Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Let the Girliness Commence!

Okay, so I am having a girl! The Chinese gender predictor was right! My husband is jumping for joy. He thinks having a girl will somehow make me more girly. Apparently, he doesn't think I'm girly enough. Maybe it is my love of super short hair, shunning of getting my ears pierced, love of zombie movies, or refusal to wear high heels. Who knows? And while I don't know if having a girl will magically turn me into a girly girl, what I do know is that for now, at least, I am getting excited about a little more pink in the house (although I swore I would never be a mom who dressed her girl in all pink...all the, ahem, some people).

Anyways, I have a friend due with a girl the week after me, so I wanted to make her a little gift before I left. Here is the finished product of some Mary Jane booties:

The thing that I love about booties is that you can make a cute pair in the time it takes to watch a movie. If you've read my other posts about crafts, quickness is a big deal to me! I got the pattern off of Etsy. It is so easy and cute--does the pink make it even cuter? I will just have to make these in another color to find out!
Saturday, July 12, 2008

MYO Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit

I have yet to return to America, but I am already obsessed with ways to save money when I get back. This stems from several things:

1.) We will be the poorest we have been in five years of marriage. This is due to working a job in Japan for a year that only allowed enough savings to pay for our return tickets back! And also, my hubby will be a grad student instructor, that lovely occupation that saves universities from hiring costly professors to do the actual teaching.
2.) I spend so much money on groceries here that I am determined to slash my grocery bill by at least half when we get back.
3.) Gas. Period.
4.) Did I mention we are going to be very, very poor?
5.) I have discovered, in trying to get some comfort food in a foreign country, that there are several things that you can make from scratch that are better than store-bought. Tortillas, taco seasoning, and salad dressing, to name a few.

In my discovery of making things from scratch, I have found some really good cleaning recipes. These are floating all over the web, as the "green" movement continues. These recipes have been great, since I can't read the ingredients on the cleaning bottles here (which reminds me of a time that my Chinese roommate tried to clean the oven with engine oil).

So, goodbye, $50 excursions to K-mart to leave with a basket full of perfumey, chemically, toxic cleaning supplies. I'm making my own Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit for under $10 when we get back to the U.S. Check the link for some good recipes or leave a comment with your own!
Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Clip to Make You Cry

...or at least a short video clip to make ME cry! But I get to blame it on the pregnancy hormones!

How amazing is this? After not seeing Christian for 9 months, Ace and John visited him. The night before, Christian, his "wife", and his cubs all parked themselves on a rock outside the camp and waited for them. At the end of the video, they all walk off together. They ended up hanging out at the camp until late at night, when Christian returned to his cubs.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Have any of you heard of ChaCha? It's a free text messaging service that debuted in January 2008. I had never heard of it, until a friend of mine mentioned that she signed up to be a "guide" and started making money by answering texts. I am all for making money, so I signed up, too. After passing a few tests, I got accepted as a guide and now get paid .20 per question. So, if I am online e-mailing or blogging, I am also answering random questions that people are texting in and making some mula! It's not much, but it's fun...and hey, I'm already on the internet so I might as well get paid for it!

Here are some of the q's I've gotten recently. I am definitely learning some random things.

--What is the circumference of a 1200 pound moose? (15 feet!)

--How many pounds of poo does the average person go a day? (.22 to .44 pounds according to

--What is the best way to catch crappie fish? (Um, crappie bait...yeah)

And sometimes I get fun questions like "How can I get Erica to like me?" or "What should I eat for dinner?" It's all pretty random. I have a feeling that alot of ChaCha users are teenagers with unlimited text messaging!

P.S. I just made $1 while typing this post. That will buy me one stalk of celery in Japan. Woohoo!
Friday, June 27, 2008

Using Up Yarn...

(aka What to Do to Keep Busy while Hubby watches Lord of the Rings. Again.)

