I sent my friends home made hot chocolate mix, caramel popcorn (sure, you've got to give it away as soon as you make it.) and some cookies.

Today was a giving day. Marilyn turned to be a Santa Paw and delivered cookies to our neighbors. We'll do a couple more visits tomorrow. Somehow, she got cookies as she delivered some. How that works? I can hear she says it works great!

Anyway, the time for merry continues.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rainy Weekend

Rain started on Friday, then continued to the weekend. My mom used to tell me every rain brings cooler weather this time of a year around. After this rain, the air will be a little cooler and leaves will get more colors.

My original plan for this weekend was some work to the gardens for next season. Instead, I filled up the bird feeders, finished my weekend routine and spent some time on the on-going project at work(thanks to VPN!) on Saturday.

Sunday, I woke up under the dark sky, and decided to spend a day on the couch. A little break from leaves and pinecones in the yard. It was not chilly, but we fired up the fireplace. The heat from the fire made Marilyn sleepy. She enjoyed a nap on the couch. The dried wood burnt quickly. The sound of the fire creates homey air. Tea, cookies and fire made Sunday so relaxing. This is a magic of fall and winter.

This is a try-out of one of Christmas cookie recipes I found the other day. It seems to be too early, but believe me. Christmas comes much quicker than you think. Tryouts need to be done early enough to forget the taste of them. Otherwise, you would be so tired to eat them during the holidays. I think cookies are great part of the holidays. Actually, I look forward to them more than holiday feasts. Those little sweets bring smiles and delightful small talks. I love such little happiness.

I tried a cookie press for the first time. This is so much fun! It's much better than cookie cutters. You don't need to roll out dough and chill it. You can finish it shorter time with less mess. Cookies from a cookie press are more consistant thickness and shapes than ones from cookie cutters. I could add some pumpkin spices or something to the dough. The shape is nothing to do with the flavor. Oh well, it's ok. The cookie jar is full. Chad got snack for the week.

In the late afternoon, it stopped raining. I stepped out to the yard for fresh air. Here are my happy flowers.

Once the air started getting cooler, Clematises started growing. They didn't do anything spring and summer. They didn't grow at all. I thought they might die out. It seems I don't need to worry about it anymore. They have more flowers than they did last weekend shown below. I hope all buds open before a frost comes.

Hopefully, I can catch up with the yard work next weekend. Bulbs for next spring are coming. I need to get bed ready for them.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Marilyn!

I meant to post this last night, but fall asleep before hitting the publish button...

My baby turned thirteen years old. She still runs around and loves long walks.

Her face has got more gray. The silly face looks more silly. Even paws have been turning gray. No matter how old she is, the most important to mention is that she brings us smiles everyday.

I don't know if she knew today was her birthday or not. She woke me up much earlier than usual. I gave her belly rubs and tried to go back to sleep. Usually, the belly rub is a snooze button to her. That didn't work this morning. She told me to get up. We went out the door before 7:00. She picked a short course though she usually loves to go to a long course in weekends. She had a breakfast, went back out, then propped on the grass and took naps. That was her day just like a normal weekend.

In the afternoon, she went for a ride to her favorite place, Barkery, the dog bakery. They have all sorts of yummy treats. She sniffed every single thing in the store. She even tried to sneak into the kitchen. "Are there any treats fresh from the oven?" They offer two healthy dog food samples. We picked two for Frankie. She got some treats there. "Marilyn, which cookie do you want? Do you want a pupcake? Apple pie? Pizza?" She was too busy checking out other shelves. There were two kinds of birthday cake in the glass case. "Marilyn, this is perfect!" We picked up her birthday cake instead of treats. The half of the cake goes to Sammy and Kenya, Olga's dogs. Kenya thinks Marilyn is her BFF. Marilyn... loves Olga better than Kenya.

While Chad and Marilyn were grilling dinner outside, Nick and Amanda, Shirley's grand children, brought some steak tips for her birthday. Of course, Marilyn chowed them down with a great excitement.

She got a quarter of the cake. It didn't last long at all. She took care of all crumbs. The plate looked as if it just came out from a dish washer after the cake was gone. Another quarter is for tomorrow.

After all the excitement...

