Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hiccup the Hero Hats!

We are big fans of How to Train Your Dragon around here, so when I saw this crochet pattern from one of my favorite etsy shops, I knew what my next baby project would be: Little Viking Hats!

First, I made the newborn size, as modeled by Pooh:

And then a matching big brother hat. I don't know why Cash looks so sad in this picture--I think he wanted to be the one to take the pictures:

I can't wait to see the hat on a newborn! If you crochet, Mamachee is an awesome pattern writer. Zero problems with a crochet pattern for possibly the first time ever!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I am not a huge lover of pink, unlike my sister Megan. I prefer to put a baby girl in purple :) BUT...I do like pink a lot.

Here are some fun pink things that have made me smile this week:

Strawberry Shake Milky Ways, imported from Russia to our local Toys 'R Us. Fox's favorite candy bar is Milky Way, so he was really excited about these!

Strawberry and Milk Flavor Pepsi. This stuff tastes like melted blue raspberry icee, so it is delicious! Don't worry--I only had a sip and gave the rest to Fox for his late night drive to church tonight. And no, I am not a Pepsi fan--I am just a sucker for limited edition flavors of any product!

And the cutest pink thing ever:

Cosette came out of her room after naptime cuddling her pink Snoopy in her new pink winter pajamas. If I let her choose her clothes, she usually goes for white, black, or orange--but she actually chose something pink this time! She has had a fever today, so it was really good to see her happy after naptime.

Now if only I could find some maternity clothes here that aren't in gray, black, or brown. Apparently, it's all about hiding that bump here!
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Old to New

Last week, the blog Elsie Marley did her bi-annual Kids' Clothing Week Challenge, which I always try to play along with--because sewing clothes for little people is fun!
Unfortunately, I didn't really have any new fabric to play along with. Turns out that Japanese fabric is expensive in both America and Japan. Sad. But you know what's not expensive? Cutting up your old stuff!

Here's a shirt I made for Cosette using an old hoodie that I no longer wore:

I used the same pattern as here but left off the ruffles and put on a bow instead, for a French twist. She looks like she should be holding a baguette, right?

And then I cut up an old maroon shirt of mine to make this envelope tee for the baby on the way:

The t-shirt pattern is from Growing Up Sew Liberated which is an amazing book. I originally bought it for the Waldorf Doll pattern, as I left mine somewhere in the U.S. I want to make everything in this book, though! We'll see about the sizing when the little one comes.
The pants (from this free pattern) are from flannel that I found after digging around for an hour in a big fabric warehouse out in the country here. I could only find 2 types of flannel, and I bought a meter of both...and I think both are ugly, but oh well. The saleswoman looked at me like I'm crazy to buy such strange fabric.

The funny thing about Japan is this--the good crops are really lacking here, meaning cotton, wheat, etc. So, cotton flannel and good quality cotton clothes are hard to find, which means baby clothes are funky and not super soft. You can buy polyester fleece, but that is about it. So, if you go to the store to buy a pair of sweats, usually the inside is unfinished--meaning no cozy fuzzies on the inside of the sweats! It's really weird. Japanese kids are cuties, but Japanese kids' clothes are a whole different story...

Anyways, now I am excited to cut up some more clothes!

P.S. Remember my new sewing machine? We are not friends when it comes to knit fabric, even when I am using a needle specifically for knit fabric. I am pretty much done with knit fabric. Grrrrr...
Luckily, Seamstress Tiger feels my pain!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Watch, Read, Listen--Kids Edition

Life is a lot easier for me when my kids are finding joy in things around them, so here are some things they (and I) have been enjoying lately!


WeetWoo is a very cool app that has a library of kid-appropriate YouTube videos. We have YouTube blocked on our iPad, due to too many disturbing things on there, so this is a better option. Plus, it's sorted into different categories--animals, educational, kids' shows, etc. Cash loves old school Chip 'N Dale and Coco likes the strange Charlie and Lola.

