Sweet Dreams

I’m continuing to deal with any anxiety I have about The Cuties being gone for a month at overnight camp through Crafting Therapy.

I wonder if there’s a certification program for that?

Like most families, we have a bedtime ritual that involves spending time with each girl before tucking them in and saying goodnight.  I think this is one of the things I will miss the most this summer.

And while I know The Cuties will have a million and one distractions, wonderful counselors, and a cabin filled with new friends, it’s the time I suspect they may miss us the most as well.

And so I wanted them to have a little slice of home to snuggle up to at night.

Home+Summer usually = Lilly in our house, however I’m not so crazy that I’m sending that kind of clothing off to the lake and woods where I seriously hope my girls will be rolling in mud, throwing each other off the dock, and participating whole-heartedly in fights that involve various messy items.

So I turned to my stash of outgrown clothing, lined it with Heat and Bond, and cut out letters, spelling their names.  I then ironed the letters on to plain pillowcases.  Here’s what they looked like at this point:

ironedletters

To better handle the daily wear and tear of kids and the industrial laundry facilities of a summer camp, I went back and sewed a straight stitch all around each letter.

reinforcement

And they’re ready for the bunk beds!

Lpillow

Spillow

And just in case they’re missing a tuck in, they can sneak a peek inside, and know that Mommy and Daddy send their love even from far away!

pillownote

message

Poor husband and me have no one to tuck us in as we are each on separate continents when he has to head back to Japan to work and I’ll be at The Happy Place {I’m pretty sure I got the way better end of that deal, by the way!}.

Linked to:

Madigan Made, House of Hepworths

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Party Fun

If I had my way, all parties and entertaining would just be about appetizers and desserts.

And cocktails.

Silly me, can’t forget the cocktails.

Let’s just start things off fun and end things sweet and not have to fuss with anything substantial in the middle and it’s all good, right?

So I guess in addition to a costume-making manifesto, I have a party-throwing manifesto, too.

So let’s share some of the fun from the parties I’ve thrown in the past month or so and I can share my super-easy secrets for how to make your guests think you’ve been slaving in the kitchen for days on end when in reality you’ve been watching episodes of The Daily Show.

Except for me, dear friends in Real Life – I’ve been slaving.

Seriously.

{I can’t even type it without laughing at myself, so I’m sure you can’t read it}.

crudite

These are just crudite cups out of simple shot glasses grouped on a serving dish.  I put salad dressing/dip in the bottom and then my sliced up vegetables upright inside.  Much more fun than just out on a platter, and easier for people to walk around with in their hand.  Also better for germaphobes!

kabobs

Caprese Kabobs.  Slide a cherry tomato onto a wooden skewer and add a piece of basil folded in half and then a piece of fresh mozzarella.  Sprinkle with a small amount of Kosher salt and drizzle with a very tiny bit of Balsamic vinegar.  Easy to pick up and pop the whole thing in your mouth {remember to put out a little dish for the skewers}.

cheese

You didn’t really think I would throw a party and not use washi tape somewhere did you?  In a pinch, bamboo skewers, washi tape and a Sharpie make cheap and easy labels for your food.  Fold a piece of tape in half around your skewer, cut a tail and write what you’re serving.  Stick it in, and voila!

mallowpops

I have a theory that everyone thinks everything is better and fancier with sprinkles.  Take marshmallow pops.  They are ALWAYS a party favorite, and people will call you Martha Stewart when they see them {except Martha does things like make her own marshmallows from scratch.  Of course she has staff  to do things like empty the trash and do the laundry, so ya know}.

But all you have to do is place a bunch of large marshmallows standing up on a small cookie sheet and melt some chocolate.  Dip your lollipop stick into a bit of the chocolate and stick it into the lollipop to set {ideally you’d do this with white chocolate to camouflage it, but it’s not necessary}.  Once they’ve set, pick them up, dip them in chocolate {how much you want is totally up to you}, and while wet, add the sprinkles.  Be sure to do this over a bowl so you can catch all the extras to reuse them.  Place the sticks in a block of styrofoam to dry.  Depending on the humidity in your home, you may need to place them in the refrigerator for a few minutes to completely set the chocolate.  I then have a small piece of styrofoam cut inside my basket or vase that’s covered up with tissue paper or basket shreds.

pretzelsprinkles

Sticking with my sprinkles theory, dipped and sprinkled pretzel rods are also always a party hit.  First line a cookie sheet with wax paper to keep things from sticking.  Dip your pretzel into the chocolate, swirl it as you pull it out and gently tap it to remove excess.  Add sprinkles and set on the cookie sheet.  I put mine in the freezer for about seven minutes to set them since there’s so much more chocolate.

