Around Town · Tried

Hysteric Jam

The other night we went out with some friends and got into a discussion about how we tried so many foods from different cultures for the first time while in Japan, rather than in our own countries. I mentioned in my post about 10 New Foods I Tried between March 2012 – March 2013 that we tried a lot since traveling while in Japan, but even before that we were introduced to many delicious foods from around the world while living here. For example, before visiting Korea, we tried bibimbap in Japan. Before visiting Italy, we tried carbonara in Japan. And before visiting France, we tried crêpes in Japan.

I think the first time I had crêpes was while living in Kobe, and after remembering that delightful experience, I decided we should make a trip to have some as a special Golden Week treat. We headed to a lovely crêpe shop called Hysteric Jam, and stood in front of the huge glass display case, debating between flavors before finally settling on our choices.


Chad chose one with berries, chocolate and nama cream (bottom left, above), and I chose a heavenly one with brownies, chocolate and custard.


Someday I want to try savory crêpes, but on the rare occasion we have crêpes I can never seem to convince myself to choose savory over sweet! Have you tried crêpes before? If so, what are your favorite toppings?

Monday Matters


Over the weekend I was a little down, so I decided to look up a bunch of inspiring, motivating quotes on Pinterest. I know that may sound like a giant waste of time, but as I jotted down many of the quotes that spoke to me, I started to feel better.



Then I started to wonder if there were any motivating iPhone apps, so I did a search and came across Everest. I really like the app so far–it allows you to set as many goals/dreams as you want, focusing on three main goals/dreams while keeping all of them in view. After choosing some goals/dreams, you create steps you can take toward achieving them, whether they be ongoing or one-time goals (so for example, cutting out sugar long-term or visiting a foreign country). You can cross off steps when you complete them, even if they are steps you take daily, so there is always the satisfaction of doing at least something to get what you want. You can also set reminders for the steps.

Here are some of the goals I’ve started:



So far I’ve been doing pretty well, though I only started yesterday. I went to bed a little after 10:30 (thus not fulfilling one of my steps toward waking up on time), but I didn’t snooze my alarm this morning! And I ran this morning to boot! I also drank my goal for daily water and wrote in my journal. I’m not focusing on guitar at the moment, but when I move home I’m hoping to get new strings for mine and start learning again.

Do you often set goals for yourself? What kinds of things or phrases keep you motivated?






Bubbles drifting like joy in a dream

Had a dream that I could do magic, but only randomly. I was going to a school with other people like me in which we were trying to figure out why we couldn’t do magic all the time. What circumstances made magic possible or impossible for us to do?

One guy around my age that I went to school with was getting really discouraged because he hadn’t been able to do magic for a long time. He was starting to question whether anyone could do it anymore. I sat down next to him, and looked intently at a silver dessert spoon on the table. At first nothing happened, and I began to wonder if it ever would, but then the spoon floated into the air. The spoon began to take on a shimmer as though it had been dipped in liquid dish soap, with rainbow colors gliding around the spoon slowly. Then the silver of the spoon and its defined shape became less and less clear as the dish soap became more translucent. Finally, we could only see a fat line of dish soap suspended in the air, which began to spread out until bubbles began to break off–slowly at first, but then quickly– so that the air all around us was filled with drifting bubbles.

Photo Source

I wonder if this dream was representative of how I can feel so confident and self-assured at some times, but at other times feel totally out of control and like I have no choice in what I do. Or how even if I achieve the things I want to, like the magic in my dream, there is always something more just out of reach, floating away.

Lately I have been preparing myself for leaving Japan, and I feel so ready. When I go home, I know I’ll miss it and question my haste, but for now I’m having trouble focusing on the magic of what I’m doing–instead feeling tired and stressed out from the final couple weeks of work. I really need to appreciate and be grateful for each moment here, and not worry about which circumstances make that easier or more possible. I need to believe I’ll get through the stressful parts and that the drifting, joyful parts are more important (and just as plentiful!).

I’m trying to enjoy our final days in Japan, but I’m also counting down the days before we start a new chapter in our lives. Less than one month to go before we leave.


Matcha Cereal


Walking along in the supermarket the other day, I came upon Matcha (green tea) flavored cereal! I figured we should try it while we have the chance, so–despite the small portion size for quite a price–we bought a box.


We had our bowls of Matcha Flakes with a side glass of veggie juice and coffee for breakfast earlier this week, and the flavor turned out to be really nice. It kind of reminded me of green tea ice cream! I’m going to miss all the unique flavors Japan tries with its food and beverages!


What’s in that bag?


