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My week in pictures (mostly)

We’ve had a pretty full schedule since last Saturday, enjoying festivals, good food, and a visit from an old friend. We also had training at work, and I’m happy to say I am now Medic First Aid Certified in the PediatricsPlus Program! I feel like I have a lot to share in general between this week, our time in Thailand a couple weeks ago, and more, but I suppose this is a good start! IMG_2616This was taken at the Otsuka Bon Odori Festival last Saturday. Below are a couple of videos I took that night. (If you’re interested, you can see another short video on my instagram.)

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On Sunday we went to Harajuku to try out Max Brenner, the famed chocolate restaurant. We had a nice time together, but the price was expensive and our desserts really didn’t blow our minds. Lesson learned, I suppose!
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Despite our rather mediocre experience at Max Brenner, the next day we more than made up for it when we went to Tsukiji and tried Chuka Soba Inoue ramen. Chad read that the ramen is well-known for being really delicious, and there was a good sized queue to get a bowl. Only one type was offered, but that all that’s necessary because it is oh-so-good.
IMG_2665After our ramen, we went to Kappabashi Dori, a street named after the fabled kappa that sells loads of kitchen goods. I had fun spotting different kappa up and down the road in between looking at the different kitchen supply stores. IMG_2667See the Tokyo Sky Tree in the background?  IMG_2670                                                             I made a friend.IMG_2676 IMG_2683This picture was taken before we went to a really great yakiniku restaurant Thursday with our old friend from Mie. (The restaurant, by the way, is called Kazu, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the Bunkyo area of Tokyo! Make sure you get a reservation.)
IMG_2757Today we tried a new (to us) Italian restaurant called Heinz Beck. The creme brulee dessert and cappuccino were lovely and everything else was well-presented, but the restaurant didn’t do much for me overall. (I’d much rather go to Chez Olivier again and try out their lunch special!)IMG_2717This was taken today outside the Imperial Palace Gardens, a great place for a walk even with the drizzling rain.IMG_2732
Imperial Palace Gardens
Excuse my wild hair (I told you it was a bit rainy!) 😉 IMG_2738After our walk we stopped for Starbucks and then headed back to Tokyo station to head home. (I think this side of Tokyo station is really cool.)

That brings us to this evening! I hope you enjoyed getting a peek at my week. I’ll be ready to share more soon, but in the meantime, what sorts of things have YOU been up to? I’d love to hear about your week in the comments.

xx Caitlyn

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Bookspiration: Summer Reading

So I know I told you I was starting to read Keys to Good Cooking, but I got a little…distracted. In the meantime, I’ve managed to finish three other books since The Miniaturist, a book which I briefly reviewed back in my Summer Bucket List Post here. I thought it might be fun to tell you what I’ve been reading, and about the little inspirations I’ve gotten from each book!

1. Harriet the Spy
The first book I read after The Miniaturist was Harriet the Spy. Ever since watching the movie years ago, I wanted to read the book and disappear into the excitement of Harriet’s spy world. One of my favorite scenes from the movie was one that does not take place in the book: the wind chime garden scene. The scene always made me want to make pretty wind chimes to add a bit of whimsy and magic to a future garden. I imagine the movie scene was made to replace a less magical, rather solemn scene from the book where Harriet is taken to meet her nanny’s mother.harrietAlthough the book didn’t inspire much whimsy for me, it did have some good observations from Harriet, like these:

“I’M GLAD I’M NOT PERFECT. I’D BE BORED TO DEATH.”

“PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEIR WORK LOVE LIFE.”

“THERE ARE AS MANY WAYS TO LIVE AS THERE ARE PEOPLE ON THE EARTH AND I SHOULDN’T GO ROUND WITH BLINDERS BUT SHOULD SEE EVERY WAY I CAN. THEN I’LL KNOW WHAT WAY I WANT TO LIVE AND NOT JUST LIVE LIKE MY FAMILY.”

The book also introduced me to a beverage I’d never heard of: Egg Creams! Harriet loves getting Egg Creams at the soda fountain, so I looked up the beverage and found this article (and image) on seriouseats.

