My Autumn Fun Bucket List

I had a great time ticking things off of my Summer Fun Bucket List, and just about as much fun anticipating each item on the list! I’ve made another list for Autumn, which just so happens to be my favorite season (but seems to go by so fast!).

The amazing thing is that yesterday I had my first honey crisp apple of the season and a nice hot mug of vanilla chai, and yet at Rosy Mound the sun was shining and I was a little warm. I even walked along the beach with my jeans rolled up and my feet in the water.


Whenever I go to Rosy Mound it’s almost like a private oasis–I rarely bump into more than a few people every 20-30 minutes. The lake always seems endless, and it always makes me smile without necessarily understanding why. I get excited and feel like the world is so open and I can do anything, and yet I know fall will progress into winter and I worry about getting through. It’s like my frustrations about my professional life loom behind it all. But. Anyway. I guess that’s why I need to focus on little things to get me through, like my lovely little bucket lists.

Some of the things listed have been moved over from my Summer Fun Bucket List, but many of the things are new. What are some of your fall to-do’s?

Autumn Fun Bucket List

  1. Go apple picking
  2. Make apple butter
  3. Make a homemade Monte Cristo sandwich
  4. Make an apple butter roll cake
  5. Eat caramel apples
  6. Make apple cider floats
  7. Carve pumpkins
  8. Roast (and eat!) pumpkin seeds
  9. Make pumpkin fritters
  10. Go on a picnic
  11. Go on a bookstore date
  12. Discover a new town together
  13. Build a telescope & have a star party
  14. Go to Art Prize at least once
  15. Binder Park Zoo
  16. Go mini golfing
  17. Make homemade ice cream
  18. Paint rocks with my niece
  19. Do cheese fondue
  20. Make milk carton boats
  21. Get a cat
  22. Make trail mix with my niece & nephews
  23. Go for a walk with them & look at bugs/plants/nature under a microscope
  24. Dress up & have a fancy night around town doing ordinary things
  25. Volunteer
  26. Wine & Cheese Night
  27. Oktoberfest!
  28. Homemade pickles
  29. Bloody Mary’s
  30. Make/Decorate pottery
  31. Beer Festival in Detroit
  32. Green Dot Stables in Detroit
  33. Make homemade bread
  34. Make cookies with my niece
  35. Autumn floral wreath project
  36. Go to a Moth live event
  37. Hobo Stew party
  38. Halloween parties!


Food & Cooking

Mini Egg Tarts

Years ago when I studied abroad in Japan, we took a field trip to Kobe for my Japan & Globalization class. One of the primary focuses of the trip was to observe the China Town in Kobe, and while we were there we sampled different kinds of food. One new food I tried was Egg Tarts. They were served mini-sized, two on a skewer. I loved them so much that when I moved to Kobe years later, I looked for them everywhere! Alas, my search was in vain. Luckily, (even more years later!) I came across a recipe for Egg Tarts so that I could try making them myself–just in time to fulfill another check off my summer bucket list.


To make the egg tarts, you only need a small collection of some everyday ingredients: powdered sugar, white sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, evaporated milk and water.


You start off mixing the powdered sugar and flour together, and then you add the butter. The recipe suggests using a fork to do this, but let’s be real; your hands or a Kitchen Aid mixer will probably be much easier. I cut my butter up into chunks to help the mixing go faster.


Next you add a beaten egg and a bit of vanilla, mixing until you get a dough that’s not too moist or too dry. You can see how mine turned out in the picture above.

20130919-171830.jpgThe recipe says to use tart molds for the dough, but a muffin tin works just as well. I used a mini muffin tin so I could make smaller tarts like the ones I had tried back in Kobe. To form the crust, I balled small amounts of dough, placed them in the tin, pressed in the middles with my thumb, and then pushed the dough up the edges with a fork to add a decorative edge.


Next, you preheat the oven and start on the filling. First you’re going to boil the sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves, and then wait for the mixture to return to room temperature. I was in a hurry, so I put the mixture in the refrigerator to get it to cool down faster. While you’re waiting for the temperature to drop, you can beat your eggs and put them through a strainer. Then, add them to the room-temp water/sugar mix before adding the condensed milk and vanilla. As you can see above, that mix gets strained one more time after it’s been whisked.


