Going with the Obvious…
I am not a good exerciser. I prefer activities that involve sitting still – reading, quilting, painting…but I also know that staying active is important after 2 rounds of physical therapy for problems that have developed from sitting all day at work. When the weather was nice, I walked about 1.5 miles a day, but that ended in November. I definitely know that a gym membership is wasted money because I will never go. Besides the fact that the sole purpose of going is to exercise, it just isn’t my scene to do that around lots of other people. The best is when you get the guy lifting weights and letting out a huge grunt every time – entertaining, but also annoying. So we finally made the decision to take some extra space in our house and make a home gym. It seems extravagant, but actually didn’t cost much more than a gym membership and will save money over time.
So here is the progress of the room…
When we first started, there were several electrical outlets in the room, but none of them worked (scary), and there was no light, so we had to bring light in with extension cords and a halogen work light.
This is what we started with.
There was a closet on one side of the room that we decided to get rid of because it just took up too much space in the room.
Progress on the closet…
No more closet…
The next steps were patching and priming the walls and the ceiling (I hate painting ceilings – nothing is worse for your back and your neck!).
We chose a medium gray color to paint the walls (gray just felt right for a gym, although a cheerful bright color like yellow would have been fun too).
Next we had to deal with the horrible concrete floors that you can see in some of the pictures above. We decided to go with “Gorilla Mats” which are thick rubber mats used in animal stalls. Each 4×6 foot mat weighed 100 pounds! They were delivered on a pallet to our house, and carrying them in was lots of fun – although I can’t complain because my husband and brother-in-law did that part. So the next step before the mats was putting down a vapor barrier.
Then came the fun part of cutting the mats to fit. Let’s just say that there were pieces of rubber everywhere and the smell was terrible! Never Again!
The whole process was a workout in and of itself, but we are so happy with the finished room! It was a great way to utilize a dark and dingy space. Speaking of dark, we had an electrician come in and fix the wiring so the outlets work (and now there aren’t loose wires in our walls), and we have recessed lighting in the ceiling.
This is where the closet used to be. We even had the electrician add an outlet high up on the wall for the tv. It feels so over the top, but totally worth it.
Now we just have to start using it.
With the New Year upon us, my mind turns to Japan where I spent one the best New Year’s Eves of my life. The New Year is one of the biggest holidays in Japan, and I was lucky enough to be there with a family. My husband is half Japanese and spent time living in Japan during college with a host family. He became very close with his host family and has stayed in touch over the years. In 2006, the stars aligned and we were able to go to Japan for almost four weeks. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and celebrating New Year’s with his host family topped everything. Like many of the best holidays, food plays a central part in the New Year’s celebrations…
…and one of the foods most strongly connected with New Year’s is mochi.
So, what is mochi?
It is a Japanese food made from very glutinous sticky rice. It is stretchy and gooey and wonderful.
Here you can see the difference between regular Japanese rice (on the left) and the sweet rice (on the right) used for mochi.
Many people are familiar with Mochi Ice Cream which can be purchased at Trader Joe’s:
Some of the best mochi I have had was in Hilo, Hawaii at Two Ladies Kitchen. They have a mochi covered strawberry that is wonderful, but my favorite was the lilikoi flavor which is a Hawaiian citrus flavor.
So, how is mochi made?
Mochi can be made a few different ways. There is the traditional way, the modern technology way, and the rice flour way.
The Traditional Way
The rice is soaked for about 8 hours in water and then drained. Unlike other rice that is cooked directly in water, sweet rice is steamed in a container like this:
Once the rice is cooked, in the traditional method it is then pounded and flipped by two people until is gets to be the right doughy, gooey consistency. The best way to understand this is to see it with these two great videos.
The Modern Technology Way
Soak the rice for about 8 hours and place in mochi maker.
Make sure the rice is thoroughly drained before putting it in the mochi maker.
The mochi maker steams and pounds the rice for you.
The trick seems to be adding water as it is pounded to get it to the right consistency.
About half of the mochi we made in Japan was shaped into round discs that were stacked on top of each other and topped with a clementine for the ancestors. This was placed in the area of the home that was dedicated to the ancestors.
The Rice Flour Way (The easiest and least expensive way to make your own mochi)
This recipe will make a sweeter mochi.
◦ 1 cup mochiko sweet rice flour ( glutinous rice flour)
◦ 1 cup water
◦ 1/4 cup sugar
◦ katakuriko, for dusting ( potato starch) or kinako (roasted soy bean powder found at asian grocers or on amazon)
Variations for Dough: Add a few drops of food coloring into batter for color variation. A few drops of flavoring (strawberry, grape, orange, blueberry, etc.) may also be added. >> For chocolate flavor, stir about 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips into mochi batter before cooking.
So what is my favorite mochi?
That is hard to answer, but I think I can narrow it down to 4 different styles.
1. Plain mochi toasted and dipped in a soy sauce and sugar mixture. You get a little bit of goo with a little bit of crunch, and a little bit of sweet with a little bit of salty, all combined with a slightly toasted flavor. Plus it is fun to watch the mochi come alive and expand in the toaster oven. Oishii (Delicious)!
2. Warabi Mochi
This is a very soft and sweet version of mochi. So delicious!
3. Fried mochi sesame balls
I have actually only had these at a Chinese restaurant, so I am not sure if they are found in Japan as well, but they are amazing. Of course deep frying anything makes it amazing. The crunch of the mochi and sesame seeds and the soft sweet filling (I don’t know what it is, but it is the perfect amount of sweetness) combine and dance inside your mouth for an incredible eating experience.
I love yatsuhashi! I had it the first time in Kyoto. It is mochi that has been rolled very thin and folded into a triangle shape of a filling of red beans or chestnut paste. Everywhere we went in Kyoto they were selling yatsuhashi and offering free samples. Of course Japan takes everything to the next level, so we would walk into the store and they would bring us yatsuhashi and a cup of green tea to go with it as our free sample. I must have eaten about 50 pounds of these in Kyoto. I couldn’t get enough!
I had to share this picture I found from http://delectablehodgepodge.com/recipes/yatsuhashi.html because it is such a beautiful picture of yatsuhashi.
Here is my first attempt at making yatsuhashi (i need to work on the neatness and presentation, especially when I include the photo above). The recipe for the yatsuhashi I made can be found here.
I think my favorite yatsuhashi is the plain mochi skin with the chestnut filling inside.
Now You Can Make Your Own Mochi!
A great place to get the sweet rice steamer and sweet rice is Import Food.
I got my rice flour at Wegmans (my all time favorite grocery store).