Projects · Spring Bucket List

Inspiration on the Cheap!

Well looky what I found today at my local one hundred yen shop: two really cool books for artsy types! The one on the left is a book of postcards with two per page–one already colored for reference, and another that is blank for you to color. The one on the right is full of cute paper cutting templates, printed directly on patterned paper to use. IMG_1854 IMG_1855
The paper cutting “book” has an added bonus: instructions in English! Above you can see a few examples along the edges of what you can make inside. I’m thinking I might actually make a bunch of the stencils into templates so that I can choose my favorite paper to use, and also so that I can make paper cuts I like multiple times. Can you believe this was only the equivalent of roughly $1!? I’ll update you with any projects I make using the book as inspiration.IMG_1856As for the “coloring book,” it too has instructions, including some tips on using colored pencils. This book is only in Japanese, but it’s pretty easy to get the gist from the pictures.
Here is an example of the setup of the book. I definitely think I will try coloring some of these in the future (there were also more books in the series with flowers!), but today I decided to use the book in a different way. Remember how one of my Spring Bucket List assignments was to decorate my kitchen? Well, I made my photo garland, but our kitchen still needed something more. I decided some of the pretty pre-colored postcards would be nice additions to my kitchen decor, so I set to work!IMG_1858
I chose my four favorite postcards from the collection and attached them to a lonely-looking wall in the kitchen.IMG_1859
After that I just added a border of craft tape (an idea similar to the washi tape frames I made for my cute living room gallery here), and viola! I’m thinking I might redo the border with actual washi tape eventually as I had to cut the thick craft tape in half and the unevenness might drive me crazy, but we’ll see.IMG_1861
So here’s how a big part of our kitchen is looking at the moment. My new artwork on the left, a rack hanging in the back for cooking utensils (since we have only one small drawer for them otherwise), a few cookbooks, a basket for oil, spices, etc., another basket for produce, our French Press, drying dishes, cards and pictures, and my little Matryoshka (don’t mind the dirty dishes in the sink *ehem*).

I have to admit that there was a plant where the Matryoshka are, but I sort of killed it by over watering it. I also have to admit that even though this part of our kitchen looks a little cluttered, I still think overall it’s pretty cute. (Especially with my easy, cheap DIY art (just 200 yen! *woot*)!)

I have a feeling more fun is to come from these two little hundred yen shop books. Have you found any inexpensive inspiration lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking

Taco meat leftovers, transform!

What? You ALSO had a taco party over the weekend? And you, too, had quite a bit of leftover meat? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with leftovers, especially if you don’t want to repeat the exact same meal over and over again. But do I have the solution for you! We made amazing brunch on Saturday with leftovers, and then a pretty tasty dinner the following evening as well. First up? The brunch.     IMG_1817 Start off by scrambling eggs up with leftover taco meat. Meanwhile, toast an English muffin. Once the eggs and the English muffin have cooked/toasted to your liking, layer the following on the English muffin: the scrambled egg mixture, cheese, salsa, sour cream and green onions. Top with the remaining half of the English muffin, and enjoy the daylights out of it.
IMG_1818We also made the brunch sandwich on Sunday, but our supermarket was out of English muffins so we had to improvise with pitas. The English muffins were awesome, but the pitas did the job fair enough.

Next up: the dinner! Start off by preparing rice (I chose short-grain sushi-style rice cooked in my rice cooker). When the rice is nearly finished, whisk several eggs together and fry in a pan without scrambling.
IMG_1801Then, in a separate bowl, microwave the taco meat and add two tablespoons of raayu (amazing Chinese red chile oil that you must try if you haven’t already). I used raayu that also had garlic.
IMG_1802Layer rice, then the egg, and then the taco meat on a plate. Lastly, fry up some diced tomatoes in the same pan in which you cooked the egg, and make it the final layer of the dish!
IMG_1803This recipe was inspired by a Thai dish we ate on a night train the last time we were in Thailand, and though it was a different flavor (the Thai version was much spicier, for example), it was still super yummy.
I really enjoyed trying non-conventional approaches to using up our taco meat leftovers. I hope these recipes have inspired you as well!

