Learning · Life with Baby · Projects

The more the water, the higher the boat (free printable!)

Sometimes you just have a string of days (or heck, weeks!) that just leave you in a funk. Maybe it’s not that things are all that bad…they’re just not great. Maybe you just don’t have energy, or time, or the weather has been crummy. Or things are just leaving you feeling low in general. Recently I had a brief bout of hyperthyroidism that left me feeling fatigued and with achy muscles. I was so tired every day and felt guilty for not being more energetic with my daughter and for not doing enough around the house. Somehow after only a couple of months, the hyperthyroidism resolved itself (yeah, what?), and though I was confused about the whole thing, I decided not to linger too much on the why and just be extra grateful!
printable for blog

I really love this quote from Alan Spence’s The Pure Land. It’s been nearly ten years since I read this romantic adventure based on a true story about the modernization of Japan, but I jotted down this quote when I read it and still really like it today. Enjoy a printable of the quote by clicking here for a PDF or by clicking directly on the image to download, and remember this quote, too: “If something is rubbing so hard against you, you can be sure it’s working on you.” -Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love

Have a good day, lovelies!

xx Caitlyn

Learning · Life with Baby

5 lifesavers when you have a newborn 

I knew when I was pregnant that after giving birth I would experience gratitude to a level I’d never experienced before. I also knew I’d be experiencing a whole new level of exhaustion. People warn you of the sleepless nights, the seemingly constant feedings, the crying… Yet no matter how aware you are of what you’re likely to experience, you can never be truly prepared for actually living the feelings of immense gratitude and exhaustion. Below are five things that really got me (and Lillian!) through her first month especially, but that are still super helpful even now that she’s ten weeks. (Um, can you believe she’s ten weeks old already! My big girl!)

1. HALO Sleepsack                                         Lillian when she was just 3 weeks old!

My mom sent us a HALO sleepsack right after Lily was born, and it is seriously the best thing ever. It has been such a comfort to Lillian, not only by snuggling her in when she’s sleepy, but by preventing her from waking herself up all the time with her constant wiggles as well! I would say no matter how minimal you are about purchases for a newborn, a sleepsack is definitely not something to skip over!

2. White Noise

We definitely had some rough nights trying to get Lillian to sleep when she was first born. (Heck, let’s be honest here, we still do sometimes!) I’ll never forget the time she was crying and crying and we decided to try turning on the vacuum. With the flip of a switch she was COMPLETELY out! We couldn’t believe it! But, as many parents can relate, what works one time or for a few days won’t necessarily continue working. One thing we’ve found to consistently help with Lillian is the “water” white noise in this free app. I also sometimes use this bamboo water fountain video during the day. She seems to fall asleep and stay asleep better with these!

3. Good Entertainment 

For late night feedings, it would have been impossible at first for me to stay awake had it not been for Mad Men and TED-ed videos, but queuing up any show you can midnight-marathon your way through might be just the trick to pass the time and help you stay awake. These days Lillian is already sleeping for longer periods of time at night, so I’ve been able to stay awake more easily to read or play around on Instagram and other social media, but having something to watch was definitely a lifesaver 🙂 (Side note: I seem to be striking out lately with books–what’s a favorite of yours that I won’t regret reading?)

4. Exercise

I took this on my first walk outside of the hospital/house. It was only a 15 minute walk, but it felt amazing!

It was important during pregnancy, and is just as important now! One of the hardest things for me in the first month after giving birth was feeling trapped in our apartment because (as I’m sure some of you have heard me complain) it gets NO sunlight. Fortunately I was able to start getting outside every day pretty early on, and even though at first it would only be for 15 minutes or so, it was so refreshing to get out in the sunshine and fresh air! At first I couldn’t do much, but as the weeks go by I’m getting stronger and stronger. Usually I walk with Lillian in an ergo, but either way getting out and about has really helped me feel normal again. (Oh, and getting out of sweatpants occasionally, too! HA!) I’m hoping to eventually get back into some tougher yoga and jogging again.

5. Encouragement (from parents and podcasts!)

Joining the Tokyo Pregnancy Group was very helpful during my pregnancy, and joining the Tokyo Mothers Group has been really helpful since giving birth. It has also been amazing to get advice from my mom, my mother-in-law, my sister, and my mommy friends (even though they all live so far away!).

Something SUPER encouraging has been listening to the podcast The Longest Shortest Time. I am someone who hates being vulnerable or appearing incapable or inexperienced, and much as I know it’s ridiculous, I really don’t like admitting when I’m feeling overwhelmed, tired, frustrated, sad, in need of advice, or the million other feelings that I definitely experienced full-on in the first few weeks after Lillian was born. The Longest Shortest Time podcast helped me feel like I wasn’t alone when I didn’t want to admit how alone I sort of felt. There are even some short episodes that are perfect for when you’ve only got a 15 minute window for a walk outside!

Photo 4-10-16, 2 16 38 PM Photo 4-10-16, 2 23 42 PM                                                       Lillian at ten weeks old

I am so, so thankful for our sweet Lillian, as well as for every tip I can get for making it through those especially exhausting nights. What are some things that really helped you make it through being a new parent? Any advice?