From there, you just fill up your dough with the filling (my little tartlets got about a tablespoon each, but some overflowed when I brought the pan to the oven). Since my egg tarts were smaller than normal-sized tarts, I decreased the baking time to 12 minutes, and they turned out perfectly. I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on the finished ones as a garnish, and once they were cool, indulged on like 5 of them a few.


It’s best to let these little guys cool before eating them because they taste sweeter and less eggy that way. Enjoy!

Egg Tarts

(Recipe originally posted on sassyhongkong’s blog)


1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1 dash vanilla extract


2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups water
9 eggs, beaten
1 dash vanilla extract
1 cup evaporated milk (whole milk can be substituted for evaporated milk)

12 tart molds

1.In a medium bowl, mix together the confectioners’ sugar and flour. Mix in butter with a fork until it is in small crumbs. Stir in the egg and vanilla until the mixture forms a dough. The texture should be slightly moist. Add more butter if it is too dry, or more flour, if the dough seems greasy. Shape dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, and press the balls into tart molds so that it covers the bottom, and goes up higher than the sides. Use 2 fingers to shape the edge into an A shape.

2.Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Combine the white sugar and water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Strain the eggs through a sieve (strainer), and whisk into the sugar mixture. Stir in the evaporated milk and vanilla. Strain the filling through a sieve (strainer), and fill the tart shells.

3.Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown, and the filling is puffed up a little bit.

Food & Cooking

It’s not too late for banana splits!





With just a few days left of summer, I decided to look over my summer bucket list and check my progress. I managed to do a lot over the summer, despite being very busy with getting accustomed to American life (or at least, trying my best to!), getting a new job, and working on getting our first house (more on that soon!). Some of the uncompleted items will be moving onto my Fall Bucket List (more soon on that, too!), but there are a few I think I might be able to scratch off before it’s officially fall–one of which is making Banana Splits!


I decided to make a mini version of the treat as a full-blown one just seems like too much. It got me to wondering if the name “banana split” came from the need to split the dish, but it seems it’s only from splitting the banana in two. I learned after reading an article on banana splits that cutting the banana in half crosswise rather than lengthwise actually changes the name from a Banana Split to a Banana Royale.

To make my “Banana Royale,” I used a little less than half of a banana, a scoop of Eddy’s No-Sugar Added Vanilla Ice Cream, some whipped cream, a little chocolate syrup, and a cherry on top. I ate it outside in the sunshine, and felt like a little kid again. I didn’t have Banana Splits all that often growing up, but something about the combination of flavors just transported me back to being a little girl, kicking my feet back and forth in the sunshine without a care in the world.

What are your favorite Banana Split concoctions?

Food & Cooking · Tried

A Gorgeous Day for a Picnic!



Yesterday I made a little picnic lunch and went to Rosy Mound in Grand Haven. I had never walked there before, and boy was I in for a treat! It was a gorgeous day, and after eating lunch under the shade of the big, beautiful trees, I started my walk. I didn’t get very far before I heard a “thunk, thunk, thunk,” sound and saw hunks of bark falling from a tree beside the path. I looked up, searching for the culprit of the noise and the falling tree bark, and saw two pileated woodpeckers! I was so excited–I don’t remember ever seeing them in real life before. I laughed to myself as I saw them pecking away, reminded of the Woody the Woodpecker cartoons I used to watch as a child. A man came up behind and whispered excitedly, “A pileated woodpecker!” I said, “Yeah, there are two!” He told me that they usually travel in pairs, keeping the same pairs for life. He had seen them in Florida before, but never in Michigan. A nice surprise for both of us.


Continuing on the trail, I came upon a view of the beach. I always love it when you emerge from a wooded area and catch glimpses of the blue water in contrast to the green and brown of the trees.



As I continued on the trail, I couldn’t help but smile. I felt so much joy at the breath-taking sight of sunlight on water. Seagulls played together in the sand and in the air, I saw butterflies fluttering about, and I thought of a line from Anne Frank’s diary: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” What an encouragement!


I sort of ate my share of some Peach Tarts I made before going on my picnic rather than taking them with me, but I’m sure they played a role in my lovely time.  I didn’t have any pecans around, so I used some Hazelnuts instead, and they turned out great!