I am trying to use up all the yarn I have bought, because I am in Japan and everyone here is frugal like that. This little penguin turned out to have a gigantic beak but eh. It only took a couple of hours to do (aka the pivotal scenes of Return of the King that always put me to sleep). Yes, I fall asleep during intense action sequences of all movies. I think it is a shutdown reflex. Don't even try to get me to watch 300 unless you have a pillow available!
Anyways, here is Paul my Polish Penguin (oops, did I make a big nose/Polish reference? Yes. Because I can.):

Here is the pattern. I know, mine is not that cute. Maybe next time!
Pablito the Penguin Pattern
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blog Brainfreeze

I think I started this blog to get all of my links in one place and put up the cute graphics I found. Recently, I have no idea what to share on my blog. I have a sneaking suspicion that only my sister reads it anyways. So, I am going to blog more and see where it takes me. If I am not really going anywhere in a month, farewell, oh blog! You will be lost to the blogosphere. Only comments can save you!
Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blue or Pink?

I have a feeling this blog is going to be devoted to baby-related things for the next few months. I am into the second trimester and starting to feel a little pregnant now. We had a doctor's appointment last week, and I got to see the little one sucking its thumb. We find out if it's a boy or a girl in three weeks! So, of course, it's been on my mind. I have no idea what I'm having and don't really care either way. A boy would be fun for Cash and convenient for me with all of the blue stuff I own. A girl would be different and equally fun, although I'm pretty sure my budget would be ruined with buying all the cute girl's clothes out there.
I took this Gender Calculator and it says I am having a girl. This calculator was also correct in predicting Cash's gender and was right for several of my friends' kids. Was it right for you or your babies? Let me know!
Saturday, May 3, 2008

No Maternity Clothes Needed!

Fashion in Japan right now goes something exactly like this:

Take one flowy blouse + one skirt + one pair of leggings of various color and length = hot fashion!

I need to get some real pics of the clothing stores up, but I just have to say I love it. Another popular outfit is a dress with a pair of jeans and flats. These women are crazy about layering! And everyone wears huge flowy tops that I don't have to worry that I'm wearing something that makes me look pregnant, because everyone looks like that. Hooray! Now, can I pull off a look like that?

P.S. No, I don't even look close to being pregnant. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I've been good about exercising. I'm coming up on that awkward stage of "that girl has a fat belly", which is what Japanese people think of typical American women anyways. Boohoo. On the plus side (ha ha), I haven't grown out of my pants quite yet, which I had at this point in time with my first pregnancy. They are getting tight, though. So, I am coming up on a look that says "Chubby belly and too tight pants!" Woohoo!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sweet but not as Satisfying

Okay, here is my tiny felt cake! It was a quick project, and it only took two naptimes (the measurement of my free time according to my 1 year old's sleep schedule).

Sadly, it wasn't as satisfying as expected. Maybe I should have made the whip cream or done a felt doughnut. Yes, a cute felt doughnut is definitely next in line. However, it might be a while. My free/naptimes are now reduced to my obsession with finishing Les Mis (200 pages to go!) and my own daily naptime (thanks, rapidly growing fetus!).
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Beautiful Chorus

I spend so much time teaching the alphabet to my students that the song is almost annoying. Luckily, I found this version, which has restored my faith in the ABCs. This is Kermit, featuring the amazing Ladysmith Black Mambazo. N-joy!
Sunday, March 23, 2008

So Much for No Sugar

My mom just sent me a bag of my favorite Easter candy, Hershey's milk chocolate candy coated eggs. So much for cutting back on the sweets. My hubby has told me he wants to go a year without candy. I agreed...and then laughed nervously...and then grabbed some more candy.

Meanwhile, I have made a felt cake! It is so cute and small. I just need to add the whipped cream and the strawberry. The cake was no problem, but the felt whipped cream seems intimidating.
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sweet Treats

One thing I love about living in Japan is the sweets shops. Who'd have guessed that there would be cake factories and patisseries around every corner here? I am often found stuck in the bakery section of the grocery store, just admiring the beautiful creations. In the food courts of department stores, you can often find Mr. Donut and little crepes shops. Crepes (or omelet cakes) are very popular here. I love watching the crepe maker at work---drizzling the batter into a huge circle, flipping it expertly, and then filling that bad boy with bananas and whip cream. Yum!
Since I figure I'm only here once, I have a habit of buying a new sweet every time I go shopping. They are just so beautifully made. However, I know that my fun must come to an end. I need to buy new pants, and I'm already an XL here. Yikes! So, I am now going to attempt to get my sweet fix through something that won't pack on the pounds: felted sweet treats!
Felted Sweet Treats (I think the donuts sold me):

Crepes and Cream Puffs:

Little cakes, that look exactly like the ones in sweet shops:

Cinnamon rolls that look good enough to eat!

