Seen/Heard/Tried · Travel

Weekend Trip to Hakone

Last weekend for our anniversary we decided to visit Hakone, an area known for hot springs and its active volcano (which will possibly erupt any day now…). I know that may same like a strange choice of local, but Chad loves hot springs and I was ready to have a getaway with pretty scenery. Little did I know that I was in for some serious uphill climbing before the relaxing part would come!IMG_2213 IMG_2218Lunch after arriving in Hakone: Tempura Soba Set IMG_2227So in the above picture, you can see a cable car that could take you up the mountain to your hotel or ryokan (Japanese style inn) of choice. Chad mistakenly thought taking the cable car was expensive, so we proceeded on foot. Later, after I almost died from climbing, we found out that the cable car was only around 170 yen… I handled this very gracefully because I am perfect. (I actually almost cried haha.) IMG_2229This was taken about a quarter of the way up, before I realized that we were only a quarter of the way upIMG_2230Finally, we arrived at our ryokan. It was pretty creepy to be honest, but the room was nice enough. We were able to relax and be together, and that was the most important thing. Well, besides dinner. Dinner, dinner, dinner. Where could we find dinner? IMG_2232It turned out that nearly the entire area around us had absolutely no restaurants or shops or anything. We found one place that was expensive, and several others that were closed, so we decided to go all the way back down to the station to see if any restaurants were open down there. I was super tired, but I tried to be positive and happy (and that part really is true). When we got to the station, everything that had been open earlier had closed. The time being only 7:00, we started to feel a bit defeated. Fortunately, we were able to make the last cable car of the day (which was at 7:05!), and we headed back up to the one expensive restaurant we had seen that was thankfully still open. IMG_2242I ordered a tempura set (I know, second one of the day! But it looked better than the other options). Above were some of the sides: delicious tofu, gel fish (which I thought had a strange texture and passed along to Chad), and tsukemono (pickled vegetables).  IMG_2243                                                   Chad ordered a steak meal.IMG_2244Here’s my tempura set. It was really nice. Once our bellies were full, we headed back to the hotel where Chad enjoyed the hot springs while I relaxed in our room before bed.IMG_2248The next day, we woke up for our breakfast at our hotel. Above you can see dried horse mackerel being reheated on a little grill.  IMG_2249 IMG_2250Here is the list of everything included in our breakfast. IMG_2253This is our hotel from the outside. IMG_2254I don’t know if this gives you a clear enough idea of how steep our climb up was, but I get sore just looking at it. After descending the mountain again, we headed to the Hakone Open Air Museum, which was my favorite part of our trip. There are loads of sculptures outside, as well as a few inside exhibits. IMG_2262 This exhibit showed music through bamboo. It was really neat.IMG_2265 Light, shadows and sound.IMG_2268From the other side… IMG_2269 IMG_2277A labyrinth! IMG_2281I really enjoyed the indoor Picasso exhibit–it reminded me of when we went to the Picasso museum in Barcelona years ago. Picasso had a really interesting life! IMG_2290Fortunately there was a foot bath located about halfway through the museum.IMG_2298This was a Symphony of Glass tower. I wasn’t super psyched to climb it, but it was really pretty in the end.  IMG_2291 IMG_2292The view from the top of the tower. IMG_2295 IMG_2296Pretty glass inside.  IMG_2305
Chad and I both really loved the Open Air Museum. We had a convenient store lunch afterwards on a bench outside, hopped on a train, and headed home to relax some more. The entire time, no matter how physically tired I got, I felt immensely thankful that I was able to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary together. There is no one for me like my Chad, who lifts me up and loves me always.

I hope you enjoyed seeing pictures from our little weekend getaway, and that you’ve been able to get some relaxing in yourself!

xx Caitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Spring Bucket List

Spring Bucket List Update!

As of a few days ago, summer has officially arrived! I figure that means this is a good time to update you on how my Spring Bucket List went, and to get started on a new one for summer! (You can find my original list here!)