Cookie Doodle isn't a video, but the kids sit still, so I count it as "watching". It is probably the most used app on our iPad--the kids can choose a cookie recipe (the actual recipe is listed, but I haven't tried any yet) and then virtually stir the dough, crack the egg, etc. Then roll, cut, bake,decorate, and eat the cookie. It is a really, really fun app, and everyone who tries it absolutely loves it. Very cute!


One of my greatest joys is collecting books I read as a child--I'm a little obsessed...and missing Paperback Swap, where I've gotten a ton of them. I think all of my siblings and I have a similar list of books we loved as children--we were read to and read a lot. The Funny Little Woman is one of my all-time favorite children's books, and I'm happy to say that my kids are obsessed with it as well. I got it about a year ago, and it has been the steady favorite. Cash has it memorized!
It's about a woman in Japan whose rice dumpling rolls under the earth. She goes searching for it and gets captured by the wicked oni! The book has taken on a whole new meaning now that we live in Japan and eat rice dumplings and see oni statues.


This is another childhood favorite that my children now love! I listened to Brite Music a lot as a child and remember a lot of the songs. The "Happiness" book is my favorite, and I found myself singing the "Whiny Child" song to my kids whenever they whine, which would make them laugh. So, I paid the money and got the whole CD/audiobook downloaded. My kids love it! They love all the songs and love to listen to the story. I wish you can buy the book to follow a long, but oh well. If you've never heard Brite Music, try and sample it. Shiny Brite is another one of my favorites that I sing to the kids a lot (especially the "Junk Food Junkie" song--they get a kick out of that!)
And randomly, Coco is obsessed with Taylor Swift's "Mean". She likes any songs that mention weapons and knives, which is in the first line. Oy. :)

What have your kids been loving lately?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Randomness I Love--Japan

I've lived in Japan for 9 months so far, this time around. And as always, I continue to get a kick out of this place. Here are some random things that make me smile:


All of my students here have been very interested in what my favorite "character" is--everyone, young and old, loves a particular character, it seems. Hello Kitty is the most popular internationally. Anpanman is the favorite of little kids (check out this crazy link comparing Anpanman to Jesus!). A cartoon capybara is really popular this year. My favorite since childhood is the old school Little Twin Stars:

You can always tell someone's favorite character, because they will have a random charm or stuffed animal attached to their bag, if their bag is not printed all over with the character. I love how Japan is so into cuteness!

Health Care:

Everyone in Japan is covered under the government socialized health insurance. It does have its downside (the large annual tax!) but for the most part, it is awesome. Last week, Fox walked into a chiropractor's office for some shoulder pain he was having. He was seen immediately, treated, and then given a half hour massage--and walked out, paying about $8.

Maternity care is awesome, too, especially from my natural-minded standpoint. The idea here is that there really is no reason for epidurals or not breastfeeding. My favorite handout in my maternity care packet is one that says, "After 24 weeks of pregnancy, please sit topless in the sun every day for 15 minutes to prepare your breasts for breastfeeding." Um, sure!

Fortune Tellers

Okay, I don't know about contemporary fortune tellers in Japan, but it used to be really common here to go to one who would help you name your children. My favorite story of this is: My friend and her husband went to a fortune teller when they were having their first child, about forty years ago. The fortune teller spent a long time thinking and finally came up with the perfect name for their first child: Koichi (translation--Ko means child, Ichi means one/first). Awesome.

And finally:
The word "toes" in Japanese is "ashi-no-yubi", which literally translates into "foot fingers". So awesome.
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Female Noodle Power!!

I have a friend named Janelle here, and she is super awesome. She moved here with her husband when we lived here 3 years ago, and they are still living here, in the capitol of Kagawa, Takamatsu. Here is why she is super awesome: she taught herself Japanese while living here! And she knows over 1500 of the standard 2000 kanji you need to know to read Japanese. And she rocks Japanese cooking like no other gaijin* out there.

Plus, she works at an udon shop, but not just any udon shop--the first "josei" or only female udon shop in Kagawa. Udon making is traditionally a man's job, as it takes strong muscles to roll and cut the stiff dough. So, this restaurant where only women make the noodles is a huge deal, and they feature it on the news. Check out Janelle--after about 1 minute, she comes on:

I had to laugh at the reporter. He is basically saying, "Eh? A foreigner?! From Canada?! This is the first time I have ever seen a white person working in a noodle shop!"

