The Year I Completely Blew Off Hanukkah

And there’s no making up for it since the Miracle that was Thanksgivukkah won’t happen again for almost 8,000 years.

Talk about blowing it as a blogger.

But I just wasn’t feeling it this year.

The whole Expat-Thanksgiving-lack of family-hard to get a turkey challenge, combined with Hanukkah falling so early it was November and not December kicked my butt.  Then the kids had most of Thanksgiving week off and my husband couldn’t take vacation days and well….

Like I said, I wasn’t feeling it.

So much so I didn’t even pull out the Hanukkah bins.  No popsicle stick Stars of David from preschool to decorate the apartment, no nuts glued onto wood menorahs covered in wax to light each night.  Nothing.  I was like the Hanukkah Grinch.

I didn’t even wrap a single gift for The Cuties since our tradition is an experiential gift from the two of us, so this year we took them to see One Direction in concert, which happened a few weeks before Hanukkah even started.

So instead, I packed bathing suits for me and The Cuties and we took off for Guam.  And as the only adult, I had to be the “Fun Parent,” a job usually bestowed upon my husband, and always well-earned.  I didn’t read but a page or two in my book, didn’t sip a fruity drink and didn’t nap on a chaise lounge in the sun.

I did, however, take an archery class with The Cuties, repeatedly go down water slides, and by the last day, finally make it across the suspended walkway on the water, a la Wipeout! {Note to Self: future efforts at being the Fun Parent will be easier if you remember to pack the strap to your strapless bathing suits!}

photo (59)

We saw Catching Fire within a week of it’s release, without subtitles and for a normal price.  This is a really big deal, in a you have to live in Japan to understand kind of way.  We ate at places like California Pizza Kitchen and The Hard Rock Cafe and we shopped at KMart to buy things like Sensodyne toothpaste and NyQuil.

I am sure I never once thought this would be a vacation I would plan and enjoy ;-)

But all good things must come to an end, so we returned to Tokyo to see the Daddy, whom we missed very much, eat some yummy Japanese food and I made one last ditch effort at finding my Hanukkah Happy and so I cooked some latkes.

And like the Miracle of Hanukkah itself, there in the bottom of the Rubbermaid bin I was able to dig out exactly enough candles to light our menorah for one night.

And as I was cleaning up and doing the dishes I turned and got to see my very favorite part of the holiday ~ that moment when the candles have burned down all the way and you just see flames in the menorah and they quietly burn out.

Next year Hanukkah is right in the middle of December.

And I’m already feeling a little more genki about it.

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Keeping it Real

Lest you think my time here in Tokyo is all festivals, beautiful kimono and amazing food, I thought I would share to you my experience this afternoon.

As a responsible adult I felt I needed to get some copies of the key to our apartment.

So I set off for a key shop my husband looked up online using Google Maps.

Now Google Maps Japan and I have had a bit of an antagonistic relationship together, but today we were in the groove; and I was confident having first looked at the map online that I was headed in the right direction.  So I walked a mile or so on a beautiful autumn day, only to arrive at my destination with no key shop in site.  A kind young man even stopped and asked if I needed help and confirmed, no key shop in sight.

But putting my thinking cap on, I remembered, that sometimes Google Maps puts the pin on the opposite side of a block from where the building actually is, so I back-tracked and tried again.  Still no luck.  But this time, I spied a cobbler’s shop which seemed to me like a place that might also have key-making equipment, so I went inside.  I gestured and used my minimal Japanese skills to ask about making copies of keys, and the woman working there responded in elaborate Japanese.  Defeated, I politely said I didn’t understand, and turned to walk away.  At which point she told me in perfect English that there was a place above the nearby train station that made keys and the shop name.

So off I went, in search of the train station and the next shop.  And when I arrived, there was a line seven people deep.  Yup.  SEVEN people deep.  But there, to my delight, behind the counter, WAS a key cutting machine AND key blanks, so I contentedly waited my turn.  When I was up, I handed him my key and asked for five copies.

And was immediately told no.


He said to head down to the Information Desk and ask for Garden City.

And off I went.

Where six women at the Information Desk fuss about me for almost a half hour, trying to convey that there is a grocery store chain with a store at a place called Garden City, which it turns out is only a few blocks away, and it has a key making kiosk inside.  Once we finally determine this piece of information, they hand me a photocopied map and I am on my way.  To the THIRD potential key shop, for those of you keeping track.

I arrive at Garden City, find the key kiosk, where the gentleman working there answers me in such rapid-fire Japanese that I can’t even begin to understand him.  So I find a grocery-store employee and bring them over for help and explain I want five copies.  They have a lengthy conversation at which point the grocery clerk turns to me and says he can make the copies but it will take a long time.

