Monday Matters

Monday Matters

Well, even though I worked over the holiday, today is the first official day back. It’s nice to see familiar old faces, and to see the bright, smiling, eager faces of new trainees. This job is a lot of work, but man will I ever miss it. I feel so sad to think about leaving my kids, leaving the teachers who have become such close friends, and leaving the school. But, not yet! Not yet.

Chad and I have been holding to our cherry blossom viewing plans–we went last night (with a mini feast of tacos, apples, mandarin oranges and soda/beer), and today with a Japanese style fast-food set (Yoshinoya for those of you who might know or be interested in knowing). We bought something to hold us over after the training at a 100 yen Convenience store, and the receipt was so cute! I’ll miss that about Japan.

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Okay, enough! I’m not leaving yet! 🙂 Enjoy your week–I hope you find a little something cute to brighten your day.

Seen/Heard/Tried

Impermanence

Since around the middle of last week, the cherry blossoms finally started blooming around Kobe, and with them endless tarps have been laid out with friends, family and food from morning till night. I’ve written before about how in Japan everyone loves getting together during Cherry Blossom season. There is such a feeling of relaxation and of having a good time with good company–of living the “good life” even just for a few hours with cherry blossoms in view.

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Of course, there is also the deep feeling of impermanence associated with the season, which Chad and I felt even from the weekend. We were walking along and noticed that although the blossoms just started blooming fully, some of them were already beginning to be replaced with fresh, green leaves! Both of us voiced our sadness at the sight, committing to as much cherry blossom viewing as possible until the season ends.

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Our view from Cherry Blossom viewing at lunch near Shin Kobe today.

I was thinking about our feelings of immediacy, of wanting to capture as much as we could in the little time we have. I think we’ve felt that way in cherry blossom seasons before, but I guess knowing this will be our last one while living in Japan makes it a bit more poignant. And I know it’s cliché, but while recognizing the impermanence of the cherry blossoms, I’ve been feeling like it’s so important to appreciate the fragility and fleeting nature of life–even the passing of the joyful moments in life (the birth of a child, making a child laugh, enjoying a vacation, celebrating at a wedding…). Ultimately, considering this short, beautiful season makes me overwhelmed with gratitude (and at the same time, a little sad). I’m so thankful for even the smallest joys each day.

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
― Kobayashi Issa, Poems

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What little (or big) joy are you appreciating today?

Food & Cooking · Tried

Spring Donuts & Pretty Purikura

Ever since I saw this post on how to make matcha donuts, I’ve been begging Chad to get some. (We have a crappy convectional oven that makes me angry every time I bake, so I’ve banned myself from baking until we come home to the states and have a real oven!) Yesterday I had to take a trip to one of our campuses for work, which just so happens to have a Krispy Kreme donut shop near it! So of course, I decided I’d better get this matcha donut fix out of the way.

I got four flavors: Sakura (cherry blossom), Chocolate Custard Cream, Matcha Old Fashioned, and Cookies & Cream. Chad and I split the Matcha and Sakura donuts last night–yum!

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These–if nothing else–made the hour and a half trip out there worth it!

As you can see, I’ve spent way too much time this morning playing with a new app I downloaded called DecoAlbum. I really like it as it is easy to use and has a lot of cute options. Best of all, it’s free! Who says I can’t have a little Purikura (or Japanese photo-booth) magic when I move back to Michigan?

I also tried another purikura-style app called GirlsCamera, but it wasn’t as easy to navigate and kept crashing. I was particularly sad after trying to decorate a picture for nearly an hour and it crashed! The only reason I consider keeping it is because it has a frame with the phrase, “It’s a new day. I like running with scissors because it makes me feel dangerous.” Ahh, such Japanese English.

What apps have you been playing around with lately? Do the donut shops near you have any interesting flavors?

Uncategorized

Nothing like suspense to get you running!

