Become a Brussel Sprout Believer

I’ll confess something to you.

I used to be one of those people.

You know us.  The ones who said they didn’t like Brussel Sprouts.  But hadn’t ever really tried Brussel Sprouts.  Yup.  One of those.  I mean they look a bit strange in their organic state, and as an adult I always found the resemblance to the biological weapons in the movie The Rock a little disconcerting to say the least

brussel_sprout_igor the-rock

But, oh how my tune has changed.

I recently made this recipe and had to resist the urge to close the door to the kitchen and not share with my children {of course it’s rather difficult to hide any recipe that calls for 5 cloves of garlic when it’s roasting in the oven for close to an hour, but let’s pretend I was generous and loving, shall we?}.

Start by trimming and halving about 2 pounds of Brussel Sprouts {don’t panic and think this sounds like to much ~ trust me, they’re this good and your children will mow them down and ask you for more and then how guilt-ridden will you feel denying them seconds on Brussel Sprouts??!!!!}

brusselsproutshalved

Take five cloves of garlic and mince them.  The recipe says you can press them through a garlic press but ever since I read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and he rants against this gadget I’ve been paranoid I’ll run into him some day on the streets of Tokyo and he’ll randomly ask me if I use a garlic press. Goody two shoes that I am I will have to answer truthfully so it seems easier to just avoid using garlic presses for the rest of my life on the outside chance this ever happens.  Have I mentioned lately I need therapy?

Besides, I’ve told you several times how fabulous ceramic graters are, so you should use one of those anyway.

garlic

Add the garlic, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and a 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the Brussel Sprouts and toss together.  Spread out into a single layer.  Bake for 40-50 minutes at 425 degrees in the upper third of your oven.  About halfway through, be sure to stir.  When finished, make sure you scrape all the caramelized  brown yumminess {yes, that’s a technical cooking term ~ look it up} into your serving bowl, as it’s part of what makes this dish so delicious.

brusselsproutyummies

Now, start planning to bring this to every family dinner and then quietly gloat how everyone in your family now loves their healthy vegetables and you are personally responsible for adding years to their lives for making them pass on the Velveeta-covered broccoli!

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My New Ride

Nope, I still don’t drive in Tokyo.

But I finally got a bicycle and boy, is she a beauty.

The husband and I set out to the bike shop last weekend where he asked all sorts of technical questions and checked out important details on things like battery life and front and rear working lights.

Me?  I needed to ensure our choice was available in either pink or green.

I am nothing if not consistent.

bicycle

I’m still on a bit of a learning curve as to how to maneuver riding a bicycle amidst the pedestrian traffic and to handle the “surge” while taking off up a hill in electric mode.  But I haven’t killed myself yet and I managed to ride to the grocery store today and get what I needed and ride back in a matter of minutes, which was the whole goal of the purchase, so I am a happy gal.

Now if I can just figure out exactly where I can sneak a bright green monogram I will be in heaven!

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Remembering March 11

There are many amazing links out there with photographs and writings about that fateful day two years ago in Tohoko.  I urge you to spend a few minutes checking them out today {or tomorrow if you’re in America}.

Being here, and hearing my girlfriends’ stories ~ I can tell you who was in their car on the Rainbow Bridge, who was at the American School and who was inside Toys R Us when the earth began to move.  I feel their fear all over.  I ache for them.  I knew their tension when we recently had a snow day and the buses took five hours to get our children home and I watched them relive waiting on buses to get the children home from school for hours upon hours the day of the earthquake.

It was about 22 months ago that we first started talking about moving to Tokyo.  Many of our friends and family were understandably scared for us.  The week we told The Cuties, their school was still fundraising to help with the relief efforts.  We were wary, but excited to try. And so we came.

I know I’m jumbled here.  And I’m honestly not sure I really want to edit and rewrite over and over today.  It’s a hard day and it should be hard to write.

But this I know.

Japan is amazing.

The Japanese people are incredible.

And ranking after marrying my husband and having The Cuties, I can without a doubt say that moving here and having this opportunity is one of the single best things I’ve ever done in my life and I’m so very glad to be here and experience it all.

Ganbare Nippon!

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Fun Art Anyone Can Make!

The Cuties needed a little piece of art for their bathroom in the new apartment and I had seen this idea on Pinterest I wanted to try.

It was even an elephant which was exactly what I had in mind since we’d been talking about our incredible experience with elephants in Phuket last year on Spring Break.

I chose a shape in the Silhouette online shop and printed it about eight inches across on a piece of card stock.  I then used blue painter’s tape to secure it to a piece of heavyweight watercolor paper {you definitely want a true watercolor paper for this project as the texture really adds to the finished project in my opinion!}.

supplies

I began adding different shades of blues and mixing them within my stencil while still wet.  See the salt shaker?  Let me explain.  My freshman roommate at Vanderbilt was an incredible artist.  Seriously amazing.  She’d finishing studying and whip out her paints and magic would happen there between our Laura Ashley bedecked beds {I just dated myself again, didn’t I?}.  Anyway, she showed my how adding a little salt to wet watercolors did the coolest speckling to the paint.  Most important, twenty years later, it rocked The Cuties’ world.

blueelephant

I should share that I added a few small pieces of rolled up blue tape underneath some of the more complex cuts to my stencil like the legs for stability.  Even so, you may want to hold down your stencil while you paint those areas to avoid bleeding.

