Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Scouting in Japan: Udon Noodles!

This past Sunday, our Cub Scout Pack hopped a train to go visit our brother pack, Kiyose 3, for a fun day of making udon noodles & town cleanup. We are so fortunate to be able to share this amazing friendship which offers our boys cultural exchange opportunities. We try to meet up with our Kiyose friends once a month for something fun. I am always amazed at how easily children bridge the gap of a language barrier to connect with each other. 

Our friends met us at the train station & we divided all the boys into 2 groups for the walk to the community center we were using. On the way, the boys complete a small service project of picking up any trash along both sides of the road. It's about a 15 minute walk & we ended up with maybe 10 pieces of trash. Japan is very eco-savy, but its nice to instill that sense of community involvement with our scouts.

Fair warning.. lots of pictures ahead! 

Udon noodle dough is really simple.. it's flour, salt, and a small amount of water.

All of the scouts are divided up into groups to take turns helping make the dough. They all love this part, as it is very messy!  

Water is added in tiny amounts to the flour/salt mixture until a smooth dough is formed.

 After the dough is checked for consistency, the real fun begins!
The dough is shaped into a round & then placed into a plastic bag.
All the scouts take turns kneading the dough further... with their feet!!

Little Dragon even got a turn helping out! :)

The dough is squished out flat, then folded up again, and the process repeats until the dough feels as soft as when you gently squeeze your ear lobe.

Once done, the dough has to 'sleep' for a little while, so the boys were sent off to wash their hands & play while the grown ups tidied up a bit.

The next step to noodles is rolling out the dough into a giant, thin rectangle.
I love that everybody was encouraged to take a turn helping.

To help it roll a little faster, the dough is gently stretched as it is rolled around the pin.
This actually takes a soft hand & skill.. if you're too rough, the dough will rip.

Finally the dough is folded back and forth across a small wooden board & then cut into noodles!

The cooking is done in a big pot over a wood fire. There is an attached spigot to add cold water as needed to prevent it from foaming over as it boils.

It got very warm & smoky at this point, so Dragon & I took a break in a cute attached room with tatami mats. It was rather warm in there too.. but it offered a quiet space to feed & change the baby.
I told my husband I would love to have a room like this in our "forever home"!

ok, back to the noodles!

Once cooked, the noodles were drained & set out on each table for everyone to share. Everyone got a bowl of broth with onions, tofu, & pork. Other toppings were available such as green onion, japanese pickles, pickled radish, & nori (dried seaweed). The adults were offered additional choices of more onions & what i believe was nettle leaf. It was very earthy in flavor & slighty minty.

Bubs dug right in & was definitely enjoying the fruits of his labor! We were also treated to japanese pear, which tastes like a cross between apple & pear. They are huge & delicious! I didn't get a picture, as all the adults had to act quickly before the kids swiped it all!

A bowl of homemade udon & a glass of cold green tea... heaven!

Stay tuned to see where our next scouting adventure will take us!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fall Fun Series: Apples, Apples, Everywhere!

I absolutely LOVE apples! 
apple pie, apple butter, apple jelly, apples & peanut butter....
but living in Japan has brought a higher grocery bill for fresh fruits & veggies.

Just the other day I was shopping in our commissary (base grocery store) & the price of apples made me want to cry. I rarely buy veggies/fruits on base anyways, but i was in a hurry & thought I might grab a couple apples for snacks. 

yep... $6.99 for 4 japanese apples. 
(i bought the exact same pack of apples for under $5 in a japanese supermarket)
Plus, look how pretty the japanese markets display their fruit!

Anyways, I usually make Apple Butter every fall, but decided to try something new. I had wanted to try a Pinterest recipe for Apple Cider Pancakes and add some fresh apple for texture. Sadly, I planned it for Sunday, and i had forgotten we were spending the day with our Japanese scout friends making Udon noodles! So my recipe will have to be tested & blogged about later, but I will be blogging about our noodle adventure tomorrow!