I ask how long.


I kid you not.

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Pantry Planning

It’s the time of year when we’ve finally settled into the groove of school, work, activities and daily life.

Which also means we’ve dropped our good habits and gotten a little sloppy in the Felt So Cute household.  Everything doesn’t go back in its proper place, shoes are left in the genkan by the dozen, and chips are left wide open in the pantry just waiting to attack me when I open the cabinet door.

This week I’ve received not one, but two holiday party invitations {YIKES!}, our school Winterfest is in a few weeks, and I just heard mention of class holiday parties, so that means there will be much baking in the near future.

Which brings us back to said pantry.

pantrybeforeWhile not complete Armageddon, way too many things were cohabitating with things they weren’t supposed to be and I had a suspicion we were up to four bags of dried mangoes because people kept writing it on the grocery list {and yes, the cracker bin has not been able to close for some time now}.

Like any good organizing project, I started by emptying the shelves, checking expiration dates {and tossing items well beyond questionable}, wiping down the shelves and grouping like items.  Remember, what are “like items” in our household aren’t necessarily the same in yours.  And that’s cool.  You just need to make your home work for you as best it can.

Because we are in a rental and most likely past the halfway point of our time in Japan, I decided to not purchase anything for this little project.  That meant no perfectly matching containers and no perfectly matching labels.

Rest assured, dear readers, I AM still breathing.

Once I made the call to just use found containers from around the house and whatever stickers I could scrounge up it was rather freeing to my Type-A little self.  {But don’t think I’ll be abandoning rainbow order and alphabetizing any time soon!}

And the after ~


The biggest part of this project was “containerizing” {we’re going to pretend that’s an actual word for the sake of this post, please} most of my baking supplies.  It’s much easier to stack things neatly, and more importantly, less likely to mix up cornstarch and powdered sugar in the heat of the moment or while being assisted by the short people in my house.


I also got rid of the many half-torn boxes of teas that were always tumbling down on me and put them in air-tight containers {I have no idea why I happen to have so many of these on hand unused, by the way!}.  Please note my hoard of Starbucks Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher instant packets.  They did not sell these in Tokyo this Spring/Summer, so before I left Kiawah, I bought every single one they had for sale.  Since each packet makes two servings, Big Cutie and I have to make the joint decision that the day is “Refresher Worthy” {Quick: TV reference anyone? And NO, my 12 -year old daughter doesn’t know it!}


So hopefully we’re good for awhile.

And I now am fully aware that we own three jars of capers.


I can’t even begin to explain that one…

Linked to:

A Bowl Full of Lemons

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World Stroke Day

Today is World Stroke Day.

Twelve years ago I didn’t know there was a World Stroke Day.

Twelve years ago I didn’t know babies and children could have strokes.

Twelve years ago I didn’t know I would have a baby who survived a stroke.

And what a survivor she is.

So many people comment to me they had no idea Big Cutie has any issues when I tell them her story {if you’re new to Felt So Cute, you can read our Stroke Story here}.  And I want to shake their shoulders, do a happy dance, and drop to my knees in prayers of gratitude and scream, “I KNOW, RIGHT?!”

Except that misses one of the most magnificent things about our stroke survivor.

And that’s how hard she works, each and every day to make it look like nothing ever happened!  And she’s so amazing at it, and so incredibly tenacious, that all of us in her world can forget sometimes that she’s working her tail off.

Here’s a little example for you to get your brain working ~ imagine tying a weight to your right arm and right leg.  Now hop in the pool.  Start swimming a lap, please.  How ya’ doing?  Tired yet?  Swimming crooked?  Are you lifting both arms out of the water equally?  Oh yeah, are you remembering to kick evenly with both legs?  Did you finish a few laps?  Fantastic!  Now jump in and do it all over again!

That’s how a Therapist once described daily life for Big Cutie to me.

I remember watching her in Physical Therapy years ago, working hard to walk heel-toe across a piece of tape on the floor.  Her brow would be furrowed, her right hand would be fisted up tight, and she would work that right leg so hard and so patiently to place it in front of the left one.  And more times than not, she’d fall off the marked line.  And without adult intervention, she’d go back to the start and begin again.  In her mind, it wasn’t going to be a victory until she could do it from the beginning to the end, perfectly, her way.  She’s always been like this.  No short cuts, no easy way out.

It’s a blessing and a curse.

As a parent, while I would never wish a stroke for my child, I believe with all my heart, that these challenges will give her strength in so many ways as she grows up, that the blessings will outweigh the curses and the smiles will outshine the tears.

