Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ode to High School French

You know you took high school French! If you're cool, you took it. Anyways, I present to you a music video that actually uses that high school French you never thought you'd use, featuring Flight of the Conchords, my latest obsession. They are hilarious, and hubby and I can't stop watching them (thanks alot, Brenden!). So, without further ado, I present "Foux de Fa Fa":
Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Cake

Christmas in Japan boils down to one main activity--no not opening presents or celebrating the birth of Jesus. It is all about eating Christmas cake. The tradition used to be that the fathers picked up a Christmas cake on their way home from work on Christmas Eve, but with more mothers in the workplace it is common to find them picking a cake up for their families also. Today, I was at the grocery store, and the line at the cake counter was outrageous!
Here is the cake counter:

A 6" cake like this will usually cost you around $25:

The stores really try to get all of the cakes sold by December 25. On December 26th, the cakes will be heavily discounted since no one wants old cake. In fact, there is an insult to woman not married by age 25 here. These unmarried "older" women are referred to as "day-old Christmas cake".

Here is a recipe to make you very own Japanese Christmas cake! If you get good at it, you could move to Japan and make a fortune!
For sponge cake:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp butter
For topping:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsps sugar
Various fruits (strawberries, peaches, cherries, and so on)
Whisk eggs in a bowl. Place the bowl over warm water in another large bowl and whisk further. Add sugar little by little. When the egg mixture becomes light yellow, sift flour and add to the bowl. Mix the flour lightly in the egg mixture.

Mix butter in warm milk. Add mixture of melted butter and milk in the batter and stir gently.
Preheat the oven in 350-degree. Place baking wax papers inside of a round cake pan (18cm). Pour the batter in the pan and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 min. Remove the cake from the pan and cool it on a rack. Cut the cake in half horizontally.

Mix heavy cream and sugar in a bowl. Whip the cream well. Take the half of the whipped cream and mix with chopped fruits. Place the cream on top of a round cake slice. Place another cake slice on top of the cream. Spread the rest of the whipped cream on top and around the cake.
Decorate the cake with colorful fruits and Christmas decorations.
Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Breastfeeder's Christmas

By Andi Silverman,

‘Twas a holiday eve and the babe was asleep,
Swaddled tight in his crib he made not a peep.
My boobs were depleted from feeding all day.
“Please don’t wake. Sleep all night,” to the babe I did pray.

But his lips, how they moved, as he lay in his bed.
Visions of milky breasts danced in his head.
Dad in his boxers and I in my sweats,
Could we get some shuteye? Go ahead, place your bets.

The moon on the breast of my t-shirt did glow,
Gave a luster to leaking spots set to grow.
My nursing pads were soaked, they fell out of place.
My bra had unsnapped. How I missed sexy lace.

For months I’d been feeding our babe everywhere.
Coffee shop, park bench, museum, movie chair.
All my modesty gone, nothing shy anymore.
If the kiddo was crying, I knew how to score.

And now with the holidays, things often got dire.
While out buying gifts, I sometimes drew ire.
I breastfed in clothing stores. Changing rooms rock.
I breastfed in bookstores. To the stacks I did flock.

When from the babe’s room there arose such a clatter.
We sprang from our bed to see what was the matter.
Away to his room we flew with a flash,
Threw open the door, in the dark I did crash.

What a klutz I can be, ‘twas those bags made me fall.
Sacks for our trip, all arranged in the hall.
We were going to Grandma’s, a five hour drive.
Holiday time—Will I make it alive?

One big huge duffle held all the babe’s stuff.
Diapers, wipes, onesies. Did I bring enough?
Now don’t forget burp cloths, crib sheets and toys.
Books and Bjorn, we’ll exhibit such poise.

On breast pump, on bottles, on stroller and boppy.
On car seat, on cradle, on blanket and binky.
Fill the back of the car, fill the trunk with our haul.
And we’ll drive away, drive away, drive away all.

Now don’t forget stopping to feed long the way.
Gas stations, McDonalds and rest stops, oy vey.
Of course there’ll be lots of those diapers to do.
Get out the Purell, you’ll be covered in poo.

