Autumn Bucket List

Fall Bucket List

It seems like just yesterday I was posting my Summer Bucket List for this year, and yet here we are a little ways into autumn and I’m back with my Fall Bucket List. I have had so many posts in mind for you, but things have been busy–especially with our now 8 month old girl (yeah, what!? where does the time go?)–and I just haven’t gotten to them yet. Hopefully today’s effort is a sign of getting back on track!
fall-2016-bucket-listI’ve already gotten started on some of the things on this year’s list. If you follow me at all on Instagram, you may have seen that we had an awesome little trip to Traverse City this past weekend, and that we’ve also done some apple picking. I’ve already made my tried and true apple butter as well, but I think I’ll be making another batch soon (I’d like to try and make a new and improved version of this apple butter roll cake, as well as some apple butter cinnamon rolls!). As for other fall treats, I’ve been longing to eat a caramel apple, but in the meantime I’ve had way too many handfuls of candy corn and peanuts!

I’m looking forward to crossing more things of this year’s list, and would love to hear about some of the fun things you’ve got planned! Leave a comment below with some of your top fall to-do’s!

xx Caitlyn

 

 

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Autumn Bucket List

Autumn Bucket List recap

It seems like the end of December is a little late to be talking about an Autumn Bucket List, but when you think about it, winter technically just started a little over a week ago. If you add the fact that weather in Tokyo still feels like fall, updating you on fall happenings really shouldn’t be that strange at all! So, without further adieu, let’s talk about my 2015 Autumn Bucket List! #noregrets 😉

  1. Try kirigami– Kirigami, the art of folding and cutting, can really make some neat projects. I was a lot busier than I expected over the past few months, but I did manage to do this quick kirigami pattern out of a 100 yen store kirigami book.
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  2. Go to Studio Ghibli- Once again, we were unable to get tickets for Ghibli in the fall. On the bright side, we were able to get tickets for winter, and we ended up going on Christmas Day! We were a little surprised that after all the hype and difficulty getting tickets the museum wasn’t bigger. We also couldn’t believe there is no English at all throughout the museum (and even the English brochure didn’t offer any information other than rules), but we still had a nice time. I really enjoyed the Christmas decorations at the museum, and also walking in the surrounding area (Kichijoji).
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  3. Start sewing projects for baby– I started working on this cute sewing kit purchased from etsy.
    hedgehog cross stitchI used to lack the patience for sewing, but I feel like as long as there is an interesting podcast or video going in the background, I really enjoy sewing. I definitely have a renewed appreciation for all the beautiful sewing work my mother has created–especially after realizing it can take hours to complete only 10 rows or so of stitching!
  4. Go on a picnic– Chad and I had a picnic with our students, and also had “mini” picnics a couple of times (like when we shared those nice pastries at the Rikugien Gardens).
  5. Go on a mini trip & view autumn leaves– in October we went to Kyoto and rode the Sagano Romantic Train. We also went on the Hozugawa River Boat Ride before biking a bit around Arashiyama.The leaves weren’t changing too much yet, but we were able to do lots of autumn leaf viewing after that trip.
    IMG_3360                                 We met an oni on the Sugamo Romantic Train…!
    IMG_3346               One of over 1200 statues at Otagi Nenbutsuji in Arashiyama
  6. Make a birdy mobile– I totally didn’t get a chance to make this, but here is what I had in mind:
    birdy mobile via pinterest
  7. Go to Mt. Takao– I was super proud that at 29 weeks I was able to hike all the way to the top of Mt. Takao!
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  8. Make Halloween Needle Felts– I made two, and blogged about the projects here.
  9. Holiday/Maternity Leave Planning– I definitely worked on this part of my list throughout the fall, especially in December! With the holidays I did all of the expected: had fun finding special gifts, wrapping presents, preparing yummy food… And for maternity leave, I’ve been trying to do yoga and/or squats every day, to go for a daily walk, and to do part or all of one task I’ve got listed on my To-Do List (for example, washing new baby clothes or organizing a closet to prepare things for sending home). Busy, busy!
  10. Get necessary items ready for baby– We still have a few things to get ready for baby’s arrival, but we have been very lucky to have friends and family helping out with a lot of the basic necessities. We have been super minimal about purchases and requests as 1) we’ve heard that new parents often have WAY more than they need, 2) if we do need something we don’t have, we can always pick up those essentials as we go, and 3) we aren’t planning on staying in Japan for very long after baby is born so we don’t want to accumulate too much.
    IMG_4072Thirty five and a half weeks pregnant at The Tokyo New National Theater to see The Nutcracker

