Seen · Travel

Happy spring!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!!

Happy spring!
xx Caitlyn

Uncategorized

Spring 2015 Bucket List

Happy weekend everyone! After a very busy month and kind of a stressful couple of weeks personally, I have been so grateful for a weekend of taking things easy. Spring is officially here, though the weather has been quite gloomy on our side of the world lately. To cheer myself up and help me let go of anything crummy from recently, I’ve decided to make my first ever Spring Bucket List (a great accompaniment to the autumn and summer ones I’ve been checking off the past couple of years!). Spring 2015 Bucket ListI’m really looking forward to getting back into the habit of checking off items from a fun to-do list. I think these seasonal bucket lists really help me stay motivated and always give me something to be excited about!

What kinds of things are you planning on doing this spring?

xxCaitlyn

Bookspiration · Projects

Bookspiration: The Song of Hiawatha

Several years ago I received the bookย The Song of Hiawatha as a Christmas gift, and though I had read bits and pieces of the epic poem , a few weeks ago I finally got the chance to read the entire thing. It was difficult for me to decide what to make after finishing the book, but after much deliberation, I decided to put some of the text from The Song of Hiawatha over a picture from a recent walk at one of my favorite places in Michigan, Rosy Mound.

First, I chose my picture:

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Then, I spent what felt like three years trying to put text over it the way I wanted. I still didn’t quite achieve the look I was looking to create, but I decided the text was going to have to be good enough.

Live Together

It says:

“All your strength is in your union,

All your danger is in discord;

Therefore be at peace henceforward,

And as brothers live together.”

I printed an enlarged copy of the image at Walmart for about $6, and then modge podged it to an art board purchased for around $5 before a 40% off coupon at one of my local craft stores. Below you can sort of see how it turned out, though the lighting isn’t the best:

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I am not necessarily in love with how the project turned out, but I do love where the photo was taken, and I really like the passage from The Song of Hiawatha. I often think about the power of human connection when I go on walks through nature, and about how to I can be kinder and more loving to others. A message about unity totally seems fitting for a picture taken at Rosy Mound.

Here are some other pictures I took on the lovely spring day last week: IMG_0583

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Hope you got to enjoy some beautiful weather like we had in Michigan over the weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

xx

Projects

Making a Wreath with my Lovely Niece!

It feels like ages ago that I made my pretty fall wreath project, and with the nice spring weather I thought it might be fun to make another wreath, this time with the help of my 4 year old niece, Lydia. I chose bright pink, purple, white and orange flowers, as well as pink ribbon to wrap around the wreath. Lydia’s favorite color is purple, so I was sure to get plenty of purple-colored flowers!

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First, Lydia helped me by cutting strips of ribbon to hot glue onto the wreath form.

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Then, she helped by pulling all of the flowers and leaves off of the stems, placing them in separate piles. I cut off the extra bits of stem while she was working on pulling.

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“This is going to be so pretty!”

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Next, I asked Lydia which flower we should use, and where we should put it. I put some hot glue down, and she placed the flowers. I had her push gently so she wouldn’t burn herself, and then secured them more as necessary. For the leaves, I had her hand me the leaves and point to where I should put them because they were thinner than the petals (once again, I didn’t want her to burn her little fingers!).

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She was super excited when we finished!

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A pretty girl, and a pretty spring wreath!

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We practiced hanging the wreath around Grandma’s house, but Lydia insisted, “It’s going to look even better in my room though, right.” I answered, “I’m sure it will!” Even little girls can help make big girl projects ๐Ÿ™‚

Food & Cooking · Seen

I Spy…

Spring!

It may still be cold, but I’ve been finding bits of springtime (or creating bits of it!) all around me ๐Ÿ™‚ Firstly, I’ve been spying it outdoors…

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Is that water? Oh my gosh, that’s water! THE ICE IS MELTING in Grand Haven! HURRAH!

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This ice was melting from the inside out, creating a little cave!

20140408-191233.jpgBright skies = happy days

Secondly, I’ve been creating a springtime atmosphere to “spy” indoors…!

20140408-191325.jpgNothing like whipping up some Lemon Poppy Seed Scones for a nice spring day. I made my first-ever batch with a nice (cute!) mug of coffee nearby.

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The recipe said to cut the scones into twelve triangles, but I chose to cut the twelve in half again because they were so big. The scones were fantastic!

20140408-191341.jpgI may not be able to start a garden just yet, but I was able to make a cute radish needle felting craft with one of my Whimsey Box kits. I had never heard of needle felting before, but now I’m in love with it. I can’t wait to show you a tutorial featuring the other needle felt cutie I made!

20140408-191348.jpgThere was invigorating spring lemon scent in another of my Whimsey Box kits: homemade lotion and hand scrub.

20140408-191356.jpgI also decided to make some Vanilla Pistachio Cream Puffs because I thought the bright, pastel green color created a nice, light spring feel.

20140408-191403.jpgThe cream puffs were yummy, too, so I decided it would be best to get them out of the house and bring them to work ๐Ÿ™‚

Where have you spied spring?

Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Flower Pressings & Happy Spring

Today is officially the first day of spring, though there is still plenty of visible snow in my part of Michigan. Despite the cold, I’m feeling hopeful that nicer weather is around the corner, and I plug my ears and shout “LALALALALA” every time someone tries to tell me otherwise. (Don’t judge me. We all have different ways of dealing with this evil, never-ending winter, and this is one of mine.)

Apparently, today is also National Happiness day. Things that made me happy today? Discovering a new bakery, relaxing with my kitties, and working on some art journaling in my craft room (my craft room in itself makes me happy!). One new thing I’ve been trying out to add to some art journaling pages has been making pressed flowers.

IMG_0117Years ago my parents gave me a Microfleur Flower Press for Christmas, and I went searching for it last week to preserve some flowers that were special to me. Using the Microfleur is super easy: you just put flowers in between the cotton liners, wool pads and vented platens, put clips in place to hold everything together, and then microwave the flowers in short bursts until dry. IMG_0118

In the first picture, I laid out some flowers, and in this picture you can see that I clipped the Microfleur shut.IMG_0119

After the first burst of heat from the microwave, I checked to see how the flowers looked so far. One nice thing about the stage after the first bit of heat is that the flowers are usually still a little damp so you can do some rearranging before subsequent heating.

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Above you can see how the flowers turned out.

IMG_0122I did three sets of flowers from the bouquet I received, and thought they all turned out rather pretty.

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I used glue dots and Mod Podge to attach them to my art journaling pages a few days later, which worked pretty well (though, I’ll be honest, the flowers are so fragile that attaching them was a little stressful!). Have you ever tried drying flowers? What method did you use to preserve them, and if you attached them to something, what was your approach?

Hope you’re having a pleasant first day of spring, and that there are loads of things bringing you happiness today!

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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 clichรฉ, 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.

โ€œWhat a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.โ€
โ€• 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

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?