When you’re throwing a big party, you need to figure out the cup thing.  With real stemware, you can use all sorts of adorable tags, ribbons, etc. for people to know which cup is theirs.  However, when you need 50+ cups, most people have to default to plasticware.  So I added these cute stickers from Lilly Pulitzer.  Every year they have a different book, but all of them have a version of this particular label.

cuplabels

But the Party Fun thing I’ve been excited about most of late?

Flings Pop Up Trash Bins

{I know, I know, I’ve got to get a life}

In all seriousness, they come folded flat, which in a Tokyo apartment, where we don’t have room for full-sized garbage cans – let alone multiple ones at party time – is a big deal!

I just pop two up, slap a label on them, people fill them as the night goes on and at the end of the night, you pull the drawstring closed and just take it out to the trash room!

garbagebags

C’mon.  Even if you’re not the type of person to get excited about a trash can {and I imagine that’s 99% of you normal people out there}, you’ve got to admit, this is pretty darn cool.

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Bald is Beautiful

I’ve been hinting at something special going on in our house for a while now, and I’m finally ready to spill the beans.

Back in March, Little Cutie found out about the amazing St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and their work raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

{Note: While not suitable for very young children, we felt this was a very appropriate video for The Cuties, ages 9 & 11, to better understand the impact of pediatric cancer and fundraising efforts}.

Ever big-hearted, Little Cutie was empowered by the idea that she could help and that this was something she could do as a “just a kid.”

And so she proposed shaving her head to raise money.

We talked about it with her, and as a family at length, explaining what people might say or think when they see her without hair.  But she was even-keeled, strong in spirit, and clear of purpose.

And so we supported her 100%.

She wrote the loveliest of letters and the husband and I forwarded it off to everyone we knew.  She talked about it to people in person, to kids at school and they went home and talked to their parents, and friends stopped me in the neighborhood and around town to talk about the plan and lend their support.

And the response was overwhelming.

Amazingly overwhelming.

See, most St. Baldrick’s events in America are big productions in bars or shopping malls with lots of participants, and professional advertising.  Not our little One Girl Wonder in Tokyo.  Our small community and Little Cutie of the Big Heart ~ you know what we all made happen?

$12,142.00 raised for pediatric cancer research!!!

And that, my dear readers, deserves a celebration, don’t you think?

A celebration of our family and friends and their love and support.

A celebration of those we love who have fought cancer and survived and are still in our lives and we are all the more blessed.

A celebration of those we loved who lost their battles with cancer so we could remember them once more.

A celebration of a room filled with children of all ages, who came to hoot and holler and cheer on a friend as she did something different.

And a celebration of our Little Cutie, who gave something way more than just her hair today.

The response to this post has been incredible.  So much so we’d like to share the link to Little Cutie’s fundraising page if you are interested in donating to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.  

DONATE HERE!

frontdoor2

{Before the big shave, she donated several ponytails to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths, like she did last year ~  No need to waste all that hair, right?!!!}

ponytails

package

clippers

haireverywhere

thereveal

familybald

marshpops

pretzelsprinkles

happyshavingday

A very special thank you to Roberto Perozzi for his hair expertise and to my girlfriend Stephanie for her fantastic photography and for allowing us to be “in the moment.”

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Washi Laptop

My problem continues.

My washi tape problem, that is.

But Big Cutie was working on a project and I just couldn’t help myself.

pinkandgreen

And lately it seems that despite having a work laptop, a laptop of his own and an iPad, my husband is always commandeering my laptop.  So it occurred to me that if I made it as girly as humanly possible perhaps it could be mine and all mine!

washilaptop

Is this seriously cute or what?

