Z is for Zelda

Z is for Zelda cross stitch.  From  Can I say how much I *heart* this?  If you follow the link, they even have a free pattern.

Cooking with kids

Cooking with Kids: Make your own sushi rolls

Tonight we’re having one our favorite dinners – make your own sushi!  We like it because we can each make our own sushi just the way we like it.  There are many different ways to make sushi rolls (also known as makizushi), and after much practice we finally have it down to a science.  Getting take out sushi for our entire family is easily over $100; yet, for $100 we can make our own sushi for five separate meals (around $20/meal).

Because the kids have been on such a big anime and manga kick recently, we’re exploring Japanese culture and all things Japanese.  My son has even started to teach himself the Japanese language; he downloaded an app on his iPod Touch, and I’m finding little strips of paper with katakana and kanji all over the house.  Now, what I’d really like to get is a Japanese wooden table, or maybe a kotatsu, for our living room, for homework and meals.

Making your own sushi is a fun way to expose your kids to a little Japanese culture, involve the kids with a hands-on activity, and you’ll all get a healthy, tasty meal out of it.  Here’s how we make our sushi rolls – fast and easy:

Equipment you’ll need:

Rice cooker (makes it easy, peasy to cook perfect rice; comes with a rice paddle and measuring scoop – around $40)

Bamboo sushi mats (make it easy to roll; we share and take turns with the 3 we have – around $3/each )


Rice – we buy CalRose medium grain rice by the 15 lb bag ($12) at our local asian grocery.  You should plan on making at least 1 cooked cup of rice per person.  It’s usually 1 cup of cooked rice/roll; we make 12 cups of rice for around 16 rolls.  (Sushi rice is also called:  Japanese short grained rice, glutinous white rice, Nishiki or Botan Calrose Rice.)

Rice vinegar – we use Marukan seasoned gourmet rice vinegar (the one with the yellow label and lid).  This way we don’t have to worry about adding sugar and salt to the vinegar and cooking; just pour straight from the bottle.

Nori – we buy Nagai’s Sushi Nori in bulk (50 sheets for $7) at our local asian grocery.  (Tip:  don’t just go for the cheapest nori – get good quality nori, or it may be a choking hazard.)

Nova salmon (this is our most expensive ingredient)
Crabmeat sticks
Cream cheese
Soy sauce (we love low sodium Kikkoman)
Wasabi – be careful…

(Other ideas:  mixed egg, fried; cooked chicken breast/Morningstar fake chicken, shiitake mushrooms.)


Step 1:   Cook rice

Use a rice cooker – makes it so, so easy.  Follow the manufactur’s directions – pretty much just measure and add rice, then water, then hit “cook”.

Step 2:  Add rice vinegar

Turn cooked rice out into large nonmetal bowl.  Add seasoned rice vinegar and gently fold in.

Typical proportion amounts are around 1/3 cup vinegar to 4 cups of cooked rice.  Adjust to taste – start with less, then add more.

Let the vinegared rice cool  – should be only slightly warm when you make your sushi rolls.

Step 3:  Prep your fillings

Cut up all your fillings into small, thin strips.

Mix up your wasabi.

Time to put it all on the table:

Bowl of prepped rice
Plate of nori sheets
Bowls of fillings
Bowl of water for dipping fingers
Tall glass of water holding a sharp knife

Let’s make this sushi!

Unroll your sushi mat.  Lay 1 nori sheet on the mat, rough side up.

Place a little less than 1 cup of rice on the nori, and spread a thin layer of rice to the edges, leaving 1 inch clear on the edge farthest from you.  (Don’t use too much rice – thin is better!)  Use the rice paddle to spread the rice, or if your kids want to spread the rice with their fingers, use wet fingers – so it won’t stick.

Line up your fillings on top of the rice – left to right, in the center of the rice, on the side of the nori closest to you.

Wet your fingers, then lightly wet the 1 inch empty strip of nori on the edge farthest from you.

Roll your sushi – start with the edge closest to you, then roll tightly and evenly away from you, and the wet edge will seal your roll.  You’ll need to press gently but firmly, and even squeeze a little when rolling.  After you start rolling, you’ll need to open the mat and adjust it to keep it from getting rolled into the sushi roll.  Using a sushi mat makes it easy, but is not necessary – sometimes we substitute a paper plate, and that works fine.

Unroll the mat, and place the sushi roll seam side down.  Slice crosswise into 1” rounds with a wet, sharp knife – or fold up the ends and eat like a burrito.