And the victories will keep coming.

One foot in front of the other, slowly but surely.

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Because Two Heads are Better Than One!

Remember last year when I mentioned how the husband and I had issues about dressing up for Halloween and wearing costumes, so figuring out what to wear that worked around all that could be a challenge?  And so we solved it with the High-Tech Couples costume, where I was an iPhone and he essentially got to wear khakis and a t-shirt?

Oh, my how things have changed in the Felt So Cute household.

With just the simple little question, “Hey honey – what about being Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head for Halloween this year?”

And he not only gave me a resounding yes, but then wanted to know if he could also have angry eyes” and could the parts be interchangeable.

I beg your pardon ~ interchangeable?

But then I realized with a little velcro, anything was possible!

I first decided that my Potato Head pieces needed to be three-dimensional because, well, they are in real life.  Which is probably a sign I’ve gone to the Halloween costume-making dark side when I start thinking about the realism of Potato Head pieces sculpted out of felt.


Each piece was cut out of felt twice, hot-glued three quarters of the way around, stuffed with Polyfill and then glued the rest of the way closed.  You didn’t really think I was going to sew all those pieces and negate my Costume-Making Manifesto, now did you?

The biggest challenge was that I can only find felt in Tokyo that is a meter wide instead of the 72″ like it comes on the bolt in America.  I could also only find a measly seven meters of any color resembling a potato.  So I sewed three panels together to make two tubes and put ties at the tops {I wanted them adjustable so The Cuties can wear them for the Purim Carnival or for future Halloweens}.  I’d have done it differently in the States, and achieved more of a “potato-like” shape, but this was good enough.  Again, I should be concerned that I was questioning the reality of potato-like form….


The potato body had velcro where each feature went, and each piece has the opposite side velcro attached to the back.  Voila!  I have exchangeable pieces.

But how’s a madcap Potato Head couple on the go supposed to manage all their parts?

With a tushie pocket, but of course!

We were rather entertaining at the party, that people could reach into our pockets, pick new pieces, and change them, just like the real Mr. & Mrs. Potato Heads!



We added store-bought bowler hats, big hoop earrings from Claire’s and white gloves from the Hyaku-yen shop and were set!

And because MY Mr. specifically requested Angry Eyes {probably our favorite line in “Toy Story!”}, I had to make them happen!


We were quite a sight walking in Roppongi last night trying to hail a taxi, and constantly being stopped by Japanese partiers wanting to take pictures with us.

But I really wish I had a picture of the taxi driver when he finally turned around and realized there were two people dressed as giant potatoes in the back of his car!

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A Sweet Little Birthday

We celebrated all weekend with Big Cutie as she turned 12.

I kept wondering if we stretched this particular birthday out if we could make 12 last longer and avoid hitting the teenager years as long as possible.

As always, our girl had very specific ideas of what she wanted to do for her special day.

So the plan was to have a couple of friends over to decorate cookies for a few hours, head to a nearby yakiniku restaurant {similar to Korean BBQ}, then back home to watch a movie and eat treats.

We had the kitchen all set up with bags of different colored frosting, tons of different kinds of sprinkles and an assortment of candies.


Each girl had a personalized apron {painted with fabric paint much like I did here}, a container for finished cookies with their name embellished with vinyl by my Silhouette, and a big stack of sugar cookies.  Washi tape held down a piece of wax paper to give them a work space.


They made the cutest cookies ~ beautiful works of art!


They started off very serious and focused….


And after a few bites of sugar and giggling moved to complete silliness ~


Then we took the girls out for dinner.  They had a great time eating and cooking.  How awesome was it that they had fun cooking their own dinner?!!!


We came back and they wanted to decorate cookies some more so they got to work.

Then they pulled down the futon in the playroom and popped in a movie.  I’m pretty sure this is exactly what tween girls look like coming down from a sugar buzz!


And then everyone slept great that night.

Such sweet girls and my kitchen smelled like icing for days!

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And We Have a 12 Year Old!

Big Cutie turned 12 today.

And she will again tomorrow.

That’s how The Cuties see it at least, now that we live in Japan, where it’s a day ahead of the country in which they were born.  So she woke up this morning to a birthday celebration in Tokyo and tomorrow our family and friends back in America will share her birthday with her again.

I’m a big believer in the Extended Birthday Re-Mix, aren’t you?

But as the Mama, I feel like we blinked and this ~


Became this ~


Happy Birthday to our amazing Big Girl.  Daddy and I wish you the best year ever, filled with the love of family and friends, adventures and ordinary days, and as always in the Felt So Cute household ~ silliness.  Always much silliness.

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