Janelle loves her job, and they sent her to noodle making school this summer, too.
Go Janelle!

*Gaijin is the slang term for "foreigner". You'll notice the reporter says "gaikokujin", which is still kind of slang-y but a bit more polite. There is another polite term for foreigner, but no one uses it. Every person from America or Canada here even refers to himself and his friends as "gaijin" and the English classifieds here are called "Gaijin Pot". I don't know what I would do without my gaijin friends!
Monday, August 8, 2011

Books Vs. Movies--Gone With the Wind

Last week, I finished reading Gone With the Wind. Last night, I finished watching the movie for the first time. It took me about 3 days. I love watching the movie version of books that I have just read--it is so interesting to me what makes it into the movie and how other people interpret the story.
The film version of GWTW was actually pretty well done, and almost every line was directly from the book. Being that the movie was made in 1939, they left out some stronger words that are used in the book. However, they also left out some extremely important facts!

Continue reading if you don't mind plot revelations...

--Scarlett has 2 children from her first 2 marriages, but they completely leave this out! In the book, she is bothered by her son and thinks her daughter is ugly. So, I can see why her bad mothering would have been left out of the movie, but I think it's revealing of her character.

--Scarlett's 2nd husband is the local leader of the KKK and ends up being killed while setting negro homes on fire. I'd say that was a pretty important detail, but once again, that topic is probably too upsetting.

--Rhett Butler never says that he loves Scarlett. He refuses to tell her anything that would give her power over him. In the movie, he is saying it left and right and even asking for forgiveness. I guess this it to make him more likeable.

--And hello--the movie completely left out that the Yankees lit Tara on fire while there were woman and children in the home!!! Why was this left out?

So, I guess you can say I liked the book much better than the movie. I loved the book, even though it was really disturbing and has made me sad all week. Just thinking about it, I want to cry.

There is a quote I copied down years ago that talks about these kinds of books:

"We need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief."
— Franz Kafka

I don't think reading these kinds of books all the time is healthy, but sometimes you read them and a purpose is served or a lesson is taught or it just makes you think. The only other book that has had this affect on me was "The Dive from Clausen's Pier" by Ann Packer, and interestingly, the main character in that book is very similar to Scarlett O'Hara. I think the draw for me is drama, but the sadness is the resulting trainwreck of the character when you were hoping to read about redemption, which never occurs.

Now I need something really fun to get over this :)

And P.S. Has anyone read and watched Water for Elephants? Thoughts?
Friday, July 29, 2011

Loving Lately

Lately, I have been blessed with several things that bring a lot of joy to my life. I think this is because there have been several things that have been very challenging in my life, and so maybe this is my reward for enduring!
We are having the unique experience of living in a town where, this time, we know only one person who is fully bilingual (our very busy friend Sister T). Recently, I have had to go to two one-on-one meetings(a city meeting and school meeting) where the other person did not speak a word of English. I am going to say this was actually a great blessing, because it is pretty much forcing me to study Japanese more. And in fact, the language/cultural barrier has never been my biggest challenge while living in Japan. It has always been the extreme temperatures combined with no insulation or central air (hello, heat rash! I've missed you so!), and always, the food issue. As someone who doesn't eat meat, loves healthy cooking, and really, really, enjoys whole grains, the greatest challenge is living in a country that is founded on white rice, white flour noodles, fried food, grilled meat, and raw fish. (For shame, you say! What about Japanese pickles and produce? Okay, I will give you that. We eat a ton more fruits and veggies here.) Plus, I am pregnant and have been having a hard time with my usual Japanese staples, which leads me to be even more obsessed with food than usual!

So--besides those little issues--here are the things that have given me great joy lately!

--This Lentil Burger Recipe makes 8 delicious lentil burgers. Yum! I am really picky about veggie burger recipes, but this one passes the test. Super easy and good. I didn't have flax meal, so I substituted with panko.

