Food & Cooking · Tried

Hard Root Beer Floats

So apparently while we were in Japan, a ton of specialty Vodka flavors came out–one of which is a Whipped Cream Vodka. My sister-in-law and I came across the flavor and decided to mix it with orange soda–a drink we ended up happily calling a Creamsicle Delight. When we pondered other good combos, she suggested using the vodka in root beer floats, and, as that was another thing to cross off on my summer fun bucket list, I decided to give it a try.


Though a normal-sized bottle is shown here, you can also purchase tiny bottles of the whipped cream flavored Vodka.

Concocting the drink was easy enough: I just put a scoop of ice cream in a glass, then added about a 1/4 a glass of the Vodka, and then root beer. I added enough root beer so that the foam would rise above the rim, creating a nice layering of vodka, ice cream & soda, and foam.


The drink looked just as pretty after it was stirred; I loved the lovely cream color. You can tell from my huge smile that the result was delicious!


Do you like flavored vodka? What are your favorite drink combos?

Food & Cooking · Monday Matters

A Little Surprise for My Coworkers (and a check off my Summer Fun Bucket List!)

I’m not going to lie: training at Starbucks has often left me feeling like my mind was going to explode with all of the information necessary to remember right from the start. It has been hard for me to go from being a confident, competent leader, to starting something completely new. I’ve been feeling pretty vulnerable, which I guess is a good way to grow, but not my favorite way to feel for sure.

Anyway, for the most part my coworkers have been pretty understanding and patient with me as I’ve been learning (and forgetting, and relearning, and making tons of mistakes). So, I decided it might be nice to start the week off with these delicious Pineapple Upside-Down Minis as a sort of thank you to my coworkers.


I was trying to think of what might be good to make when I remembered this recipe from A Beautiful Mess, and then–to top off the greatness of the idea–I remembered making these little lovelies was something on my Summer Fun Bucket List! That’s two birds with one stone 😉

I had a lot of the batter left over after making a double batch (after all, we had to test a few to make sure they were suitable for bringing to work!), so after making 24 cupcake-sized delights, I made a little more of the brown sugar, whiskey & butter topping, and drizzled it into a glass bread pan. I also sprinkled in a few extra chunks of pineapple and cherry halves before filling it with the remaining batter.


Not necessarily the prettiest, but I’m sure it’s just as yummy as the cupcakes! (Also, that’s pineapple mango jam I made in the background! Jam Recipe here.)

And so, I now also have a Pineapple Upside-Down Loaf! Yum!!

Have a happy Monday! 🙂

Food & Cooking

Taco Raisu



The other night I made Taco Raisu for dinner and it reminded me of our 3-year anniversary trip to Fukuoka. On that 3-day trip we enjoyed going to a shrine and a pretty Japanese garden, biking around a little island, hanging out on the island beach & the cute cafe there, and going on the Asahi Beer Tour, seeing a cool festival and eating mochi taiyaki.  That trip probably wasn’t the first time we tried Taco Raisu, but it definitely was the first time it really stood out in our memory.



We tried cheesy Tako Raisu at an Okinawan restaurant in Fukuoka, and it was so good that we wolfed it down in minutes! I know exactly what you’re thinking: it looks like it’s basically tacos but with rice replacing tortillas or taco shells. And, with a few tablespoons of soy sauce, you’d be right!





This simple recipe calls for Japanese sticky rice, but I got by with 10-minute rice instead (though nothing beats sticky rice, in my opinion!). I also went to several stores to find soy sauce before realizing that in West Michigan you have to go to a major supermarket or an Asian market to find it! (After finding it at the 100 yen stores and convenient stores and basically EVERYWHERE in Japan I was shocked!) I hope you can make memories while enjoying taco raisu, too!


Why I miss giving & receiving the phrase おつかれさまです

If you move to Japan to work, one of the first phrases you’ll surely memorize is おつかれさまです, or otsukaresamadesu. This phrase doesn’t have a direct translation, but when given at work it tends to mean, “You must be tired. I recognize and appreciate your hard work.” The acknowledgement is not only given from supervisors to their employees, but from one coworker to another when their work is finished, or even if they happen to bump into one another on the street (even if they haven’t necessarily been working that day!). Employees will also say otsukaresamadesu as they do their first kanpai, or cheers, at a work gathering or party.