It reminds me of grosgrain ribbon from Pappagallo back in the Dark Ages when I was Big Cutie’s age and everything I adored came with polka dots and stripes and whales and alligators {OK, nothing has actually changed in 30 years I guess}.

Now all of my electronics belong in The Official Preppy Handbook and perfectly coordinate.

preppyelectronicsAll I did was place my washi tape with tails hanging off and then used my x-acto knife slid gently against the edge of the computer to cut flush.

If I ever tire of it, it comes right off and I can go back to the plain silver or completely change my design!

The only problem I see is that it’s in no way stopping my husband from using this computer.  Clearly in our house filled with three females, and a sea of pink, he is completely confidant in his masculinity!

husbandlaptop

Linked to:

I Should Be Mopping the Floor, Craft-o-Maniac, Monday Funday Party, A Peek into My Paradise, Home Stories A to Z

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Kids Have Strokes, Babies Have Strokes, Even Unborn Babies Have Strokes…

Seriously.

In fact, for infants under one month, strokes happen once in every 2,800 live births.  And for kids ages 1 to 18, they occur in 11 out of every 100,000 children.

And Big Cutie is one of those survivors.

May is National Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month, so I want to talk about this a bit.

{You can read our complete stroke story here. You can learn more about pediatric strokes and the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association here}

When I first heard that very scary word stroke, and had to learn to navigate a world of doctors, therapists, and braces, I focused on all the things Big Cutie might not be able to do.

But not any more.

Because Big Cutie is amazing.

riding

From the time she was fitted for her first leg brace and could take her first steps, if she could figure out how to do it, she was willing to try it!

rockwall

When she was much younger we used to call her “The 30 Minute Girl.”  Originally we thought she was shy and needed a bit of time to hang back with Mommy before entering the fray.  Later, we figured out that she was simply surveying the situation, figuring out how she could best participate, and then would join in, full force.

surfing

kayaking

In fact, Big Cutie now forces ME to try new and adventurous activities because otherwise, I’d be the only family member left out!

IMG_0461

biking

Whether it’s in the air, ziplining or in the water, swimming, she’s got a big smile on her face!

diving

She’s even gone high-tech in her adaptive device, so she can be on the move more.

hulaing

Big Cutie is the best example I know that you don’t have to finish first to be a winner in life.

Is she cool, or what?

cool

CHASA creates a special montage of Pediatric Stroke Survivors every year in honor of Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month.  Check it out and see if there’s anyone you might recognize around the 6:00 minute mark!

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Why I’ve Been MIA

I’ve got Blogger Guilt for not writing in over a week.

It’s not you, it’s me, I swear.

We’ve simply entered that end of the school year craze where the calendar is beginning to resemble a rainbow of appointments, social events, and school functions.  I’m doing my best to keep my head above water and have fun while doing it!

Since we last chatted, here’s what I’ve been up to ~

Threw a small dinner party for work people

As always, it’s a challenge sometimes to work with Western recipes in an Asian country.  After a year and a half, I’ve become accustomed to getting out my little kitchen scale and looking up how to convert grams to ounces or cups, but I still stumble sometimes in the purchasing department.  For one recipe I needed dried tarragon.  After trips to three different markets, I realized that tarragon is only sold in large pieces in Japan as opposed to a fine powder.  Clearly, that was not ideal for a salad dressing.  In a last-minute attempt to not have to re-plan the menu, I bought a small mortar and pestle, which worked brilliantly, and had the added bonus of bringing oohs an aahs from The Cuties!

mortarandpestle

Spent an afternoon with a local framer

Oh Tokyo is spoiling me rotten.  Instead of loading up my art and heading to Michael’s or a neighborhood framing shop, a lovely man came to my apartment with a suitcase filled with frame and mat samples.  Two girlfriends joined me, and we drank tea, helped each other and placed our orders.  Simply, divine.

framing2

Scheduled my first appointments for Big Cutie’s Bat Mitzvah

We officially have a date on the calendar and are very excited!  Big Cutie has all sorts of ideas about what she wants for her party and I am so looking forward to planning things with her.  I’m really thrilled she wants to have an active role in her big day.  The challenge for me, however, is trying to explain to the Japanese what exactly it is I’m scheduling…..I’m having a lot of conversations that run like this, “it’s sort of like a wedding ~ without a groom ~ and oh yeah, the ‘bride’ is only 13.”  I imagine after I leave they are talking for hours about the crazy American lady!

