Uncategorized

Color!

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.

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They are very pretty, but apparently pack a powerful punch in addition to their super color vision capabilities.
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All that talk about color inspired me to do a little art journaling on this rainy day in Kobe.
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Sometimes life needs a splash of color!

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

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Chad at Bagels and Beans in Amsterdam last March

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The view from the outdoor seating of Bagels and Beans

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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!

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Warm: Toasted Ham, Mild Jersey Cheese and Tomatoes

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

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Warm: Goat Cheese, Bacon and Pine Nuts

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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!).

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Seen

Lately I’ve seen…

Pretty whisky glasses at the Yamazaki Distillery…

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The Yamazaki Distillery…

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Some new buddies at Suntory Brewery…

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These cool glasses we got for free on our tours…

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My favorite ramen in Kobe: Tarou Tomato Special Ramen…

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

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I also saw a mobile shrine with sake inside…

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

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Custard Taiyaki

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Some Nutty Honeycomb chocolates:

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

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And of course some old friends!

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 Cรดte 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.