Reviews

Book Review!

Guest author: Ariel Knapp

While Chad and Caitlyn are making their way to Japan (safe travels you two!) I thought it would be a good time for a book review.

IMG_2844The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester
This book took forever for me to get through and I am very glad I’m done. I read The Professor and the Madman by Winchester years ago and enjoyed it. I thought the subject was interesting and well written and that made me want to read other books by Winchester. Unfortunately, the subject matter of The Men Who United the States has never appealed to me so it was difficult to get through. If you like American history and want to read about Lewis and Clark, canal building, transcontinental railroads, and the invention of electricity then I think this would be a good book for you. Otherwise, you might want to skip this one.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Before this book the only Murakami book I read was What I Talk About When I Talk About Running a nonfiction book about his experience with running. I enjoyed that book and when Caitlyn told me she and a friend were reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki… for their book club I though I’d read it too. Murakami goes into great detail about character personality and appearance as well as scene description, which I appreciated because I think it added a lot to the story.

Austenland by Shannon Hale
This book was made into a movie. I watched the movie first because I had no idea it was a book. While the book was a light read and I liked it, I thought the movie captured the comedy of the story a lot better. The book is a bout Jane who is obsessed with Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. She takes a trip to Austenland, a themed destination vacation where people experience Jane Austen’s world complete with period costumes and activities. If you have to make a choice between watching the movie and reading the book, I think this is one of those rare occasions when the movie is better.

Have you read any good books lately? What do you do when you start a book and don’t like it? Do you finish the book anyway or do stop reading and move on to the next book?

Projects

Coconut Sea Salt Body Scrub

Guest author: Ariel Knapp

Good morning, everyone! It’s December in Michigan which means cold, dry air! We haven’t gotten much snow this month but (with the exception of this past weekend) the air has been extremely cold most days. My skin feels like all the moisture has been sucked out of it and I’m left a dried out husk. It’s a gross feeling, let me tell you. So, in an effort to combat this horrible dryness, I decided to make my favorite body scrub and wanted to share it with all of you who may be in the same boat.

First, gather your supplies:

IMG_2846-1/2 cup coconut oil
-1 cup sea salt
-10 to 15 drops essential oil (optional)

Second, mix it all together:

IMG_2847

Third, put the body scrub in a jar with a pretty lid:

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Fourth, use the body scrub in the shower:
[photo deleted for explicit image]

Ha! Just kidding! I didn’t actually take shower pictures!

But seriously, this scrub is so easy to make and much less expensive than the store bought varieties. It does a great job getting rid of dry skin and an even better job keeping skin moisturized. A couple things to let you know before you try this out: use it after you shave because the oil can prevent a close shave and if you have any little cuts and scrapes the salt will sting.

I hope you try this body scrub!

Do you live in a cold climate? What tips and tricks do you have to help prevent dry skin?

Learning

Moving

So everyone knows that living abroad is an amazing experience that gives you completely new insights into other cultures while teaching you about yourself and where you came from, too. The actual process of moving can be overwhelming, especially if speaking a foreign language is necessary (I remember when we moved from Yokkaichi to Kobe we handled getting an apartment all by ourselves, relying completely on our Japanese…). Despite the stress that moving of any sort (whether moving abroad or just to another state) brings, there are a few good things that come from moving as well. So, without further adieu, my list of three things good about the process of moving abroad.

travel

1. You are forced to organize and clean
Nothing like moving to another country to get you to go through ALLTHETHINGS. It can be overwhelming (believe me, we’re going crazy cleaning and packing our house right now!), but at the same time it feels so good to have everything packed up in an efficient, organized manner. (I’ll post some packing tips in the near future, too!) Moving abroad is an excellent chance to get rid of a bunch of stuff you don’t need as well, which brings me to the second thing on my list.

2. You realize how much you don’t actually need.
You really have to learn to let go of material attachments when you move abroad. Shipping rates are insane, so all we’re bringing with us to Japan is what we can fit in our checked and carry-on luggage. A lot of people have asked about this, shocked that we’re pretty much only bringing clothes and a few books and random supplies. But when it comes down to it, what more do you need? Oh, wait, that brings me to the next thing on my list.

