Since around the middle of last week, the cherry blossoms finally started blooming around Kobe, and with them endless tarps have been laid out with friends, family and food from morning till night. I’ve written before about how in Japan everyone loves getting together during Cherry Blossom season. There is such a feeling of relaxation and of having a good time with good company–of living the “good life” even just for a few hours with cherry blossoms in view.


Of course, there is also the deep feeling of impermanence associated with the season, which Chad and I felt even from the weekend. We were walking along and noticed that although the blossoms just started blooming fully, some of them were already beginning to be replaced with fresh, green leaves! Both of us voiced our sadness at the sight, committing to as much cherry blossom viewing as possible until the season ends.

Our view from Cherry Blossom viewing at lunch near Shin Kobe today.

I was thinking about our feelings of immediacy, of wanting to capture as much as we could in the little time we have. I think we’ve felt that way in cherry blossom seasons before, but I guess knowing this will be our last one while living in Japan makes it a bit more poignant. And I know it’s cliché, but while recognizing the impermanence of the cherry blossoms, I’ve been feeling like it’s so important to appreciate the fragility and fleeting nature of life–even the passing of the joyful moments in life (the birth of a child, making a child laugh, enjoying a vacation, celebrating at a wedding…). Ultimately, considering this short, beautiful season makes me overwhelmed with gratitude (and at the same time, a little sad). I’m so thankful for even the smallest joys each day.

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
― Kobayashi Issa, Poems



What little (or big) joy are you appreciating today?

Food & Cooking · Tried

Spring Donuts & Pretty Purikura

Ever since I saw this post on how to make matcha donuts, I’ve been begging Chad to get some. (We have a crappy convectional oven that makes me angry every time I bake, so I’ve banned myself from baking until we come home to the states and have a real oven!) Yesterday I had to take a trip to one of our campuses for work, which just so happens to have a Krispy Kreme donut shop near it! So of course, I decided I’d better get this matcha donut fix out of the way.

I got four flavors: Sakura (cherry blossom), Chocolate Custard Cream, Matcha Old Fashioned, and Cookies & Cream. Chad and I split the Matcha and Sakura donuts last night–yum!

These–if nothing else–made the hour and a half trip out there worth it!

As you can see, I’ve spent way too much time this morning playing with a new app I downloaded called DecoAlbum. I really like it as it is easy to use and has a lot of cute options. Best of all, it’s free! Who says I can’t have a little Purikura (or Japanese photo-booth) magic when I move back to Michigan?

I also tried another purikura-style app called GirlsCamera, but it wasn’t as easy to navigate and kept crashing. I was particularly sad after trying to decorate a picture for nearly an hour and it crashed! The only reason I consider keeping it is because it has a frame with the phrase, “It’s a new day. I like running with scissors because it makes me feel dangerous.” Ahh, such Japanese English.

What apps have you been playing around with lately? Do the donut shops near you have any interesting flavors?


Nothing like suspense to get you running!

So nearly a year ago I became more serious about running and bought a new pair of shoes. I was back in the states for a little over a week, so I was able to get what I thought was my size in what I thought was a good shoe. I think the shoes (Asics) were probably pretty good, though the salesmen clearly had no idea what he was talking about. Unfortunately for me, though, when I got back to Japan, the shoes felt too small! I know now that the fit can depend on the time of the day you try them on, and that there should actually be room between your toe and the front of the shoe and so on, but I was kind of out of luck because it is nearly impossible to find my size in Japan. I ended up running my first 10K in October for the RUN10FEED10 race in those shoes, and then continued running in them until my knees started hurting (my last run was on New Year’s Day). After going to the clinic last week, I was told I could still run as long as I had supportive shoes and stopped if my knees hurt while running. Then, coincidentally, yesterday I actually found my size running shoe! I promised Chad that if I could buy new shoes, I would start running again, four times a week, with a minimum of 2 miles each time.


These are my new, beautiful Nike Lunar Glides.

I wanted to be smarter this time than the last time I bought shoes, so I looked up lists of top running shoes and watched a video review of these on I also spoke extensively–at least, as extensively as my poor Japanese would allow–to the salesperson and she helped me a lot. (She, unlike the guy I had spoken to in the states, seemed to know what she was talking about!) Today was a moment of truth as I headed out the door for my first run in them. And…it was great!


