Uncategorized

Picnic Fever!

It’s a rainy day in Japan, and that’s left me feeling very contemplative. Where was I around this time last year? Oh yeah, France. And then Italy and Spain and Holland. Oh how I wish I could go back! We’re pretty lucky to have unusually warm weather in Japan though, and I’m hoping that from next week the rain holds off so that the cherry blossoms can bloom and stay around for a while. I love cherry blossom season in Japan, and while considering our lovely time in Europe last year (much of which was spent outdoors picnicking or soaking in the sun) at the same time as anticipating upcoming cherry blossom fun, my mind has naturally started going crazy thinking about picnics! So crazy, in fact, that I started collecting picnic-related pictures on a new pinterest board. Here are a few dreamy pins I’ve found:

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Sophisticated Picnic Fare

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Also, look at these pretty picnic basket sets!

Moka Yellowstone Picnic Basket

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Sometimes we’ve had indoor picnics on rainy days, and we open up the windows if it’s warm enough so we can listen to the rain. But I’ve got to be honest, I’m ready to get outside–I’ve got picnic fever and I need to remedy it! What are your favorite things to bring on picnics? Do you have a favorite place to eat outdoors?

Around Town · Seen

“Trip” through Glico

Yesterday we finally took the much-awaited Pocky tour at the Glico factory in Kobe. Unfortunately it didn’t exactly blow our minds, though I must say that after viewing a few of the exhibits it seems someone else’s mind must have been blown in order to create them–if you catch my drift. The factory bits were okay, but after that you’re led into a room in which fairies demonstrate how biscuits and ice cream are made. I can chalk those displays up to the normal cuteness and randomness found in Japan, but the “Magic Show” that followed was totally unrelated to the factory and super bizarre.

This Caucasian girl appears on a television before being shrunk down Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory-style into a kitchen set below. Then some fruit and vegetables turn into human friends, and they all begin dancing. Next, a demon appears, flying around on a fork. Somehow, they defeat the demon while twirling around, and the show is finished. Yeah, what?

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From there, we were taken to see a 3D showing of “The Legend of Pocky,” in which Salt, Milk, Grain and Cacao (pictured above on the plastic bag) fight against an evil demon and create pocky while bumping and crashing along the way. Who knew pocky had such mighty origins? The tour kind of ended abruptly afterwards, so we ate some matcha, or green tea, pocky while trying to make sense of what we just experienced.

On our way out we were each given a box of Pretz featuring the pocky “heroes,” as well as an English explanation of some of what we saw that would’ve been useful prior to taking the tour rather than afterwards. Overall I can say our visits to Asahi & Kirin Breweries and the Nada Sake district and Yamazaki Distillery were much more delightful!

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So long, Glico!

Seen · Tried

Now that’s what I call a relaxing day!

Today Chad woke me up with a cup of coffee, and I just hung out in bed reading and enjoying it until my tummy started to grumble. After a walnut pancake breakfast, I spent the morning writing letters and preparing little packages, tidying up, and watching videos for one of my coursera classes, Know Thyself. When it started raining, we decided to take a nap. A two.hour.nap.

As if the morning wasn’t enjoyable enough, when we woke up it had stopped raining so I went for a four and a half mile walk around Kobe. (Chad played futsal.) It was quite a bit colder today than yesterday, but I saw lots of delightful little things that kept me going. For example, I saw:

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    Little macaroon gardens…

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    Chocolates shaped like other sweets…

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    And pretty cups!

Also, I bought:

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Butaman, (or pork stuffed-buns), from my favorite nikkuman shop, 551 Horai (one for me, and one for Chad)…

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    Pretty notebooks for my coursera classes…

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    Lemon Poppy Seed bread to have with green smoothies for breakfast tomorrow…

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    And after meeting up with Chad, wine and chocolate for after dinner tonight!

We are trying a Belgian chocolate from France called Côte d’Or, which means Golden Hillside (according to Wikipedia, anyway!). We chose milk chocolate hazelnut, and I will definitely keep you posted on the flavor once we try it!

We’ve arrived home for the evening now, and have plans to eat grilled salmon with rice, tsukemono, or pickled veggies, and miso soup for dinner. (That makes up for the chocolate, right?) Then, we’ll enjoy our treat while watching a movie. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Seen

Goodbye, Goodbye!