Wasabi:  You can put a little wasabi inside your sushi roll, or spread a little wasabi on your roll then dip it in soy sauce, or mix it with soy sauce in a small bowl for dipping, or skip it altogether.

Serve with soy sauce, and wasabi if you like (we tend to skip the pickled ginger.)  The proper way to eat sushi is with your fingers.  Enjoy!

Photo:  By tucker_zoe.

P.S. Check out this sushi chef’s blog on how to carve a carrot Darth Vader. He also veggie carves Pokemon. How cool is that.

Anime Music videos What's Hot

What’s Hot: Houki Boshi (BLEACH)

Here’s a vid of my daughter’s new favorite song – Houki Boshi, recorded by Korean singer Younha when she was only 17 years old.  The song was selected as an ending for the anime BLEACH (which I’m currently watching with our older kids, and will post a review on soon).  I love it because it’s such a happy tune, and it inspires my daughter to practice piano – and you can’t help but dance and twirl together to it.  Enjoy!

Want to know what she’s saying, in English?

Looking up to the night sky alone, I saw a comet
In an instant it burst open, and disappeared
When I think of you, my heart aches
I want to see you right now
But I can’t fly

If I could turn into a comet
I would run through the sky and fly
No matter what tomorrow is like, these feelings are strong
So this comet will never break open

When I grumble about hating it when it rains
I even now remember what you would say
Stars will come out beautifully in the night sky, after the rain
When I think about that
I think that I can grow to love the rain too

If I could turn into a comet
I would she’d my overflowing light
Whenever I was sad, you would always look up to the night sky
And make it shine even more, so that I would smile

You’re always alone, and fighting with something
But I can’t be
At your side

If I could turn into a comet
I would run through the sky and fly
It will definitely reach you, in the light of this moment
Your moment shines, bringing the sky around
If I could turn into a comet
I would certainly be by your side, at any time

Anime Movie reviews Video game reviews Video reviews

Review: .hack//Quantum

The latest in the .hack conglomerate, .hack//Quantum is an animated three part OVA released in Japan January 2011.  Quantum is the story of Sakuya (who looks like a female Kite), Tobias, and Mary, and their adventures in The World R:X.

Here’s a couple of YouTube preview links here and here.  Can’t wait to watch this – hope I can find it with English subs soon!

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.

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Review: .hack//Link

.hack//Link takes place after .hack//G.U., and is the story of a gamer, Tokio, who can’t wait to play The World R:X. but is unable to get access.  A mysterious transfer student, Saikaal, invites him to play and somehow transports him, body and consciousness, into the game where she treats him as a slave.  It’s quickly apparent something has gone wrong in The World – Tsukasa shows up and is acting strange, Haseo is still crazy and searching for Tri Edge – it’s up to Tokio to figure things out.

There are three .hack//Link manga books currently available, and a .hack//Link PSP video game, released in Japan only.  While the art style for the beginning of .hack//Link  isn’t consistent with the typical .hack art style, that’s true only for the opening sequence – the rest of the game is has the typical .hack look.

There are also future plans for a .hack//Link animated OVA tie-in.

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum

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Review: .hack//G.U.

Once you have watched Roots, you’ll want to continue the story either by playing the .hack//G.U. video games (Rebirth, Reminisce, Redemption), watching .hack//G.U. Trilogy, or by reading the .hack//G.U.+ manga or the .hack//G.U. novels (The Terror of Death, Borderline MMO, Harald’s Archetype).

Haseo’s story continues, and he’s recruited into Project G.U. and the guild Raven.  Still searching for a way to save Shino and the Lost Ones, Haseo trains to regain his character’s strength and power.  Haseo learns about his hidden power and struggles to gain control of it.  While there are many familiar characters from .hack//Roots, we are introduced to several new characters including Endrance, Atoli, Bo and Saku, and Sakaki.  Haseo has several arena battles, becomes more involved with Atoli and Moon Tree guild, learns more about AIDA and the 8 Phases/Epitaphs/Morganna Factors and grows into his role as an Epitaph User with his Avatar Skeith.  (Cool fact:  Skeith means “Shadow” in Old Scottish.)

Mysteries are unveiled right up to the very end, and we watch as the characters are faced with questions such as – to what lengths will a person go to, to achieve their goals?  At what costs?  What are we capable of?  How strong is the human will?

For more information:

Liar’s Smile (From .hack//G.U. Trilogy) ***Warning:  Spoilers***

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.  And, here’s a little bonus, now that we’re getting in deeper…

The Epitaph of Twilight: (source)

Yet to return, the shadowed one.