I usually run about a ten minute mile comfortably, so I was happy with my time today after having taken a break from running for a couple of months. The shoes felt amazing–very light, yet supportive. Also amazing was revisiting an Old Time Radio Show I used to listen to called Suspense!.


Although I sometimes listen to music while running, I usually prefer to listen to podcasts. Last weekend I was listening to The Story on NPR and they were talking about Old Time Radio shows, so I decided to start listening to them again. I chose a particularly eery episode of Suspense! called “Zero Hour” (you can download it for free on iTunes, if you’d like!) to run to today. Nothing to distract you from any running discomfort like an episode of Suspense!, I’ll tell you that much! I barely noticed I was running, and if I did I usually still felt happy because there were so many Cherry Blossom trees blooming everywhere.

Do you like running? If so, what do you like to listen to while you run?


I saw this inspiring quote on Facebook the other day…

Have a happy Thursday! The weekend is almost here.


Forcing Spring

Chad and I seem to think that if we put away our winter jackets and throw on sandals, the weather will listen and we’ll keep getting warm spring days like we did last week. Unfortunately we’ve been realizing we can’t force spring, despite our best efforts. On the bright side, even though it was quite cold today, it was sunny the cherry blossoms have begun to bloom!


We had a picnic lunch of ham, cheese & spinach wraps, walnut, peanut & raisin mix, kiwi, and an aloe yogurt, with a view of the cherry blossoms and a pagoda.


Sorry for the bad photo–the sun disappeared just as I tried to take pictures of the blossoms!

Despite signs warning against it, Chad fed a few scraps to some pigeons. He was especially fond of one that had a peg-leg, so he would try and shoo the other pigeons away from that one so it could eat.


To our credit, we didn’t see the sign until we had already started tossing a few crumbs…

It was chilly, but we still had fun. And who knows, maybe the weather forecast is right and it’ll get warmer by next week! We’ve got a lot more cherry blossom viewing planned, so here’s to hoping!

Are you enjoying the prolonged cold weather?

Monday Matters · Seen/Heard/Tried


Today I spent a good portion of my day at work, which is kind of a bummer since I’m technically on holiday, but at the same time not too bad. Once I get started working it is so hard to stop, hence the reason I’m on my way home now, at around 8:00 on this super cold night. Anyway, I also had to work a bit on the weekend too, but on the side I watched two movies: Lincoln (slow, but interesting), and Argo (good, but super tense). I know it’s a very cliche thing to say, but with both movies I felt so saddened by what humans are capable of–saddened by killing and war.

I also started watching a new documentary “shorts” series with Chad called Crash Course World History. We’ve watched about 5 episodes so far and really like it. You can watch them for free, too, by going to Watch Documentary. (There is also a Crash Course series for biology, but it’s a bit over my head.)

We were able to meet some friends on Sunday for lunch, and one of them took this lovely photo of Kobe Tower with cherry blossoms:


Later that day I saw this pretty cherry blossom wine I might have to try:


And earlier that day I saw dancing dragons in the China Town:



I indulged myself and bought a sparkly Rilakkuma pencil and these adorable socks:


He’s like, “Look everybody! I’m super cute and I’m drinking coffee! Don’t you wish you had coffee?”

And saw these three confused station attendants:


How was your weekend? Is your Monday off to a good start?

Friday Five

Five of my favorite painters

These are five of my favorite painters, in no particular order:

1. Norman Rockwell



Whenever I look at a painting by Rockwell, I feel nostalgic for a time I never experienced. I love how every painting tells a story, and I often find myself smiling when considering the situations in the paintings.

2. Vincent Van Gogh




Like so many people, I love the colors and the movement in Van Gogh’s paintings. Whenever we’ve visited museums with his work on display, I’ve found myself mesmerized while looking. One nice memory I have is of when we went to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and learned a lot about his life.

3. Diego Rivera




I also love the colors in Diego Rivera’s paintings, but obviously in quite a different way from Van Gogh. Rivera’s choice of bold colors with such nice contrast really inspire me. I used to love doing oil pastel, and I would always try to get a lot of “big” color while trying to keep my pictures sharp.