--Yarn! This was what I got for my birthday (since I spend many nights just wiped out on the couch):

I am working on a hexagon afghan, but it is slooow going. Still, just seeing all these bright colors (Lion Brand Cotton Ease) makes my day!

--This book:

My sister-in-law sent me this book, and I am obsessed! It is so well-written and dramatic and really pulls you in. I'm about 400 pages in, and I have to pull myself away from it. Very very good! She also sent me the sequel, so these books should last me a while!


We live about 10 minutes from 2 different beaches, and the water is so clear and warm right now. We also live near a free kids' pool that is so perfect for my kiddos! So, we have really been enjoying getting out of the house and enjoying the water this summer!

--Project Runway is back! Hooray! I managed to get Fox to watch Next Food Network Star with me, so I'm going to see if I can reel him in to watch this, too. I think he'll go for it if I give him enough treats.

--Good music! My sister told me about Spotify, and it is awesome! This cover of Superbass is cleaned up and rapped by a white girl, so there! I love it!

And my kids (and Fox) are obsessed with the song Heavy Rotation by Japan's Pop Group AKB48 (there used to be 48 members, but now, it's more like 24). I love it, because whenever I play it, Cash does a full choreographed routine to the entire length of the song. His kindergarten class performed it for us on parent's day!. Watch the music video if you dare, but be warned: It's basically just Japanese girls singing in lingerie and doing other silly things, like sharing baths and kisses and yeah. Now you know why Fox likes it :)

So, those are a few of my favorite things right now, which sure give me a lot of distraction from this crazy humidity!
Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's not That kind of snack...

Old snack bars in Jiyugaoka

I love learning new things about Japan everyday. Some things are strange (the weight-loss supplement called "Jesus Body"?!) and others are just plain funny (cream for your chest called Booby Master).

Here is something random I learned this week: Cash's Yochien is located behind a few buildings down an old street. At the corner where I wait to pick him up, there is a sign that says, "SNACK"--and I have often thought, "Hmmm...what kind of snacks?"
**Note: This sign is attached to a building that has no windows, almost exactly like the above picture**

A few days later, one of my students was recommending a gyoza restaurant and told me where it was--but said, "At night, it's dangerous! SNACKS!!!"

Haha...so we talked some more about "snacks". Snacks are "snack bars"--the Japanese name for host/hostess clubs, where you can go to a bar and be entertained by a hostess who will then charge you a super high price for entertaining you. There are host clubs, too, but not in the smaller cities. Some snack bars are very clean and professional--but I guess the ones in our area are quite gaudy. The hostesses stand outside in tight, bright clothes yelling to businessman and the elderly (yep) to try to lure them in.

You can read more about them and see some pictures here and here--and in that last article, I love how it says, "You can tell it's a snack bar, because it doesn't have any windows!" Very very true.

I'm just glad I didn't take Cash in for a "snack" after school :)
Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ten Things I Learned From My Dad

I found this cool little 52 lists in 52 weeks project over at getthewordsout, and I thought I would play along. I obviously have a problem sticking with stuff, so I doubt I will do all of them. But I love making lists, and I am interested in art journaling. If I ever find a cool notebook here that doesn't have Hello Kitty on it, I will write my lists on that but for now, it's my good 'ol random blog.
So...this week is...

Ten Things I Learned From My Dad
**Side note--every year on my family's birthdays, I write a page in my journal of all the things I love about them. So, this list will include things about my Dad that have not already made it into my journal**

1.) Always wear natural fibers! The only exception is velour anything--in that case, stock up!

2.) The correct ratio of honey to peanut butter in a peanut butter and honey sandwich. That's tricky and precise business, right there.

3.) Homemade cookies make the best presents.

4.) How to put a baby to sleep. From the butt-pat-n-shuffle-step to various pressure points and pinches that induce sleepiness, my dad is a font of knowledge in this area. He once put baby Cash to sleep in less than 5 minutes!

5.) Do what you love, even if it's different. My Dad lives this! For example, he has been known to drive 2 hours for a ballet-stretch-fusion class in which he is the only male in class--and he loves it! He also is big at sharing his passions with others.