xx Caitlyn


Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Crafty Meetup

I am proud of myself for two reasons today: 1) I went outside my comfort zone a bit, and 2) I did something I never used to have the patience for! Here are the details of reason number 1: I decided to join a crafting get-together with a bunch of people I’d never met before. I know I appear to be quite the social gal, but honestly going to a place where I didn’t know anyone seemed so uncomfortable that I almost canceled my reservation to join. For 1200 yen, I spent about three hours chatting with them making a cute little Matryoshka, and I think I’d like to go to future gatherings. IMG_1820 All materials were provided, and we also got a cup of tea/coffee afterwards.

Next comes the thing I never used to have patience for: SEWING. My mother used to cross-stitch so beautifully you could turn her work over and see a mirror image. I would attempt to cross-stitch and then feel like I should chuck needles across the room. I had thought cross-stitch could be a potential bonding time for us, but that thought was obviously short-lived. Today, however, I had to stay calm and collected (without throwing ANYTHING!), and I actually really enjoyed the embroidery part of the craft. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I’m thinking about ordering one of these cute cross-stitch patterns from Etsy! On the flip side, I was terrible at (and therefore disliked) sewing the felt pieces together. But you know, you win some, you lose some. IMG_1821 IMG_1822 Overall, I enjoyed my crafting experience. The teacher was Russian, and she talked about the debate over whether Matryoshka originated in Japan or Russia (you can read a bit about the history here!). She also told a lot of nice stories. For example, at the end of the meetup, I had a piece of red thread on my pants, and she told me that in Russia they say if a string is sticking to you, it means there is a man who will be seeking you out in your near future. You should wrap the string around your finger and say a letter of the alphabet each time it goes around. When your thread runs out, you’ve reached the letter the man’s name starts with. The color of the string will be the color of his hair. (In my case, there is apparently a red-haired man whose name will start with a K who I’ve warned Chad to be on the lookout for haha). IMG_1827 Yes, I know my stitching is terrible pretty much everywhere outside of the cross-stitching. And I am also aware that the red one looks like she should probably go on a diet or wear better-fitting clothes. But aren’t they still adorable!? IMG_1828 I was looking on pinterest and I found a couple cute, similar tutorials that don’t involve cross-stitch here and here. I also found these fun matryoshka coloring sheets, and this Matryoshka Doll Frame from Urban Outfitters that might just turn into a future wood burning project for me! I hope you enjoyed seeing my imperfect, perfect little Matryoshkas. Have you ever made anything Matryoshka-related? Have you ever joined a crafting meetup? xxCaitlyn


Food & Cooking

Rice Cooker Spanish Rice

Tonight I decided to experiment in the kitchen, and I’m really glad I did! I made Spanish Rice in my rice cooker, and ended up with a really flavorful dish with an almost creamy texture. As I was making it, I thought I should take pictures of the process, but I only ended up taking one of preparing my rice so…I sort of failed that way. BUT! I promise the recipe more than makes up for my lack of pictures!IMG_1775
Rice Cooker Spanish Rice

1 c. short grain rice (I used sushi rice) + 1 c. water
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1- 10 oz. can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 yellow onion, diced
1 lb. ground beef
1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1. Add rice and one cup of water to rice cooker; massage until cloudy. Crush the bouillion cube and add it to the rice cooker, along with the olive oil and spices.

2. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, and stir well. Start cooking in the rice cooker.

3. Meanwhile, saute the onion in a little oil until transparent; set aside.

4. Brown the ground beef; drain.

5. When there is about 10 minutes left on the rice cooker, add the diced bell pepper and onion. You do not need to stir.

6. Once the rice cooker has completed cooking, add the ground beef and mix well. I had to put the concoction in a separate, larger bowl.

7. Add lettuce to bowls as an optional garnish, scoop in a serving of the Spanish Rice, and serve. IMG_1776
I hope that if you get a chance to try out this recipe for yourself that you enjoy it as much as we did. Every time I eat Spanish Rice I am reminded of how much I loved it when my dad made it when I was growing up, and now I’ve found an easy way to recreate it in Japan!