Well, yesterday finally came, and with it I finished my final term of teaching at my school. I’ll still be training and working with the school until May, but it was really strange “giving up” my classroom. As we moved schools last year, I have been the only teacher in that room, and I chose the layout, the decorations… I have all sorts of props and materials organized by month… And most of all, I have two years worth of beautiful children that I fell in love with.

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Chad and I both got flowers from our students, so our dining room table looks like a little flower shop! They are so beautiful, and bring a lovely fresh scent to our apartment. The parents in my class also made a photo album for me, as well as a pretty little cupcake with my name on it!

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Today Chad had Saturday school, so I surprised him by cleaning the apartment and coming to his campus with Starbucks! I had never been to Akashi Park before, so we went for a nice long walk.

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Plum Blossoms

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After getting groceries (it’s much cheaper to buy them out in Akashi than in Sannomiya!), we headed home. Here’s the view from our apartment with the weather when we got there:

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Haaaa~~~I can’t tell you how good it feels to be on vacation, even if I have to catch up on some work! Going to try to relax as much as possible, and enjoy my time left in Japan.

Learning · Projects

Adapting

If there is one thing I’ve learned about while living in Japan, it’s about how to adapt. I’ve mentioned before that our kitchen is tiny. Our refrigerator is even tinier, which means we have to be really creative about buying and storing food at times. We also occasionally have to get creative about what ingredients we use, as they are often either a) not available in Japan, or b) ridiculously priced. I experienced this yesterday when I made this amazing Thai Chicken Soup recipe from Reservation for Two.

I tried this recipe before and thought it was fabulous–really reminiscent of food we had in Thailand–but this time, as you might notice when comparing the recipe to the picture, some changes needed to be made. The recipe calls for green beans, but for about ten green beans at my local supermarket yesterday, it cost a crazy 198 yen! Yikes! I decided to substitute shelled edamame instead, and it was a pretty decent swap. The second swap was a yellow pepper for a red, as Chad accidentally used up our red pepper the other day in a smorgasbord lunch he made us. The swap wasn’t too bad, but I prefer red bell pepper. (Did you know that red bell pepper is an incredibly nutrient-dense veggie?) Thirdly, I had to cook the chicken from scratch as there is no readily available rotisserie chicken here. Lucky for me, the soup turned out delicious overall. Can’t wait to make it when we move back home–it will be sooooo much easier and cheaper!

Have you ever had to adapt a recipe?

UPDATE (4/15/2016): Not only did my picture disappear, but–even more of a bummer!–“Reservation for Two” also no longer exists! However, I found this recipe that I’ve already made several times and is even better!!

Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried

Inspired

Happy Tuesday, everyone! This week is a busy one: I had a meeting for work last night with an end-of-the-year party after, then today through Thursday I’m training staff, Thursday night will be a yakiniku dinner, and then Friday will be the last day of the final term for the school year–phew! I’d like to think that after Friday I’ll be home free, but I know better (still lots of work ahead!). Despite my on-going busy schedule, I’ve still been finding time to work on little projects here and there and remain inspired.

Speaking of inspiration, I was so flattered to be nominated for the Inspiring Blog Award! Thank you to Inspire Ma for the nomination! Although this blog is quite young, I’ve been enjoying updating it and interacting with readers like YOU! As Inspire Ma explained on her blog, in order to accept this award you must: 1. Display the award image on your blog page.   2. Link back to the person who nominated you.   3. State seven facts about yourself.   4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.   5. Notify your bloggers of their nomination and link to their posts.

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So, without further adieu, here are 7 Facts About Myself:

1. Every week, I have to plan a little something special for the upcoming days or the weekend ahead. Even if the plan is only a trip to a coffee shop with my husband, it gives me something to look forward to! I have some fun plans for the month of March, but a few tiny plans I’m looking forward to this week include that yakiniku dinner I mentioned above, a campus party on Friday, and a visit from an old friend on Saturday.

2. When I was in high school, I loved my independent study art history class. My friend and I would choose a time period in history, learn about a particular culture, and then write a paper on what we learned before completing a hands-on project representing the culture. When I learned about a period in Indian history, I made an oil pastel of Ganesh. When I learned about a period in Chinese history, I did a collage of Four Dragon Kings using oil pastel and tea-stained paper with Chinese calligraphy as a border for each one. When I learned about parts of American Indian history, I recreated the pictographs from Agawa Bay on large pieces of stone and made a drum in North West Pacific Coast Indian style that won Best In Show that year.