Who quests for the Twilight Dragon

Rumbles the Dark Hearth,

And Helba, Queen of the Dark,

has raised finally her army.

Apeiron, King of Light beckons.

At the base of the rainbow do they meet

Against the abominable Wave,

together they fight.

Alba’s lake boils.

Light’s great tree doth fall.

Power- now all to droplets turned

in the temple of Arche Koeln.

Returns to nothing,

this world of shadowless ones.

Never to return, the shadowed one,

Who quests for the Twilight Dragon.

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Review: .hack//Roots

.hack//Roots is the prequel to the second group of three PS2 G.U. games (Rebirth, Reminisce, Redemption).  Roots is the story of Haseo, a black adept rogue who holds a secret not even he knows about.  Set in The World:R2, it takes place around 10 years after Sign.

Again, strange things are happening and we search with the characters for answers.  Haseo is recruited by Ovan and the Twilight Brigade guild, and also by the shady TAN guild.  Other characters are introduced including Ovan, Shino, Phyllo, Kuhn, Tawalaya, Tabby, SakiSaka, Ender, Yata, Pi, and Tri Edge; it’s difficult to tell who is good and who is evil.  The Twilight Brigade is searching for the Key of the Twilight.  Does it exist?  What is it?  Again we are faced with mysteries, but this time, something darker is going on.  What is causing player characters in the real world to fall into a coma, and become Lost Ones?  Why is it happening?  Who is responsible?  Is there any way to save the Lost Ones?  Why is there such an interest in Haseo?  And what is with Ovan’s left arm, with its huge cylindrical container sealed with a massive lock?

As Haseo and his guildmates search for the Key of the Twilight, Shino is attacked by a mysterious PK (player killer) and becomes a Lost One.  Haseo becomes obsessed with finding the one responsible, and finding a way to save Shino.  Crazy and half mad, Haseo searches desperately, earns the nickname The Terror of Death, and trains to become stronger.  While I personally find the Tabby-focused episodes a bit boring, she serves as a light counterweight to Haseo’s intense and brooding personality.

Roots brings you even deeper into The World of .hack.  Everything we’ve learned about the creation of The World becomes the building blocks – The World is evolving.  The mystery deepens and by the end of Roots we are introduced to the G.U. Project, Epitaph Users, Phases, Avatars, and AIDA.  The story is now in full swing, leading into the G.U. video games.

For more information:

Some great music from Roots:

God Diva (Ali Project)

Dwindled Bible

Junkyousha No Yubi/Martyr’s Finger

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.

Anime Movie reviews Music videos Video reviews

Review: .hack//Sign

.hack//Sign is the prequel to the original four PS2 games (Infection, Outbreak, Mutation, Quarantine) and is the story of Tsukasa, a wavemaster, who wakes up in a dungeon in The World with no idea where he is and no memory of what he was doing.  Also, for some unknown reason Tsukasa is unable to log out of The World.  Other characters are introduced including Mimiru, Bear, Lady Subaru, Silver Knight, Sora, BT, Helba, Harald, Morganna, Aura; some want to help Tsukasa, and some just want to get their hands on the Key of the Twilight.

Mysteries abound, and with every episode we follow the characters as they search for clues, yet every revelation leads to more questions than answers.  Why is Tsukasa unable to log out?  What happened to Tsukasa’s player character in the real world?  Eventually we discover that Tsukasa’s consciousness is trapped in the game.  But why, and how?  What is really going on?  What is the Key of the Twilight, and does it even exist?  How can Tsukasa be saved?

A character driven story, .hack//Sign slowly immerses you in the layers under the game The World as various thought provoking themes are explored.  Why do people play online MMORPG games?  For fun and entertainment.  To pass the time. To level up, quest, and achieve goals.  To escape reality.  Loneliness.  What happens when virtual reality is preferable to real life?  And most importantly – the importance of friends.  How sometimes we can’t save ourselves – we need others to help us.

For more information:

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.

Anime Books Movie reviews Music videos Video game reviews

Review: The World of .hack (Dot Hack)

Welcome to The World.

.hack (or Dot Hack), is a series of separate but connected stories told through anime shows, video games, manga and novels.  In .hack, human players interact online in The World – a fictional MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) – using virtual reality headsets and a gamepad controller.  Filled with mysteries and adventure, the .hack saga is a complex and intricately woven journey that includes virtual reality, artificial intelligence, human players, corporate cover-ups, a mad scientist, all with MMORPG job classes, dungeons, and monsters.