Now on to my featured melt for today!
Country Lane Keepsakes - Cinnamon Sugared Apples

I loved the shape of this melt! 
It reminded me of the little individual apple pie bars we got as kids.

On cold sniff, I got lots of fresh apple and no sign of cinnamon or sugar.
Melted -- It became a little sweeter with lots of fresh apple. Comparable to when making an apple pie & you mix the apples with the sugar. It threw medium, definitely not over powering. However, I was never able to detect any cinnamon. Regardless, I have enjoyed having my home smell like fresh apples & I would melt again, but probably blend with a cinnamon scent. 

Any fun apple recipes in your house? Favorite apple melt?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fall Fun Series: Melting Stash!

Alright, time to get this fall fun train started! i'm late to the party.. but i'm here! 

I am sooo excited for fall melting! I grabbed my favorite Turkish handmade basket & happily dug through my stash! Anything that could even possibly be fall was pulled! I think i ended up with a nice assortment. 

Spiced Pumpkin Macchiato
Toffee Apple Streuselkuchen
Black Cherry/Wild Honey Bee/Twilight Woods (custom blend)

Candles from the Keeping Room (CFTKR)
Appleberry Spice
Red Saffron
Cinnamon Strudel

Dessa's Homespun Scents
Buttery Maple Syrup
Pomegranate Cider

The Country Scent Shack

The Glitterati Candle Co

Country Lane Keepsakes
Cinnamon Sugared Apples

Book Scents Candles
Dragonfly in Amber
Fiery Cross
Drums of Autumn
Echo in the Bone

Spiced Oatmeal Cookie

The Enchanted Candle Company 
Dirty Punkins
The Mash
This is Halloween

I will fess up right now... i have been hoarding my Enchanted Candle Company ever since I found out they went out of business... I even have an empty bag in my bin, just so i can smell my favorite scent called "Til Death". So when i finally do melt them.. or maybe just a chunk of them... i will inhale joyfully & probably shed a tear or two... 

I also have a couple Scentsy bars in there to get my cinnamon addiction fed.. lol
(Cinnamon Bear, Clove & Cinnamon, & Cozy Fireside)

Not a lot of fall decor out around these parts... the trees dont peak in their colors until mid-October. We are still in high 80s-90s, but the nights have started cooling & that makes me so excited for hoodie weather!! 

Also, Sept 1st brought a fall flavor to my local Starbucks!!!

It is absolutely DELICIOUS! It's like drinking pancakes... I'm not a huge fan of sweets, but this one is pretty tasty! I ordered the frap and i loved the crunch of the candied walnuts!

Any scents you hoard? What's your 'go to' for fall drinks?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fall Fun Series: Introduction

Hello there friends! This will be a new post series that myself, and a bunch of old and new blogging friends will be engaging in this autumn season. We will be covering our fall wax melts, candles, recipes, decorations, and more. Please feel free to join us in the comments when we post by telling us what you are melting or creating or loving this fall. If you are a blogger and would like to join us please let us know and we will send you the schedule of posts. Please welcome the following bloggers and check out their posts as well which will generally post Monday and Friday starting September and ending the day after Thanksgiving (some may post on different days or times):

 Amanda at ThriftyPolished 
Jessica at The Meltdown Blog 
Lauren at LoloLovesScents 
Lindsey at Little Bit of Lindsey 
Liz at Furianne 
Sandra at Finger Candy 
Stephanie at Imperfectly Painted 
Sunnee at Our Sunny Life 

 1. What is your favorite thing about fall?
If I had to pick just one thing to love about fall, it would absolutely be witnessing the leaves transition into the glorious reds, oranges & yellows. It always seems magical to me.

 2. Do you get fall colors where you live?
Yes! Japan has the most beautiful fall! I love watching the Japanese maples turn ruby red. After living in Florida & then Turkey, it is such a treat to experience a true fall again! I have a few travel spots in mind for nature walks & playing with my camera this year!

