Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Birthday Boy

It was Michael's birthday yesterday and we did a low key, simple celebration at home. 

I made his favorite dish - chili.  I know chili is not particularly fancy but he loves it and since moving out to Hong Kong I rarely make it.  I make a huge pot of it which freezes well, though often I don't get the chance to freeze it because he eats all the leftovers, and quickly.  The weather has also been so dreary and unrelenting here that a comforting pot of chili seemed like a good antidote.
 Picture taken after our dinner - we made a sizeable dent.

I don't often make chili here because grocery shopping for Western ingredients can be such a pain in Asia.  Simple ingredients (like tomato sauce) are not easy to source.  There are two rows of ketchup, two rows of pasta sauce, two rows of varieties of chopped, diced or stewed whole tomatoes, and half a row of tomato paste, but no tomato sauce.  I went to three different supermarkets yesterday to get the ingredients for my chili -- one place for the meat (now that we are no longer eating local meat or dairy) and chopped tomatoes, another place for the tomato sauce, another place for the onions and green peppers.  Thank goodness I already had the bay leaves, cumin and chili powder.

I also splurged on a Ghiradelli brownie mix (fudge batter with extra chocolate chips, ooh la la), and nearly groaned aloud in pleasure at the smell of the rich dark chocolate as I folded in the egg, water and oil.  I know, it wasn't technically from scratch... but it was still really good.  I plunged the brownie cake into an ice bath once done.  I read somewhere that this helps solidify the outer crust of the brownie while ensuring that the inside is molten.   Love.

Michael then got to open his presents.  I gave him the least exciting thing first: a packet of mixed nuts.  I wanted to manage his expectations.

After blowing out his candles, he opened his first big present - a leather and suede Abingdon duffel bag from J. Crew (a quintessential "man bag"). He was previously using an Adidas duffel bag and then a rather hideous leopard spotted cheap duffel bag.  This bag is of a lovely weight and heft, smells of wax and leather and canvas, has both handles for carrying and a strap for shouldering, and is blue. I like that it was something he didn't even realize he needed.

Next, he opened his birthday card, which I made by hand (thankyouverymuch).  It said, simply, "It's time to pack your bags."  I loved watching his stunned face as he processed the picture of Mt. Yotei and the ski lifts in the card.  Yep, we're heading to Niseko!
I also included a map of the ski trails with little annotated stickies, as well as a little cut out of his flight itinerary.  I've been planning this trip for nearly a month now, and it has been SO HARD to keep it a secret.

We leave March 18 and return the 22, for three days of nonstop skiing, eating, and onsen dipping.  It takes two whole days of transit to get there and back, so this trip better be worth it.

Finally, he opened his last present, which is oh-so-sexy: a pair of wool socks.  Hey, you need them for skiing.

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