It seems she had a good birthday.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pickles

Aunt Bev makes the best pickles in the world. It’s not overpowered by vinegar. It got a great balance of dill and garlic flavors with a nice crunchy texture... It’s heavenly good. In fact, her grand children love them, too. Once they find out she made pickles, they sneak into her basement and snack them out of her crocks. She just tells them to make sure their hands are clean when they put their hands into the crocks. One of them asked her pickles for his graduation party. They are just that good.

When she found out I love her pickles, she gave me her recipe. I'd just put off to try it making bunch of excuses. I guess, I was so afraid of getting disappointed to find out my pickles wouldn’t be as good as hers even with her recipe.

One time, she gave us a jar of pickles. I returned her the jar filled with New Englandy Christmas ornaments—she is in Ohio. Of course, sending back the jar was "hint, hint." Uncle Dan told her that I was hinting something. Then she sent us this special pickle with a newspaper article about it. Since then, this pickle celebrates the holiday with us every year.

According to the tradition, it's supposed to be hidden in a Christmas tree, and you go find it. But, ours is always at the best visible spot on a tree. We show off this cute pickle.

From her recipe, I learned a new thing... canning salt. I’d never heard such thing in my life. I googled it.

Canning salt = Pickling salt
It doesn’t contain anti-caking substance.

I translated this to "it’s purer than regular salt". My next question was where I can get it. This question was easily solved. According to Google, Walmart has one. Probably, any grocery stores carry one. But, I’d never recognized one. I got the last one on the shelf. My lucky day!

I wanted to use dills from my garden, but they didn’t seem to be enough. Oh well, I had to get some at a grocery store. I thought there is a pickling cucumber for pickles, but didn’t see any at the store. So, baby cucumbers were picked instead.

I prepped brine. Then, I noticed that I didn’t have a crock. How could I forget about this? I have some vintage ones from a flea market, but I was not comfortable to use them. You never know what it was used for. I also wanted a lid to fit a crock. As far as I looked around hardware stores, a crock pot usually doesn’t have a lid. Why? They don't care dusts and bugs get into a crock? Target has glass jars with lids. I got a one-gallon jar while waiting the brine got cool down.

After silly running around, the layers were made with dills, cucumbers and garlics in the jar. Then, the brine was poured over them, and it got a hat of a small plate. The jar was placed in the basement.

Five days later, I took out some cucumbers from the jar. Chad had the first bite. "The center is very soft." That was his first words. I had a bite. The center was soft, which makes sense the seeds part is the softest in a cucumber, but it was too soft. I noticed it was missing crunchiness. It was not as crunchy as Aunt Bev's. My first pickles were not a satisfied result. Anne at work told me the difference between a regular cucumber and a pickling cucumber. I learned it is a matter that which cucumber to pickle. It's got to be a pickling cucumber. That's how I got "Pickles 101."

This week, pickling cucumbers are on sale at the grocery store. I decided to try again. I picked firm ones. They are just like the Christmas ornament—short and chunky.

This time, I use a two-gallon jar. Dill, cucumbers and garlics are in layers. The brine was poured to the jar. The last time, everything looked good at this point. Let's see how they turn out in five days.

Friday, August 10, 2012

アメリカ生活〜仕事編

アメリカで仕事してるってすごいねなど面映いことを言われるので、今日はその誤解を解くために私の経験を基に実態をとりあげてみたいと思います。

結論から言うとぜんぜんすごいことではないです。日本でお仕事するのと同じ。業界によっては日本で就職するよりずっと簡単なように思えます。私のようにIT業界に働 く分には学歴も問わないって感じ。エンジニア系の職については同じことが当てはまるようです。用は仕事ができるかどうかってこと。どんなに学歴があっても仕事ができるできないは別問題でしょ?企業が人を雇うのは業績を上げるための仕事を片付けたいから。もしその人がその仕事を完了できる知識と能力があれば、雇用者側からしてみれば誰でも構わないわけです。

誰でも構わないとは言うものの幾つかの条件があります。第一にアメリカで働くことが法的に許されていること。アメリカで働きたい外国人にとってこれが一番高いハードルといえるでしょう。就業ビザを持つか持たないかは職探しをする際にとても大きな問題になります。雇用者にしてみればビザスポンサーとしての企業にとって不必要な出費は避けたいもの。もし同じ能力のアメリカ人と就業ビザを持たない外国人が同じ職に申し込めば、アメリカ人の方が雇われやすい状況にあるのは納得いきますよね。

就業ビザは職種によって異なるので取得の方法もそれぞれじゃないかと思います。ビザに関しての知識がないので、アメリカの就業ビザの取得についてはアメリカ領事館等で情報を入手されることをお勧めします。アメリカで働くことを考えているなら、このステップを間違えるとすべての努力な台無しになり得るので正確な情報に適切に対応したいでしょ?