Around Town · Seen · Tried

Tokyo Design Festa

IMG_1722Yesterday we went to Asia’s largest Art Festival, Design Festa! There was a lot of interesting art filling every corner of the venue from paintings, to crafts, to live art and more.
IMG_1732 IMG_1746Both artists and people attending the event are encouraged to dress up, so there was a lot of cosplay and costuming to be seen.IMG_1745There were also several interactive exhibits. The one above we found especially strange: you could pay 3000 yen to have someone tie you up for about a half an hour. There were a couple booths like this… (To each his own? I guess?)
The booth above was a coloring booth where you colored pictures that would then be transferred to ceramic plates, cups, etc.
This was a sort of body painting booth.
Here is a super creepy caricature drawing we got done for 600 yen. We hung it in our bathroom.
These are watermelon carvings.
There was quite a bit of steampunk-themed art.
IMG_1739I really liked this artist. He draws creatures with beards and mustaches called “Ohige no Pon.”IMG_1744  I bought a couple postcards from him, pictured above with my ticket (which. bought in advance, was just 800 yen). Check out the Ohige no Pon website to see more of these fun illustrations!
I thought this illustrator’s work was pretty cute too, though on some level I actually found her art slightly disturbing.IMG_1740There were thousands of attendees, and so many artists that we didn’t even end up seeing everything. The event was actually a bit overwhelming, but fortunately we had a beer with our lunch to calm us down *winks*IMG_1727
I left the event feeling sleepy but inspired, and I’m really glad we decided to check it out!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Seen/Heard/Tried · Spring Bucket List

My week (and a few days) in pictures

IMG_1694                                              Above: My last week in art journaling

After our tram ride journey, we had just one more day of break before returning to school. We decided to go for a yakiniku lunch at a place called Ikebukuro Yakiniku Stadium, and it was super delicious (and only 900 yen each!).IMG_1617                                                                  kimchi

This guy *swoons*

IMG_1619 IMG_1624 IMG_1627 IMG_1628 IMG_1647
I also got around to doing some hand lettering after being inspired by the cute bag from this post.IMG_1653After two days of school, it was already the weekend. Saturday was super cloudy, so we went for coffee at Starbucks and I started reading Yes Please by Amy Poehler. (This means I’m on book two out of three for my Spring Bucket List!) I’ve really been enjoying the book so far.IMG_1659On Sunday we had sunny weather, so we decided to head out to Setagaya to go to the famous Bear Pond Espresso. I first heard of the cafe when we watched A Film About Coffee back in the states, and had been dying to try it ever since. On the way there, we saw this giant ape above a Family Mart!IMG_1671
The cafe is a bit inconspicuous–we actually walked right by it at first. I tried to covertly take a picture of the outside, having read that there are strict rules on photography there.IMG_1672Despite the rules in place, the owners do allow some pictures if you ask first, so I happily took pictures of our lattes when we were inside.
IMG_1673I’m sure if you’re anything like me, you’re dying to know the verdict. And the verdict is… amazing. Super nice flavor with the espresso really standing on its own. Chad pointed out that BPE espresso is a bit more citrusy than the espresso at Streamers, which I’ve got to admit still has my favorite lattes so far. BPE’s latte was a close second.IMG_1674IMG_1675 IMG_1682
When we left, we saw this cool street art above. I love how so many shop doors are painted in Japan.
Above is my art journaling for this week so far. Last week I was running every weekday for at least 1.5 miles or more, and I’d been keeping to my goal of running at least a mile each weekday for about a month. This week, however, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I only ran on Thursday. On the bright side, I felt creative this week and had a lot of fun in my classroom.

IMG_1687Here is the pretty piece of cake I chose from several our manager got for us. It was a really nice balance of chocolate and orange flavors.IMG_1693Lastly, we’ve been sashimi crazy as of late. I think we’ve been having it for dinner two or three times a week, and we still love it! I feel lucky that we can take advantage of easy access to quality sashimi in Japan.

