Projects · Travel

Home in Michigan

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?

xx Caitlyn

**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.

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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

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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