Projects · Seen

5 inspiring, creative Instagram accountsΒ 

For the longest time I thought people just posted general photos of people, places and things on Instagram, with “things” being food pictures or interesting products, buildings, and so on. Then several months ago, I began stumbling across accounts with really great artwork–one after another! I thought I would share five creative Instagram accounts that I’ve been following and loving in case you’d like to share in the fun.

1. hellohappystudio – I love this artist’s sweet illustrations. Everything she posts feels so uplifting! She also has a lovely website and a “Happy Mail” newsletter with a free printable each month!

  2. think.make.share.– This account features artists who work for Hallmark. Some creative projects are featured, as well as a lot of hand lettering.


3. oilikki– Like hellohappystudio, oilikki’s instagram has lots of really fun illustrations. She has some simple illustrations, but does more detailed work with really nice color as well. I think I first came across her art through theydrawandtravel.4. miyyahatkertas– I absolutely love this instagram account! Not only does she have amazing paper quilling, but she posts some of her art journaling/planner art and watercolor hand lettering as well.

5. martinalenhardt– This account shows gorgeous nature art–mostly watercolor. I just love how peaceful and pretty each picture is.

Which Instagram accounts have you been inspired by lately? I’d love to discover more to follow!

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking

Japanese style mixed bean pilaf

When I was staying at Aikku Hospital after having Lily, one of my favorite meals was on Setsubun: a bean pilaf, cabbage and seaweed soup, salad, drinkable yogurt, fruit salad, orange ice and a pack of setsubun beans. One day a couple weeks after coming home I was telling Chad how much I wanted to eat the pilaf again, and he threw together an awesome bean pilaf of his own.

I begged him to make it again the other day, and though I had to pull an arm and a leg to get ingredient approximations for a recipe to share with you, I’m proud to say I was successful!In the background you can see field mustard. Chad has been whipping up this simple green by boiling it and serving with ponzu and bonito flakes. Back home, field mustard is often considered a weed, but in Japan it’s a semi-expensive veggie side dish!Β Japanese Style Bean Pilaf
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 1/2 c rice
2 bouillon cubes (we used chicken)
1 Tbs butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed & diced
Salt to taste
2 tsp Oregano
1 Leek, thinly sliced
2 Tbs Rice vinegar
1 Tbs Lemon juice
1 can bean salad (or mixed beans of choice)
1/2 cup Corn
1 Avocado
Fresh parsley to taste

Directions

Prepare rice in rice maker and add crushed bouillon cubes to the water. We use Japanese rice, and prepare it in a rice maker, but you can choose your favorite rice and preparation method.

While the rice is cooking, sautΓ© the onion & garlic in butter. Add the remaining ingredients except for parsley & avocado, and heat through.

Add finished rice and stir before folding in avocado and parsley.

Note: The bean pilaf I had at the hospital was served with a sliced boiled egg on top–a nice bit of additional protein! Also, this recipe is great because you can really be flexible with how much of each ingredient you add based on your personal tastes. We’re going to try adding edamame next time! It’s easy and delicious!

xx Caitlyn

Seen · Travel

Happy spring!

I’ve been so happy about the warmer, (sometimes) sunnier weather we’ve had recently! It seems like Japan this time of year can be quite gloomy, but no matter how cloudy and rainy the weather gets, the cherry blossoms always cheer me up! This year’s trees are due to start blossoming in Tokyo from today or tomorrow, so I can’t wait to get some cherry blossom viewing in with Chad and Lillian πŸ™‚ In the meantime I’ve really been enjoying spotting fun gardens on our daily walks. (You may have seen some of the pictures I’ve been taking on Instagram.) Tokyo gardens are proof that you don’t need a yard (or much space at all) to create a lovely green space. I especially love the creativity employed in these delightful gardens, with touches of whimsy all around. Take this garden in the two pictures above, for example. See the garlands of small pine cones? And the miniature animal figurines and cute little pots? I’m feeling very inspired for making a little green space when we move back home!
Oh, yes! Speaking of home, I should mention our exciting news: we’re officially moving back to Michigan in May! This isn’t the first time we’ve made this move, so who knows where life will take us next, but I’m very excited for Lillian to meet her family back home. In fact, there is so much that I’m looking forward to that I can hardly stand it!!