I hope you enjoyed a peek at what I’ve been up to lately. We’ve got some more fun planned this weekend that I can’t wait to share with you soon. Hope you have a great, inspiring weekend, Little Snail darlings!

Around Town

Trams, Fortunes, and Ferris Wheels

Yesterday we decided to go for a tram ride on the Toden Arakawa Line with our friend Tomo. It was a gorgeous, blue-sky day, and we had a lot of fun seeing old-style parts of Tokyo.IMG_1530We got on the tram at Ostukaekimae station.IMG_1536 IMG_1537 IMG_1541                                                        Watch your fingers!IMG_1543Beautiful roses grow along nearly the entire tram line.
IMG_1548IMG_1544 We got off at the end of the line at Minowa Station.
IMG_1597IMG_1551 IMG_1555 IMG_1556I absolutely love the atmosphere around Minowa station. Just near the station is an old shopping arcade that reminded us of living in Yokkaichi. So much so, in fact, that I kept expecting to see a giant Onyudo-san!
A market in the shopping arcade.IMG_1563 IMG_1578 IMG_1580
After wandering around a bit, we stumbled across a very old style restaurant called Parlor Orange.
After looking at the fake food display outside, we decided to give it a try.    IMG_1585 IMG_1586 IMG_1587 IMG_1591 IMG_1594
I ordered the ebi fry (or fried shrimp) lunch set. It came with miso soup, rice, tsukemono (pickled veggies), and coffee for 800 yen.IMG_1596                                                                 Miso soup!
Chad got the tonkatsu set (deep fried pork cutlet). At first glance, this seemed like a sort of hole-in-the-wall restaurant that might turn out to have some pretty tasty lunch. Upon eating our meals, however, we found that the food was not only quite good, but that we were also in the presence of a semi-celebrity.IMG_1602
See that gentlemen in the background behind Chad? He’s recently been featured in several Japanese articles for being an amazing fortune teller. In fact, he did two palm readings during our lunch, complete with crystal balls, stone beads and rings, and lots of touching and gazing. His advice has become so sought after that appointments with him are completely booked through October 2017! Whether you subscribe to that sort of thing or not, you’ve got to admit he’s got quite an impressive following!IMG_1603As we sipped our coffees after lunch, we decided that we must have chosen a rather auspicious restaurant! IMG_1608
After lunch, we decided to walk around Arakawa Yuen Theme Park. Because it was Children’s Day, we got to go in for free!IMG_1610 IMG_1611
See the Koi Nobori (Carp Kites) flying in front of the Ferris Wheel for Boy’s Day?IMG_1613 IMG_1615
After walking along the river, we took the tram back to Otsukaekimae. We had purchased an all-day tram pass for 400 yen, and out of that got a nice little journey around parts of Tokyo we’d never before seen.

Have you made any interesting local discoveries recently?
xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Spring Bucket List

Around Town: Koishikawa Botanical Garden

IMG_1475Hello friends! Today we went to Koishikawa Botanical Gardens (not to be confused with the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden we went to in January). The weather outside was perfect: Blue skies, warm sunshine, and (in the gardens) there was so much green you could almost forget you were in Tokyo!IMG_1476 IMG_1478

We had a light picnic in the gardens, and I was super happy with the flavor of my grilled salmon onigiri. (I was also happy to cross going on a picnic off of my Spring Bucket list, though I know more picnics are sure to occur!)IMG_1479 IMG_1482

IMG_1483 IMG_1487 IMG_1488 IMG_1490 IMG_1491     I love these flowers because the petals almost look like a print on fabric.
IMG_1494 IMG_1492

IMG_1525 IMG_1506 IMG_1510 IMG_1512  IMG_1520IMG_1521 Going to the gardens was well worth the 400 yen entrance fee. We left feeling so relaxed! We’re thinking next time we’ll go earlier in the afternoon with a bottle of wine and spend several hours enjoying the nice atmosphere. Hope you had some sunshine your way today, too!

xx Caitlyn