Maps, maps, maps!

For a very long time now, I’ve been drawn to all sorts of maps. I love maps of the world and of different countries, but I also love maps of the body. Maps are so intriguing–so inviting. I feel like they can teach us so much, and yet, inspire so much imagination. I loved the book The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime because it followed a map thief, but also because it talked about adventures and myth connected to both ancient and modern-day maps.


Amazon link to the book

I’ve been looking at some other books about maps I’d like to read, and added the ones below (among a couple others) to my reading list:


Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer


You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination


Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline

I read The Island of Lost Maps years ago, and was inspired to add the others above to my reading list after reading The Birth of our Modern Obsession with Maps and Creative Cartography: 7 Must-Read Books on Maps.

My love of maps often extends past just reading about them and looking at them. I love using maps in my art journaling, and have always wanted to make other things with maps as well. For example, this cute ornament:



Or this amazing map pin craft:



*Note: I wanted to show both pictures of the map pin craft at the same time, so I took a picture with my phone. Hence the Softbank banner across the top…

I think it would also be fun to make coasters or tiles, and I might try to do that with some maps of Kobe before we go. I love the way maps can create a sense of adventure or nostalgia–maps of places I’ve never been make me want to travel, and maps of places I’ve been…well, they bring back memories, and they make me want to travel, too!

How do you feel about maps?


Let My Love Adorn You (or this awesome black belt!)

I worked late tonight and am (as usual these days!) exhausted. But, I’ve got two quick pictures for you. The first picture is a page from my journal that I made after hearing the song “Let My Love Adorn You” by R&B singer Miguel.


    Second is a picture of Chad’s black belt, which he got to take home for the first time today. His name is in Japanese in red on the belt. How cool is that?


    That’s all for now! Time for bed–Ta ta!

Monday Matters

I get by with a little help from my friends (and good Turkish food, cappucino’s, macarons and bentos)

We had a work Ladies Night Out on Saturday, and after waking up that morning feeling exhausted and having an earache, I started to consider canceling. While internally debating what I should do, I came upon this article on Brain Pickings that quoted Anais Nin:

“The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters, meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked.”

There was my answer! I’ve been spending a good deal of time working, catching up on work, and going to the doctors, and I’m going to be leaving the country (and those lovely ladies!) behind quite soon. I needed to take advantage of the time I had with people who are important to me! I became determined to feel better, and went out with what turned out to be a very small party of fun women at a Turkish restaurant.

I had really wanted to take a group photo, but I only managed to take a few badly lit photos of dinner and this one below of dessert:


Have you ever tried Turkish Delights? These were pretty good, but I’ve really been wanting to try this recipe, which makes Turkish Delights that are quite pretty! They would go perfectly on or next to some Turkish dishes or pottery, such as the ones below:






You can find all of these pretty dishes and more by clicking here for the source.

The next day, Chad and I had a Starbucks date that cheered me up. We tried sakura (cherry blossom) flavored macarons. They were so nice!


I had my usual tall cappucino.

And that brings us to tonight! Chad and I are both pooped from work, so it’s a bento night for us!


Thank goodness for good friends, good food, and excellent coffee! What’s getting you through the week?

Friday Five · Seen/Heard/Tried

Ten New Foods I Tried this Year

We were fortunate enough to travel a lot within the last year: We went to France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Michigan, the Philippines, and Thailand. Whew! I know we will probably never be able to travel like that again, and I am so thankful we had that opportunity. Lately I’ve been dreaming about going back to Europe especially. I was making spaghetti the other day and dreaming about our picnic in Villa Borghese, Italy, and remembering going to the same amazing restaurant 3 nights in a row to try different pastas and pizzas… And this morning I was enchanted with this blog post showing a gorgeous apartment in France. I immediately wanted to return to Paris and enjoy croissants, crêpes and macaroons–and of course the amazing architecture and museums and history! (And can I please have that exact style in a house in Michigan!?) We learned so much through our travels, and tried many new things.