When we finally arrive, now what will await?
Lots of food and embraces, it’ll be really great.
No, no one will not fight. I will not shed a tear.
Ok, a white lie— but rejoice in who’s here.

And what about wine or a champagne or two?
Will it make my milk bad? Old wives tale or true?
And will anyone say, “Can he now take a bottle?”
“How long will you breastfeed?” How these questions can throttle.

Now back to that “clatter,” the babe and that noise.
We had rushed right on in, leaping over the toys.
When what to our wondering eyes did appear,
Our babe still asleep, oh how sweet, oh how dear.

His cheeks, how they glistened, his hair soft and furry.
And I smiled when I saw him, despite all my worry.
How delicious, his belly, moving in and then out.
How precious, his lips in a sweet little pout.

He had not woken up! He did not need to eat.
He had had quite enough, his day quite complete.
And so back to our bed we did quietly crawl.
Happy Holidays to one, happy sleeping to all.

Learning to sleep

Since I became a mother, I have been warned of this moment from every other mother I know, except my own. The moment when you have to lay your child in the crib awake and just leave the room. I swore I would never do it, leave my baby to cry alone in the dark. I was even sworn to co-sleeping. But, after having the little one wake every hour or two (three and a half on a great night) for the past nine months and after having tried several "no cry" methods, I got exhausted and ordered a book called "The Sleepeasy Solution", which basically told me to do what I had been dreading. I know, I paid money for a book that tells me what everyone else has already told me, but this book sympathizes and actually tells you to burn the book if you feel terrible in the morning.
So, two nights ago, I did it...I laid baby boy down awake in his crib and nervously sat myself in the living room to wait out the hours of screaming. Well, those "hours" were only twenty minutes and that screaming was more like an annoyed cry. I was amazed.
And this morning, my little man slept in and I had 3 hours to myself!!! Tonight, I laid him down awake, and he rolled onto his tummy and was out like a light. He didn't even want me to rock him in my arms--he wanted to be sleeping in his crib. So, he was ready for it. I don't think I was. There is nothing that can compare to the feeling of seeing your husband and your baby cuddled up together for an afternoon nap...except maybe getting three hours to yourself.
Bye-bye buddy naps...

but hello happy, rested baby
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sugar Rush

I have now tried Mint Truffle Hershey Kisses! My sis decided to send some my way, and they are yummy, like Andes mints. I gave some to my afterschool students, and they couldn't handle the minty taste. It was a bit too strong for them. It looked painful. There are tons of sweets in Japan, just not so much of the strong mint variety. Here is what you'll see upon walking into any large department store:

This tempting display+absence of flouride in the water and toothpaste here=a very happy dentist when I return to the U.S.!
Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Chip

Remember when Ellen DeGeneres bought a happy-faced chip off of eBay last year, and it was a huge hit on her show? And then it was stolen and after a long search, the thief was revealed to be Betty White of the Golden Girls? Oh, you don't? Well, then, I present you with my own happy face chip, found in a bag of Japanese pizza-flavored chips:

Doesn't that just make you happy? Yes, it is a little cheeeeessy...

but I think it rivals this Virgin Mary chip, which doesn't even have cheese on it:

Friday, December 14, 2007


This is on my totally-useless-but-cute wish list. It's a tissue box holder! I saw it on someone's dashboard yesterday, and it looks goofy but it's brilliant!

The same Japanese company that makes the above also makes these cute wallets:

Uh oh, I have a feeling that I will come back to the U.S. decked out in Hello Kitty, and my baby will be dressed like a teddy bear!
Should I embrace it or run from it?!
Monday, December 10, 2007

The Business of Birth

Disclaimer: If you are pregnant and reading this, do not freak out about hospitals if you choose to watch these trailers. Be informed and assertive about what you want for your birth! You can make it happen!

