Sometimes you learn that super cool places exist right in your own area after months of living there and not knowing about them. We discovered such a place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, yesterday after receiving a very special gift for Lillian. The place is called Uncle Goose, and the gift was a set of beautiful Japanese blocks.
These blocks are just awesome. They include bits of all three systems of writing in Japanese as well as English translations. There are animals on one side of each block, and on another side there is a chrysanthemum pattern from a fabric designed in the 1800’s. The blocks not only look beautiful, but they feel pleasing to hold as well. Moreover, they are responsibly and sustainably made, and are printed using child-safe inks so I don’t have to worry about them going in Lily’s mouth.
I was so shocked that it is possible to find blocks that have Japanese and English on them handmade in the states, let alone in West Michigan, but Uncle Goose actually makes sets of blocks in many languages, ranging from Korean to Polish (23 languages are available total, to date!). They also craft other wonderful sets, like one with bugs and another with nursery rhymes (I’d love to get those for Lillian one day, too!).
Lillian’s gift of Uncle Goose blocks will be a treasure for years to come. Chad seems to think they are a sign we should actively teach Japanese to Lillian and then move back to Japan, but I’m not so sure about all of that 😉 Anyway, Uncle Goose is based in Grand Rapids but sells their blocks in 6 out of 7 continents worldwide. Check out their website and drool over these blocks (like I mentioned, you can literally drool over them and you’ll be a-okay!).
Have you found any fun places in your area lately? Thanks for letting me share!
I was listening to an episode of The Sporkful the other day and the host, Dan Pashman, noted that the episode would be the last of 2016. I thought it was rather early to already be having the last show of the year when I realized suddenly that 2016 was already over. How did that happen? I feel like after giving birth to our sweet baby (who will already be one at the end of this month–eek!), time has been more of a whirlwind than ever before. Days, weeks and months have been sneaking their way into the past in what feels like the time-span of a few breaths.
Realizing that 2016 had already come and gone naturally led me to reflecting on the crazy, sometimes crummy (but often amazing!) year we had, and then, of course, to thinking about what’s to come in the year ahead. And that brought me back to the fun request Pashman asked listeners in the episode of The Sporkful I’d been listening to: call in and describe what you resolve to eat more of in 2017. I thought that was such a fun resolution because rather than making a difficult, potentially unattainable goal, you’re making a resolution that is more about enjoying yourself.
So what’s your answer? I for one would like to eat more onigiri in 2017. I loved grabbing tuna mayo onigiri from convenient stores in Japan whenever I needed a quick snack, and I always miss eating it when we’re in the states. Chad even got me a cute kitty onigiri set for Christmas in Tokyo last year so I can try to make ones like these cute ones from Bento and co. below!
I’m looking forward to hearing about your food resolution in the comments, and to posting more frequently in 2017!
Happy New Year!
PS Remember this little onigiri needle felt cutie I made a couple years ago? So easy and fun!
Today we had a lot of fun letting Lillian get her hands all slimy with pumpkin goop while daddy cleaned out a pumpkin for her to sit in. We wanted to carve the other side of the pumpkin when we were finished, so we decided to take inspiration from the wonderful board book Boo! by one of our favorite children’s authors, Leslie Patricelli.
This sweet book is about a baby enjoying all kinds of Halloween fun. After picking out a pumpkin that is just the right size, the baby wonders what to carve:
Since Lillian loves our two cats, we decided to go with a kitty face on our pumpkin (you’ll have to check out the book to find out what the baby carves in Boo!). I’ve seen a few different kitty carvings online, but I especially liked to idea of using pumpkin pieces for ears! We attached the ears to our pumpkin with toothpicks. One of my favorite tips to try before lighting a candle for Jack-O-Lanterns is to add cinnamon powder to the top of the pumpkin. The aroma fills the air and really adds to the cozy fall feeling of pumpkin carving! I think our kitty pumpkin turned out pretty cute, but I’ve gotta be honest, Lillian inside the pumpkin is definitely cutest of all!
What are your favorite Halloween books? Did you carve pumpkins yet this year? I’d love to hear all about your Halloween!
Have you ever seen turban squash at your local farmer’s market or grocery store? I was pretty intrigued when I came across some earlier this fall, and decided in the spirit of the 57 Things Series, I’d bring home the unfamiliar and find a way to prepare it for dinner (#40 on the list!).
