Monthly Archives: August 2014

Aaaaaaand, Disappointment

Presley nappingMy Japanese class was cancelled due to low enrollment. The school called on Monday and left a voicemail on our land line (yes, we still have a land line…we are your grandparents) and I figured they were just calling to remind me about the class or to tell me which room it would be in. Yesterday afternoon I listened to the voice mail and I got the news. (Thankfully I didn’t GO to the class to get the news!) I’m so bummed. I was all excited to learn again, especially something useful for our travels next year. But, it’s not meant to be right now. And that’s okay. I’ll just commiserate with this sweet face until I feel better.

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Back To School

Japanese Cat Chopstick RestsMy Japanese class starts tonight! I am very excited and a little bit nervous. I’m nervous mainly because I don’t know what to expect, so hopefully the nerves will go away after the first class–this is supposed to be fun after all. I promise to report back soon.

The sweet chopstick rests pictured above are a gift from my friend Mollie. She picked them up during her recent trip to Disney World. We don’t have any chopstick rests around here (nor do we have proper chopsticks!) so these were a perfect present! (Plus, she got one for Presley–how sweet is that?!)


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Japan Does It Better 18: Toiletries That Tingle

Japan Does It Better, Japanese toiletries that cool your skinI’m a sucker for things that burn…well, technically for toiletries that cool. And Japan seems to have the market cornered when it comes to cooling your skin, eyes, lips and more with toiletries that include menthol. The menthol is invigorating!

Last summer, my love for all things cooling started with the Biore face wash and the Shiseido lip balm that refreshed my face and lips in the hot, humid Tokyo weather. When we went back in March, I was on the hunt for more of that lip balm and some other cooling products. Naoto found some cooling eye masks (which will be a future JDIB post) and I found the cooling powder sheets (featured in JDIB 15). Both provide the perfect relief on a steamy day. The powder sheets have been the best thing this week because I’ve been able to freshen up after my walk to work in the soupy humidity.

And the most interesting menthol toiletry of all is the cooling eye drops. They are crazy weird–the very second you feel the drops in your eyes, you feel a moment of regret because it burns and it’s scary, then right away that passes and it’s just cooling, invigorating relief. They really perk you up after a nap, or before an early morning coffee run.

Tingling toiletries…Japan Does It Better!!

To see all JDIB posts, go here.

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Flowers, Flooding & Failures

cypress vine flowerI had another post planned for today, but it’s as dark as a cave here and I couldn’t get a proper picture. It rained several inches around here last night. I was rudely shocked out of a good sleep at 2AM by my phone and its stupid loud weather alert. It took 2.5 episodes of Roseanne to fall back asleep, mainly because my heart had to start beating again after the surprise of the alarm.

I went outside this morning to check on the flowers–everything is completely soaked out there–and I found this teeny, tiny flower on my Cypress Vine. Isn’t it the sweetest little thing? There are supposed to be pink, white and red flowers eventually. I cannot wait!

portulaca, kimberly AH balconyThe huge rain made my portulaca explode. I’ve decided that next year (yes, I’m already planning my flowers for next year) I will be planting more portulaca in all the colors of the rainbow.

As far as failure goes…well, have you looked at the calendar lately? Summer is almost over. I’m failing my Summer Manifesto. I still haven’t tried three new cocktails with herbs from our gardens or three new tomato recipes. I haven’t taken more walks or really rediscovered Chicago. And, while we have had a few special guests for Hasegawa Happy Hours, we haven’t had enough of them. I know the US thinks of Labor Day as the end of summer, but as long as we have tomatoes and a garden, it’s still summer to me. Before I start planning fall cocktails and soups and balcony parties, I’m determined to at least mix up a few herbal gin drinks and soak up these long days while I can.

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Aunt Connie

Aunt Connie and Kaitlyn, 06.02.06When my phone rang a little after six on Thursday morning, I knew it was bad. When I saw my mom’s phone number on the screen, I silently prayed it was just a pocket dial or something. Crazy thinking because my mom still has a flip phone, and therefore never pocket dials anyone. But when your phone rings that early (or really late), you know it’s never good news.