Happy spring!
xx Caitlyn

Bookspiration

Bookspiration: Mottainai Grandma

Recently we’ve been making stops at a local bookstore to find books to read to Lily that might be harder to find back home. We’ve been excited to find some books written with both English and Japanese on each page. While we don’t really plan on teaching Lillian Japanese since we’re moving back to the states, there are some phrases that have become part of our vocabulary, so it’s neat to have books available that incorporate some of those phrases. We also enjoy being able to introduce Japanese culture to her, as well as good stories!Β Β Saturday we purchased a book called Mottainai Grandma. It was written by a woman who was trying to explain the Japanese word mottainai to her son. Mottainai basically means, “What a waste,” or “Don’t waste,” but it also comes with a reminder to have gratitude for what we’re given. Furthermore, as this NPR review points out, mottainai is an old Buddhist word that ties in with the Shinto idea that objects have souls. Japanese believe we are part of nature, and that we should have a very harmonious relationship with it. I think mottainai is a great phrase for Lillian to know!Β Β In the book, mottainai grandma teaches her grandson all kinds of ways to avoid being wasteful. One of my favorite examples is when the grandson has leftover rice in his bowl and his grandma not only eats every remaining grain of rice, but goes so far as to lick the rice sticking to her grandson’s face as well!
img_5077I also like when mottainai grandma tells her grandson that instead of throwing out his mandarin orange peels, he should dry them in the sun and put them in his bath water. Although we love taking baths and have even traveled Japan with bath salts, it somehow never occurred to me to use mandarin orange peels in the bath! And we tear through mandarin oranges when they’re in season! I’m inspired to use the peels in the future during bath time, but it might also be fun to use them to make mandarin infused vodka, to make a pretty smelling body scrub, or to make candied mandarin orange peels!
img_5078

Β Mottainai Grandma is a super cute book with a great reminder for children and adults alike. It serves as fun inspiration for thinking about ways we can reuse things rather than throw them away, and makes you think twice about letting things go to waste. What is one of your favorite uses for something many people normally throw out?

xx Caitlyn

PS If you’re into up-cycling items that others might toss aside, you might enjoy checking out these thrift store challenges (a feature I’m hoping to resume on Little Snail once we’re back in the states!)

Food & Cooking · Tried · Uncategorized

What can you celebrate today?

 Years ago when I studied abroad, I remember coming back to my dorm from class to a special surprise: two of my friends were waiting for me in the dining area with cakes to share! What was the occasion, you wonder? There wasn’t one! I remember thinking that was so fun–enjoying pretty cakes just for the sake of it, because every day is worth celebrating with a little cake. I love all the gorgeous cakes and pastries available in Japan, and to this day every time I buy a cake here I think of that memory.    

   
    
 I picked up these lovelies yesterday to celebrate that Chad is done with his last official term of school before we go back to the states, and also to celebrate each other and our sweet baby girl (she’s six weeks old today!). What are some things you’re celebrating today?

Projects

Pineapple: the best new (old!) way to give a warm welcome

Some say you should avoid pineapple when you’re pregnant unless you want to try and induce labor, though it’s definitely up for debate. (IΒ did try and put pineapple to the test to get our daughter to come on time, but to no avail–Lillian was waiting for National Croissant Day to make her debut!). Now that it’s definitively safe for me to eat pineapple, I’ve been enjoying it frequently. I was snacking on it the other day, in fact, when I coincidentally learned that pineapple is a near-universal sign of welcome and hospitality. Also, pineapple used to be so exotic that it would cost the modern equivalent of $8000! Phew! You could even rent a pineapple so you could pretend to afford it while showing it off at parties. Today, it’s still a sign of hospitality, so why not grace your home with pineapple in one form or another? To get you started, here are five fun pineapple links:

  1. Pineapple Salsa
    pineapple salsa
    Years ago at Wheatland Music Festival I tried some unforgettable pineapple salsa, and I’ve been wanting to try making it ever since. Perhaps this recipe is a winner!
  2. Pineapple Baby Outfit
    pineapple outfit

    Is this outfit not adorable!? I can’t find a link to this exact outfit anymore on gymboree, but here is a fun romper alternative for sale on etsy, as well as some super cute pineapple headbands!

3. Pineapple Easter Eggs
pineapple Easter eggs
With Easter just around the corner, why not try a pineapple-themed approach to Easter egg decorating to show off when family and friends come around for a meal?