So nearly a year ago I became more serious about running and bought a new pair of shoes. I was back in the states for a little over a week, so I was able to get what I thought was my size in what I thought was a good shoe. I think the shoes (Asics) were probably pretty good, though the salesmen clearly had no idea what he was talking about. Unfortunately for me, though, when I got back to Japan, the shoes felt too small! I know now that the fit can depend on the time of the day you try them on, and that there should actually be room between your toe and the front of the shoe and so on, but I was kind of out of luck because it is nearly impossible to find my size in Japan. I ended up running my first 10K in October for the RUN10FEED10 race in those shoes, and then continued running in them until my knees started hurting (my last run was on New Year’s Day). After going to the clinic last week, I was told I could still run as long as I had supportive shoes and stopped if my knees hurt while running. Then, coincidentally, yesterday I actually found my size running shoe! I promised Chad that if I could buy new shoes, I would start running again, four times a week, with a minimum of 2 miles each time.

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These are my new, beautiful Nike Lunar Glides.

I wanted to be smarter this time than the last time I bought shoes, so I looked up lists of top running shoes and watched a video review of these on runnersworld.com. I also spoke extensively–at least, as extensively as my poor Japanese would allow–to the salesperson and she helped me a lot. (She, unlike the guy I had spoken to in the states, seemed to know what she was talking about!) Today was a moment of truth as I headed out the door for my first run in them. And…it was great!

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I usually run about a ten minute mile comfortably, so I was happy with my time today after having taken a break from running for a couple of months. The shoes felt amazing–very light, yet supportive. Also amazing was revisiting an Old Time Radio Show I used to listen to called Suspense!.

Source

Although I sometimes listen to music while running, I usually prefer to listen to podcasts. Last weekend I was listening to The Story on NPR and they were talking about Old Time Radio shows, so I decided to start listening to them again. I chose a particularly eery episode of Suspense! called “Zero Hour” (you can download it for free on iTunes, if you’d like!) to run to today. Nothing to distract you from any running discomfort like an episode of Suspense!, I’ll tell you that much! I barely noticed I was running, and if I did I usually still felt happy because there were so many Cherry Blossom trees blooming everywhere.

Do you like running? If so, what do you like to listen to while you run?

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I saw this inspiring quote on Facebook the other day…

Have a happy Thursday! The weekend is almost here.

Uncategorized

Forcing Spring

Chad and I seem to think that if we put away our winter jackets and throw on sandals, the weather will listen and we’ll keep getting warm spring days like we did last week. Unfortunately we’ve been realizing we can’t force spring, despite our best efforts. On the bright side, even though it was quite cold today, it was sunny the cherry blossoms have begun to bloom!

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We had a picnic lunch of ham, cheese & spinach wraps, walnut, peanut & raisin mix, kiwi, and an aloe yogurt, with a view of the cherry blossoms and a pagoda.

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Sorry for the bad photo–the sun disappeared just as I tried to take pictures of the blossoms!

Despite signs warning against it, Chad fed a few scraps to some pigeons. He was especially fond of one that had a peg-leg, so he would try and shoo the other pigeons away from that one so it could eat.

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To our credit, we didn’t see the sign until we had already started tossing a few crumbs…

It was chilly, but we still had fun. And who knows, maybe the weather forecast is right and it’ll get warmer by next week! We’ve got a lot more cherry blossom viewing planned, so here’s to hoping!

Are you enjoying the prolonged cold weather?

Monday Matters · Seen/Heard/Tried

Lately…

Today I spent a good portion of my day at work, which is kind of a bummer since I’m technically on holiday, but at the same time not too bad. Once I get started working it is so hard to stop, hence the reason I’m on my way home now, at around 8:00 on this super cold night. Anyway, I also had to work a bit on the weekend too, but on the side I watched two movies: Lincoln (slow, but interesting), and Argo (good, but super tense). I know it’s a very cliche thing to say, but with both movies I felt so saddened by what humans are capable of–saddened by killing and war.