3. I started the painting below after being inspired by pretty Turkish ceramics last week. I was really happy with it because the entire time rather than focusing on perfection, I focused on FUN. And it was fun! While working on it I was reminded that art history class I took–I’ve been so interested in Turkish history and culture as of late, and now I’m attempting to recreate something that symbolizes my interest.

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4. Taking that art history class got me interested in Chinese characters, which led me to consider taking Chinese or Japanese as a second language in university. I already had learned a lot about Chinese culture, and was really interested in learning more about Japan. With Chad’s interest in Japan alongside my own, I decided to take Japanese and loved it. Funny how now that I’ve been living in Japan for over four years, my Japanese has actually gotten worse than when I first arrived! I guess that is what happens when you work at an International School and teach in English all day.

5. I’ll miss using Japanese when we move back to the states, and wonder if I would lose nearly all of my Japanese language ability if I started learning Spanish. After going on a trip to Europe last year around this time, I realized how useful Spanish is, and what a bridge to other languages (like French and Italian) learning Spanish could be. Also, as a side note, when we were in Spain a guy started to greet me and actually changed his greeting as he looked up and saw me from “Hola,” to “Hola-la-la-la!” It just made me laugh, though it was nice to get some recognition after generally feeling like the BFG (big friendly giant) in Japan.

6. I am also worried about losing touch with my friends in Japan. Just as it is heart-wrenching to leave Michigan each time we go back to Japan after a visit, I can’t imagine leaving behind people I care about so much. Yes, I know it is the modern age and we have such wonderful forms of communication right at our fingertips, but using Skype and email just isn’t the same as hanging out in person. I hope my friends here know how much they mean to me, and how much they have taught me.

7. Much as I worry about leaving Japan sometimes, I am also ecstatic about moving back home. It’s like starting over! I never want to feel like I’m stuck somewhere, and I always want to keep searching for joy and learning alongside my husband. One thing I’m really looking forward to–aside from some things I’ve mentioned before–are weekly coffee dates with my mom!

So there are a few kind-of-related facts about me that you might not have guessed from my profile. Now, for something else–some lovely blogs, in no particular order!

1. Dutch. British. Love.

2. A Beautiful Mess

3. My Modern Met

4. Sunflower Story Time

5. The View from Suzuka

6. Brain Pickings

7. How About Orange

8. Her Library Adventures

9. Bradshaw and Sons

10. Life is a Canvas

11. Today I Saw

11. Hello Sandwich

12. The Little Red House

13. Inspire Me Now

14. One Design per Day

15. Meowsy Wowsy

Thanks again to Inspire Ma for the recognition and the fun! I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do.

Friday Five

Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in March

Happy March! I am so excited for the upcoming break, although I’ll be sad to let go of my students. The last day of the term will be tough, but luckily I have I lot to look forward to!

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1. Trip to Tokyo– the last time we went to Tokyo, we couldn’t go to the Studio Ghibli museum because tickets were sold out, and we didn’t get a chance to go to the famous Tsukiji Fish market because we were with a close friend who has a serious aversion to fish. Ever since I read this post from justhungry.com, I’ve really wanted to visit the Ghibli museum (and then there’s also my love of the sweet film Totoro). Hopefully both plans work out this time around!

2. Trip to Mie– I always love meeting up with our friends from the area we used to live in Japan, and to top it off, there are some amazing ramen shops out that way.

3. Trip to Pocky Factory in Hyogo– Pocky is involved. Need I say more?

4. Cherry Blossom Viewing– Absolutely one of my favorite parts of Japanese culture. Picnics, day or night, under the blossoms with friends…it doesn’t get much better than that!

5. Coursera Classes, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Fitness, RELAXING– I am so excited to be taking some really interesting-looking courses for free via Coursera, including a philosophy class called Know Thyself, and an Intro to Art class that is hands-on. The art class doesn’t start in March, so I’m going to try and get an extra fix by finally trying to do the entire Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

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Of course in between all of my studies I’ll need to get up and get some exercise, and without the stress of work and quite as many to-do’s, hopefully I’ll have more energy to do so! Ultimately all of the things on my list will lead to a very relaxing, fruitful month.

What kind of fun are you planning this month?

*Note: Once again, I worked late and couldn’t actually post this on a Friday! We went out for Chinese, and then pretty much drank tea and went to bed. The end is in sight, the end is in sight!