4. Pineapple Carrot Cake
IG1001_Carrot_and_Pineapple_Cake.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape

Now I can’t lie: my mom makes the best carrot cake in the world. It is pretty similar to this Pineapple Carrot Cake recipe though–minus the walnuts & raisins in the cake batter, and plus chopped walnuts in the frosting. She also uses crushed pineapple rather than fresh, but I think the added pineapple garnish on top of the cake is quite pretty!

5. 25 Pineapple DIY Projects
pineapple projects
Last but not least, check out these 25 DIY Pineapple Projects! I especially like the free vintage-inspired printable.

I hope you’ve found something to try out in the links above, and would love to hear about your favorite pineapple projects and recipes! Nothing like this sweet, bright-colored fruit to make you feel welcome, or to at least brighten your day while we wait for warmer weather!

xx Caitlyn

Pregnancy

A tale of two hospitals: part two

I can’t believe our baby girl is already just over 5 weeks old! Time has been flying, and we’re starting to really get into the swing of newborn parenting. One thing’s for sure: we definitely would have had a much rougher start if Chad’s mom hadn’t come out to visit for a couple of weeks. She was especially a life saver when Lillian and I had our one month checkup. Without a car or a stroller or anyone else to help (Chad had to work) I don’t know how I would’ve survived without her! Chad’s mom held Lillian, lugged her diaper bag around, and was super supportive.

Now that the one month check is finished, we are officially done with going to Aiiku Hospital and will be switching to a Pediatric Clinic. Before the Aiiku chapter in our lives is closed, however, it’s time for part two of my experience with the hospital just before and after Lillian’s birth.

Above you can see photos of the shared rooms at Aiiku Hospital. The private rooms were a little bigger, but much more expensive and (in my opinion) not really worth the extra cost.

Once we switched to Aiiku Hospital, I wanted a maternity ward tour as soon as possible. At St Luke’s International Hospital, they schedule a private tour for you with an interpreter and a midwife. At Aiiku, however, there are group tours scheduled twice a month, and if you can’t attend them, well, you’re out of luck. I’ve since learned that there is an English tour available, but no one told me that at the time, so I was left to do my best with my limited Japanese. This was a little stressful, but not nearly as stressful as trying to make phone calls to the hospital in English.

I had three really rough experiences with calling the hospital. First, a few days before I went into labor, Lillian was putting pressure on some nerves that gave me such horrible leg cramps I couldn’t walk. I was in a lot of pain, and I read online that some women experience contractions through their legs. After several hours, I decided it would be best to call the hospital, but when I called and asked for someone who spoke English, the person speaking just said she would “try her best.”

After about ten minutes of trying to explain my concern without any comprehension on the other end of the line, I started to get really upset and negative (I asked myself why I had to be giving birth in Japan, was getting really frustrated with my Japanese skills, and had started to get scared because I had no idea what I was experiencing as a soon-to-be mommy). With a shaky voice I finally said, “I know you’re trying your best to understand me, but are you sure there is no one else who might be able to speak more English that I could talk to?” And seconds after a “chotto matte” (just a moment), a fluent English speaker hopped on the line. Why she wasn’t put on immediately is beyond me, but it would have really saved me a lot of stress!

The next day I had to call again to make sure of my appointment time for the day after that. Once again I was greeted with mediocre English, and was told that I didn’t seem to have an appointment anymore. I asked if they could please make one as I was already 40 weeks pregnant. The woman said yes, and that I could see the same doctor I saw last time but that he couldn’t speak English. I responded, “Um, I saw a female doctor last time, and she could speak English.” I was then put on hold before she came back on the line and said, “Okay, you can see the doctor you saw last time who can speak English. Is 11:30 okay?” I said yes and then asked if I should come at 10:30 for the NST that Aiiku requires for all pregnancies after 37 weeks.

She said, “Why do you need an NST? You are 14 weeks pregnant, right?”

“No! I’m FORTY WEEKS. Do you know which patient I am?” I was starting to get pretty frustrated, not to mention surprised and concerned. I had already given my ID number, name, birthday etc., so how were all of these issues arising? She said she knew who I was and that she was sorry because it was her first day (not particularly encouraging…). Then I was told to come early for the NST.