 3. Favorite fall scent (wax, or anything)? 
I am a cinnamon addict,,,the stronger the better! I would probably bathe in the scent if possible. I patiently wait every year for it to be "acceptable" to fill the air with the enticing aroma!

 4. Favorite fall food or drink?
I love to have homemade soup in the fall.. brunswick stew, chicken noodle, taco soup, lasagna soup... fall is always a soup season in my house. Bonus points if it can be put in a crockpot!

5. Football.....yay or nay?
YES YES YES!!! How Bout Dem Cowboys!!! I love football season even though watching the games is a little trickier while living overseas. Those pesky time zones... but sometimes you just have to get up at 4am to root for your team, right??

6. Do you rake, jump in, or burn piles of leaves?
I used to love jumping in the leaves! Currently, we live in an upstairs apartment, so we dont have a yard. & the maintenance service comes out once a week to collect all the leaves.. they take their job of keeping the streets & lawns clean very seriously!

7. Haunted house or corn maze? 
I am not a huge fan of haunted houses.. however, I have a fear of corn fields. One too many horror movies involve death & other horrible things happening in cornfields. So, if I cant see over it, or through it.. i'm not going in it!

8. Have you ever gone on a hayride? 
Of course! A hayride just screams fall! My last hayride was at a church "fall fest" while visiting my family before we moved to Japan!

9. Cider or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate! There is something decadent about a cup of hot chocolate, an oversized hoodie, and a crisp day! On a side note, I've always felt like Cider is just warm apple juice & I cant stand apple juice.

10. Carve a pumpkin or eat pumpkin pie?
Carve a pumpkin! I am probably one of the few people who really does not enjoy pumpkin flavored anything! It wasn't something I ate growing up, and it hasn't had much appeal as an adult.

11. Do you dress up for Halloween? 
Yes! I love halloween! some years its just small accessories, other years its a full costume. It all depends on how the mood strikes me. Last year was probably my favorite! I was Darth Vader & my husband was Princess Leia! It, Was, EPIC!!

12. Candy corn.....yay or nay?
Nay!!... so gross! lol. I am not a huge fan of overly sweet things. I will, however, buy it for arts & crafts projects.

13. Favorite Halloween movie? 
Hocus Pocus! It is always the first halloween movie we watch! I remember seeing it in theaters with my Noni, and I can probably quote the entire thing.

14. Scariest movie? 
The original Exorcist... hands down THE scariest movie I have ever watched! Nightmares for weeks!

15. Halloween or Thanksgiving? 
Halloween!! I love getting dressed up, going over to a friends house for parties, & passing out candy to all the cute little kids!

16. Do you watch the Macy's parade? 
We always try to, but once again... time zones. :(

17. Apple pie or pumpkin pie? 
Apple Pie all the way!! top it with a little ice cream while warm.. ohhh yes! I dont even go near pumpkin pie, I have tried to like pumpkin, but its just 'eh'... yes yes, i'm sure that's blasphemy to some! lol

18. White or dark meat? 
WAFFLES!! ok, so we dont eat turkey at thanksgiving! *gasp!* it is a family tradition (from my side), that on thanksgiving you go to Waffle House. It started 17 years ago? My family was on vacation in Florida & after spending Thanksgiving Day at Disney we were starving. We ended up at Waffle House & a tradition was born! Here's the best part.. ya know, if waffles just isn't a good enough reason.. nobody has to slave away on a dinner, nobody has to clean up said dinner, and no leftovers til you hope to never see another turkey! lol.
We were invited to a potluck dinner last year & we took.. you guessed it!.. waffles!! & a smithfield ham, because that is like THE ham to have! but i am slowly converting everyone to the waffle bandwagon! :-)

19. Jellied or real cranberry sauce?
neither.. there is something just.. wrong about a gelatinous blob that drops out of a can & is then sliced... I'm not sure i've ever been at a dinner with real cranberry sauce..