She told me that my Aunt Connie–her little sister–had died in a motorcycle accident overnight. Over the weekend Naoto and I went down to Central Illinois for her memorial service. It was a heavy, heartbreaking weekend.

Maybe it was because she lived (what could be considered by most) a difficult life, but Aunt Connie squeezed every bit of love and enjoyment out of her sixty-one years. She was widowed very young–with a toddler daughter and a son on the way–when her husband was killed in a car accident. And ten years ago this month, her son passed away.

Somehow, she was strong, enthusiastic and had a wonderful sense of humor. She loved her daughter and grandchildren mightily, she loved her husband Stan fiercely and she took advantage of every opportunity to have an adventure, to make someone smile or just to enjoy being together. She always greeted us with a huge smile and a punch on the arm. (Sometimes she left a bruise…it was her enthusiasm-for-life mark.) She was loud and had the heartiest laugh. (I’m loud, too, so I totally appreciated this about her.) And she was that person at a family gathering that you wanted to be sitting next to because you were guaranteed a snarky comment and a good belly laugh.

Her spirit was truly one of the best parts of our family. I can only hope that we all can live life the way Aunt Connie did–fearlessly, joyfully and with a big punch on the arm.


The picture above is from my wedding, Aunt Connie dancing with my niece Kaitlyn. 



Mom’s Arbor

handmade arborFor Mother’s Day this year, my dad built my mom a fantastic Asian-inspired arbor to frame the steps to their backyard. He finished it in July and Naoto and I got a chance to see it in person over the weekend. handmade arborWhen we were growing up, our yard was pretty plain, mostly grass and a giant vegetable garden. Now that my parents are semi-retired, they spend a lot of time gardening and collecting a variety of perennial flowers and greenery. The arbor adds a little architectural touch to their otherwise free-flowing garden. my parent's backyardThey found the design for the arbor in a thrifted old woodworking book that is full of projects for yards and patios. It’s amazing the gems you can find in seemingly outdated books! my parent's backyard at my parent's housemy parent's backyard my parent's backyardmy parent's backyardmy parent's backyardNot that we would ever want to make Presley jealous, but we kind of fell in love with my parents’ neighborhood cat, Fred. Fred isn’t really his name. My dad just calls him that. He originally belonged to my parents’ neighbor but now just kind of divides his time among the houses on their block. He was super laid back, fell in love with Naoto and charmed us into petting him every time we went outside. If we didn’t think Presley would eat him, we might have brought him home with us! But as my dad said…”Fred wouldn’t stand a chance around Presley.”

In My Neighborhood: Little Free Library

Little Free Library Forest Park, ILI’ve been reading about Little Free Libraries popping up in cities all across the country. It’s an intriguing idea–build a tiny library, fill it with a few books and let people give and take on the honor system. It’s so community-driven and idealist…two things I love.

Imagine my surprise when Little Free Library recently popped up in front of a tiny house in my own neighborhood!

This house is only a block north of me, and one that I walk by almost every day on my way to get a coffee or go to work. It’s in a neighborhood of both houses and apartments a couple of blocks away from the train station. If you ask me, it’s a perfect neighborhood for something like this. People can pick up and drop off books on their way to their morning trains. Hopefully some of the neighborhood kids can find some titles in there eventually. Little Free Library Forest Park, ILThe little library house is surrounded by solar-operated twinkle lights, but I haven’t seen it all lit up at night yet. I don’t see any titles inside that I want to borrow yet (I am a huge user of our public library), but I have a few good classics on my shelf that I’m going to drop off later this week. Little Free Library Forest Park, ILDo you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? There’s a giant list of them here and a map here.

Speaking of reading…I’m going to go outside now and finish my book for book group this weekend. We’re reading Two Years Before the Mast. What an adventure!