第二に仕事をするのに最低限のコミュニケーション能力を持っていること。雇う側はどんな風に仕事を済ませたいという図があるわけで、それを理解できなかったり実行できない人は雇う必要はないというもの。コミニュケーション能力は英語力に限ったものではありません。他人のいうこと、相手の思いはかりをどのように理解できるかということと自分の考えを正確に相手に伝えられるということがどの言語を話すにしてもコミュニケーションの基本ですね。どんなに英語が堪能でもそれができなければ仕事にならない訳です。これは英語に関わらずどの言語にしても共通ですが…。

片言の英語しか話せなくても、コミュニケーションが正確にできればそれほど言語力を気にしなくても大丈夫。毎日英語だらけの中で生活していれば、そこそこ生活に困らない程度の英語は習得できます。

英語圏で働く弁護士などといったコミュニケーションが主体の職種に就いている英語を母国語としない外国人はコミュニケーションと言語力が遥かに優れているといえるでしょう。そういう人たちは賞賛に値しますね。

仕事の能力と同様に大切なのがパーソナリティ。同じ能力の求職者を比べるとき、一緒に仕事をしたいと思われる人の方が雇われやすいというもの。気難しい人より気さくな人との方が仕事がしやすいし、お調子者よりも正直で真面目な人のほうが信頼できるなどといったこと。部や課の単位でグループとして仕事をするにはチームワークが不可欠。チームメンバーの人と成りが個人個人に影響しチームの業績につながるため、チームに悪い影響を与えかえない人を雇いたくないと考えれば納得いきますね。

学歴が高いからといっていい仕事と高収入が保証されることはありません。どんなに高学歴でも就きたい職種の経験がなければ、その仕事に就くのは難しくなります。先にも述べたように学歴と仕事の能力は必ずしも比例するわけではありませんよね。仕事の能力、業績を実証するには多かれ少なかれ経験がものを言います。新卒にとっては不利な状況。そのため、アメリカの大学生は夏休みなどの長期の休暇を利用してインターン(見習い)として特定の期間、企業で丁稚奉公をします。インターンを通じて就職のコネを作ったり、経験を積んで自分が即戦力になりうることをセールスポイントに就職活動をするわけです。法的な資格を要さない職種については、経験がなくても仕事をこなせることを実証できれば雇用のチャンスがあります。でもそれはそう簡単ではありません。一度、企業に就職してある程度経験を積めば転職はずっと楽になります。特にインターネット上に履歴書を載せれば、リクルーターからのコンタクトも稀ではありません。リクルーターは歩合制で働くので、企業と就職希望者を結びつけるのに懸命。就職活動の強い見方です。

高学歴が高収入を保証するわけではないと言いましたがそのことについてちょっと触れてみましょう。アメリカでは雇用条件は雇う側と雇われる側の契約になります。契約が成立するまでお互いが納得いくまで交渉が行われます。もし両者が合意しなければ、その契約、雇用は成立しません。両者の交渉能力によって雇用条件も同じ四大卒であろうと大学院卒であろうと大きな違いができうるわけです。逆に学歴は高卒でもその職種のエキスパートであれば高学歴の人たちよりも高収入を得るのも可能です。

ここまでは就職するまでについてお話してみましたが、職場の内情についてどうかというと基本的に日本と同じで千差万別。働く人たちが違えば、それぞれに違った考え方があるし、どのように物事を進めていくかの見解は企業によって違いますよね。派閥に関しても同様。

私の職場はいい意味でオープンでカジュアルです。上司にも不合理なことや不公平だと思うことをストレートに話ができるので仕事がしやすい環境。業種、企業、部署によってさまざまな色があるので、私の職場の環境が一般的なアメリカの職場の目安になるものではありません。

自分のやりたい仕事をするにもどんな人たちと働くかは自分のキャリアに大きく影響するので、どんな仕事をどこでするのかはどの国で働くにしても慎重に選びたいですね。そんなわけで、アメリカで仕事をするのも日本で仕事をするのも大差ないというわけです。

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday

Marilyn and I picked these at the morning walk. Lace flowers are one of my favorite wild flowers in summer. They are just being wherever they are. You don't realize how gorgeous they are until they are separated from the nature.