I also started watching a new documentary “shorts” series with Chad called Crash Course World History. We’ve watched about 5 episodes so far and really like it. You can watch them for free, too, by going to Watch Documentary. (There is also a Crash Course series for biology, but it’s a bit over my head.)

We were able to meet some friends on Sunday for lunch, and one of them took this lovely photo of Kobe Tower with cherry blossoms:

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Later that day I saw this pretty cherry blossom wine I might have to try:

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And earlier that day I saw dancing dragons in the China Town:

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I indulged myself and bought a sparkly Rilakkuma pencil and these adorable socks:

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He’s like, “Look everybody! I’m super cute and I’m drinking coffee! Don’t you wish you had coffee?”

And saw these three confused station attendants:

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How was your weekend? Is your Monday off to a good start?

Friday Five

Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in March

Happy March! I am so excited for the upcoming break, although I’ll be sad to let go of my students. The last day of the term will be tough, but luckily I have I lot to look forward to!

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1. Trip to Tokyo– the last time we went to Tokyo, we couldn’t go to the Studio Ghibli museum because tickets were sold out, and we didn’t get a chance to go to the famous Tsukiji Fish market because we were with a close friend who has a serious aversion to fish. Ever since I read this post from justhungry.com, I’ve really wanted to visit the Ghibli museum (and then there’s also my love of the sweet film Totoro). Hopefully both plans work out this time around!

2. Trip to Mie– I always love meeting up with our friends from the area we used to live in Japan, and to top it off, there are some amazing ramen shops out that way.

3. Trip to Pocky Factory in Hyogo– Pocky is involved. Need I say more?

4. Cherry Blossom Viewing– Absolutely one of my favorite parts of Japanese culture. Picnics, day or night, under the blossoms with friends…it doesn’t get much better than that!

5. Coursera Classes, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Fitness, RELAXING– I am so excited to be taking some really interesting-looking courses for free via Coursera, including a philosophy class called Know Thyself, and an Intro to Art class that is hands-on. The art class doesn’t start in March, so I’m going to try and get an extra fix by finally trying to do the entire Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

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Of course in between all of my studies I’ll need to get up and get some exercise, and without the stress of work and quite as many to-do’s, hopefully I’ll have more energy to do so! Ultimately all of the things on my list will lead to a very relaxing, fruitful month.

What kind of fun are you planning this month?

*Note: Once again, I worked late and couldn’t actually post this on a Friday! We went out for Chinese, and then pretty much drank tea and went to bed. The end is in sight, the end is in sight!

Monday Matters

I get by with a little help from my friends (and good Turkish food, cappucino’s, macarons and bentos)

We had a work Ladies Night Out on Saturday, and after waking up that morning feeling exhausted and having an earache, I started to consider canceling. While internally debating what I should do, I came upon this article on Brain Pickings that quoted Anais Nin:

“The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters, meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked.”

There was my answer! I’ve been spending a good deal of time working, catching up on work, and going to the doctors, and I’m going to be leaving the country (and those lovely ladies!) behind quite soon. I needed to take advantage of the time I had with people who are important to me! I became determined to feel better, and went out with what turned out to be a very small party of fun women at a Turkish restaurant.

I had really wanted to take a group photo, but I only managed to take a few badly lit photos of dinner and this one below of dessert:

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Have you ever tried Turkish Delights? These were pretty good, but I’ve really been wanting to try this recipe, which makes Turkish Delights that are quite pretty! They would go perfectly on or next to some Turkish dishes or pottery, such as the ones below:

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You can find all of these pretty dishes and more by clicking here for the source.

The next day, Chad and I had a Starbucks date that cheered me up. We tried sakura (cherry blossom) flavored macarons. They were so nice!

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I had my usual tall cappucino.

And that brings us to tonight! Chad and I are both pooped from work, so it’s a bento night for us!

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Thank goodness for good friends, good food, and excellent coffee! What’s getting you through the week?