The last difficult phone call was when I was in labor. Long story short, there wasn’t anyone around who spoke even basic English when I called to report my contractions (the woman on the phone didn’t even seem to understand the word “contraction!”), and I ended up having Chad take over because it was too hard to talk anyway. One thing that would have been tremendously helpful to know about is the Himawari Translation Service free for medical interpretation. I think using Himawari could have saved me a lot of headaches (though I still would have been concerned about the mix-ups when I called to confirm that appointment!).

After your baby is born, you stroll them around in little mobile cots when going from your room to the nursery, etc.. Mine was labeled “Dykehouse Caitlyn baby.”

Having difficulty communicating was probably one of the hardest parts of pregnancy in Japan, but in the end we got our beautiful girl so it’s been easy to let go a bit with time. After Lillian was born we were able to spend time recovering in the LDR, and I was brought lunch. I heard some hospitals bring a meal for the husband, too, but Chad was left to run up to the hospital restaurant, which was closed for some reason. Sadly, all he could really scrape together was a granola bar and some canned coffee.

Our sweet girl at the hospital in one of the super cute robes they provide during your stay. She has already changed so much!

My meals at Aiiku were overall really tasty, and were always healthy and balanced. Unless you choose the most expensive private room option (I believe it’s about the equivalent of $700 per day), even your spouse has to adhere to the 1:00-8:00 visiting hours, so I usually was only able to eat with Chad at dinner time. The visiting hours were one of the toughest parts of being at the hospital after Lillian was born.

Spaghetti dinner with tea, soup, yogurt, kiwi, salad and a sweet/savory cheese bread.

The other tough parts of my hospital stay were mostly related to being a new mommy than to anything to do with the hospital, though I did have a couple encounters that were unique to foreigners, I think. For example, when breastfeeding, Lillian liked one side better than the other, so I asked if I could pump on one side and dump the milk out (I didn’t want her to be bottle fed before the first month). The midwife looked at me like I was foolish and said, “In Japan we don’t care how the babies get the milk as long as they get their food, but foreigners just want to breastfeed.” Of course ultimately that’s what foreigners want, too, but many mommies value exclusive breastfeeding and don’t want to interfere with that in the first month. I just did what I thought was right, and ignored her comment.

Chicken, tomato, okra and mushroom dinner plate with tea, rolls, crackers, salad and apple slices.

Overall the nurses/midwives were helpful, but they weren’t always friendly. Sometimes I wondered if their lack of warmth was from the language barrier, or perhaps because they were just tired like me. (Or…perhaps I was just tired and I was imagining their coolness.) I did think it was strange that staff at Aiiku frequently insisted on having tests I didn’t feel were necessary, like doing NST’s before I was overdue even though everything in my pregnancy was fine, doing all my blood tests again (even though they had gotten the results for the exact same tests a week prior from St. Luke’s), and telling me I should get checked for diabetes a month after birth because Lillian was bigger than Japanese babies tend to be (even though my entire pregnancy I was completely normal–at a healthy weight with healthy blood pressure, urine samples, etc.).

Breakfast of yogurt, tea, warm bread slices, salad, milk and orange slices.

One nice thing about Aiiku is that the hospital is very up-front about pricing, unlike St. Luke’s where no pricing information was given to me in English. At Aiiku, you are given thorough information in English that breaks down the cost of giving birth and the fees for hospital stay. The strange thing is that since pregnancy isn’t covered by insurance in Japan, the fee for giving birth actually decreases if you have any emergency procedures like an episiotomy or a C-section (because those are covered by insurance). So a completely natural birth is cheaper than one that requires more medical attention!


This was one of my favorites: a lunch of potato soup, tea, pizza toasts, mixed nuts, a savory/sweet cheese waffle, yogurt, milk, salad and pineapple. Since we never ended up getting an oven this time around in Japan, we’ve taken to making these pizza toasts in our broiler πŸ™‚

In the end I am glad we were able to transfer to Aiiku. Language barriers happen all over the place in Japan, even in Tokyo, so we’re still dealing with that, but on the bright side now that I’ve gone through pregnancy in Japan I know I can really handle a lot. Often in life you’re tougher than you think, and in my case I ended up with the best gift I could ever ask for: our darling daughter.

I hope this has been helpful to anyone searching for information on giving birth in Japan, or at least of interest to anyone in general! To those of you who commented on Facebook, etc., that you were waiting for the second half of this hospital tale, thank you for your patience! I would love to hear what you thought, or about your experiences with cultural differences, pregnancy, and so on in the comments!

xxCaitlyn