6.) A love of hypnosis. Hypnosis is a huge part of my life, and I grew up surrounded by hypnosis script books and relaxation tapes. I have never once thought hypnosis was weird--and I have been able to help many people view it differently and benefit from it--thanks to my Dad.

7.) BBC makes the greatest stuff! Downton Abbey, Cranford, North and South--My Dad loves drama and relationships and always shares the good shows he finds.

8.) Music is the great joy of life. And it's worth the money to pay for songs that move you. And it's worth the time to search out new music to fall in love with.

9.) How to take care of yourself. My Dad was very active in my personal hygiene until I moved away from home--nothing weird, just made sure I was cutting my toenails properly and flossing. He also exercises a lot and puts a lot of emphasis on health.

10.) Laughter is the second great joy of life. My Dad loves to laugh, and everyone loves to hear him laugh. He makes it a priority to watch shows and read books that are funny, and everyone in my family has absorbed the good humor into their lives!

Why is this the only picture in my computer of my Dad? Hmmm...it is a good representation of him, though. His grandkids are always messing with him, and he loves it!
Friday, June 17, 2011

Scene from a Preschool

The other day, I saw a scene that made my heart so happy. I was walking Cash to his class at preschool, and this is what I saw in the preschool yard(I know, I should have brought my camera!):

--A group of 5 year olds with work boots and mops, cleaning out the school's rabbit cage.

-- Another group of children sitting around a low table with piles of wood, nails, and full-size hammers. They were happily nailing wood together and had very little supervision. There was a teacher standing over them, but she wasn't freaking out like I would have been! Cash brought home his wooden "Transformer" yesterday and was so proud of it.

--Another group of children with watering cans watering the schools garden. Each child planted either eggplant, tomato, or onion in April and this week, the veggies were harvested by the children. The harvested veggies were then cooked up into lunch for the kids.

--Some 3 year olds feeding the fish in the school's fish pond.

--A group of 4 year olds sitting around two aquariums full of baby turtles. They had science books with pictures of growing turtles, and they were comparing the pictures to the live turtles. A boy called Cash over to give him a handful of baby turtles to play with.

--And inside Cash's classroom (he is in the Usagi--rabbit--class), a group of children sat around a table with milk cartons, building castles with tape. At the other table, the teacher's aide was helping the rest of the children with origami.

The preschool here is all about developmental play. There is no letter learning or reading until actual elementary school. The children are read to, sung to, and hugged by all of their teachers. There is a strict no junk food policy for lunch time, and in fact, the teachers ask to please pack the child's lunch with foods they hate so that they can get used to the food.

The weather is good now, so most of the children run around barefoot and play in the mud. They do all of the cleaning themselves and also brush their teeth after lunch. It is very cool. It is also really neat to see Cash pick up Japanese words. I still think the preschool, 5 hours a day, 5 times a week, is a bit too long, but it definitely has good things going on!
Monday, June 6, 2011

&hearts Two Loves Combined &hearts

   Q: How many zombies does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Why are you watching zombies change a light bulb? Shoot them!

Two things in life that I really enjoy are #1: Zombies!

The sweet birthday cake my bro and sis-in-law made for my 26th birthday!

I love zombies a lot, for a few reasons. First, I think (if I haven't created this memory, which I tend to do) my mom made me watch Night of the Living Dead with her when I was younger. Did I create this memory? Anyone? Also, I have seen many, many scary movies, and zombies are the only things that have not given me nightmares. Aliens? Yes--scary! Zombies--not so much. I think my zombie movie watching days are over, though, as I no longer watched R-rated movies. Third, I think every girl has had a conversation with at least one male about what to do in a zombie apocalypse. Boys just genetically meditate on this type of problem-solving.

Which brings me to another thing I enjoy in life (Okay, yes, boys--but something else): Public Health. This was my major, so I have a sweet spot for it. I think disease prevention is really interesting!

So, I thought this was so cool:
CDC Creates Zombie Preparedness Plan
This was all over the news a few weeks ago.