Attended Middle School Parent Orientation

How the HECK do I have a child going into MIDDLE SCHOOL??!!!!  Like an impending birthday isn’t making me hyper-focused on gray hairs as it is, sitting in an auditorium listening to information on lockers, changing classes, laptops and dances – DANCES, people! – sure is.  Big Cutie, of course, is SO excited about it, and why shouldn’t she be?  It’s all bigger and better in her world.  Me?  I just found myself counting the years ’til she heads off to college and had to sit down and compose myself {7 in case you’re wondering}.

backpack

Surviving the Husband’s Week+ Business Trip

I know most of my Expat friends have husbands who travel all the time, but I’m very blessed and mine does not.  I’m also VERY out of practice to having him gone, and we all miss him terribly, but we’re entering the home stretch and will have him home before we know it.  Which is critical for two reasons:  most importantly because we love and miss him, and a close second because the Apple TV has been out for more than 48 hours and I’ve been unable to fix it.  As the Person in Charge of All Things Electronic, this falls under his purview, so I am extra-looking forward to his return!

Appletv

So that’s my story {and I’m sticking to it}.

I hope life is calm, cool and collected in your worlds!

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Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah!

This summer my Cuties are going to sleep away camp for the first time.

For a month.

Everyone is over the top excited, but the Mama in me is rather sad at the prospect of not hearing about their day each evening at the dinner table.  So they’ve promised to write to me on a semi-regular basis {I’ll let you know how that plays out!}.

To best facilitate the whole “I promise to write you every other day thing” I made up a special box for each of them to take to camp.

letter box

{For the record: while I considered many things while naming The Cuties, I never thought about potential alliteration for summer camp paraphernalia, and this is merely a coincidence, I swear!}

Because we do not have Michael’s or Target in Japan, finding an appropriate box that didn’t cost ¥5000 was quite the challenge.  I finally found these at Uematsu, a proper art supply store for a very reasonable price and can now think of at least a half-dozen other ways to use them so I will be headed back for more!

Here’s what I included inside each box {from left to right}:

boxinsides

*address labels with my summer address and their Daddy’s when he has to be back in Tokyo working, as well as return address labels with the camp address {can you tell I don’t want there to be any excuses not to write?!}

*Air Mail stationery for letters to Japan

*Personalized notepads from camp {if you subscribe to their newsletter right now you can receive 15% off your order!}

*Flat notecards and envelopes.  These are the perfect size for 9 & 11 year olds. {My cards are a little older from my stash I’ve bought during Boatman Gellar’s incredible online tent sales, however their designs continue to be adorable, so I’m sure you’ll find something you like!}

*Stickers for decorating envelopes.  {I’m pretty sure I decorated my letters home from camp over thirty years ago with Mrs. Grossman’s stickers, too.  Does that make me or the stickers vintage?}

*washi tape for sealing envelopes, and because pretty much my philosophy in life since moving to Tokyo is you can never be without washi tape.

*Colorful pens for writing home! {I’ve written about how much I love the erasable pens easily found here in Japan, but last summer I discovered that the ink faded when left out in the heat of the sun, and I didn’t want to chance an envelope not making its way to me, so I avoided using these in this instance!}

*Japanese stationery sets.  For someone like me who loves to buy new stationery all the time, I love that most stationery sets in Japan only come in packs of five; it allows me to justify buying more!

*****

So The Cuties will be ready to go when we head to the States and I send them on their merry way.  All I have to do now is add stamps.

And I haven’t forgotten the grownups, of course!

I’m gathering up my own things and plan to shop a bit in America, however I want to leave things set for my husband.  The Cuties’ camp director has graciously said that he can send emails to them and they’ll be permitted to write back due to the distance issue, however he’d also like to send some “real mail” their way as well.

So I made this up to leave in his office for him:

dads file

He’s got labels for each girl, stamps to mail things from Tokyo to camp, and a bunch of cute cards from Japan.

One project down, twenty-seven more to go before we pack to head to summer camp!

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