1. Start running at least 1 mile every weekday √ I’m going to give this one a check because I did it for nearly two months, and for the majority of the days I did it, I ran 1.5 miles to 5K each time. Some health stuff (nothing to worry about!) got in the way of me completing the goal all the way through, but I’m still pretty proud of what I did do!

2. Go to Studio Ghibli – We didn’t get a chance to go to the Ghibli museum yet (something to move onto my Summer Bucket List!), but we did go to another museum called the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. The museum itself was pretty cool–most of it featured art deco-inspired design, and it also had a pretty garden outside. We went to see an exhibit about masks around the world, and were disappointed to find very little English, but on the bright side we were able to take a couple fun pictures at the end! IMG_2057 IMG_20583. Find an oven and start baking again – still on the search, unfortunately!!

4. Try chocolate matcha fondue √ did it! I even made a video for the Epicurean Baristas, but I never got around to editing it. Here is some photographic evidence, though!
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The set came with ice cream, puff pastry squares, mochi, a few slices of strawberry, and some unusual jello konnyaku type things. The set cost nearly 1000 yen, and honestly wasn’t that great. But, I’m still glad I tried it!!

5. Find Japanese Lessons – Everywhere I’ve looked so far for lessons has been really expensive, and I haven’t been able to find volunteer lessons that take place outside of my working hours. Don’t know if this one will be getting checked off while we’re in Tokyo!

6. Make one creative project a week (in addition to art journaling) √ Sometimes my projects tied in with #9 on my list, but sometimes they were just chance (like when we painted our pretty little totes at the Hydrangea Festival).

7. Read 3 Books √ I read Land of Love and Drowning, Yes Please, and Lucky Us. I liked Yes Please by Amy Poehler the most because it made me laugh and had a lot of quotable sections I want to remember.

8. Try 3 New Cafes – I tried Bear Pond Espresso, which was amazing (read about my experience here), and Streamer Coffee Co., which was also amazing. I was so close to checking off this one, but to be honest, the two new cafes I did visit were so fabulous I have no regrets!

9. Decorate our kitchen √ I made an easy and fun Photo Garland, as well as a little Wall Art.

10. Start Montessori Certification – This one is still in the works! We’ve had a bit of money transferring hoopaloo to get through, so I’m just trying to be a patient peach!

11. Write more – Um…to be honest…I don’t think I really did this one at all! Something to consider working on in the coming months!

12. Try new cocktails/wine – Can you believe I didn’t get around to checking this off? I guess beer is just what always seemed to be happening for me!

13. Go on at least one picnic √ We had several, including the ones at Koishikawa Botanical Garden and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

14. Try at least two new recipes √ I tried several new recipes, one of which was Rice Cooker Spanish Rice, a kitchen experiment that turned out super yummy!

15. Have a Ladies Night √ One night after helping set up a new campus for our school I went out with a few girls for dinner, but I’d really like to do more in the future!

We had a lot of fun in the spring months, and I enjoyed checking things off my first ever Spring Bucket List. I’ll get hopping on my Summer Bucket List for 2015 for you soon, but in the meantime I’d love to hear about some fun things you did this past spring! Tell me in the comments below 🙂

xx Caitlyn

 