I think I'm going to start small and maybe make a chocolate. The instructions are in Japanese, but the diagrams are clear. Let's see!
Friday, March 7, 2008


I love crafts. I aspire to be crafty. It is my dream to be able to sew something other than a plastic bag holder. Usually, I become fixated on a specific project that will remain nagging at me until I attempt to complete it. Attempt. If you were to look in my craft box at home (it's easy to spot--the lid doesn't close!), you will find:

-A lampshade frame, metal punch, three bags of jump rings and 100 of my grandpa's old slides in attempt to make a slide-lamp (circa 2005).
-A tile cutter, four bags of tiles, grout, and acryclic paints in an attempt to make a mosaic pot (said pot is somewhere on my brother's balcony. Someone painted the word "Boo" on it, probably booing my sad attempt. What? The tiles wouldn't stay on!)
-79 granny squares of a 180 granny-square afghan (circa 2001 when I should have been studying economics).
-A half-embroidered hula girl hand towel and the box from my Sublime Stitching kit.
-A few ink-transfer pens, circa 2005 also, when I decided to make a screen print of Conan O'Brien. My one and only attempt.

and, sadly, in my craft bag here, you'll find 69 crocheted flowers of a 100-flower scarf, destined for the scrap heap.

However, I have finally almost redeemed myself. I made something that wasn't edible! Two somethings! Here they are:

A photo holder:

And my first amigurumi, Muno from Yo Gabba Gabba. I used this pattern. Not bad for my first try. I definitely learned some stuff.

And all I have to say is thank goodness for the amazing dollar stores here! Where your crafty aspirations will only cost you a few dollars. Wish I could say the same for my mosaic equipment...


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Where's the Beef?

The USDA just ordered the largest meat recall in history. Most of the meat went to school lunch programs! Time to start packing those vegetarian bentos.

I just saw this article in the Washington Post from last week:

"The Agriculture Department has ordered the largest meat recall in its history -- 143 million pounds of beef, a California meatpacker's entire production for the past two years -- because the company did not prevent ailing animals from entering the U.S. food supply, officials said yesterday.

About 37 million pounds of the meat -- cuts, ground beef and prepared products such as meatballs and burrito filling -- went to school lunch and other public nutrition programs, and "almost all of this product is likely to have been consumed," said Ron Vogel, a USDA administrator."

Click here for the full article.

Just another reason to:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More than Mud Pies

Children (and myself) love to play in the mud. There's something so satisfying about sinking your hands into squishy, pungent earth. Here in Japan, playing in the dirt yields a great work of art, if you have a few hours to polish a ball of mud.

What starts as dirt...

ends in delight!

This popular activity for Japanese children is called hikaru dorodango, which translates to "shiny mud dumplings". They are so amazing. If you have a free afternoon, why not make a shiny mud dumpling? It beats a sand castle! You can learn to make one here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I wondered if Japanese was for me...

You Should Learn Swedish

Fantastisk! You're laid back about learning a language - and about life in general.

Peaceful, beautiful Sweden is ideal for you... And you won't even have to speak perfect Swedish to get around!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dancey Dance Time!

I love Dancey Dance Time on Yo Gabba Gabba! My baby, part of the target audience, could care less. What is Yo Gabba Gabba? It's Teletubbies on drugs! It's a show on Nick Jr. that was created by Christian Jacobs, one of the LDS members of the Aquabats. The show is insanely colorful and quite kooky. It features a DJ, some monsters, and guest celebrities teaching dance moves.
Here is my favorite Dancey Dance Time, with Elijah Wood. I don't know if I should be amused or disturbed...
Monday, February 11, 2008

Black Sesame Cream Puffs

Black sesame seeds and paste are cheap and prevalent here in Japan. The benefits of black sesame are numerous and include increased longevity, antioxidant power, rich in protein, iron, and magnesium, and beautifying to hair and nails. After reading that, you know I hopped on the black-sesame train and bought the seeds and paste. So, in an effort to use my black-sesame products (and possibly justify eating dessert), I made some black sesame cream puffs.
The black sesame paste makes the cream slightly nutty flavored.