Sunday morning is always peaceful. The air is cool and refreshing. Marilyn wakes up at sunrise, then comes to me to wake me up. Naturally, we get up early spring and summer. "The sun is out. Let's go for a walk!" Once she gets hooked on the leash, she picks a route. She knows the neighborhood. She has some different routes and picks one depending on her mood. Her legs move rhythmically. Her tail goes left to right, then right to left slowly. She is happy. When we get to the high school, she gets unleashed. She sniffs and checks things around here and there. I walk my own pace. Naturally, I tend to be ahead of her. But, she knows I'm waiting for her at some points in the course. Once she notices that she is too behind, she walks fast looking at my face from the distance as if she is saying "I'm coming!" When I'm stuck somewhere staring at flowers, bunnies or chipmunks, she is facing toward me and waiting for me, no barking. A moment of "we're connected". She is my precious puppy.

When we walk in the door, the house smells coffee Chad made. Today was not an exception.

While I was having coffee at the porch, she was recovering from the morning walk. A nap after a walk has been a part of her routine lately. Still, the twelve-years-old enjoys the forty five minutes to one hour walk. This is something she looks forward to. I just hope it stays this way as long as possible.

The sun was out. Birds were singing. So relaxing... It was just how Sunday is supposed to be. I like spending time here watching activities in the yard. Birds and squirrels are having breakfast. Sometimes, I see chipmunks pop up between grass at the bird feeder pole. That just makes me smile. The porch is a perfect place to be for weekend mornings. I wish I could do this everyday.

Birds come and go all day. The feeders are quite busy spots. It already past 9:00. I guess 9:00 is for sparrows. I usually see a lot of gold finches and house finches before 8:00. Today, I saw a blue jay munching seeds on the ground. The feeders were filled yesterday evening. A half of it is already gone. I've been filling them everyday. I thought birds would prefer fresh food in nature such as berries and bugs in summer, but easy food seems to be more attractive to them.

I can spend a whole day sipping coffee at the porch, but that's not how I want to spend a day. There are more spots to check in the yard. I start with my herb garden. In this little space, I always find something new. Sage and oregano are going crazy. I wish tomatoes and basil are like them.

Our first tomatoes in the year. Even more exciting about them is that they are on the tomato plant Chuck ate pretty good three days later we got planted it. I thought it wouldn't make it. It's still short and expanding side ways instead of growing upward. It's a creeping tomato. No, there is no such thing. Not quite sure if it helps or not at this point, but I set up a support to keep leaves and branches as far from the ground as possible.

I started some heirloom tomatoes from seeds in the spring. This batch is the second one. The first ones were chomped by Chuck right before they were transplanted to the garden. The second batch had a significantly late start. They are finally getting speed after some summer heat. Timing of heat is always important for plants. We had a chilly spring this year. Most of my flowers and vegetables are having hard time growing this year.

Somebody got into my garden. There is always something new here. I've got to keep my eyes on this area. Anyway, it's time to do something, but it turns into that. Fencing is the best way to prevent critters to get into the garden, but I don't like its look... just not pretty. I found Deer fences at Gardener's Supply Company. They have light weight thin fence. It's hard to get recognized. Visually, it works for me. Let's see how it works to keep critters away. No matter who it is, no more free food, Buddy! It is getting hotter, and I've already sweated while putting up the deer fence.

Marilyn found her sun spot, and has been enjoying her day. She is surrounded with tranquility. Happiness is not necessarily something exciting. Marilyn seems to know that. Wait..., isn't she sleeping all the time? She just took a nap after the walk. Is this supposed to be called tranquility? It looks like more laziness, doesn't it?

Anyway, time goes slowly in the yard with the sleeping pooch on Sunday.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Japanese Fast Food

I got lazy today. I didn't want to think of what to cook for dinner. So, I cheated.

This is called yaki-soba, Japanese stir fried noodle. It belongs to a group of foods you eat at a fair, something like a corn dog, spuds and fried dough. It's a popular menu in kids. Hungry teenagers go to get it after school. Adults love it, too. I believe it originates Chinese food considering the way it's cooked and the type of noodle. It's pretty simple to make—stir-fry meat and vegetables, cook noodle with a little bit of water, mix them together, then add sauce. You can get a kit at an Asian grocery store. It consists of noodle and sauce. The noodle is like ramen noodle. I used the kit today.