As you may have guessed, one of my favorite things about traveling is trying the food (I think I mentioned that before). Don’t get me wrong, the history and architecture are huge for me too, but food is so revealing of a culture. Here are ten (out of many more!) new foods I tried this year:

1. Pistachio Gelato (Rome)


2. Savory Empanadas (Barcelona)


3. Tortellini Stir Fry (Amsterdam)


This was an amazing Italian-Asian fusion, and I have yet to find a recipe like it. Please let me know if you have one!!

4. Dutch Apple Pie


Of course I had tried apple pie before, but not this apple pie. It was recommended to me by a Holland native, who just so happens to have a recipe on her lovely blog. The crust brings back a feeling of Windmill cookies from Michigan, paired with a thick apple-raisin filling. So. Good.

5. Halohalo (pronounced with a soft “a” sound, Manila)


Can you see the sweet red beans and the sweet potato ice cream?

6. Crickets (Koh Samui, Thailand)


Chad was more adventurous than me, and tried one of every kind of insect available.

7. Marshmellow “Tacos” with coconut shavings (Koh Samui)


We had the pleasure of trying many kinds of amazing street food in Thailand, and this was one of them!

8. Durian, the King of Fruit (Bangkok)


We didn’t have a chance to try Durian our first time in Thailand, so we had to try it the last time we went! The smell is so strong, and the texture feels like biting into the skin of an orange, but with the taste of old pineapple with a cheesy texture. It’s kind of hard to explain, but what I can say is I’m not missing it!

9. Fugu, or Blowfish (Ise, Japan)


We tried many different styles and were pleased to survive each bite! I thought it was pretty good, but Chad said it was his new favorite fish!

10. Blueberry Daifuku (Kobe, Japan)


I love the traditional ichigo daifuku, so I was excited to try this blueberry version. It is sweet blueberry-flavored mochi, or rice cake, with sweet bean paste flavored with blueberry and a strawberry in the middle. The juicy strawberry provides a bright contrast from the thicker mochi.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for my taste buds next! The biggest challenge will be recreating some of the foods I loved. Here is a recipe for some other street food we tried in Thailand called Pakora:

Crispy Vegetable Pakora

And here’s another recipe we tried and liked for Falafels (reminding us of Amsterdam):

Spicy Falafels

Also, here’s a link to a really interesting podcast episode of “The Splendid Table” in which British gastronaut Stephen Gates is interviewed about trying insects in Cambodia and Thailand, and about letting go of food preconceptions/the notion of disgust.

Will eating bugs solve the world’s food problems?

What have you tried recently, or what would you like to try?

This post was supposed to be a bonus edition of Friday Five, but I am posting it today because we went out for amazing ramen and then watched Elementary last night. These things happen.


Seen: Pretty Heart Chocolates

I think I mentioned the Chocolate Wonderland I experienced a couple weeks ago. When Chad and I went in search of Koyama chocolates that day, I had commented on a few of the other pretty chocolates on display for the event. I don’t know what it was, but I felt elated to walk by all of the glass cases filled with artisan chocolates, imagining their tastes and textures. Have you ever felt that way?

I was brought back to the feelings from that day on Valentine’s Day last week. After a special surprise from me, Chad gave me a little surprise of his own:


    Chad remembered me commenting on these pretty hearts at the Chocolate Wonderland!

Aren’t the colors of these heart chocolates beautiful? After regaining my sense of smell (I’m almost all better–just need my voice and energy back now!), Chad and I decided to split them tonight while watching some Modern Family. And now, we’re getting ready for bed. It’s a little later than we planned on, but we needed time to wind down!

What will you treat yourself to tonight? Sweet dreams~~!


Everything’s becoming so final!

Today I signed my final contract and ohmygosh I’m freakingout. Generally, I’ve been able to distract myself from that fact that in about 3 months, we’ll be leaving. But there’s no way to avoid thinking about it when you’re signing your name and talking about the future! Of course, we have plenty to look forward to, and that’s what I need to focus on.

Not-so-fun things we’re researching:

-Shipping prices from different companies

Fun things we’re researching:

-Bakeries and “marketing research” (which involves eating, of course!)