I know this blog is dedicated to things that make me happy, and birth is serious business. However, I was recently directed to the Pregnant in America website by a doula friend of mine. The film was made by a first time dad-to-be with no film experience who wanted to document his wife's journey and their quest for prenatal care in America. It turns out that the U.S. has the second worst newborn death rate in the modern world. The movie rails against hospitals, but in the end, the director's daughter couldn't have survived without hospital intervention. What makes me happy is that this movie features the amazing Ina May Gaskin, one of America's greatest midwives, and Kerrie Tuschoff, the founder of Hypnobabies.

What makes me even MORE happy is The Business of Being Born, a documentary also examining hospital and homebirths and featuring Ricki Lake giving birth at home. This one seems to be a little more uplifting. Both movies should be released at select theaters sometime next year.

Just a side note: I'm very very supportive of homebirth and plan on doing it someday. However, I did have an amazing natural childbirth in a hospital with a supportive certified nurse midwife. My only complaint about my hospital birth was that I got a measly peanut butter sandwich after all that hard work!
Here is a great website about planning on a natural birth, for the many women I know who are expecting: Ten Tips for a Natural Birth.
Saturday, December 8, 2007

Jones Soda

Those of you at my baby shower last year will recall that I requested Jones soda, because it's my favorite. Jones' Blue lemonade is, in my opinion, the best soda ever, and that's something considering I don't drink much soda. It's so sweet, you'll feel the cavities growing! Anyone unfamiliar with Jones soda can learn more here.

In the last few years around Christmas time, Jones has put out limited edition sodas, including Turkey and Gravy and Cranberry Sauce.
Here are the new holiday flavors for 2007!

The Chanukah Pack includes Chocolate Coin, Latke, Applesauce, and Jelly Doughnut flavors:

The Christmas Pack includes Sugar Plum, Christmas Tree, Christmas Ham, and Egg Nog flavors:

Yum! Meanwhile, I took a fun quiz to determine what holiday flavor of Jones soda I'd be.
You Are Smoked Salmon Pate Soda

Tasting like fish ain't so bad!
Friday, December 7, 2007

The Mancho

So, my hubby has been bugging me for three years about crocheting him a sweater with sleeves that reach past his wrists. He is an XXXL here in Japan and can't find sweaters that fit his freakishly long arms, so the bugging has escalated, regardless of the fact that I have no idea how to crochet anything wearable, except ponchos, beanies, and scarves. If he keeps bugging me, he's going to end up with this "mancho":

Just picturing him in this makes me giggle!

The Mancho pattern can be found on the hilarious website:What Not To Crochet,

along with this little beauty of a hat:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Yummy Yucky

Someone here has reached the lovely stage of crawling to anything that's on the floor and stuffing it in his mouth:

So, I was so excited to get this book! It's called Yummy Yucky, by Leslie Patricelli.

We ordered it off Amazon Japan for our kindergarteners, but it is perfect for Cash. It distinguishes that "Soup is yummy. Soap is yucky." I highly recommend it for your little ones! It's really funny. My favorite page is: "Burgers are yummy. Boogers are yucky." All of our students get a kick out of that, while learning a new word! Incidentally, the Japanese word for "boogers" is hanakuso (hana=nose kuso=excrement).
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kisses for You!

How many flavors of Hershey Kisses are there? If you guess-timated over 40, you're right! Of course, some of them were/are limited edition. You can check them all out at Zoe's Hershey's Kiss Collection. I was very excited to learn that there are so many flavors, including Neopolitan and New York Cheesecake. Apparently, Hershey's Kisses are the Japanese KitKats of America! Here are the new flavors for the 2007 holiday season:

Chocolate Mint Truffle ( A friend of mine had these shipped here from America, so apparently they're delicious!):

Hot Cocoa Creme:

Has anyone in my chocolate-loving circle tried these yet?