I thought about making my first ever winter bucket list for this year, but aside from going to The Nutcracker ballet (which we did a couple days before Christmas, by the way!), my primary goal for this winter is to meet our little girl and settle into being a mommy! I think that will be more than enough to keep me busy.

What are some things you did over the fall, and what have you got planned for the winter?

xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List · Projects

Fall Bucket List: Halloween Needle Felts

Happy Monday! After a weekend of being sick, I managed to get my haircut and attend an hour workshop and not a whole lot else. I was really worried today was going to be a terrible start to the week after a very restless night (runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, being uncomfortable from my changing body, having to pee all the time…), but it was a surprisingly good day at work. At the moment I’m waiting for some rice to finish in our rice cooker so we can enjoy some takoraisu for dinner, so I thought I’d show you the needle felts I finished over the last week or so while I wait!

The last needle felting I did was a while ago: a little bee, and a bit before that a cute little onigiri. Both of those were not kits, but the ones I chose for Halloween this year were! I think there are some pros and cons to choosing kits rather than making things on your own, so I’ll tell you about the kits I got!
Photo 10-26-15, 6 38 55 PMFirst of all, these were both purchased at a 100 yen shop. That’s right: for 200 yen total (less than $2), I got several hours of stabbing fun. Included in each kit was a needle, assorted felt for the project, eye parts, a round jump ring and a ball chain . Things I needed to prepare were glue, scissors, and a mat to work with (the kit also suggested an awl for poking holes for the eyes, pliers to insert them, and a ruler, but I just poked holes with my needle and inserted the eyes by hand. I also didn’t measure anything, but in retrospect probably should have!).
Photo 10-26-15, 6 39 47 PMI was a little disappointed my bear and ghost didn’t turn out as cute as the ones in the pictures, but I think part of that can be chalked up to lack of experience, part to not having the natural Japanese talent for making everything ridiculously cute, and part to not measuring *ehem, ehem* I was also a bit frustrated at having a limited amount of felt–I wanted to make my bear fatter (and thus cuter), but ran out of brown felt, and I wanted to cover the ghost with more of the black so less white showed through, but ran out of the black felt.
Photo 10-26-15, 6 40 39 PMSomething cool I forgot to mention is that each kit came with a “recipe” written in both Japanese and English. This would be awesome if you were trying to study Japanese, and in my case (since I have been really naughty and haven’t studied at all lately) if you just want the English.

I think if you just want to try needle felting, a nice cheap kit like the cuties I got are a good way to go. Plus, once you’ve got a needle, all you really need is felt, a styrofoam mat and your imagination and you can do quite a lot!

Well, dinner is calling! Hope you have a nice start to your week, too!
xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List

Autumn Bucket List

Happy Tuesday everyone! I had a super busy weekend in Kansai, which included a lovely Saturday in Kyoto and a baby shower in the Osaka area on Sunday (you can see a few pictures on instagram). We spent yesterday back in Tokyo, and although I was bummed to come back at first, it was a good thing I got some rest as I’m feeling kind of crummy today. One the bright side, tomorrow is my next doctor appointment, so I’ll get to see our sweet baby again! And speaking of baby, some of my Fall Bucket List this year is all about preparation for when she joins us this January.
Fall Bucket ListYou might notice this year’s list is a bit shorter than years past, but that’s mainly because in the past I baked a lot (still no oven in our apartment *cries*), went to events in Michigan (like the Detroit Beer Festival), or did Michigan-related outdoors things (like apple picking!). Also, some of this year’s list will actually take a lot more time, such as planning for the holidays and maternity leave! Should be fun working through this year’s autumn list.