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Plot #6: Brandywines are Back!

brandywines and yellow pear harvest, plot 6And the tomatoes are coming!! Last night in our latest check of our neglected community garden plot #6, we found a bounty of tomatoes! Three nice Brandywines, a couple more Juliets and a couple dozen Yellow Pears all made it safely into the harvesting bucket and ready for Hasegawa Happy Hour tomorrow night. I found a new salad recipe that I’d like to try with the yellow guys and I think panzanella will be the perfect plan for the Brandywines. Most of today will be spent searching for a cocktail recipe that will complement the tomato feast. plot 6, community gardenLook at our loofah! We have several of these little guys running along the mess of vines. Thanks to Mr. Brownthumb for helping us spot them and for hand modeling. Now we just need to hope that they don’t get eaten by mice before they are big enough to eat or dry out for bath time. (I’m still not sure I’m brave enough to eat one!)plot 6, cosmos, buttonsEven though my careless flower plantings took up way more space than I had anticipated, seeing those crazy orange and blue blooms in our plot makes me ridiculously happy. I promise there are plenty of tomatoes behind that mess of flowers!sunflower, forest park community gardenAnd speaking of flowers, I can’t resist sharing this way-taller-than-me sunflower in a neighboring community garden plot. I feel like I should do a community garden tour for you in the coming weeks. So many plots are overgrown and overflowing with amazing produce. It’s fun to be learning and sharing this hobby with so many others.

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A Place For Everything & Everything In Its Place

Home Decorator's Collection, Martha Stewart flat fileIt’s been a little quiet over here on the blog these past couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to focus on cleaning up around here, spending time outside and drinking in this wonderful summer.

One of the most exciting things about cleaning up around here is that we added another, final piece to our desk set-up in the living room. (You can see the beginnings of the office area here and here.) The two desks kind of looked lonely so we added a third piece from the Martha Stewart Craft Collection at Home Decorators. It’s a flat file and I am thrilled to be able to have more space for some of my mail art and craft supplies.

The most exciting part is that two of the drawers are large enough to hold my huge collection of handmade papers. Some of them have been rolled up for years in my trunk and in a drawer and in a spare trash can in the guest room, so it’s amazing to have them all in one place, lying flat and ready to use. Home Decorator's Collection, Martha Stewart flat fileThe other exciting part is that the other giant drawers have these little dividers, creating ready-made cubbies for all my stationery things. I’m currently picking patterned papers to line each section. Lining drawers is serious business around here.

We are still waiting for the parts to finish the last drawer in the cabinet. There were a couple of pieces that cracked during shipping, but thankfully we were able to get the whole thing together minus one drawer and that last drawer will be a piece of cake to finish once we get those parts. (Edit: we=Naoto…he did 99% of the work building this.) The furniture is all in place and I’m filling it up quickly. I hope to be able to show you another in-progress shot next week. There is still quite a lot of work to do–I will have to move the artwork and patch some holes in the wall and repaint the wall–before I can call the living room “complete.”

I will be back next week with an update, hopefully, and some more regularly scheduled programming. Have a great weekend!

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Japan Does It Better 17: Calendar Decals

calendar stickers, Japan Does It BetterIf you visit any stationery store in Tokyo you will find aisles upon aisles devoted to calendar keeping. Not only are there tons of options for calendars and datebooks but there are tons of styles of these tiny stickers to help keep your appointments, duties, birthdays and other special events organized. I am a big fan of using my paper datebook and I couldn’t resist picking up a new set of calendar stickers at each stationery store I visited.calendar stickers, Japan Does It BetterI bought some basic green washi dots to mark my work schedule and some basic see through colored squares for random appointments like board meetings and book group. calendar stickers, Japan Does It BetterMost of the stickers I purchased are cat-themed. I use the cats and some other stickers I have in my stash to mark parties, coffee dates, birthdays and anniversaries. calendar stickers, Japan Does It BetterThese stickers are the most literal calendar stickers. I just started using them to mark doctor’s appointments, car repair appointments and classes. calendar stickers, Japan Does It Better calendar stickers, Japan Does It Better calendar stickers, Japan Does It BetterI love looking at my month-at-a-glance page and seeing the cats, washi tapes and other stickers highlighting the fun activities each month.calendar stickers, Japan Does It Better calendar stickers, Japan Does It Better calendar stickers, Japan Does It BetterLeave it to Japan to make something cute and practical! When it comes to kawaii calendar organization, Japan Does It Better!

To see the other JDIB posts, go here.

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