Otsukaresamadesu can be used in other situations, too. For example, if my friend comes over and tells me a story about his/her work, I can give him/her an otsukare~~. I still often say it to Chad after he tells me about his workday. The phrase can also be used for customers when they’ve been waiting in line or after they’ve taken a long train or bus ride. I always felt like I should say otsukaresamadesu back to the employee/driver of the train or bus, because in America we usually say, “Thank you for waiting,” but that thank you doesn’t really extend to appreciating the work of waiting patiently or feeling tired after a long trip, and–after all–the employee/driver is the one who is at work!

I really miss giving and receiving this phrase for two reasons. Firstly, I noticed that so far working in the states, it is rare for anyone to thank you to each other, especially at the end of the workday. Even before I moved to Japan, I would always say thank you to everyone before leaving work, and–at the very least!–say goodbye. I know it’s not absolutely necessary, but I think it’s polite and encouraging. Secondly, it creates a sense of camaraderie. I always felt a sense of belonging at the end of the day when coworkers and I would exchange an otsukaresama, as if we were not only conveying the basic sense of the phrase, but also implying an underlying feeling of, “We’re all in this together.”

Well, anyway, it’s off to work I go. Wherever you are, and whatever work you find yourself doing, otsukaresamadesu! Have a good one 🙂


That’s why we got here late!

The morning of our anniversary was really good–Chad got hired for a part-time job, I got most of his scrapbook present finished (even though he came home and caught me working on it unexpectedly!) and I managed to get him a toolbox full of shiny tools while he was interviewing (bringing it home on my bike, no less!). Also, Chad gave me a lovely ice tea maker, a chocolate chip cookie, and a gift certificate to a Paper Goods store! The afternoon, however, became an entire other story.

From the time we left home, everything seemed to be going wrong. As I mentioned before, we bought tickets to see Guster alongside Ben Folds Five and the Bare Naked Ladies, and the concert was in Detroit at the DTE Energy Theater. After a few minor complications running errands before leaving, we then had trouble with the directions going to the hotel. Then, we had worse trouble with directions from the hotel to the Theater! We wished in vain for working iPhones or a GPS as time ticked away and not a single gas station attendant seemed to know where to direct us!

Finally, we arrived at the concert about an hour late, finding out Guster only had about 4 or 5 songs left in their set. This obviously bummed us out, but on the bright side, we had really nice lawn seats, the sun was shining, and we were looking forward to Ben Fold Five at the very least.


As we were waiting for Ben Folds Five to come on, a younger couple approached us and asked if we’d like two extra tickets they had for seats in the 19th row. They said the guy’s dad’s company often got free tickets to shows, and that two of their friends bailed on them. We were really excited! I told them it was our anniversary, they said they were glad they chose us, and I told Chad, “That’s why we got here late!”

20130720-102710.jpgWe took this shot right before the couple approached.

As we watched Ben Folds Five, I felt so happy. The couple leaned over to tell us that the tickets were VIP and that we could get drinks without waiting in line. I thought about how the day was going to turn out after all, and about how people really are nice sometimes! To be honest, by that point I had been getting exhausted with trying to stay positive, but now I felt like it had all been worth it.

Just as Ben Folds Five finished, they leaned over and asked us, “So, are you guys going to get drinks?” Chad and I looked at each other and then back at them. Chad said, “Uh, I guess so.” The girl replied quickly, “Oh, cool, can you get us some?”

I asked, “What do you want?”

“Oh, anything,” she said.

“Well, do you want beer?”

“Yeah, beer, anything!”

“What kind of beer?”

“Any kind is fine!”

She handed us a twenty and we walked a few feet away. I looked at Chad and said, “What a bummer. They’re totally not old enough, are they.”

Chad agreed, and decided we should go back and say we were leaving and that they could have their tickets back. I was so angry! I had been sitting and thinking of their kindness, only to find out they were using us to buy alcohol. We proceeded to sit in a different area on the lawn that was wet with a terrible view, watched a few horrible Bare Naked Ladies songs, and then left, getting lost on our way back to the hotel again. When we finally did get back to the hotel–putting a cherry on top of everything–there was no running hot water! A maintenance guy came to fix it, and when he finally left, we passed out from exhaustion and a bit of disappointment.

