We’ve been back in Michigan a little over two months now and we’re getting settled more and more. Some things are easy to get used to (doctors speaking fluent English! more affordable food!), and other things a little harder (no trains! where are the vending machines and convenient stores? where is the RAMEN!?).
It’s been super fun introducing Lillian to family and friends, and in between time spent taking care of her I’ve been able to start making my own bread again (this book is great if you want to start making your own, too!), prepare freezer meals for those really busy days (the BBQ Beef & Carrots and the Honey Dijon Chicken & Potatoes from this set of meals were fabulous so far!), and work on some crafty projects here and there–like this hedgehog cross stitch I started when I was pregnant last fall!
I never thought I had the patience for cross stitch, but I decided to give it a try again after making these little matryoshka. I usually worked on the hedgehog and mushroom project while listening to a podcast when Lillian was napping (my current favorites are Invisibilia and Gastropod, you?), or while rocking her to sleep. If I was rocking her I often just had classical nap time music playing, and found I’d get lost in The Flow of sewing–very meditative! I guess I found a patience I didn’t know I had!
This cross stitch was a kit I purchased from sewingseed, and I was really happy with it. All of the thread was pre-cut and organized, and there were clear instructions for a beginner. Sometimes I got sick of having to re-thread my needle so frequently, but at least I didn’t end up waving anyone up for dinner**. Fortunately, I remembered my mom always used magnets and a magnetic board to help keep her place when doing cross stitch and was able to purchase a cheap set. I think I would have experienced a lot more frustration trying to keep my place with the pattern had I not gotten place-keepers! I definitely appreciate all of the lovely cross stitching my mother has done even more after making one myself.
I’ve got one more cross stitch project to go, and after that I’m not sure if I’ll continue with cross stitching or not. Somehow it feels like I should be making my own design rather than doing someone else’s, sort of like when doing adult coloring. I enjoy both, but I feel like I want to take things a step farther and create more from my own imagination! What do you think?
**Once in a crafting meetup in Tokyo our lovely Russian teacher told us a short sewing-related folktale: In old times, people felt they should give soldiers passing by a meal. One day a woman was sewing with such long thread that she was waving her arm in and out of the window and a soldier–thinking it was an invitation for a meal–came up to ask what was for dinner! You can read another little tale she told us here.
The final countdown is on: less than two weeks until we pack up our (many) bags and haul ourselves to another country! We’ve made the move back and forth from Michigan and Japan several times, but this will be the first time making the journey with a sweet baby in tow (who also happens to get pretty fussy whenever she’s away from home!). I’m a little nervous about a lot of different things, but I just keep telling myself we can make it through anything if we’re all together! Let the packing begin! Messy, messy…!
In the meantime, we’ve been trying our best to get ready for the move in between making sure our little sweet pea’s needs are met. This may be the last time living in Japan for us (at least for a while), so we’re been doing our best to get a fill of some of the things we’ll miss the most! My top three? Friends, food and pastries! (Specifically yakiniku, ramen & rice balls for food, and amazing cakes & cream puffs from our favorite bakery for pastries!).
Wait, can I add a couple more? I’ll also really miss cute Japanese gardens and cherry blossom season! And barley tea! And…well, I guess I’ll miss a lot…!
What would you miss the most about where you’re living if you had to pick up and move? Wish us luck–things are getting a little messy around here!! 😉
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 🙂 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!!
It’s hard to believe that a year ago today we arrived in Tokyo after a rather tiring journey from Michigan. Tokyo is the third place we’ve lived in Japan, preceded by living first in Yokkaichi (Mie prefecture) and then by living in Kobe a couple of years later. We didn’t really know what to expect from Tokyo–after all, it seemed impossible any location could live up to the love we had (and have!) for Kobe. As we promised our company we’d open a new campus for our school in Tokyo and stay planted there until March of 2016, we knew we would have to make the most of the big city no matter how it compared to Kobe…and so our year in Tokyo began.
The Tokyo Sky Tree
Over the past year we’ve gone places like Tsukiji Fish Market and Studio Ghibli. We’ve been to several gardens, bakeries and cafes, and took our third trip to Thailand (which you can never visit too often, if you ask me!). We tried two Michelin Star-rated restaurants (one French and the other Japanese), and got to try Bear Pond Espresso (made famous by A Film About Coffee). We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, my 30th birthday, and the exciting news that we’re going to be having a baby soon!
Rilakkuma plushes dressed up like monkeys for the New Year.