4. Moki



A couple weeks ago I stumbled upon Moki via an article I read on Huffington Post, and I’ve since really enjoyed looking at the way she “hides” people in nature. She has recently released a book called How to Disappear.

5. Katie Berggren

mother and child art print - Possibilities - Archival 8x10 signed motherhood print


mother and child dancing naked art print - Song In My Soul - Archival 12x12 signed motherhood print


I fell in love with Berggren’s paintings years ago. I love the way the paint flows in her work and makes me feel like love is wrapping around the canvas. Her paintings make me think so much about the precious relationship between a mother and child. You can visit her Etsy site, from which these images were borrowed, or her website to learn more.

I love too many painters to name, but these are a few of my favorites. Who are some artists that you love?


Magic every day

Every once in a while I stumble upon an audio book that ends up whisking me away into a story unexpectedly. For example, about 5 years ago I started listening to The Secret Life of Bees on audio, and it was so well done that I would take the long way driving home from work or errands just so I could listen more. I would also often sit in parking lots to listen a little more before getting out of the car, not wanting to be pulled out of the story just yet. Only a month or so after listening to the audio of The Secret Life of Bees, I bought the text version, happily marking page after page of writing I found particularly beautiful or descriptive with little sticky notes. And then it seemed everything around me was conspiring to bring the story alive in my life–my sister-in-law’s father let us watch him spin honey from the bees he was keeping, Chad and I began reading articles and books about bees, and we started to dream of keeping our own someday. With that book, the ordinary became magical to me, and the book has been my favorite ever since listening to it that summer.20130321-134033.jpg

A page from my journal in 2008 after seeing Thom’s bees

Similarly, about a year ago I listened to the audio of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Once again, I was enthralled by a fantastic audio version of a book, this time read by Jim Dale (you can hear a sample on amazon here). After listening on the train and walking to work, I would stand outside the gates of school without being able to pause the story, often risking being late for our morning meetings! I really enjoyed the book, and so I was happily surprised to receive it as a Christmas gift from my mom this year!



My mom also sent this pretty little bookmark she made. Isn’t it lovely?

I read the book over the last week, and enjoyed being able to really appreciate the lovely description she uses in the novel. I found myself dreaming of circuses, remembering a Cirque du Soleil performance we went to last year and thinking of the “magic” in the show. And, just like when I read The Secret Life of Bees, everything around me seems to get me thinking about the book and about the circus! I’ll write more about my growing obsession later, but for now I just wanted to recommend both of these books on audio, and then–of course!–in paper once you’ve finished (The Secret Life of Bees especially!) They both really gave me a sense of “magic” amidst the “every day,” and though the books did so in different ways, they both pulled me into daydreams and wondering…

Do you like audio books? (I bet you would if you listened to these! 😉 ) What are some of your favorite ways to bring magic into the ordinary?



Last week I listened to a fantastic podcast episode of RadioLab that keeps popping into my mind. The episode was a fascinating look into color and how we see. One of the things mentioned were mantis shrimp, who have way more color cones than humans.

They are very pretty, but apparently pack a powerful punch in addition to their super color vision capabilities.
Photo Source

All that talk about color inspired me to do a little art journaling on this rainy day in Kobe.

Sometimes life needs a splash of color!

It also inspired me to try a new nail polish color! Bright and bold, hurrah!

Take that, crummy weather!

What color is your favorite? Mine is green, though I enjoy just about every color. Usually I like very earthy, natural shades, but lately I’ve been particular to pops of color–maybe it’s in accordance with dreaming of summer?

Food & Cooking · Learning · Projects · Tried

Updates and Foodspiration

Today was a beautiful, warm and sunny day, so I tried to spend as much of it as I could outdoors. However, now that the sun has set I thought I’d update you on some of the things I had said I was looking forward to in March. First of all, I wrote about a planned trip to Tokyo, which is definitely still going to happen before we leave Japan, but might not happen in March anymore. We’ve found catching up with dental care, work and other random errands has been taking up a lot of time, and we kind of just want to hang out and save money. But we’ll see if we go stir-crazy next week and change our minds.