3. You realize how much you need your loved ones.
Obviously, you probably know that you love your family and your buddies and Comet and Curry. I mean, your cats or dogs or whatever. But you probably love my cats too, even if you don’t know it yet. Anyway, when you move abroad, you take the time to tell people how much you care about them in a way you don’t tend to do on a regular basis otherwise. I’ve had some experiences where I had no idea I had impacted someone’s life in an extreme way and vice versa, as well as times where I just fell apart crying all over the place because it was so important for me to show how vehemently I cared about and would miss everyone (get ready for that fun time in about two weeks, folks).

There are probably a bunch of other difficult parts of moving abroad that are also positive in a way, but these three have been sticking out to me lately. Have you ever made a big move that taught you something you could add to the list?

xx Caitlyn

Reviews · Tried

Review: Cents of Style State Pendant Necklace

Michigan <br> state pendant necklace

Recently I came across the website My Cents of Style, and was excited to see they offer state pendant necklaces. As we get closer to moving back to Japan, little trinkets that remind me of home become that much more special. That being said, I still wasn’t sure I could pay the list price of $24.95 for the Michigan pendant necklace, but then I noticed there was a half-off sale going on the necklaces for a limited time! At about $12, I figured I’d be getting the pretty little necklace at a steal. IMG_1617When my necklace arrived, I was excited to open the cute envelope packaging.IMG_1619The first thing I noticed about the necklace itself was that it wasn’t so little–just the pendant was over an inch (about 3 cm) long. I didn’t really mind the size so much, but what I did mind was that it was brushed silver. Now, to be fair, the website states that the necklaces are brushed silver. However, my lack of jewelry experience and the original price led me to believe the necklace was still silver, but with a brushed appearance. Sadly, I was wrong. I know some people like the faux  brushed silver look, but to me it just looked cheap and fake. It’s a little hard to see what I mean in the picture because of the lighting, so on the bright side I think maybe it would be difficult for anyone looking at a bit of a distance to see what is lacking in overall appearance, too.IMG_1620Despite feeling a little disappointed, I was ready to let go of my expectations, deciding to wear the necklace anyway. I gently pulled open the bottom of the plastic bag in which the necklace was wrapped and–WHAT!? The little brushed “gold” heart fell right off! What a bummer! Of course, I have some jewelry-making supplies I can use to try and reattach the heart, but that will take unpacking some things as well as time that should have been spent showing off my new necklace rather than repairing it.

Overall, I would never pay full price on the website for this necklace. (To be honest, I am quite disappointed even with the discounted price!) Despite any misgivings I have from my experience with the state pendant necklace, my understanding from reading some other reviews online is that other products on My Cents of Style are fabulous, especially for the price. I don’t think I’ll give up on them entirely just yet, though I don’t know that I’ll necessarily be ordering from them again any time soon!

What do you think? Have you ever tried out a bargain deal? How did your experience compare to mine?

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking

Winter Cookie Exchange

A month or so ago, Ariel mentioned that she and her coworkers were going to do a cookie exchange this year, and I thought that sounded like a great idea to do at my workplace, too! I put up a sign asking interested partners to sign up by December 7th, instructing they should then bring a bag of cookies for each person who decided to participate on (or near) the 10th of December.

I decided to make Puppy Chow cookies. (You can find the easy recipe here!)IMG_1576The cookies were super easy to make: you just combine peanut butter and vanilla to spread between two Ritz crackers, dip the combo into melted chocolate, and then dip that into powdered sugar. I had fun getting messy with this recipe, even though the assembly did take a while. IMG_1574Once all of the cookies were assembled and the chocolate had hardened, I prepared baggies for each person.IMG_1577I wrote a personalized message in each of the cute little tags 🙂IMG_1579I remember each year when I was little, my mom would get a tin filled with an assortment of Keebler cookies from her work. I use to LOVE those cookies, which I’m sure doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you! One of my favorite parts about the tins she received was that there were two layers, so just when you thought the end of your cookie delight had come, you could lift the partition to reveal another layer of yumminess. IMG_1580A week or so ago when I went thrifting, I found this lovely tin with an old-fashioned scene, and in the spirit of cookie tins past, I decided to wash it and use it to put all of the extra cookies in. I had fun reminiscing about my childhood while I packed the cookies inside! Despite my longing to overindulge in these Puppy Chow Cookies, I knew more cookies were in my future, so I brought the tin to work to get gobbled up with the rest. (I actually have some restraint sometimes, guys.)