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The beverage is basically chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer, but apparently it takes a lot to get it right. I’ve looked at a few recipes like this one, but I’m wondering if it might be better to just go try one in Brooklyn someday 🙂

2. The Secret Garden
The next book I chose was The Secret Garden. This reading choice was also inspired by a movie version I saw bits of when I was young, and though I don’t remember much about the movie, I do know I’ve always thought there was something very appealing about the idea of a secret garden. To be honest, the book didn’t blow me away, but it did inspire me to look up a few types of pretty flowers, like snowdrops (below), which are actually quite sought after. I also stumbled upon a gardening website that summarizes the book with added floral pictures throughout a blog post.

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A nice quote from the character Colin in the book: “Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world…but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.”

3. The Lotus Eaters
The most recent book I finished is called The Lotus Eaters. Briefly stated, the novel is about three characters whose lives are changed during the Vietnam War. To be honest, this premise wouldn’t normally appeal to me, but somehow I kept seeing the title pop up over and over again, and I’m glad I chose to finally go ahead and read it. After getting only a short way through the book, I realized my knowledge about the war was extremely limited, and so I brushed up a bit on my history (one of the ways I did this was by watching Crash Course US History #37 and #38, short videos that were quite helpful for a brief understanding). This book was a good read for me for several reasons. First, and perhaps most obvious, it inspired me to learn more about important history. Second, although the setting is drastically different from anything I’ve ever experienced, I could still relate to the characters:

“This is what happened when one left one’s home–pieces of oneself scattered all over the world, no one place ever completely satisfied, always a nostalgia for the place left behind.”

Lastly, the book made me want to learn more about Vietnamese culture and food. When looking up traditional Vietnamese crafts, I came across carved wooden cookie molds, like this “Lotus in the Lake” mold, so I started researching them and how they’re made and used. You can find some baking molds sort of like this in Japan, too, so I’m going to keep my eyes peeled!

As for Vietnamese food, recently Chad and I tried an amazing dish called bún thịt nướng, which is Vietnamese grilled pork and rice noodles. It was so light yet flavorful, and has become a frequent craving for me! I found this recipe I might have to try making sometime, but in the meantime I think we’ll have to keep frequenting a nearby Vietnamese restaurant!

I hope you enjoyed seeing the inspiration I got from my recent reading, and look forward to sharing more with you after I finish my next book. Hopefully whatever I chose next will get me crafting or cooking something delightful!

What have you been reading lately?
xxCaitlyn

Projects · Summer Bucket List · Tried

Summer Bucket List: Paper Quilling

Remember when I tried making Matryoshka at a meetup a while back? Well, a couple weeks ago, I attended another meetup for Paper Quilling. This time of year in Japan a lot of summer greeting cards are sent, so the leader of the group thought it would be a fun time to teach basic quilling techniques. I wanted to share this with you sooner, but I decided to give the card I made to my mom, so I wanted her to be the first to see it. Now that she’s gotten it, here it is!IMG_2188
Of course, it’s not perfect, but nothing handmade is! I really enjoyed making my first project. One of the coolest parts was that the group leader taught us the basic techniques using toothpicks to roll the paper! She also gave us a tip for getting strips of paper without spending much money: just use a paper shredder if you have one! I loved that we could try the craft without having to invest a ton–especially as these days paper quilling is starting to get quite popular again.IMG_2191Did you know that paper quilling is actually quite an old craft, and that even back in the Renaissance the strips of paper were trimmed from gilded edges of books? IMG_2189Here is one of the example cards the group leader made. Isn’t it fun?  IMG_2192Here is my card with some of the cards the other girls made. I loved the idea of making a cat face (top left)! IMG_2194This was my favorite card. I was so jealous of the girl who made it!

I’d like to try quilling again sometime–I think it’s something I could get quite good at and enjoy. Tomorrow I’m off to another meetup for needle felting. I’ve done some needle felting before (remember this cute onigiri?), but I think it will be fun to try it with some other girls and hopefully learn some new techniques!

What kind of projects have you been working on lately?

xx Caitlyn