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking · Learning · Seen/Heard/Tried

Wasanbon Workshop

Photo 10-25-15, 1 11 10 PMLast weekend I had the chance to attend a workshop making a special type of wagashi, or Japanese confectionary, called wasanbon. This particular type of wagashi is sadly becoming a disappearing art. One reason is because the primary ingredient is a special sugar (also called wasanbon) that is harvested in a cooler climate than other sugars, and takes a lot of work to refine. This high-grade sugar is quite light, and has buttery, honey notes that can’t be found in other sugars. Because of the special care in harvesting the sugar, it is quite expensive.
Photo 10-25-15, 12 02 39 PMLike the sugar itself, wasanbon molds are quite pricey. According to the workshop teacher, there is only one craftsman left in Japan making the wasanbon molds, and just the circular one pictured above on the far left costs over 30,000 yen (so just under $300 USD). On the bright side, you can find similar molds for about 3000 yen (or around $30 USD) at places like Kappabashi Dori, but the material and degree of craftsmanship will most likely be different.
Photo 10-25-15, 12 20 33 PMBefore we began trying to make our own wasanbon, our teacher and other workshop leaders taught us how to make little origami boxes to put our finished confectioneries in.  (If you’re interested, you can find instructions for the style box we made here.)
Photo 10-31-15, 10 30 18 AM
Next, our teacher began to mix the ingredients, which were super simple: wasanbon sugar, a teeny bit of water, and a teeny bit of liquid sugar. The liquid sugar, our teacher explained, makes the shaping process easier for beginners but isn’t absolutely necessary. She added a very small amount of pink dye as well, noting that if the end color is not subtle, wasanbon can quickly end up looking cheap. Once the mixture reached a texture similar to the beginning stages of a crumbly flour, we sifted it–first by tapping the edges of the sifter and then by pressing the remaining mixture through with our hands.
Photo 10-31-15, 10 32 05 AM
Next we pressed the mixture into a mold as tightly as possible. We scraped off the top so everything was even, and then tapped at the top layer of the mold to release half of each sweet. Lastly, we carefully flipped the mold and tapped as necessary to get pretty little roses to drop out.
Photo 10-25-15, 12 51 38 PM
Flipping the mold was a little stressful, but on the bright side, the mold can always be repacked to try again (whereas if you add too much liquid to your wasanbon in the mixing stages, you can easily ruin everything–an expensive mistake!).
Photo 10-31-15, 10 32 49 AM
We also tried using a bird mold, which I totally thought was some sort of fish at first (don’t tell). Photo 10-25-15, 1 07 55 PM
Finally, we got to try our creations. Our teacher instructed us to place a wasanbon on our tongue and just let it melt. The wasanbon initially felt light on the tongue, yet thick like frosting. The complexity continued as it melted, giving a distinct sweet flavor that vanished too quickly to hold on to. Photo 10-25-15, 1 09 43 PM
I really learned a lot from the wasanbon workshop, and hope I get a chance to attend workshops teaching other wagashi styles before we leave Japan again!

Have you tried making anything new lately?
xx Caitlyn

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

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

IMG_1478

      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

Learning

Capuchins & Cute Cappuccinos

I have started training to become a coffee master at my workplace, and so far a lot of the things I’ve read have been review from Uncommon Grounds. However, I have been learning lots of extra little interesting tidbits that I can add to my coffee knowledge, one of which is about the origin of the term “cappuccino.”

In Italian, cappuccino means “little cap,” and this term represents the “hood” of pretty foam that sits on top of the espresso. People surmise the beverage was also named for Capuchin monks who wore coffee-colored, hooded cloaks. (A separate monk-related speculation regarding coffee: the monks rumored to drink the first coffee claimed it was a gift from God because the caffeine helped them stay awake during their prayers!)

While trying to imagine the Capuchins as…well, cappuccino’s, I decided to look them up in the google search box. I was surprised to find the first thing that popped up was about the Capuchin Crypt in Rome, a place Chad and I visited when we went to Italy a couple years ago!

capuchin cryptWe weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but you can find a few creepy ones online like this one from wikipedia.

With the memory of the Capuchin Crypt lingering in my mind, I decided I would much rather picture cute cappuccinos, and I found this:

cute rilakkuma cappuccinoI can’t really say for sure why I don’t own this Rilakkuma cappuccino stencil, but I can be sure that this situation needs to be remedied quickly.

I also want to experience this cuteness in a cup:cute rilakkuma

And lastly, I want to stare at this adorable picture while drinking–you guessed it!–a delicious cappuccino:rilakkuma cappucino

I found these kawaii cappuccino pictures on google images, but I would love to make them a part of my real life. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll just have to stick with delicious, standard cappuccino’s.

Have a good weekend!
xx Caitlyn

Learning · Projects

Calligraphy and Surprising Snails

Well, it’s been a rough week around here, but things are getting better day by day. I’ll spare you the details about that, and instead give you some fun details–about snails!

My most recent whimseybox kit was a calligraphy how-to, and I spent hours working on my stroke. When it came to my final project, I didn’t care for the suggested phrases (one of which was “Ain’t nobody got time for that”). I decided to use part of a Langston Hughes poem instead, and then I added a pretty watercolor snail in the corner.

IMG_0546I hung up my new artwork in place of the Easter Egg I had made before 🙂

Here’s the full poem:

Little Snail

                                               Langston Hughes

Little snail,

                Dreaming as you go.

            Weather and rose

         Is all you know.

             Weather and rose

     Is all you see,

Drinking

        The dewdrop’s

Mystery.

IMG_0535

Isn’t that a lovely poem? It reminded me of the name of my blog, for one! 😉 Here are some other cool snail-related things:

1. There is a type of snail in Japan that can survive being eaten by birds!

2. Click here to look at some neat snail pictures on National Geographic’s website.

3. Watch the link below to see an odd “Green Porno” that explains the interesting mating habits of snails (if you dare!)

Well, that’s all for now! See you soon with some coffee-related fun 🙂
xx