Below is the recipe for the tarts, sure to result in a happy mood when combined with a walk outside on a gorgeous day.

Peach Tarts

  • 2 large firm-ripe peaches
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (or hazlenuts or walnuts)
  • 4 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Place a rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

2. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Place a peach half cut-side down on cutting board. Holding it together with one hand, cut 6 to 8 even slices through the stem end, then push gently to fan out. Combine sugar, nutmeg and pecans in a bowl.

3. Place one phyllo sheet on counter with narrow side facing you. Brush bottom half lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar-pecan mixture. Fold top half over bottom half, pressing lightly. Repeat, folding top half over bottom half. Repeat again, this time brushing and sprinkling left half and folding right half over. Repeat once more. You should now have a 3-by-4-inch rectangle. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 phyllo sheets. Place a fanned peach half in center of each phyllo rectangle, brush with remaining butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.

4. Bake until phyllo is golden brown and crisp and peach has softened, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Recipe originally posted here.

Heard · Seen · Seen/Heard/Tried

Falling from a Height, Holding Hands

About eight years ago, I had the fortune of being able to meet my favorite poet, Gary Snyder, in person at a reading he did at Grand Valley State University (one of his poems is actually responsible for the name of this blog). He read several poems from his book Danger on Peaks, and afterwards he did a signing. When we met, we talked briefly about how I had studied in Japan and how I was going to go back one day (he lived there for some time, too). I wanted so much to explain how wonderful his poems were to me, and to talk for him about nature and Asia and life. But, the line of his fans had to keep moving, so I tried my best to express as much as I could with a “thank you.”

Though I had read several other books of Snyder’s poetry before going to see him read that day, I hadn’t read Danger on Peaks. It was exciting to hear him read poems that were new to me, and I sat fully focused the entire time. For his final reading, Snyder decided to close with a poem called “Falling from a Height, Holding Hands.” He explained that he wrote it after watching a news story on 9/11, and as he read the poem aloud, everyone listening seemed to hold their breath. The poem was so simple, and yet–like so many of his poems–captured so much. His explanation and reading was so moving that I was brought to tears, and like the rest of the audience, couldn’t manage to speak. He must have gauged the effect the poem had, because–suddenly–he decided to read just one more: “To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then.” Our hearts lifted in laughter, and I felt so inspired. What an amazing talent he has–he can bring people from tears to laughter in just moments with his writing.

I know that without actually being there to hear him speak it may be hard to fully grasp the emotions in the room that day, but I still feel a stirring in my heart when I read “Falling From a Height, Holding Hands.” I’ve included the poem below, along with “To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then.” These poems remind me to remember the tragedy of 9/11 and to avoid becoming desensitized. They also remind me to focus on the importance of growing, learning, laughing, loving, and cherishing life.

Falling From a Height, Holding Hands


What was that?

storms of flying glass

& billowing flames


a clear day to the far sky–


better than burning,

hold hands.


We will be

two    peregrines    diving


all the way down


To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then

for Maggie Brown Koller

(among others)


Sometimes we remember that moment:

you stood there attentive with clothespins

dangling, setting a bloodless dimple in each lobe

as I searched for a cork & the right-sized needle

& followed the quick pierce with a small gold hoop.

The only guy with an earring

back then


It didn’t hurt that much

a sweetly earnest child

and a crazy country guy

with an earring and a

gray-green cast eye

and even then,

this poem.

Around Town · Monday Matters · Projects

Wheatland Music Festival






Over the weekend we went to Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, Michigan. It was so nice to go after about 5 years of being in Japan during the festival, even if we did have to volunteer one night for 8 hours straight (admittedly, there were a few exciting moments in the 8 PM- 4AM shift!). After taking a bunch of pictures throughout the weekend, I realized I didn’t really take any of our campsite or of any of the stages or food vendors! I guess I’ll just have to share those with you next year. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the ones I did manage to take 🙂


Chad starting out Wheatland with a little honey whiskey & a birthday oreo (I also managed to forget to take a picture of us singing him Happy Birthday with his little Blueberry Cheesecake!)

20130909-135121.jpgWe were lucky to camp with some wonderful musicians!