I’ve really been enjoying looking at pictures of bakeries on pinterest. I’m sure that counts as research and learning! Here are a few I like:

(vía Mela e Cannella: PARIS la ville plus belle du monde #1)

cute bakery

Lovely Italian Bakery

I really like clean, natural, simple, old-fashioned looks. If we ever open a bakery I want to have wooden floors and tables, distressed white walls, steel or copper fixtures… Time to start dreaming and designing! Anyway, I don’t have that many pins on my board yet, but if you’d like to check it out (and find the sources for the photos above), click here.

If you have any tips on the things we’re learning about, please let me know! What are you researching/dreaming about?


Food & Cooking · Tried

You could eat this soup forever…

(Unless you are lactose intolerant.)

I haven’t had much time to make lovely things lately in the artsy realm, but a girl’s gotta eat, right? So, in lieu of an artsy post, I give you a post about soup.


Every week I make a meal plan, and that helps us stay organized with our dinners and lunches. (So glad I started doing that years ago!) On today’s menu: Cream Cheese Chicken and Vegetable Soup, aka Glorious Goodness.


As you can see, I had to stop mid-bite to snap a photo. You might also notice a little piece of buttered bread to the left–a perfect vehicle for scooping every last lick of soup from the bowl. Onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, chicken… *sighs* I first discovered the recipe a couple years ago, and loved it so much that when we came home to visit the Christmas before last, I insisted on making a pot to bring over to my grandparents’ house for a late lunch. Now when I eat it I remember snowy days in Michigan, with the warmth of family and good soup filling me up, no matter the cold outside. I imagine my grandparents’ house “up north,” and so many memories come back. I guess that’s what happens when you can’t go somewhere often, but when you do there is a memorable meal.


My older brother and Chad eating up at Grandma & Grandpa’s house

If you’d like to give the recipe a go–which you should, you can find it here.

Have you made any stand-out meals this week?

Monday Matters

Unlike the rest of the world, Japan has four seasons.

A lot of my weekends lately seem to be taken up by catching up on work and going to the doctor’s. Of course, I’m lucky to have a job I love and to have catch-up time, and I’m very fortunate to have health care. But sometimes it gets draining. So, to cheer myself up over the weekend, I decided to paint my toesies a pretty, spring-summery color.


I also decided to play around with the Skitch app & produce an image that looked like a kindergartner had a go at writing…

As I was painting away, I realized with a surprise that summer has become my favorite season. I’ve always loved fall the most with its comfortable temperature, lovely colors and delectable delights….but living in Japan has changed me. Of course, fall in Japan can be beautiful, but the places I’ve lived in don’t compare with Michigan–not a chance! It’s just so rainy so much of the time in the fall. The colors do seem to last a while, and yet–

As I was thinking this over I remembered a conversation I had recently (and have quite often had with various people while living here). We were visiting a friend in Ise in January, and I commented on how beautiful the light was that day, and on how the shadows that fell were so wonderful to look at. And our friend responded, as though it were obvious, “That’s because Japan has four seasons.” He was implying, like many before him, that other areas of the world do not have four seasons. Apparently that kind of light and shadow also do not occur elsewhere? In the past I’ve tried to defend Michigan, to say how, if you really want to see four seasons, that’s the place to go (and, knowing Michigan weather you could get lucky and see all of the seasons in a week! 😉 ) .

I don’t know if it’s from the lack of sleep or from being sick lately, but for some reason I got kind of angry when I thought back to my friend’s comment, despite the pretty purple I was applying to my toenails. It’s just that I generally feel that Japan’s “four seasons”–at least, in the areas I’ve lived–consist of stupid cold, cold and rainy, stupid hot, and hot and rainy. There are also occasional times in which it is stupid hot and rainy or stupid cold and rainy. For some reason I just want to shout out, “Look at beautiful Michigan!!”

I know when I move back I’m going to miss the awesome (as in awe-inspiring) nature Japan has to offer. But right now I can’t help but think that if people could only see our beautiful Mackinac Bridge throughout the year, they would know…we have four seasons, too, and stop gloating about their own.