Here is the recipe:
Recipe courtesy of Los Angeles Times, adapted from a recipe by Keiko Nojima of Patisserie Chantilly, Lomita, CA

Serves eight

Pate a choux:
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs, divided
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

Black sesame crème:
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2-1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups milk, scalding
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, cut up
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame paste
4 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons soy flour

For the pate a choux: Bring milk, 2/3 cup water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter and allow to melt. Remove from heat. Add flour all at once and stir until mixture is completely blended and forms a ball. Return saucepan to the heat and cook, stirring until the mixture does not separate and the pan has a thin film on the bottom, about 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, until blended. (Post tip: Avoid overheating the eggs by beating them all together and then adding a spoonful of the warm mixture, one at a time, to eggs in food processor or mixer.)

To make the puffs, spoon or pipe about 1/4 cup of choux for each puff onto two greased baking sheets. Beat the remaining egg and brush it over the puffs. Combine black and white sesame seeds and sprinkle over top of each puff. Wipe off spilled egg from baking sheet.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the puffs are doubled in size and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Make a small slit on the side of each puff to allow steam to escape.

For the pastry crème: Beat together sugar and egg yolks until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Stir together flour and cornstarch and beat into egg mixture. Slowly beat in hot milk.

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring, until boiling and thickened. Boil 1 to 2 minutes; stir constantly.

Remove from heat. Add butter, stirring until it’s melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl and cover. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Creme puff assembly: In a chilled bowl, beat the whipping cream and sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks. Remove the chilled creme from the refrigerator. Fold in whipped cream, sesame seeds and sesame paste.

Cut the tops off the cooled cream puffs and pipe half the creme sesame mixture into the bottoms of the puffs. Drizzle each with honey, then pipe in remaining creme. Put the tops on the puffs, sprinkle each with soy flour and serve.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Mother Is..

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan
Monday, January 21, 2008

Daigoku Imo

I had the fun experience of going grocery shopping with a Japanese friend of mine recently. I was introduced to a whole new world of groceries, particularly in the form of never-ending aisles of miso and a huge section of dehydrated tofu imprinted with cartoon characters. While I didn't care for some of my new purchases, such as egg custard tofu, I was turned on to trying more veggies. So, I'm going to really make an effort to get more Japanese fruits and veggies into my diet...starting with daigoku imo.
Daigoku means "university" or "top level", so this is the ultimate way to eat sweet potatoes. Japan has several varieties of sweet potatoes, ranging from small thin ones with dry white meat to deep pink ones with dark purple meat. Sachiko showed me how to prepare this sweet potato sensation. While it is deep fried and coated in sugar, it's still a vegetable! Enjoy!

Daigoku Imo:
1.) Scrub sweet potato and cut it diagonally and into thin strips.
2.) On low heat, deep fry slices in oil for 8-10 minutes.
3.) While strips are frying, prepare a simple sugar syrup in a large saucepan with 1/2 c. sugar, 1 Tbsp. water, 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce until syrup-y.
3.) Remove strips from oil and mix into syrup in saucepan until well coated. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds!

Enjoy! This is a delicious dish, and the black sesame seeds are awesome. More on those later, but here is some info on sesame seeds for you:

Natural sesame seeds, those that are unhulled, are high in calcium. One tablespoon provides 87.8 mg while the hulled variety offers only 10.5 mg for that same tablespoon. Comparing sesame seeds to milk turned up some surprising figures in the calcium count. One cup of natural sesame seeds had 1404.0 mg of calcium, while one cup of non-fat milk provided 316.3 mg. and one cup of whole milk contained 291 mg of calcium.

Both natural and hulled sesame seeds contain healthy amounts of the B vitamins riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin. With natural seeds scoring 8.7 mcg of folic acid for 1 tablespoon and plenty of vitamin B6, you can count on sesame seeds for excellent nourishment.