While I think it's important to be prepared, it's also important to stay healthy enough to outrun any possibly fast-moving zombies. There is a fitness program called ZombieFit that has a program that gets you agile enough to jump over fences during the zombie apocalypse. Amazing!

So, get prepared! Or at least, when the time comes, pretend like you are a zombie and maybe they won't notice!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Things, part 2

This week, I am slowly playing along with this:

You are supposed to spend one hour a day sewing clothes for your kids, and since Coco is in desperate need of summer clothes, I thought I would give it a shot.

So far, it involves randomly printing out patterns from online and only finishing this little top:


This is blurry, but this is so Coco--always playful (when she's not moody):

And some other new things:

My Brazil Butt Lift program is finished! I only did 25 of the 30 days, though. There were so many squats and lunges that my knees were in great pain. My review of the whole thing: Definitely worth doing if you want a butt! After finishing up 2 weeks ago and refraining from squats and lunges, I am now fitting back into my pants! Who'd have thought that not exercising would do that trick?
Our friends are moving and gave us their elliptical. So, my next 30 days will be cardio and yoga/ballet/pilates videos. This time I am working on my posture more than anything!

And...I have a new English book! Fox got me Pillars of the Earth for Mother's Day. Hooray! Ken Follet is my sister's favorite author, but I have never read any of his books. So far so good, and it's nice and thick!

I just found our library's huge craft book section, and it is full of wonderful goodies! So, I am going to attempt to start crochet-pattern reading in Japanese diagrams.

Good things all around!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Not good but also great


Not good: Cosette won't grow hair on the top of her head. So, she gets mistaken for a boy sometimes if she is not in dresses.

Great: Coco loves dresses. Also great, the pattern I used to make her dress (in above pic)--super easy and came out exactly as I pictured it. Double bonus: the fabric was $2 a yard. Super double bonus: My new sewing machine is super awesome and so fast it almost levitates off the table.

Not good: I am on the last week of the Brazil Butt Lift program. I have had this program for a year and have not stuck with it, because it is the most annoying workout I have ever done. I am finally doing it, because I talked my hubby into giving me $50 if I finished it. I have learned this about myself--I need incentives in order to have self-discipline! Also, the video should mention that Brazil Butts are big. This is NOT a workout program designed to slim you down but rather to give you a butt. Oops--I already had one. I can now no longer zip up my jeans and buttons have actually popped off a pair of my pants. Thanks, Brazil and your love of big butts.

Great: Even though I hate this workout program, I learned to look forward to it. I now put it on mute and listen to awesome podcasts instead of Leandro's urges to "no be shy--shake what you got". My favorites are NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and Stuff You Missed in History Class. Any other good ones?

Not Good: Justin Bieber's "Baby". No, sorry, just no...but...

Great: Neon Tree's cover of Justin Bieber's "Baby". Oh, yes, we play this often in this house:

So there you go...when life gives you lemons, take 'em...cause hey, free lemons!
Friday, April 8, 2011

What the heck is a salopette?

One of my students said she went shopping with her teenage daughter and bought her a salopette. I had no idea what she was talking about since it's French, but she sketched it for me and I knew immediately. This is a salopette:

They are all the rage here! What is the English word for this? A one-piece? Capri-length denim short-alls are really popular right now, too.

As are floral print hoodies like this:

All the cool mamas wear these!

And these boots are really popular here, as are cowboy boots with actual lace all over them:

But the biggest fashion trend right now is:

Shorts with tights! Everyone here wears shorts with tights, from little girls to grown women.

I can't get away with any of these styles, because, you know, I am like an Extra-Large here. I think Japanese people can pretty much wear anything and look good, and I think it is so fun to window-shop. Are shorts with tights popular in the U.S. now, too?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Dolls

I love dolls. Kokeshi Dolls. Owie Dolls. Waldorf Dolls. Quints dolls (my lil' sis and I scored some on eBay!)Yep, that's right I force allow my kids to play with my Quints.

I just love dolls. Even Barbie dolls--I can't wait until Coco is into them!