I used the vegetables in the fridge — bean sprouts, carrots, onion and maitake mushrooms. Pork was added to enhance a flavor. A great thing about this dish is you can put any vegetables you can think of for stir fry. Cabbage is a good vegetable to add. You can put pork, chicken, shrimps or a combination of these if you wish. I prefer to stick to one animal protein. Personally, I think pork and shrimps make the dish better than chicken. It's like lo mein with a Japanese twist.

Whenever I use sauce in a packet like this, I feel guilty about lack of my effort. There is no creativity there. This packet contains all spices and other seasonings. The sauce tastes like Worcester sauce, not like one for lo mein, it has a little bit of kick to it with a little bit of sweetness. I could say that it tastes like a barbecue sauce. Ooh, I should try this — make yaki soba with barbecue sauce. A barbecue sauce needs a little twist. I might even use lo main for this. This would be a fun experiment. The lazy evening turned to an exciting inspiration.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

日常の食生活〜食材編

アメリカで毎日どんなものを食べてるんだろうと実家の両親がよく心配するので、今回このトピックをとりあげてみます。

まずアメリカに住んでいるからといってアメリカ人と同じ食生活をする必要はないということをご理解いただければ、別に普通なのねって感じ。日本に住んでいても、毎日和食を食べるわけじゃないでしょ。中華やイタリアンなんかを取混ぜた献立を気づかずにいただいてますよね。

私は和食党なので、毎日ご飯は欠かせません。日本のお米には手が届かないけれど、カリフォルニア米でもなかなかおいしいお米が手頃に手に入るのです。しかもコシヒカリ種!ちょっと贅沢な気分を味わっています。中国や韓国のお米はずっと安いのだけど、味もずいぶんとお粗末。しかもお米が臭う。「臭い飯を食う云々」っていう表現があるけれど、それってここに由来するのかなと思ったほど。チャーハンやアランチー二を作るときには長粒米を使います。短粒米は水分を多く含むので、これらのメニューには不向き。ちなみにマリリンもご飯大好き。白ご飯をそのまま バクバクあっという間に平らげてしまいます。

餅米も売られているので、たまにお赤飯や山菜ご飯、おはぎを作ったりします。

アメリカでは鶏胸肉がヘルシーなタンパク源として人気。ずっと味のよいモモ肉は胸肉よりもお安く手に入ります。まるのままのチキンが手頃なので、手抜きをしたいときにはローストチキンを作って残りをシチューや何やらにしたりします。日本の鶏肉と特に違いを感じることはないような気がするんだけど…。

豚肉や牛肉は日本のもののほうが断然おいしいです。何かと重宝するバラや薄切りが売られてないのでちょっと不便。牛肉はサンドイッチの具にするための薄切り肉が売られてるので、夏には胡麻ダレを作って冷しゃぶなんかしてみたりします。

七面鳥といえばごちそうって響きがするけれど、鶏の胸肉よりもパサパサして食感が悪く、鶏肉のほうが断然おいしく感じます。あと、鴨、ラム、バッファローなんかがスーパーで手に入ります。バッファローは牛肉よりも脂身が少ないかな。

魚介類

日本で売られてるような新鮮なお魚は期待できません。基本的に冷凍されたものを解凍してショーケースに並べてるっていうのが普通。真空パックの冷凍の切り身のほうが安心して口にできるって感じ。

イワシやサバなどの青魚がまず売られてません。イワシはたまに冷凍ものを見かけます。タラ、鮭、鱒、鰈、ホタテの貝柱にエビが定番。すべて切り身にしてケースに並べられています。新鮮に見えないのであまりお魚は買いません。でも、ムール貝は安いのでニンニクとバターと白ワインで酒蒸しみたいにしてよく食べます。

エビは冷凍ものを常備。短時間で簡単に解凍できるし、冷凍物でも調理するとプリプリとよい食感に仕上がるので我が家のキッチンで大活躍。

日本人でも安心して食べられる鮮度のお魚を手に入れるには韓国か日本のスーパーに行くこと。サンマや子持ちししゃも、明太子なんかも手に入るよ。

野菜

最近はモヤシやシメジ、オクラなんかもスーパーで見かけるようになりました。椎茸も売られてるけどあまり質はよくありません。あと、びっくりするかもしれないけど里芋が簡単に手に入るので秋から冬にかけて里芋の煮っころがしなんか作ります。大根や白菜も比較的簡単に手に入る野菜。冬にはふろふき大根も作ります。