Seen/Heard/Tried · Travel

Misaki Port & Jogushima Island

It’s rainy season in Japan, so amidst being quite busy at work, we’ve had a lot of cloudy, gloomy weather that sometimes makes us feel like…well…like we need to ESCAPE!!!! Especially living in Tokyo, which often feels kind of imposing with building after building after building. So, we decided to take a day trip using the Misaki Maguro Kippu, a day pass that provides 1) Transportation to & from Shinagawa and Misaki Port, as well as around Misaki Port and Jogushima Island, 2) a free activity for the day, and 3) a free meal at one of the many restaurants that specialize in tuna.IMG_2063 IMG_2067 IMG_2069 IMG_2073The entire area is famous for tuna, and the locals claim their tuna is better than even Tsukiji‘s! A big fish market there sold toroman, which is like nikuman but with tuna, and we decided to split one as a mid-morning snack. It was kind of weird, but that could be because we were just expecting normal nikkuman flavor. IMG_2075 IMG_2076 IMG_2077 IMG_2082
For our meal, we decided to go to Kurobatei, a restaurant made famous by the show Bizarre Foods (click to see the episode), that mostly sells really delicious, normal food.IMG_2081 In Bizarre Foods, the host orders the tuna head, which apparently needs to be requested 3 days in advance, and is oven cooked for at least four hours before serving. Needless to say, this is not the dish we tried.
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                                        A little truck outside the restaurantIMG_2086
                                                      Parts of the tunaIMG_2089Chad ordered a sashimi boat that came with rice and miso soup. IMG_2090There was a crazy fish head looking at him throughout the meal… IMG_2091I ordered the tempura set, which also came with some sashimi in the bowl (and of course, miso soup!). Everything was really delicious, and the staff were incredibly friendly. We were so glad we tried Kurobatei, a place we never would have gone if it weren’t for our Misaki Maguro Kippu! IMG_2095 IMG_2098 IMG_2101
After lunch I chose to go to a glass shop to use my activity ticket. I made a little jar with a kitty cat and Mount Fuji resting on some layered sand (picture on instagram soon!). Then we grabbed a couple donuts from Misaki Donuts and took the bus to the very beautiful Jogashima.IMG_2110 IMG_2111
The donuts had a really nice mochi mochi texture. This was a berry donut.IMG_2112On Jogashima, everywhere you walked you saw beautiful nature. The entire little island is just so refreshing and relaxing. *sighs* IMG_2115
Can you see the old, broken down shrine in the cave back there?IMG_2117 IMG_2118We hiked all over the island. (Pardon my crazy hair–there was a nice breeze all day!)  IMG_2122 IMG_2133
The water was so clear! From the picture it may look like just a bunch of shells, but actually, the whole area was bustling with hermit crabs and other crabs alike! They were really fun to watch (until Chad starting chasing a crab toward me and I thought I might break my ankle running away 😉 ).IMG_2134 IMG_2137 IMG_2138IMG_2144 IMG_2143
Our trip ended with Chad using his activity ticket to go to an onsen (hot spring) while I soaked my feet in a little foot bath and watched the sunset. We had such a nice day trip, and plan to try and go on more little weekend adventures in the future!

Where is a place you’ve gone on a day trip recently, or a place you’d like to go? Our trip was quite spontaneous, so perhaps you’ll be on your next day trip sooner than you think, too!

xx Caitlyn

P.S. If you’re living in the Tokyo area and you’re wondering about the Misaki Maguro Kippu, it can be purchased at most Keikyu stations (we got ours when we transferred at Shinagawa) for around 3000 yen. This turns out to be quite a good deal, saving you about 2000 yen on average.

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

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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

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This guy *swoons*

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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.
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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!
xxCaitlyn

Around Town · Seen/Heard/Tried

Saturday Sights in Shibuya

Thank goodness for weekends. We had a lazy start today (like last weekend!), eating French toast, drinking coffee and watching Game of Thrones. Then when we were thinking of how to spend our afternoon, I remembered that Chad had said he thought Shibuya was a cool area, so I decided to see what we might be able to do out that way today. I chose three main places I wanted to go: Theobroma Musee du Chocolat, Nata de Christiano’s, and Streamer Coffee. We started our journey by walking through Yoyogi Park to Theobroma, where I purchased three chocolates for us to split later.IMG_1366IMG_1401