Anyway, I don’t know how this became an entire post about weather, but please don’t be concerned. I’m going to be able to break free of this and move past it. Figuratively, or–at the very least–literally when we move home in a few months. (Holy cow I’mfreakingout only 3 months?!!) Michigan better be good to me after all this! 😉

What do you think? Are you particular to a certain climate? (I now tend to go for the “stupid hot” category). Have you ever heard of 4-season pride?

Friday Five

Five things that help me have a better day, every day

Sometimes, especially in the winter or when I’m sick (check, check), it’s easy to feel pretty grouchy. These are some things I’ve incorporated into my daily routine that have really changed my general mood most days, including winter sick days:


Each night…
1. Tell myself to have sweet dreams and that the next day will be a good day.

2. Tidy up for 10-15 minutes before bed. It feels much better to wake up to dishes done, the table cleared, and lunches packed. It also feels good to go to bed knowing these things have been done.

3. Keep a gratitude journal. In January, Chad gave me a really nice diary with a block of space for each day. I split each page in two: on one side I write down my To Do’s (breaking a giant list into everyday, doable tasks has also been a huge stress-reliever that’s made me more productive), and on the other side I write down at least three things I am grateful for or that made me happy that day. Sometimes it’s even just that I got to wear some cute earrings because it was the weekend (I can’t wear them at work), or that the weather was nice that day. At first I felt like I was really reaching to get three things on my list each day, but once I got myself into the habit, it became hard to stop at three most days! Now, throughout the entire day I find myself seeking out things that make me feel good that I can write down later, instead of focusing on the negative things that happen. And, after nearly two months of keeping it faithfully, I had this extremely joyful moment flipping through the journal and thinking, “Wow, I am so lucky I have so much to be thankful for!” I was actually overwhelmed by the abundance of thankful, happy things that had happened each day.

Every morning…
4. When I wake up, I never leave the room without kissing my husband if I’m up first. The same goes before bed–he always gets a goodnight kiss. I think even the littlest moments count, and I feel so loved and loving because of things like that. I don’t even remember when we started giving good morning/night kisses (maybe we always have?), but now I can’t imagine not doing it!

5. Take time for breakfast, coffee and a shower, even on weekdays. You might say, “Well, of course!” to all of that–especially the shower!–but I mean that I try my best to ensure I have a proper amount of time in the morning to have a shower, and then coffee and breakfast with Chad, talking with him and occasionally listening to the news, before racing out the door to see how much I can get done for the day. Believe me, it’s not always easy. I hate the mornings, but that slow, easy-going wake-up time with my husband makes a huge impact on the rest of my day.

I’m still not feeling better today, but I can say that the 5 things listed above helped my day nevertheless.

Here are some things I’m grateful for today:

  • I could watch girly movies to distract myself from being sick (Blue Valentine and Pitch Perfect).


Ryan didn’t play the nicest character in Blue Valentine, but somehow I got over it.

  • I made cornbread successfully for the first time! And it looked like the result was smiling at me.



  • It’s the weekend! And I get to spend (most of) it with my best friend.


Here he is in Thailand, being all cool and handsome, as usual.

So, what kind of things do you do to improve your mood each day?


Heard: “Real Good Hands”

Say what you will about Valentine’s Day, but I love it. I love all holidays, in fact. I get that many of them are company-driven and that many people tend to focus on the more materialistic aspects of the days, but give me a reason to have a party, celebrate, or make an ordinary day extraordinary and I’m definitely game!

On this Valentine’s Day, I’ve been stuffed up and laying around all day trying to get some rest–there is no good timing for being sick, but right now is especially bad timing! Despite it all, I am still planning a little something for my handsome husband (maybe more on that another day?).

Since it is Valentine’s Day, no matter my sniffles and coughs, I’ve been listening to some lovely music to fit the mood. Last weekend I was listening to a segment on NPR’s American Public Media in which Gregory Porter was being interviewed, and I fell in love with his song “Real Good Hands.” In the interview, Porter said how he wanted to show his true intentions to his then-girlfriend’s father, and so he wrote a song about it. I love the way he reaches out to her father by saying her father was once in Porter’s shoes, that he somehow “paid (his) dues.” Such a great song!

I’ve been listening to this song dreamily all day (perhaps that dreamy feeling is sickness-induced?). What are you listening to these days?