Sesame oil is excellent for reversing the signs of aging and keeping hair lustrous and silky. A Japanese secret!
Friday, January 11, 2008

Happy Poo

Nothing escapes being cute-ified here in Japan. Not even unco, otherwise known as poo to you! It never ceases to amaze me that absolute anything and everything can be seen as cute in some form or another here (should I be skeptical when everyone keeps calling my baby cute?). This is the funnest example I have witnessed so far...and I secretly want a piece for myself.

I saw this claw-machine game at an arcade and had to snap a pic. Don't you want to win a piece of smiling, rainbow-colored poo?

Some crappy stationery:


Finally, the most popular piece of poo ever: the original amigurimi happy poo that's sweeping the crochet world!

You can make your own with this happy poo pattern. It's even cuter if you stuff it with dried flowers to make a sachet.
Poo has never been this cute and sweet!
Sunday, January 6, 2008

Eggnog in Cookie Form

My hubby's favorite holiday treat is eggnog. However, that is nowhere to be found in Japan, so he had to settle for eggnog cookies instead. It's amazing what a little nutmeg and rum extract can do for a bah-humbug, missing-eggnog husband!

2 c. sifted flour
2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. butter butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. rum extract
1 egg
Mix and sift flour, nutmeg; and salt. Cream butter, add sugar, and cream until fluffy. Add extracts and mix. Add egg and mix well. Add sifted ingredients gradually and mix. Chill thoroughly. Allowing 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie; shape into balls, and bake on ungreased cookie sheet, at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool.
1/4 c. butter (or margarine)
1 tsp. rum extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 to 3 tbsp. milk
Cream butter, add extracts, and mix. Add sugar, milk and mix. Put frosting on while cookies are slightly warm. Decorate with colored sprinkles for Christmas. Makes 4 dozen cookies.


Having an uncircumcised baby boy finds me constantly standing up for my beliefs in the face of opposition and criticism...which leads me to intactivism. I love this quote:

But, how do I really feel?
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

My Baby Name Obsession Continues (International Ed.)

I am very obsessed with baby names. In fact, I have been keeping very detailed lists of my favorites since 1994. The list has changed slightly over the years. For example, my favorite girl's name from 8th grade is now off my list. So, no "Shady Willow" in our home if I ever have a girl. Sorry. Fortunately, I have a husband who is almost equally obsessed--he picked our baby's name when he was still in high school (lucky for him, I loved the name!). As newlyweds, we spent hours one night creating a master list of baby names to select from throughout our baby years. I feel like we have gotten alot of planning and pondering out of the way. Hopefully no celebrity will choose any of our names to tarnish with publicity!
In Japan, I am equally fascinated with baby names, particularly what would be the equivalent of "Madison" or "Hayden" or "Aiden". Here's what it comes down to, using the top ten baby names in the US and Japan in 2007:

Boys: U.S. : Japan
1.) Aiden : Yuuki
2.) Braden : Haruto
3.) Caden : Souta
4.) Ethan : Yuuto
5.) Caleb : Haruki
6.) Noah : Kouki
7.) Jaden : Takumi
8.) Connor : Kaito
9.) Landon : Hayato
10.) Jacob : Shouta

Girls: U.S.: Japan
1.) Ava : Hina
2.) Abigail : Yui
3.) Cailyn : Miyu
4.) Madeline : Haruka
5.) Isabella : Sakura
6.) Emma : Nanami
7.) Caitlyn : Ayaka
8.) Olivia : Honoka
9.) Chloe : Momoka
10.) Brianna : Aoi

Here are my students Haruna and Ayaka, who both have very popular names:

My favorite Japanese names for girls are Megumi (which also means blessing), Kumiko, and Sachie (sah-chee-ay). For boys, I like Kaito (kite-o), Kenjiro, and Shoki. Between Fox and I, we have students with all of the names on the lists above. In fact, in my preschool class, I have a Miyu, Myu, and Myuu. That's right! It's very difficult to call on the right person with the right name. I got corrected for saying Me-you instead of Mew when calling on Myu. I wonder what Japanese people would think of Aiden, Braden, and Caden?

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