The one that looks like a mix between a miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and a tiny cupcake was hazelnut and milk chocolate. The one in the back right had a bit of framboise action happening (and was my favorite), and then the other (left) was a honey infused chocolate. IMG_1371After leaving Theobroma, we headed about a block over to Nata de Christiano’s. This tiny bakery specializes in egg tarts, and though I’ve made some decent ones in the past, I’ve never quite been able to make a perfect egg tart. I had to see if Nata de Christiano’s lived up to its reputation!
IMG_1392First of all, let me just say that when I write that the bakery is tiny, I mean tiny. But it is also adorable!
IMG_1390IMG_1372 IMG_1374 IMG_1375 IMG_1376They serve alcohol too!IMG_1377 IMG_1378The staff was very friendly, and the service was prompt.IMG_1380 IMG_1381Don’t they look amazing? THAT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE.IMG_1384 IMG_1386There is absolutely nothing tiny about how fabulous these tarts are, you guys. The puff pastry is just slightly burnt but super buttery and flaky. Contrasting with the crunch of the pastry is the sweet, silky egg tart filling. I just can’t tell you how in love with these tarts I am! Gahhh! I feel like Nata de Christiano would be enough of a reason to go to Shibuya, but after that, we had another great experience at Streamer Coffee.

IMG_1402Streamer Coffee is known in particular for its latte art. The owner, Hiroshi Sawada, was the first Asian to ever become a World Latte Art champion. If you know me at all, though, you know that I don’t care much about latte art if the espresso doesn’t hold its own. But um, you guys? The espresso at Streamers is absolutely awesome.    IMG_1397And I mean, awesome. As in, my latte was one of the best I’ve ever had. Streamers has created its own coffee blend, and the beans are also for sale in the cafe. #pleasegiveme #allthecoffee
IMG_1399 IMG_1400 We had such a successful day in Shibuya! After walking around for several hours, we were ready to go home for dinner. I captured a couple interesting shots on the way home (one is posted below, and the others are on instagram!). Then I worked on a super fun project I can’t wait to share with you tomorrow! (Hint: the project is part of something from my Spring Bucket List!) IMG_1406 Have a lovely weekend friends! I’ll see you back here tomorrow!
xxCaitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried

My Week in Pictures

Yippee! One week after moving into our new apartment, we finally have internet. It took some patience on our part in trying our best to do things in Japanese, and also some patience on the parts of the kind people assisting us, but the important thing is: we did it! 🙂 Now that I’ve got access to internet on my laptop, I’ve got all sorts of posts planned for you. In the meantime, I’ll catch you up on a few fun parts of my week in pictures.IMG_0032Sunday we made omurice, which is basically an omelet filled with tomato-ey rice and chicken. There are all sorts of variations, but we chose an easy (delicious) basic one that provided lots of leftovers for lunch. Yum! IMG_0042Tuesday was a bento night, and I was super excited to find a place that had an EbiKara bento set! The “ebi” part is shrimp tempura, and the “kara” part is karaage (fried chicken). Not necessarily the healthiest, and in this case it was a little burnt, but good nevertheless!

IMG_0048We’ve been drinking a ton of this Kagome fruit and veggie juice. I like it better than V-8 juice, and I think that’s because the base leans more on carrots than tomatoes. It’s always fun to make things fancy by using a little glass to drink from!IMG_0047Speaking of lovely drink-ware, I’ve been drinking peppermint tea out of this pretty mug one of my besties made for me ❤ IMG_0087And speaking of besties, I set up a picture of some of my girls and I in the kitchen (a place all of us love!), along with the first pretty plant of our apartment. I think I’ll be adding more plants soon!IMG_0045Next up: cake heaven. We were spoiled at work, and decided to janken (or rock, paper, scissors) for our choice of cake. Chad got the one above.IMG_0044                        My partner chose this one, which had coffee and chocolate notes.IMG_0046I got the one pictured above: a light, dreamy strawberry cake. My goal is to be able to make pretty cakes like these by the end of this year!IMG_0052Some of you may have seen this picture on instagram, but we were really excited to see snow in Tokyo. I know everyone in Michigan is rolling their eyes at me, but our experience with snow in Japan is pretty rare, so we had fun with it!IMG_0054Chad was king of the castle on Friday, feeling extremely happy to have a beer at the end of the week 😉IMG_0078I was feeling pretty happy on Friday too, because I have a really fun teaching partner! Love her! 🙂 IMG_0086Last but not least, Saturday night’s snack. Yuki no Yado Senbei (sweet rice crackers) and milk tea ❤

What are some fun things you enjoyed over the last week?
xxCaitlyn