What do you have going this fall?
xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List

Autumn 2014 Bucket List Recap

Even though it is technically still Autumn, in Michigan we’ve already gotten quite a bit of snow to remind us winter is on its way! I thought I’d give a recap of what I’ve been able to scratch off my Autumn Bucket List so far this year so I can get started on creating one for the winter ahead. As with my Summer 2014 Bucket List Recap, many of the links will take you to posts about the topic so you can remember along with me 🙂

Autumn Bucket List 2014
1. Go apple picking √
2. Make monte cristos √ (This year I made this yummy recipe with my Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, and last year I made this one!)
3. Go to Crane’s in the City for lunch √
4. Make amazing apple pie √ (More details to come!)
5. Make apple rose tartlets
6. Make sweet potato bread √
IMG_1404This sweet potato bread recipe was so, so good!
7. Make apple butter √ (recipe here!)
8. Make an apple roll cake
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9. Make acorn crafts √
How to Paint Acorns | Upcycled Garden Style | Scoop.it
I tried making these…. (Source)
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…and these! I was inspired to make the little gnomes above by this etsy shop.
10. Carve pumpkins
11. Have a ramen party
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12. Have a wine & cheese night (Though we did join a Raclette party which I hope to blog about soon!)
13. Have a chocolate tasting party (No party, but I did try plenty, and even reviewed this one)
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14. Eat caramel apples √
15. Make homemade ice cream (I swear I’ll get to this one of these days!)
16. Have an Oktoberfest party
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17. Go to the Detroit Beer Festival √
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More pictures can be found on my instagram
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19. Make name silhouette art √
IMG_1501I got this idea from a painting my mom had with her name in this style, and I can’t wait to experiment more with name silhouettes in the future!
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21. Writing challenges 1/week (I only did two, one of which can be found here…)
22. Restart book club √ (In October we read Your Face in Mine, and this month we’re reading the latest Haruki Murakami novel)
23. Try Ethiopian food √
24. Catch up on art journaling (But I’ve been starting to gather pictures and other memorabilia!)
25. Get officially certified as a coffee master √
IMG_1541Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! I got certified yesterday!! 😀
26. Make Jack-O-Lantern tartlets
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28. Dandelion blowing √
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30. Make a fairy garden (But I did start collecting supplies!)
31. Go mushroom hunting (The weather got too cold, too fast!)
I definitely was a busy girl over the fall months, and I think with our move to Tokyo ahead, I will likely stay that way! What kinds of fun have you been up to this Autumn?
xx Caitlyn
P.S. Don’t forget that tomorrow is the end of the second Little Snail Thrift Store Challenge! I am looking forward to seeing your projects, and will be posting the next challenge soon!!
Autumn Bucket List · Learning · Projects

Zentangle Time!

So I’m about a third of the way through my “30 Days of Zentangle” goal for my Autumn Bucket List, and I thought I would share a few of my favorite tangles so far.
IMG_1475                                                                                     Day 4

In case you’ve never heard of Zentangle, it is a “fun, relaxing art form that employs structured and coordinated patterns as a means of creating beautiful and interesting pieces of art.” I got that definition from the workbook I’ve been using on my Zentangle journey: The Art of Zentangle: 50 inspiring drawings, designs and ideas for the meditative artist. I think this workbook is awesome because it starts you off with the basics and allows you to build confidence to progress into more complex tangles. Additionally, more complex does not mean more difficult; contrarily, Zentangling is all about the process of creating without worrying about the outcome or about making mistakes. The Art of Zentangle really provides great ideas and inspiration to make your own unique tangles.

IMG_1477Days 8 & 9

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      Day 9

I started off my “lessons” by telling myself I needed to sit down for at least 25 minutes to try to get part of the book done each day. I soon realized that tangling makes you lose track of time rather quickly–on days where I had somewhere to go after my Zentangle time was up, I would be startled out of tangling by an alarm, and on days where I had more time, over an hour would pass sometimes before I knew it.IMG_1479 IMG_1480

             Day 11

I can’t wait to get farther into the book and try out more of the activities. I’m really looking forward to the sections that introduce using shading and colors. As I continue working through the book, I will be sure to update you again with some of my new favorites!