Next, I mentioned a trip to Mie, which you might have seen a few pictures of here. You also might have read about the third thing on my list, a trip to the Glico factory to see how pocky is made, here. And then I wrote about anticipating cherry blossom season and picnicking. Cherry blossoms are already starting to bloom in some parts of Japan–a bit early in the season, actually. There aren’t too many blooming around here yet, but that didn’t stop us from taking advantage of the gorgeous day–we had a picnic this afternoon (followed by lazing around in the sun for about an hour).

And then there was this last cluster of things on my list:

Coursera Classes– Still enjoying the Know Thyself course, though the wording on the quizzes often makes them difficult to answer correctly.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain– I’ve been practicing the exercises and reading through on and off for the last two weeks. Today’s task was to do an upside down drawing, and I about lost my mind. It was so tough for me that I actually started growling out loud to myself! Luckily I was home alone so no one could judge me and my impatience and frustration. I guess such feelings are a normal part of shutting off the more verbal part of your brain and just seeing things, but it sure is a difficult process! I am determined not to give up, so I’m not going to push myself too much at a time.

Fitness & Relaxing– Last week I started doing the 30 Day Shred again. Since sickness and stress had led to nearly two months off, I decided to take it easy and start up again with Level 1, though I was pleased today to already be doing Level 2 without too much difficulty. (Okay, I’ll be honest. I about died doing the plank jacks!). I’ve also been walking 30 minutes to an hour every day, incorporating a little yoga into my days, and occasionally doing fitness online. I found this website today that has 100 Zumba workouts online for free! I think I’ll be trying that later. Having fitness as part of my daily routine has naturally led me to feeling more relaxed, but so has having more time for taking coursera classes, doing art journaling, trying to learn new skills (like drawing), reading, writing and just hanging out with my awesome husband.

When we were lying in the sun after our lunch this afternoon, I thought about how much I love eating outside, and how much I loved all the outdoor seating at restaurants in Europe. When we were in Amsterdam, we fell in love with a restaurant called Bagels and Beans, and ate there every day of our visit in their outdoor seating!


Chad at Bagels and Beans in Amsterdam last March


The view from the outdoor seating of Bagels and Beans


Mmm, cappuccinos!

I loved all of the bagel options so much that I actually took a picture of their menu while I was there so I could try and recreate them in the future. Imagine my disappointment when I looked for the pictures for this post, and they were missing! On the bright side, I do have pictures of some of the bagels we tried, and –luckily for both of us– they have an English menu online!


Warm: Toasted Ham, Mild Jersey Cheese and Tomatoes


Smoked Chicken, Avocado, Basil Dressing, Pine Nuts & Lettuce


Warm: Goat Cheese, Bacon and Pine Nuts


Warm: Goat Cheese, Walnuts, Honey and Thyme

Is your mouth watering yet? We’ve made the last two combinations pictured quite a few times over the last year, though unless you have a connection to someone with a Costco membership it’s often difficult to get bagels in Japan (two more months until I can buy all the bagels I desire! muah ha ha!). To make up for our occassional lack of bagels, we sometimes get creative (I’ve mentioned the need to adapt recipes before!).

Here I just used yummy looking bread from the bakery instead of a bagel, Camembert cheese instead of goat cheese, and sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. (I split the cheese between two sandwiches.) In case you are wondering, it was FANTASTIC. I’m drooling just looking at the picture and remembering.

Do you like eating outside, and if so, do you have a favorite restaurant with outdoor seating? Have you been inspired by any menus recently? I hope you’ve found a few things you’d like to try from this post 🙂


Lately I’ve seen…

Pretty whisky glasses at the Yamazaki Distillery…


The Yamazaki Distillery…


Some new buddies at Suntory Brewery…


These cool glasses we got for free on our tours…


My favorite ramen in Kobe: Tarou Tomato Special Ramen…


And my favorite ramen in (Nagoya) Japan: Hongo Tei Paitan Ramen.


I also saw a mobile shrine with sake inside…


Some pretty candies shaped like Totoro and Rilakkuma (among other characters) at a festival…



Custard Taiyaki


Some Nutty Honeycomb chocolates:


Some lovely pink flowers from an old friend at our Mie farewell party…


And of course some old friends!