Have you ever done a cookie exchange before? What are your favorite cookie recipes? Let me know in the comments below!
xx Caitlyn

Uncategorized

How I Spend My Me-Time (Tag, You’re IT!)

Me TimeToday I read a blog post–about a blog post–about me-time. Both posts invite readers to play along with a me-time questionnaire, so I’ve decided to give it a go myself!

What do you watch or read during me-time?
I tend to read a lot of articles online. I mean, a LOT. I also really enjoying reading blogs, crafty books and magazines, cookbooks and cooking magazines, and of course, BOOKS! As I mentioned before, right now I’m reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage.

What do you wear during me-time?
I could probably live in leggings. Or shorts over leggings. In the wintertime, fleece leggings.
IMG_1560Otherwise I love wearing running shorts and tank tops, hoodies, etc., and I’ve almost always got my red snuggie on when I’m lounging around the house. Oh yes! And I am rarely without slippers!
What are your me-time beauty products?
I actually don’t tend to go wild with beauty products during me-time. Once in a while I will use a face mask, like Garnier’s Skin Care Renew, or paint my toenails. I used to love the face masks in Japan–you could find tons of really inexpensive ones that worked really well and were really fun. I’ll keep you posted on some of my favorites when we get settled in next month!
Current favorite nail polish?
Unfortunately I’m not allowed to wear fingernail polish at work, but I loved this Sally Hansen Hot Tamale color in the summer, and I like this snowflake-like Blue Marks the Spot in the winter for my toesies.
What do you eat/drink during me-time?
It’s hard to really nail down a specific food for my me-time, but one of my favorite pastimes is exploring the worlds of chocolates, pastries and sweet breads.
If you know me at all, you must be able to guess that my beverage consumption tends to be almost on a daily routine: coffee in the morning, water throughout the day, and beer and/or tea at night. Favorite coffee at the moment? Probably Starbucks Christmas Blend. My favorite, favorite (favorite!) beer is Ranger from New Belgium Brewing Company. And my favorite tea? Tazo Refresh Mint or Henry & Sons Sencha.

Usually any moment I get to drink or eat anything counts as me-time, because eating and drinking are two of my favorite things.

IMG_1563
This is my favorite tea cup

Current favorite candle?
I love Bath & Body Works “Party Dress” scent (currently unavailable through their site, but you can find it on amazon!). Not only does it smell really nice, but it reminds me of when one of my best friends visited me from Japan last year (I bought it when we were shopping together!).
Do you ever have outdoor me-time?
Definitely! In the summer I love riding bike around town–especially to the library, little shops and the beach. I also enjoy running and going for walks in the summer. In the winter I go for a lot of walks (I have to, as a matter of fact, because my car was totaled about a month and a half ago. Luckily I live close to work!). I really enjoy listening to podcasts when I’m running or walking. My favorites are Dinner Party Download and Radiolab.
Would you ever go see a movie alone?
I’ve considered it, but if I were to see a movie by myself I think I’d rather just watch it at home (with my kitty cats and my snuggie).
Favorite online shop?
I don’t really do too much online shopping, but if I do I suppose it’s from amazon, and I usually order books.
What else do you do during me-time?
I do a lot of baking, cooking, writing and crafting (drawing, wood burning, painting, art journaling etc.) during my me-time.
IMG_1568I made these easy Mexican Wedding cookies yesterday and they were dangerously addicting!
I almost always am listening to music, too. I really like classical guitar music for me-time, especially when the weather is rainy. I also enjoy yoga when I’m not distracted by the million other things I want to do (I like Jillian Michael’s Yoga Meltdown). Oh yeah, and going to cafes and bookstores. And art stores. Annnnnnnnd, I think I have way too many hobbies!
Okay, TAG! It’s your turn to tell me about your me-time 🙂
xxCaitlyn