20. Will you host or travel for Thanksgiving this year? 
We issue an invitation every year on Thanksgiving (& Christmas) that if any of the airmen in my husband's shop need a meal & a place to come hang out, then our door is always open. Surprisingly, we have had quite a few people take us up on our Thanksgiving Waffle Brunch. Living in such a small community, and away from family, we all really try to look out for each other.

How about you? Join us by giving some of your fall tag answers! Next post we will feature our fall melting stash.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mother of Dragons

I'm back!! I had a long hiatus that was part life getting busy & part locking myself out of my blog! (tricky google switching my language to japanese... ha!)

The past year has been an amazing time for me! After what felt like the longest lesson ever in patience & waiting on God's timing... we were blessed with another sweet baby boy! 

Our Little Dragon joined our family in May of this year, and just like his brother, he came in his own time. He brings our family such joy & I love seeing how my boys light up when they are together. They have such a love for each other & such unique personalities! 

Stay tuned for updates on all the fun that's been happening in our little corner of the world!


Monday, August 10, 2015

The Meiji Shrine

While Julie was here, we were able to visit the Meiji Shrine! It was an amazing experience & I look forward to taking my family to visit in the fall when the weather is cooler. (Thankfully we had fans... Tokyo summer is no joke!)

The Meiji Shrine is tucked away in Yoyoji Park, located just outside the Harajuku train station. The best way I can describe Yoyoji Park is that it's basically a forest with a giant rock path carved through it. Although the summer heat was in full force, we enjoyed a peaceful stroll through the park on our way to the shrine.

For any history lovers:
The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It's construction was completed in 1921, but it was later destroyed during the Tokyo Air Raids of WWII. The rebuilding of the shrine was completed in 1958. The surrounding grounds are expansive at 170 acres, with 120,000 trees of 365 species having been donated from all over Japan.
(source: Wikipedia)

My bestie & I... i love her!!
yes, we had a selfie stick..
no... we have no regrets

The first Torii gate on our walk to the Meiji Shrine.

Custom dictates that out of respect, you should pass through the gate either to the left or the right, never through the middle. The middle is know as "Sei-chu" and is the path of God.

The wall of sake barrels... it was even more gorgeous in person! Every year, brewers from all over Japan donate a sake barrel as tribute to the enshrined deities.

(I actually did some research afterwards, and discovered that the majority of the barrels are donated empty. The Shrine only asks for the sake it needs, but the intention behind the gifting of barrels is what's important more so than the gifting of the sake itself. No sense in accepting more gifts than one can use. So generally the shrine will accept small bottles to accumulate what they will need for ceremonies & the large decorative empty barrels are displayed outside the shrine.)

Prior to entering the Shrine, it is respectful to participate in the cleansing ritual.
Using your right hand, scoop water & pour over your left. 
Switch hands to pour over right. 
Switch again to pour water into left hand to cleanse mouth. 
Then tilt scoop back toward yourself & allow remaining water to cleanse the handle.

Once inside, there was such a spirit of respect. If anyone was speaking, it was in quiet tones so as not to disturb those who came to pray. The interior courtyard area was spacious and lovely. There were a few areas for prayer; a large tree with an offering box, the temple/shrine area, and then a prayer wall. For a small donation, visitors to the shrine can purchase "ema", wooden plaques, on which they can write their prayers or wishes. They are then hung on the expansive wall. As I wandered, I discovered quite a few written in English and it was so moving to see the hearts desires of people. A stunning reminder that there are still selfless people in a world that seems so topsy-turvy.

I'm so glad we made time to visit the Meiji Shrine. I love getting a glimpse of parts of the culture we are experiencing while living in Japan. 
If you ever make it to Tokyo, you should put this place on your list!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Guest Blogging!

My bestie, Julie, is doing some traveling this summer and asked me to guest blog!

Hop on over to The Redolent Mermaid for a great post on why I love to travel!

Even more exciting!?!?!




*kermit flail*

We're busy hopping trains, exploring Tokyo, enjoying delicious food, & searching for Godzilla!!!

Stay tuned for a recap of our shenanigans!