Matryoshka dolls are kind of trendy right now, especially in Japan, but I'm running with it. You can't deny cuteness!

Here's what I got for Christmas:

Matryoshka Measuring Cups! In all honesty, these guys are more cute than functional. I use them everyday, but it's kind of a pain to have to disassemble the doll to get to the 1/4 cup. Worth it, though :)

So, I decided that it would be fun to do a Matryoshka themed kitchen/bathroom. Yes--my toilet is in the kitchen, behind a door next to the stove. I think that is why there are 3 sinks in the room,too, for good measure as you leave the area.
Anyways, here is the "toire" with some cute wall stickers:

And then my hubby gave me $10 and left me alone in the store to get whatever I wanted. That made my day. Here's less than half of what I got:

(a trivet, spoon rest, door hanger, and furoshiki cloth)

So cute! And yes, everything pictured above (including the wall stickers) were from the dollar store! You know you want to live here now!

I also got a pile of cute chopsticks, including trainer chopsticks for the kiddos. And Coco got a Care-bear bento box and matching cup and cup sack. She will only eat and drink out of these now. More cuteness!

P.S. I realize that this blog lately is all about stuff I've purchased. Well, non-clothes/swimsuit/grocery shopping makes me happy!
Monday, February 28, 2011

In My Mailbox, Part 2

Best Mail Week Ever!!!
On Saturday morning, guess what got dropped off at my apartment 5 days after I ordered it from fabric.com in the U.S.?

My first "toy". Each tax return year, we pick one "toy" after paying down debts. Somehow, so far, all of our "toys" have been video game consoles. Huh? I finally put my foot down and purchased this sewing machine after polling all of my friends and making sure its voltage wouldn't blow our Asian fuses. This is the sewing machine my SIL Amber has, and we do our shopping research in this family, right?
It is super computerized and has a ton of stitches, but to be honest, I really just wanted it because it can do twin-needle sewing, to look like this:

Twin needles are so crazy! I am excited!
I also got this cute hedgehog fabric, which Coco immediately said was hers:

And this fun sofa sorbet fabric, because I plan on making couch cushions with...couch fabric!

I am so so happy right now! Hubby is less than thrilled, because apparently sewing=spousal neglect. He works until 10 or 11 most nights, though, so after bedtime will be my sewing time. Maybe.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In My Mailbox...

This was a good mail week for me! Mail makes me so so happy, because it is very rare that I can understand anything that shows up in my mailbox. Usually it is flyers and bills in Japanese. So, here is what I got in the mailbox this week--

A lovely order of soy wax tarts from TenDigitCreations. Oh, I'm so excited for these! Japan has very weird trash laws. You can only take your burnable trash out on Mondays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. Your nonburnable trash goes out twice a month on Wednesday mornings, and your recyclables have to be taken to the grocery store. With all this, it seems like we always have some random bags of trash waiting to be taken out. Don't worry--we keep them behind closed doors in our drying room! Still, our house still smells funky sometimes. These little wax babies are making my apartment smell less like trash and more like Butt Naked and Vampire Venom (uh, yeah, those are the scents I ordered--what, they smell so good!). I don't have an electric warmer, so I just break the wax up and put it in my little ceramic diffuser, which works great.

A Dictionary of Japanese Food, by Richard Hosking. I don't know what I did without this dictionary. Oh, wait, yes I do--I bought potato starch thinking it was powdered sugar! This dictionary has lists of pretty much everything you'll find in a Japanese grocery store, along with the kanji, so you can read what you are buying. Wonderful!

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, and Amazon Japan had it much cheaper than Amazon US. Since I already read the only novel I brought with me (oops), I needed something to read, and I love this book already! It was recommended to me by a few people, and it is a big, fat 700-page fantasy novel that got amazing reviews. So, this one should last me a while. If you don't think you are a fantasy novel reader, come on...you've probably read Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight. You are!

So, I am super happy this week! Cash also got some wonderful birthday cards in the mail, so thank you to those who sent them!