Imagine a popular MMORPG where strange things are happening, and you are searching for answers along with the characters.  An entire mythology, a journey with great depth, .hack is the struggle to save others and to save one’s self, and to what lengths a person will go to, to achieve their goals.  When you finally reach the end of the journey, it’s mind blowing and you’ll want to travel it all one more time.

Chronological order

Probably the only drawback to the whole .hack franchise, is that it can be confusing to newbies.  There are so many different stories and media types, and it makes more sense if you watch/read them in order.  Also, there is some overlapping and retelling of the story; for example, some of the anime, manga, and novels retell exactly the same story.  It can be repetitive, and there are discrepancies, but it sometimes adds small details – especially the novels which add more background details to the anime.  Sometimes the story is retold from a different point of view – for example, the .hack video games are told from Kite’s perspective, while the .hack//Another Birth novels tell the same story from Black Rose’s perspective.

The best way to enjoy .hack – in chronological order:

.hack//Sign (anime; prequel to the original four .hack games)

.hack (PS2 video games) or .hack//Another Birth: Infection, Outbreak, Mutation, Quarantine (novels)

  • .hack//Infection
  • .hack//Outbreak
  • .hack//Mutation
  • .hack//Quarantine

.hack//Legend of the Twilight (anime and manga)

.hack//Roots (anime; prequel to the three .hack//G.U. games)

.hack//G.U. (PS2 video games, manga, novels)

  • Vol. 1 Rebirth
  • Vol. 2 Reminisce
  • Vol. 3 Redemption

.hack//Trilogy (DVD movie)

.hack//Link (manga, PSP game)

.hack//Quantum (DVD/OVA)

I would recommend the .hack video games for ages 10 and up.  The PS2 games are all rated T; there’s no blood, but lots of battling (REN GEKI!), and some swearing.

I would recommend the .hack anime shows for ages 7 and up.  The anime shows have some battling and swearing.  Keep in mind, the battling is taking place in an online game, so only the player’s online character is “killed”, and then has to relog in at their last save point.  There are some profound concepts to think about, and very young kids might be frightened by Haseo’s 3rd form, Flick Reaper.

So far, we’ve watched Sign (twice, as once we knew what was really going on, we had to watch it again), and Roots.  We bought all 7 PS2 games of .hack and .hack//G.U. from eBay and Amazon.  We’ve also read the Legend of the Twilight and G.U. manga and novels.  We’re waiting to watch Trilogy until after we finish the 3 G.U. games.  Then we’ll also watch the OVA Returner, and, after we read the Link manga, we’ll hopefully find a way to watch Quantum.

Immerse yourself in the fantastical World of .hack, and while you’re there discover some awesome music.  Sign, Roots, and Trilogy all have amazing soundtracks, ranging from driving/fast paced to relaxing/slow.  The kids and I have downloaded all the songs from these shows to our iPods and YouTube queue.  Here’s one of my favorites, Fake Wings (Yuki Kajiura):

To make life easier for you – .hack media, sorted by type:

Games (all by CyberConnect2)

.hack (PS2):

.hack//Fragment:  (PC mmorpg) released in Japan only; now closed.

.hack//G.U. (PS2):
Vol. 1 Rebirth
Vol. 2 Reminisce
Vol. 3 Redemption

.hack//Link (PSP – Japan only)


.hack//Sign (series)

.hack//Liminality (4 part OVA)

.hack//Gift (OVA)

.hack//Legend of the Twilight (series)

.hack//Roots (series)

Online Jack (clips)

.hack//G.U. Trilogy (DVD movie of the .hack//G.U. games)

.hack//G.U. Returner (OVA)

.hack//Quantum (new 3 part OVA) 


.hack//Legend of the Twilight







.hack//AI buster, .hack//AI buster 2


.hack//Another Birth (Infection, Outbreak, Mutation, Quarantine)

.hack//G.U. (The Terror of Death, Borderline MMO, Harald’s Archetype)

.hack//Epitaph of Twilight



Classes/Jobs in the MMORPG The World:

The World:  blademaster, wavemaster, heavy axeman, heavy blade, long arm, twin blade.

The World R:2:  adept rogue, steam gunner, flick reaper, harvest cleric, blade brandier, edge punisher, lord partisan, macabre dancer, shadow warlock, tribal grappler, twin blade.

For more information:

Official website 

Dot hack Wiki

Fan sites:

Be sure to check out my upcoming posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.  Are you a .hack fan?  Share the love, and any tips you have, in the comments!