アジア系の食材屋さんに行くとごぼうや山芋、肉厚の椎茸、エノキ茸、チンゲン菜やほかの中国野菜の新鮮なものが手に入るので助かります。普通のスーパーだと、レタスが10種類とかタマネギが8種類とかジャガイモが5種類とか(名前がいろいろ違うけど、基本的には男爵とメークインの二種類)って並んでいるんだけど、日本みたいに煮浸しとかにする青菜は売られてません。大根やカブは根の部分しか売ってないの。葉の部分もおいしいのにね。あとやっぱり鮮度に問題あり。ほうれん草とかキャベツの原種にあたるケールなんかの葉ものも並んでいるんだけど、しおれてたり、部分的に傷んでいたりで買う気にならないって状況。

キャベツといえば、とても肉厚で硬いので千切りにしてもあまりおいしくありません。もっぱら煮込みにするか炒め物にするのに使う程度。焼き鳥屋さんやトンカツについてくるキャベツが懐かしいです。シチューには柔らかいサボイキャベツ(ちりめんキャベツ)を使います。

見慣れた野菜でしょう?たまに見かけるカボチャは瓜の部類にくくられています。わたしたちにとってのいわゆるカボチャはこちらではButtercupという種類の瓜にあたるようです。残念ながら、日本のカボチャのようにホクホクしたおいしいものではありません。どの瓜も水っぽく野菜としての味が薄いので、煮物にしてもスープにしてもおいしくありません。煮ても焼いても食えないヤツって感じでしょうか。アメリカ人は瓜を半分に切って種をくりぬいた後、バターを塗ってオーブンで40分ほど焼いてブラウンシュガー(黒砂糖とは異なる)をまぶして食べるようです。

夏の間はファーマーズ・マーケットやファーマーズ・スタンドで、農家の人から直接新鮮な旬の野菜や果物を買うことができるます。いろいろな種類のトマトやズッキーニ、トウモロコシ、インゲンやモモ、メロンなどなど目にするものすべてを食べてみたくなるので困りもの。私の住む町にも町が運営するファーマーズ・マーケットが週に一度開きます。近所にも農家の人たちによるファーマーズ・マーケットが毎日開くのでなかなか重宝です。道ばたにトラックを停めて朝収穫したトウモロコシやトマト、自家製のジャムやパイを売る農家の人たちの姿もよく見うけられます。

あづき、ウズラ豆、金時豆、黒豆、ひよこ豆などなど、いろいろな豆が乾燥したもの、缶詰の両方がスーパーで売られてます。

金時豆はこちらではベイクドビーンズに使われます。ベイクドビーンズは豆をベーコンとメイプルシロップで炊いたもの。ボストンの名物です。ほんのりした甘さとベーコンの香ばしい薫製のような香りがほどよく解け合ったおいしい煮豆。

冷凍の枝豆がスーパーで売られているのでよくおやつに買っています。アメリカ人の友達にも枝豆ファンが結構います。一緒にお寿司を食べにいくといつもきまって枝豆を注文するので本当に好きみたい。

おいしいお豆腐も普通のスーパーに並ぶようになりました。いままではスの入った古いゴムのような豆腐がアメリカ人をターゲットに売られていたのだけど、最近はアジア人でも食べられる私たちにとって「普通」の絹ごしと木綿のお豆腐が簡単に手にはいります。麻婆豆腐は我が家の人気メニュー。

そのほかの食材

アジア系のスーパーに行くとたくあんなんかも手に入ります。この間、しば漬けを見つけて大はしゃぎしてしまいました。

お味噌、醤油、酢、胡麻油、みりん、鰹節、海苔など比較的簡単に手に入ります。お味噌は米、麦、合わせがそろっています。

油揚げ、納豆、おうどんは冷凍ものが売られています。天ぷらも冷凍物が手に入るので、ゴボウ天などおうどんにいれて楽しんでいます。


まぁそんな感じで結構いろいろなものが周りにあるので、日本の食卓とそこまでかけ離れていない食生活ができそうでしょ? アメリカでも場所によってはもっといろいろなものが手に入るかもしれないので、これはあくまでも私の日常の行動範囲内での情報です。