20130909-135126.jpgWe tried out the Starbucks VIA packets–did you think I could seriously go a weekend without Starbucks? 😉


Chad making coffee Saturday morning ❤


Something we look forward to every year: Blueberry Pancake Sausage on a Stick (shortened to B.P. S.O.S.)


Chad starting a hemp bracelet.


Time for a saw workshop with my sister-in-law Ariel’s dad!


Chad trying the saw for the first time (and Ariel supporting him in the background with a little PBR)


One of Ariel’s friends brought a portable darkroom & took old time photographs of Thom (Ariel’s dad) with his saw.


Ariel working on her friendship bracelet back at the campsite.


Chad working on his friendship bracelet.


Our completed friendship bracelets! We didn’t give up or get jealous of each other’s bracelets because…friendship doesn’t give up or get jealous.


A cool tree stump carving in Middle Ground


Chad and I made birdhouses! Bird house and friendship bracelet-making at Wheatland fulfilled two fun things on my Summer Fun Bucket List. Can’t wait to use our bird houses at our first house if everything goes well with closing! (By the way, don’t you just love Ariel’s expression as she sneaks a peek over Chad’s shoulder?)

20130909-135254.jpgWe also made Aromatherapy Bath Salts. It was super easy!



We had a lot of fun at Wheatland, and are looking forward to going back next year. Do you like going to festivals? Which is your favorite?

Friday Five

Friday Five: Fighting Exhaustion & Plans to Relax!

These days I feel like a slug. A sluggish, sluggy slug slug. All of the energy I put into being perky and energetic at work leaves me slapping my face in the car with the windows rolled down and the music blasting to stay awake on my way home.

Other reasons for being exhausted:

1. Not sleeping enough– Working at different times in the morning leads to my waking up from as early as 3:00 am, to as late as 8 am. It’s hard to set a sleeping schedule when I definitely don’t want to plan for the 3 AM wake-ups every day (so that I can stay up past 8pm the night before!). On the bright side, I am very fortunate to be getting am shifts for the most part, so that I can spend the evenings with my awesome husband.

2. Not exercising enough–When I come home and feel like melting into a pass-out puddle, it is hard to get moving. Luckily, Chad encourages me no matter how grumpy I may get. He got me out for a bike ride while he ran last week, and also got me out for a very painful 5K (during the most part of which I complained the entire time) a few days after that. (What an amazing guy he is for putting up with me!) He knows that I feel a hundred percent better after exercising, and he wants me to be healthy. It can be so hard to remember that exercise will ultimately leave you feeling more energetic no matter how tired you are initially. 


We saw pretty cattails when we went out for our bike ride/run last week.

3. Eating too many pastries–Starbucks launched a new line of pastries called La Boulange, and it is our job as partners to sample everything so we can describe it to customers. There are “healthier” options like the spinach croissant (which is fabulous, by the way), but even that one clocks in at over 300 calories. Phew. I have been trying to only try small bites, and give the rest to Chad, but will do better from the next time I work. I know that what I put into my body plays a huge role in my energy levels!

4. Not having a routine–in addition to having different wake-up times every day, it can be exhausting not having a set schedule every week. Chad and I miss some of the routines we had in Japan–both of us with Monday through Friday workweeks, set gym/workout days (Chad with judo, futsal, and Aussie Rules), morning and evening routines (like having breakfast and dinner together, nighttime reading/movie watching with tea, etc.), and weekends bumbling around the city or traveling. I know we’ll establish some sort of routine here, but getting to that point can be awful tiring!

5. Not taking time to relax–I haven’t felt like writing, reading, blogging, creating…anything! I know that not having a creative outlet just leads to further exhaustion.


Boats and lily pads

Luckily, I’ve got the next four days off to rest and relax. Today is Chad’s birthday–we started off with Chipped Beef on Toast for breakfast and will be ending it with going to Wheatland Music Festival for the next few days! Hopefully it will be just what I need, and I’ll be back blogging more often again when we get back. I have other plans to meet a close friend for dinner who I haven’t seen in ages, and to finish off some more of my Summer Fun Bucket List as we head into fall!20130906-091132.jpg

What do you do to relieve exhaustion? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?