My very fashionable 100 yen store bag

Since we’re leaving Japan very, very soon (about a month to go!), I decided to pick up a few things we never got around to buying: a gyoza (pot sticker) mold, nice bento boxes, bento reusable goodies… The day I bought them was the same day I met my coworker for lunch, and so you can see some souvenirs she gave me as well: a Rilakkuma duster, some pastry snacks, yuzu jelly, and lemon drink mix.



My bento is the top one with flowers, and Chad’s is the checkered one on the bottom

I made bentos for lunch on Monday in our new boxes using some nifty side-dish packs, veggie furikake, or seasoning, and a few other things. Turned out great! Yum, yum!


Nifty Side-Dish Packs (Top: Spinach mix, Lotus mix, and Edamame Seaweed mix; Bottom: Crab Cream Croquettes)


Veggie Furikake


Our beautiful bentos!

I once read that Japanese people believe a dish is healthiest if there are at least 5 different colors of food. I don’t always make bentos, but no matter what I make I always try to include a variety of color. What do you like to pack in your lunches?

Around Town · Food & Cooking · Monday Matters · Tried

The best katsukare restaurant ever

Yesterday I met one of my coworkers for lunch at a restaurant called Nanjaro?, which I think roughly translates to, “What is it?” Chad stumbled upon the cozy diner about a year or so ago, and we just keep coming back.


Every time Chad and I go to Nanjaro?, we order the katsukare: pork cutlet fried in a layering of flour, egg & panko (Japanese bread crumbs) with a side of rice and Japanese curry. Often this type of dish feels way too heavy, but at Nanjaro? the katsu is very light and flaky without a lot of oil, the curry has a really lovely consistency with bits of tender beef throughout, and the rice is buttery without being overpowering.


I recommended the katsukare to my coworker, and as you can see, she enjoyed it–she gave me about the cheesiest smile ever! 😉

The atmosphere in Nanjaro? is comfy–there is a checkered wall in the kitchen and wooden walls throughout the rest of the place. There is seating at a counter or at one of three big wooden barrels, without much space between the counter and the barrels. The staff always remembers Chad and I, which could be because foreigners probably don’t frequent the restaurant often since its outside the main part of the city, but I like to think it’s because they truly just remember and appreciate our business. And man, do we ever appreciate theirs!


Nanjaro?, please come to Michigan?


Glico Truck

Last weekend I was walking around in Sannomiya when I came across this amazing Glico truck! (If you remember, we had a bizarre trip to the Glico factory a few weeks ago.)


I often stumble across interesting cars or trucks like this one in Japan, and it got me thinking of an article I recently found showing 40+ creatively designed food trucks in the states. Despite the trend really taking off in the US, I’ve never seen one in Michigan. Don’t you Michiganders think one would do well in Grand Rapids–especially during Art Prize? Chad and I have toyed with the idea of opening a curry pan truck.

Would you ever start a food truck? What kind of food trucks do you love in your area, or would you like to see?



Worry dolls and memories


Click to view enlarged, readable image

I had a little time for some art journaling on Saturday before our little movie night, so I decided to do something with a memory. I used to love American Indian art, history and culture, and still find many traditional aspects really interesting. I think a lot of my interest was initially spurred by my dad when I was a child.

On my journal page, I mention that my dad bought me some Guatemalan Worry Dolls that were being sold at an American Indian culture event. I used to tell the little matchstick dolls my worries before bed. Now I tend to either write them down, tell my husband, or focus on gratitude instead.

Some things I’ve been grateful for lately:

1. I saw a little boy I used to teach, and as soon as he saw me he said, “Ms. Caitlyn!” In a happy voice and gave me a long hug. I asked, “Are you going to hug me forever?,” and he laughed as he said, “I don’t know!” Makes my heart feel so big just thinking about it.

2. I’ve been able to help a lot of teachers by going to different campuses, and feel really good about supporting them and helping them to make changes that make their classes run smoother.

3. Despite going around different campuses, I’ve still been able to connect with a lot of children. I love being able to teach them, make them laugh, and comfort them when they miss mommy. When they fall asleep in my arms I could just hold them forever! So precious.

4. I called a coworker who is also a close friend to discuss some work, and neither of us wanted to hang up because we missed each other! I am so grateful to have such a strong friendship with her, as well as a supportive working relationship.

5. When I saw Chad last night after a long, rough workday, we snuggled on the train the whole way home. I am so thankful I married someone who can melt my worries away! He’s pretty handsome, too! 😉

What do you do to ease your worries?


This is how we roll on the weekends


    Chad’s representing with Ninja Turtle pants.

Yesterday was our only day off and it was crazy rainy and windy all day. There was only one thing to do: go to the nearest convenient store for beer (in our pajamas, obvi), and have a movie night. One of the movies we watched was Safety Not Guaranteed. It was really good! We also watched Red Dawn, which was at first really scary, and then kind of lame.

What did you do this weekend?