The next day we woke up and took our time before leaving the hotel, going to Trader Joe’s, and meeting a good friend for lunch. We felt better after sleep, and got home without any issues. As we rode home, we both talked about how much better things were going, and we remembered how on our wedding night five years ago we had initially gone to the wrong hotel and had troubles, too. Hopefully that’s not a sign of how every 5 years from now will be, but at least the entire time in between will be filled with an awesome marriage. It’s true that I was discouraged by the evening events on our anniversary, but at the end of the day I still felt glad that at the very least, we went through it together! And compared to a lot of other challenges we’ve faced, that was a piece of cake.

As I’ve written before, no matter what challenges we’ve faced, what kind of day we’ve had or kind of mood we’re in, every day I’m grateful to be married to my best friend. I never have to worry about sounding stupid or about messing up, and I never have to worry about needing someone to talk to because I always have him. He accepts me as I am, but always inspires me to do more, try harder and be better. When we got married, I thought I knew him, yet 5 years later, I feel like I know him like he’s almost an extension of myself! I can’t wait to experience how much closer we grow over the next 5, 15, 25, 55, years and more (even if that means occasionally getting lost and missing a show!).

Happy 5th anniversary (on July 12th), to my sweetheart Chad.

Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried

Some things I’ve been enjoying lately…

1. Couscous! Especially in this Salmon over Couscous recipe–it was fabulous!


2. Trader Joe’s Graham Crackers. These are soooo yummy. My mother-in-law suggested making S’mores out of them sometime, which is a very dangerously delicious idea…

20130713-215204.jpg(Please excuse the crappy photo–it’s hard to have patience for good picture-taking when a delicious graham cracker is in your mouth.)

3. …and an idea that reminds me of something else I’ve been enjoying lately: bonfires! Last weekend we made S’mores during our bonfire get-together, too (sans Trader Joe’s Grahams, though!).

20130713-215146.jpg(Making S’mores & having bonfires were both on my Summer Fun Bucket List!)

4. I have also been obsessed with “Just Give Me a Reason” by P!nk featuring Nate Ruess. I just love watching Ruess (though the video primarily consists of P!nk rolling around on a mattress or making out with some random guy). I also love duets and guys who can sing well, which led me into looking up Ruess (like a creeper). I love this quote from an interview he did:

“I’m not one to take lessons, so I decided that the only way I was going to learn how to sing, if what they were saying was true, was to go in my car and put on any sort of music from a vocalist that might be really hard to mimic, turn it on as loud as possible and try to hit all those notes.” (source)

I think Fun would be super awesome to see in concert, and “Just Give Me a Reason” was about the only song I wanted to hear on our way to Detroit to a Guster/Ben Folds Five/Bare Naked Ladies concert.

5. Which reminds me, have you ever heard the song, “Erase Me” by Ben Folds Five? That was really fun to see in concert. We went to see them for our 5 year wedding anniversary! More on that adventure later…

6. But one thing I do want to point out about our anniversary is that I made a scrapbook for Chad of the last five years we’ve been married and all of the adventures we’ve had together (like traveling to 10 different countries including the US and Japan!). I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the craft of scrapbooking, especially since I find it can be really close to art journaling, which I also love.

20130713-215221.jpg(Chad got me a delicious chocolate cookie from the bakery and I was eating part of it while making his scrapbook–who said all work and no cookies!?)

What are some things you’ve been enjoying lately?


On the 4th…

We spent our 4th of July evening grilling, drinking good beer and watching fireworks:




During the national anthem before the fireworks, we stood, and I put my hand over my heart. I was surprised to see most of the people surrounding me didn’t do the same. Of course there are good and bad things about every country, but when it comes down to it, I am incredibly grateful to be an American, and I’m grateful to be free. I was glad to celebrate the holiday in my own country, and to take a moment–hand over heart–to appreciate being home.



By the way, aren’t Wish Lanterns beautiful? I think they’re so romantic!