A Baby Story

Those of you who know me know that I am obsessed with birth stories. I love listening to them. They make me happy--because they are stories of trial and labor that result in a long-awaited miracle. My love for childbirth started when my mom told me my own birth story, while we were on a Greyhound to Wisconsin. She took her time in telling the story and was very detailed--so much that by the end of the story, I felt like I had just given birth (I was fourteen. Maybe a little dramatic.) Giving birth is a life-changing experience. It is a powerful time in a woman's life that will forever be remained. Telling the story of the birth is also very important. It can be a mother-daughter legacy that impacts how generations feel and approach childbirth. I really believe this.
Anyways, the March of Dimes has a free scrapblog up specifically for baby stories. Here is the PSA:

The March of Dimes is about all babies...those born healthy and those that need our help to survive. One out of eight babies is born prematurely in the United States, but there is something you can do to help. Visit Using the latest in web technology, tell your baby’s story in the timeless style of a scrapbook page. You can add text, video or pictures and invite friends to view, add comments or just browse our interactive Story Map. Plus your donations will help fund your local NICUs. With your help and support, we can make sure every baby's story is a happy one. Every baby has a story, tell us yours.

I got so excited about reading so many birth stories that I had to make one:

Cash's Birth Story

It's a little wordy, since I used the birth story as part of my review of Hypnobabies.
Monday, December 3, 2007

Mochi Ice Cream Madness!

Before we left for Japan, my aunt and uncle took us out for Japanese food, where I got some mochi ice cream for dessert. Ohhhhh....I fell in love. It is so delicious but hard to come by in the U.S., unless you live near a Trader Joe's or frequent Japanese restaurants. But here, I can get it every day if I want! (Yes, I want. No, I have not.) Mochi ice cream is basically a round blob of ice cream covered with mochi, a pulverized sticky rice paste, and dusted with powdered sugar.

Below is my favorite treat, Yukimi Daifuku (snow-viewing mochi). It's a very light vanilla flavor with the sweetest, softest ice cream inside:

And just in case you want to make your own:

How to Make Mochi Ice Cream
by Melissa Maroff

Mochi Ice Cream, which traces its American origins to Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, is the melding of the traditional Japanese dessert known as mochi (rice cake) and the classic American favorite, ice cream. Although it may sound intimidating—you don’t have to be an "Iron Chef" to whip some up at home—in about 30 minutes.

Things You'll Need:
10 scoops ice cream (flavor of your choice--like vanilla, strawberry, green tea, or chocolate)
1 cup glutinous-rice flour (mochiko--find it at asian stores with a blue star on the box)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (or splenda)
2 tsp. vanilla
corn flour, for dusting
glass bowl
mixing spoon
plastic wrap
cutting board
airtight container

Step 1: Soften the ice cream, scoop into 10 round balls, and refreeze until hard.

Step 2: Combine glutinous rice flour and water in a glass bowl. Mix well to paste, then add sugar and vanilla, mix until dissolved.

Step 3: Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. It will be half cooked. Remove and stir well while it’s hot.

Step 4: Cover and return to microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well.

Step 5: Place plastic wrap over a cutting board. Dust generously with corn flour (this is a must).

Step 6: Wait for dough to cool. Place onto board and divide into 10 pieces.

Step 7: Flatten dough with your palm. It will be sticky. Wrap each piece of dough around an ice cream ball and refreeze in an airtight container. Serve slightly thawed.
Sunday, December 2, 2007

I Heart Amigurumi

I love the cuteness culture in Japan. It is totally commonplace to see cartoons advertising everything from beer to banks. My love for the cuteness culture has grown even more, since I've discovered tons of amigurumi patterns online.
Amigurumi (translation: crocheted stuffed toys) are distinct from other crocheted toys in that they originated in Japan, have large heads in proportion to their bodies, and are just stinking cute. I can spend hours looking at all of the amazing creations out there in the crafting world. I got hooked as soon as I saw this on Etsy, from Owlishly:

I am now obsessed with finding the perfect amigurumi to crochet for my little one's birthday, just a few months away. Which one should I choose?

Click on these to check them out:

Ana Paula's cute patterns

Ami List: The Ultimate Free Pattern Resource!
Saturday, December 1, 2007


Welcome to Niko Niko Baby! This blog is dedicated to all the things that make me laugh, grin, and chuckle nerdily to myself. I hope you can find a bit 'o happy here!
P.S. "Niko Niko" is Japanese for "Smile Smile". "Baby" is English for "Baby".

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