Take care and stay warm on this blustery day!
xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List · Food & Cooking · Party

Let’s Make Gyoza!

Hi everyone! Last Friday we decided to have a ramen party on Halloween. Not necessarily the most traditional approach, I’ll give you that, but it was definitely awesome. When I posted pictures from our last ramen party, several people asked me about the recipe I used for the gyoza, or pot stickers. I’ve decided to share the recipe with you today, as well as the system my friends and I used to make the gyoza together!

IMG_1419Add a bottle of sake and some nappa cabbage, then subtract the bananas and you’ve got a good start with the ingredients above.

For my version of gyoza filling, I took parts from a few different recipes to create a version that seemed most similar to what I had while living in Japan. IMG_1421What’s really nice about this recipe is that you basically combine all of the ingredients, let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors meld, and then you’re ready to start preparing the gyoza. Pretty easy stuff!IMG_2963While setting up an assembly line for the gyoza, I remembered the first time I ever made gyoza at a music party in Matsusaka, Japan. (I wrote a rather lengthy post about that Golden Week back in 2009 that was fun to revisit when writing this post 🙂 ) Ariel was in charge of putting water around the edges of the rice paper wrappers, my friend Tia added a spoonful of filling, and I pushed the dumplings together with a gyoza mold I had brought back from Japan.

IMG_2965Sorry for this terrible picture. I blame my brother because he took it 😉

If you don’t have a mold, you can always just assemble the gyoza by hand, pinching together the edges. The mold does make things go much more quickly, however, so you could consider either buying one or being really nice to me so that I send you one. They are pretty inexpensive!

IMG_2966We made an awesome gyoza-making team!

Once you’ve assembled your gyoza, you just heat up a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan, fry for a couple minutes, add hot water, and simmer until cooked through. Meanwhile, you can prepare dipping sauce and snack on other available treats (I made crab rangoons and Amanda made rice balls). IMG_2968                                        Here is our first finished batch of gyoza. So yummy!

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Also, because I know you want to drool a bit, above is a picture of one of the bowls of ramen Chad prepared. Now for the gyoza recipe!

Pork Gyoza

Ingredients
8 ounces ground pork
1 large egg
1 Tbs finely chopped ginger (or about a tsp dried ginger)
2 tsp grated garlic (from about 3 large cloves)
1 1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sake (you can also use dry vermouth)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c. shredded napa cabbage, blanched until tender yet crisp in boiling salt water
1 green onion, diced
34 gyoza wrappers or round dumpling wrappers
4 Tbs. vegetable oil

Directions

1. Mix together the pork, egg, sesame oil, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, sake, cornstarch, sugar, napa cabbage and onion together in a bowl and refrigerate for twenty minutes.

2. Once the flavors have melded together, place a small bowl of cool water by your work surface and prepare plates on which to place wrappers before and after you’ve assembled the gyoza. Place several wrappers on your first plate and brush the edges of each with water using your finger or a pastry brush.

3. Put a mounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper, bring the edges together, and seal the edges by using a mold or by making 4 to 6 pleats. Set the completed gyoza on a separate plate, and repeat until you’ve used all of your filling.

4. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet, and quickly arrange half of the gyoza, cooking until golden brown on one side, about one minute. Add 2/3 cup water to the skillet (it will spatter, so be careful!), cover tightly, and let the gyoza cook until tender, about six minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until both sides of the gyoza are crisp, and then repeat with the remaining prepared gyoza.

5. While the gyoza are cooking, you can prepare a simple dipping sauce by combining two parts soy sauce, one part white rice wine vinegar, and ginger to taste. Then once everything has been cooked, you’re ready to enjoy!

I hope you like this recipe, and that you try gyoza-making at one of your future get-togethers!
xx Caitlyn