Of course, we’ve had challenges while living in Tokyo, too, but overall we feel lucky to have had such an interesting, eventful year (after all, the paragraph above barely touches on everything we’ve been up to!). With a baby due soon, I have a feeling this year will be equally–if not more!–eventful, and I’m super excited about it! I’ll be posting soon to finally give a recap of this year’s fall bucket list and to tell you a little about our Christmas in Tokyo. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of your highlights from 2015!
Now that we’re several days into fall I think it’s time for an update/recap on my Summer Bucket List for this year!
- Read at least three books [√] — Check out this Bookspiration post to learn more!
- Do yoga at least 4 times a week [X] — I thought I was going to be one of those glowing, energetic pregnant women–HA! But I have been walking every day, and I try and squeeze in yoga and other exercise when I’m not dead from work.
- Celebrate our 7th anniversary [√] — We went to Hakone and really enjoyed the Open Air Museum (read more here).
- Try paper quilling [√] — I made a pretty sunflower card and really enjoyed the craft (see my card here)!
- Eat s’mores [X] — You know, I didn’t get around to s’mores this summer. I did, however, enjoy a lot of early-released fall treats, so I think I made up for it!
Left: sweet potato Kit Kats and chestnut flavored taiyaki; Right: chestnut flavored soft oreos, pumpkin flavored Kit Kats, and sweet potato chips. You can heat up both the types of kit kats. I didn’t try them warm, but they were yummy as is!
- Go swimming [√] — I was lucky to go swimming in a hotel pool during our Thailand trip, and then again at Shirahama Beach with Chad and his brother Quint.
Chad and Quint running into the gorgeous water.
Baby bump at 22 weeks (about two weeks ago, and already looking small to me!)
- Make a hot air balloon craft [X] — I had all the best intentions, really. But I’ll be working on an easy one this week.
- Try kirigami [X] — Once again, good intentions on this one. It’s been moved to my Fall Bucket List, though!
- Go to Studio Ghibli [X] — Oh my goodness you guys. It is impossible to get tickets on weekends or on any other days we have off. I will keep trying again and again until we leave Tokyo!
- Enjoy kakigori (Japanese shaved ice) [√] — I had some lovely strawberry milk kakigori after visiting Sandanbeki Caves with Chad and Quint.
Above: One view from the caves.
The “milk” was actually sweetened condensed milk. Mmmmmmm….!
I also tried a totally different version of shaved ice in Thailand called “Ruam-mit.” My Thai friend says that means “mixing everything together.” Below you can see the stand with choices you can make for your own bowl, and then the four different bowls we sampled with our friends. We liked the ones with coconut milk the best!
- Go on a picnic [√] — we went on several 🙂
- Have a fancy night dressed up around town [√] — Um, do you remember when we went to Chez Olivier? We actually went back again when Quint was here, too. Still drooling at the thought of both visits….
- Do at least 3 Writing Prompts [X] — I did one writing prompt, and really didn’t like it. Time got in the way of trying for another two.
- See fireworks [√/X] — So I didn’t actually see live fireworks, but I did do a really cool craft with my students. Here’s the link on pinterest!
- Do pirikura [√] — As you know from my last post, I totally got down with this one and used it as a baby announcement!
All in all I’d say I gave this year’s bucket list a pretty good go, especially considering I was primarily in my first trimester for a good chunk of it! My fall bucket list is ready now, too, so I’ll be sharing that soon!
What are some fun things you did this summer?
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! Lunch after arriving in Hakone: Tempura Soba Set So 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.) This was taken about a quarter of the way up, before I realized that we were only a quarter of the way up. Finally, 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? It 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. I 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). Chad ordered a steak meal.Here’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.The next day, we woke up for our breakfast at our hotel. Above you can see dried horse mackerel being reheated on a little grill. Here is the list of everything included in our breakfast. This is our hotel from the outside. I 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. This exhibit showed music through bamboo. It was really neat. Light, shadows and sound.From the other side… A labyrinth! I 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! Fortunately there was a foot bath located about halfway through the museum.This was a Symphony of Glass tower. I wasn’t super psyched to climb it, but it was really pretty in the end. The view from the top of the tower. Pretty glass inside.
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!
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. The 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.
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. 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.
A little truck outside the restaurant
Parts of the tunaChad ordered a sashimi boat that came with rice and miso soup. There was a crazy fish head looking at him throughout the meal… I 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!
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.
The donuts had a really nice mochi mochi texture. This was a berry donut.On Jogashima, everywhere you walked you saw beautiful nature. The entire little island is just so refreshing and relaxing. *sighs*
Can you see the old, broken down shrine in the cave back there? We hiked all over the island. (Pardon my crazy hair–there was a nice breeze all day!)
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 😉 ).
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!
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.