Oh--and it's strawberry season in Japan right now, which means you can get lots of yummy strawberry treats. This week, I treated myself to a Japanese snack sandwich--crustless white bread filled with strawberries, mochi, and whip cream. Yummy!
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Monkey Majik!

One awesome thing about Japan is that all of the pop music has random English phrases. In fact, a lot of the songs have English titles like "Take it Easy" or "Baby I Love You"--and then the songs are all in Japanese except for a few key lines. Fox and I get such a kick out of this, because we're pretty sure most of the songs have nothing to do with the randomly inserted English phrase.

Well, we recently discovered a band that uses a lot more than just a few English phrases--Monkey Majik!! The singers are Canadian (one of them was teaching English here and became a popstar!), and the musicians are Japanese. So, the songs are a really good blend of both languages. We are obsessed with this song, but it doesn't have a good video. So, here is our second favorite:

Do you love it? If so, here is the English translation of the whole song. Embrace the pop-i-ness!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Healing Soup

Last week, being cold constantly finally caught up with me, and I caught a cold. On Wednesday, I was so achey with a sore throat. So, I fixed up a bowl of Healing Cabbage Soup, which I made often the last time we lived in Japan. I love this soup, but I never make it in the U.S. because cabbage is so dang expensive! Here, cabbage is super cheap, and it is always stocked in my fridge for so many uses--yakisoba, okonomiyaki, etc.

Anyways, after 2 big bowls of healing soup made late at night, I went to bed. In the morning, I felt 100% better! It really is healing! I made some for our boss, who was getting an eye infection, and the next morning, her eyes were completely cleared up. Maybe it's just the garlic, but this soup is amazing and yummy, too!

Healing Cabbage Soup (adapted from Allrecipes)

3 Tbsp. oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
8 or 9 cups water
4 tsps chicken bouillon (or veggie bouillon)
1 tsp. salt
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 to 1/2 cup rice
1/2 head cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sugar
Pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in oil in large pot until softened. Add water and turn heat to high. When boil, dissolve bouillon in water. Turn heat to med-high and add cabbage, carrot, and salt. Cook for 10 mins. Add in rice, tomatoes, and sugar. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes. You may need to add more water and bouillon if the soup is getting too thick. Eat and be healthy!

Any other good recipes for cabbage?
Sunday, January 16, 2011


The moving stress has vanished! We are now safely settled in Japan, land of no insulation, in the middle of winter. I am getting serious ab muscles from shivering constantly :)
But it's all good--because Japan has many wonderful things to make up for their intense seasons.


Daiso--Japan's most popular dollar store. This place sells wool yarn, button covers, fabric, felt, and so many cooking goodies, like nori seaweed heart punches! Also, pillows, slippers, plants. It's amazing.

France sticks--Japan has so many baked goods, just a huge section of pastries in every store. Yummy! Last time I was here, I was a big fan of Nice sticks, but I have since discovered France sticks. Just a big long piece of sugary white bread filled with caramel cream or almond cream. Under $1. Yes! I won't say how many of these I have had for lunch!

Japanese bathrooms
--No, I'm not talking about the squatter toilets or even the nicely heated toilet seats. Sadly, we didn't get a cool toilet seat this time. I am talking about pretty much unlimited hot water and deep soaking tubs. There is a reason why Japanese people take daily baths. Another cool and random thing: Our toilet has a sink built into it, so when you flush, the sink runs with the clean, refilling water. Saves space and water. I think it's pretty neat. Also love that the toilets have a "little" flush option and a "big" flush option.

--Our new city has a Dream, my favorite store for craft supplies and fabric. All the fun Japanese fabric I have been wanting is here! In America, it's $16 a yard, whereas here it's about $6. It's probably a good thing that I didn't bring my sewing machine.

--of course! My kids have been eating miso soup and udon, which warms my heart! I have been using Japanese mayo on pretty much everything--it is so yummy! And the 50 cent blocks of grilled tofu and pineapples for $1 are really nice!

So I am cold but happy! We can still get American TV on our computer, so I have been watching "I Used to Be Fat", which also makes me happy--such an uplifting show. Fun to watch while eating France sticks :)

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