These guys are pretty tough to crack open–I actually had to enlist Chad to help me, and even he had to cut it from the side instead of cutting off the “top of the hat” as most recipes suggest. He said the trick is to start at the bottom with your knife and to wedge it back and forth a bit. When raw, the squash smelled a lot like pumpkin. Its seeds looked a bit like pumpkin seeds too, but rounder.
After scooping out the seeds and pulp, I baked the squash. In the meantime I sauteed some veggies to mix with couscous and seasoning. From there I added the tender turban squash and mixed well before baking it altogether inside the shell of the squash. The verdict? Delicious!! It was a little labor intensive, but I definitely want to make it again soon. See the recipe below, adapted from this recipe, and try it for yourself!
Click to download
Have you tried any new foods lately?
A couple of weeks ago I was super excited to finally finish Lillian’s prenatal baby book. I did a pretty good job keeping up with updating the book throughout my pregnancy, but the last few months before Lillian was born I sort of dropped the ball. Fortunately, I took lots of notes in my art journal that year, so I was able to remember a lot of what happened and how I was feeling! It also helped that I used a small photo album about 5X7 size. I got to choose what to put in Lily’s book, and wasn’t overwhelmed by having to fill a big space! Here are a few of my favorite pages:
We took pictures in a Japanese photo booth for our pregnancy announcement, so it was fun to add some to the book (you can see more by clicking here 🙂 ).
I loved the quote I found to add to the Studio Ghibli pages from The Secret World of Arrietty: “It’s funny how you wake up each day and never know if it’ll be the one that will change your life forever.” Lillian has sure changed our world!In Japan they give you an ultrasound at every appointment, so we were really able to watch Lillian grow over the months. It was such an amazing gift before she was born, that I don’t know we’ll have with future babies. I recorded my birth experience in Japan (read that, here), and printed that off to end Lillian’s book. I feel so happy with it, and think it will be really cool for Lily to look at when she’s older! Now to start on her baby book for her first year–phew!!
Have you ever made a prenatal baby book? What kinds of things did you record to remember?
Years ago when we got married, one thing we decided we would pay a little extra for was our wedding photography. After hearing a lot of stories from people who had negative experiences, we wanted to have a good one. The photographer we chose did take some nice photos, but we didn’t actually get our prints–let alone see very many of the digital ones–for SIX MONTHS. Even years ago that was a bit unheard of. Our photographer also lost the receipt of the package we purchased from her and tried to give us her smallest package (luckily I had kept my copy!), among other things.
Fortunately for us, we also had our good friend Kara Hanes at the wedding, who happened to shoot a few photos of her own. Still today, some of the pictures she took from our wedding are my favorite because she got some really nice candid shots. That’s why I was super excited when we got the chance to have our family pictures taken with her in August, all these years later.
I absolutely love the way the pictures of Lillian turned out, though I’m obviously a little biased on the subject! Here’s the thing though: despite it being a summer day, it was really cold and–especially on the beach–windy! But Kara still managed to get smiles out of Lillian (who was grumpy on top of being cold that day!). Lillian just loves Kara, and it’s easy to see why. Kara not only has confidence and talent, but also a way of making you feel relaxed and at ease. She was playful with Lillian, but made us laugh, too. And she didn’t even blink an eye when we had a crazy wardrobe issue in the woods when Lillian suddenly got hungry (let’s just say any passersby would’ve been met with quite the scene!). Kara can take lovely staged photos, but she also is great at capturing candid moments. The family photos she took for us are treasures to me, and I got to see them not six months later, but within days (some of them that very same night!).
Thank you for letting me show off my family, and for letting me share what a great experience we had (and always have) with Kara. Even if you’re not in need of a photographer at the moment, you should check out more of her work on her website, and also check out her engaging and fun Instagram and blog!
Despite having very little time for art journaling these days, I’ve still been keeping up with a little something for each day–even if my entries aren’t as detailed as the ones in my daily art journal from last year. Sometimes on less eventful days if I don’t have a whole lot to say about my day I will add a list of things I especially like around that time. Below is a list I made about a month ago, and while most of the things I jotted down still continue to bring me a lot of joy, I think I’m ready to make another list with some seasonal things, like drinking hot tea and enjoying the fall colors! What have you been especially liking lately?