'phant

Then, I just peeled up the stencil and voila!

paintedelephant

And here’s a close up of the texture from the salt.  Perfect for elephant “hide,” don’t you think {presuming you’ve ever seen a violet and blue ombre elephant, of course!}

elephantstippling

The Cuties are searching through the Silhouette site to select templates they want to make next.  We may cover the wall in a full menagerie before the end of the school year!

Linked to:

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Spread the Word to End the Word

Today is the annual day of awareness of the use of the R-word.

The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign has a pledge you can sign stating you pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. Won’t you join me in such a simple but powerful message?

As an English literature major I believe in the power of words.  I believe our words are important and meaningful, and have the ability to do so much in the world.

When our children are young we start by telling them to use their words.

Let’s all use our words for the better.

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Lucky Little Headband

My most popular headband I ever sold in my Etsy shop was this Shamrock one.

I’ve tried this “style” of headband at other holidays, but it never works as well as the Shamrock shape and so it remains my one and only non-flower I ever sold!

To make one of your own, you need three different, but close shades of green felt {I used lime green, apple green and Kelly green}.  I like to either do lightest to darkest or darkest to lightest, but there are no rules, so pick whatever looks best to you!  You’ll also need a large rhinestone for your center and a headband as your base.  I prefer a wider headband for this particular project to give the shamrock a little ‘body.’

In the above photo, you’ll see my pattern set.  If you’re just going to make one headband, you could probably freehand these, but since I make these a lot and I struggle with shamrock shapes in general, I made a proper pattern set.  I like to make my patterns on graph paper as it helps me check my proportions and balance.  For something like this project you can then use a photocopier to either shrink or enlarge your pattern at an interval two times to get your other two templates.

I have laminated my patterns, and so they can easily withstand pinning them to the felt and cutting around it.  When you first cut the felt, it will not look very pretty.  Don’t fret!

See?  A little rough, right?  Not to worry.  Take your top layer and stack it on top of the middle layer and “clean it up” and then repeat with the bottom layer.  Now it should look much prettier!

Hot glue your layers together and add a rhinestone center and then attach it to your headband!  Now give to some lucky little lass!

If you live somewhere chilly, this would look adorable with a pin on the back, attached to hat or lapel of your jacket.

Stay out of trouble this St. Patrick’s Day and be lucky!

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The Funniest & Muddiest Day of My Life

Let me just go ahead and say there’s no way I’m going to completely do justice to the day I had Monday, but I will give it the ole’ college try, nonetheless.

It all started several weeks ago when my friend Katherine sent me an email asking me if I wanted to attend the Warabi Naked Matsuri.  Honestly, I really didn’t need to click the link she sent ~ I mean, it’s some adventure in Japan and it had the word naked in it ~ how could I say no?!!!

Warabi Naked Matsuri is a Shinto Festival that has taken place in this town for more than 700 years.  It’s very official, with security and registration!

registration

It begins up on a hill at the Shinto shrine with the “hardy men” dressed in loincloths and bright pink head cloths.  They each carry the babies born in the town in the past year, and the Shinto priests give them a blessing and a few stalks are placed in the head cloths of the men.

waitingforblessing

The men then walk the babies down the hill to a sacred muddy rice paddy and put a pinch of mud on the infants’ faces to protect the babies from harm.

babyricepaddy

They return up to the shrine and back to the mud paddy a total of three times.

babymud

After the babies are returned to their mothers, the Festival really gets started!

The men all ran down the hill, chanting prayers for a good harvest in the coming year.

mudprayer

And this is where I should pause to talk about the temperature.

It was really darn cold, folks.  Not cold-’cuz-you’re-in-a-loincloth-kinda-cold, but rather cold like you’re standing around in freezing mud, tossing inch-thick sheets of ice out of the way cold.  That, my friends, is the very definition of a “hardy man!”

ice

And then came the mud wrestling!  The men participate in wrestling battles, known as kibasen where teams of three men hold a fourth on their shoulders and they try to knock over the other teams.  And then it pretty much turns into a free for all!

kibasen

kibasen2

The men then climb out of the rice paddy, run back up to the shrine, warm themselves by the bonfire, drink sake and apparently eat what seemed to be Big Macs.  I kid you not.

bigmacs

And repeat.  Over and over again.

After watching the rice paddy action twice, four of us decided to check out what was happening back up at the shrine at the top of the hill.

Best.decision.ever!

For starters, you should understand we were the only non-Japanese at this Festival.  We were greeted warmly and clearly a bit of a novelty as this wasn’t a particularly large festival as they tend to go, and we were a good hour outside of Tokyo.

 So every time the men ran back and forth, we got swipes of mud on our face {which we later learned was for good luck!}.  We found this absolutely hilarious.

muddygaijin

And the more we laughed and the more sake the men had, the muddier and funnier it became.  We cheered them on each time they passed, and they started cheering each time they saw us.

moremud

At this point, I had mud being rubbed in my hair.  Clearly, I have been blessed with much luck for the coming year!

And the Japanese photographers couldn’t get enough of watching and shooting our interaction.  We joked that this was our “paparazzi moment” as we literally watched hundreds of people taking our pictures, just inches from our faces.  I’m not exaggerating.

paparazzi

It went on like this for an hour or more.  Us laughing so hard we forgot how cold we were, we didn’t care how dirty we were, and we completely forgot that no one had seen a bathroom for hours.

It’s good to be a grown up and still be completely silly for a day.

And I’m pretty sure my new standard for awesome is two festivals in one week!

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