September is still really hot in Japan. Somehow it was bearable for me this year, I think because I had escaped for a few weeks to lovely New Zealand winter. We managed to get out and about quite a lot.
A lot of public holidays and events fall in the latter part of the year. Sports Day, Grandparent's Day (Respect for the Aged Day), First Day of Autumn (Equinox).
|The view back to town from the park / nature reserve.|
|At a new park that opened in our city.|
|This is Kansai Airport. Built on a man-made island 3km out.|
|I had a girl's day out at this cool cafe, housed in a cotton mill.|
|My three boys (husband and the boys now 13 and 8)|
|Higanbana - these flowers bloom around cemeteries in early autumn|
|My favourite shrine/ temple, Negoro-ji.|
|The Giant Undies Race, like a three-legged race. At sport's day.|
In June, at the start of summer I had a spot of bother (all resolved now) so I made the decision to close my shop temporarily.
By July things were starting to get back to normal but I was mentally and physically exhausted. The shop remained closed.
In August I took my kids off to New Zealand and was welcomed into the loving arms of my family. I started to feel like myself again.
We were back in Japan by the beginning of September but I have to tell you travelling, then returning to the heat of the never-ending summer wears you out. My shop was still sad and neglected.
Then I woke up full of energy and I could sew again. I spent hours trolling the internet for gorgeous fabrics. I dragged out my dusty sewing machine and got back to work.
This October the shop has re-opened. It's wonderful and I am very proud. Fifteen new bag designs have been created. You can pick your strap length and even choose different colour straps.
It was a long summer. One filled with both happy memories and events I'd rather forget. But it was worth the wait to see Mee a Bee back better than ever. I hope you'll take a look.
Mee a Bee
Hi there folks, well it's a very exciting day for me, I've been featured in the Ikea Live magazine! Both in print and online! You can view the article here, as well as a few of the other photos.
The pictures were taken (by me) in December of last year. I have been waiting patiently all this time to be able to tell you about it.
Here's the live version on Ikea's website: Jacqui on Ikea Live and if you are interested in reading the English text I have a PDF file only so I linked to it from here: English, Jacqui on Ikea Live.
It's truly a dream come true! We're big fans of Ikea here simply because it's so affordable and so flexible in how it's used. It's absolutely revolutionised storage at my place which is essential since I work from home and have two children.
Would you like to be in the magazine? It's really fun and easy so let me know!
I was so happy when the actual magazine came in the mailbox!!
Some of the items in my home that are not mentioned: my StickyTiki wall decals. My bags, Mee a Bee. Most of the furniture shown is from Ikea, couch, bookcases, dining room table, vases.
It's been an exciting weekend as I said!!
|Visit my new site JacquiMiyabayashi.com|
Welcome to Blooming in Japan. You'll see a few changes have taken place.
- I am not updating much anymore. There are over 2000 posts here to read if you care to.
- I'd love you visit me at Mee a Bee.com. I'm blogging occasionally there and of course I am still making bags!
I am still passionate about that goal and it is all coming together at my site JacquiMiyabayashiCreative - where heart and soul marketing happens.
I know a lot of you have watched my self-made career and wondered how I do it. My secrets are all slowly being revealed and I confess to you that my dream to expand this small idea into a full-blown consulting firm is happening It's happening, it really is. Thanks so much for your support.
So many people have come to me asking about my cafe classes Chatty Cafe - where I provide a warm and welcoming environment for people to practice their English. I am in the process of designing a Chatty Cafe How-to. I might even franchise the idea! I am currently hosting nine classes a month for groups of between three and five, mainly women. I have baked literally hundreds of cakes in the past seven years and my core client base remains virtually unchanged in that time. Good cake, great chats and delicious coffee have been my winners.
As for bags, I recently hit 750 sales in my Etsy shop. Wow! It doesn't seem like that many but when you think about it I have bought the fabric, cut them out, sewn them, photographed them, done all the marketing that goes along with selling them, packaged them and taken them to the post office. Going to the post office is still a dreaded task for me despite the ladies there being so kind and friendly. I don't know why I dislike it?
In the past I also sold bags wholesale - that means I sold them to shop owners who then sold them in their own shops. This was a fun activity but ultimately a lot of work. It's hard to sell in bulk and make a profit since each of my bags is made entirely by hand. It's difficult to streamline the process to the degree that each bag is not a very time-consuming process.
I also think that a lot of my customers love my bags because they love to connect with me and my story. Each bag is very personal to me, I've laboured over the choices and made sure that each bag is in keeping with my personal philosophy: handmade in Japan, all natural materials, no commercial characters, imagination-inspiring designs. Somehow this gets 'lost in translation' when the bags are seen in shops around the world. The connection just isn't there.
That said I do work with a wonderful mummy in Australia who really gets my philosophy, Kylie at How we Montessori is my only outside stockist. She is amazing. and she stocks a few of my bags.
That brings you all up to date. Life is good! We're in a very happy place. My kids are doing really well. Biggie / Noodle just started Junior High School and loves it. Little Guy is in the second grade and is blasting the other kids out of the water in his swimming class. He's gone from level 23 to level 6 in just two years - now he's mastering BUTTERFLY!
I'm still swimming. And doing aquarobics. Mr. Mee a Bee is looking fabulous with his back troubles behind him, hopefully for good. He's walking a lot and playing golf again (on the company dime!)
I'd love to keep in touch. My Facebook page for people who are interested in running their own creative businesses - sewing, photography, design, baking, etc is Jacqui Miyabayashi Creative . For mums and families who love incredibly cute bags then visit Mee a Bee.
Thank you! Jacqui
|An idyllic couple relax at the gym|
It's always interesting meeting a person's spouse. Especially when you have known one half of the entity for a while, you usually have some preconceived notion of what he or she will be like. It's been interesting for me to learn that a number of my friends at swimming are actually couples. There's one couple in particular that I have taken a fancy to. They're the nicest people you could meet. I think it's a terrific way to spend evenings together. Swimming or exercising, relaxing in the spa. I'm quite jealous of their easy relationship and shared passion.
Last year I was able to get some free gym passes to give away. I jumped at the chance hoping that my husband would be keen to come along with me at some point. Obviously it's a few years away as we do the evening switch over, he comes home to stay with the kids while I go to my exercise classes.
Mr. Mee a Bee has been suffering terrible back and leg pain for several months. His doctors are unable to confirm the diagnosis nor make any positive prognosis. It's been quite excruciating at times which is very worrying. I thought that water walking might be a good therapy for him. Today he finally went along to try it out. I was so happy. Not only because it was a relaxing afternoon for him but because he got to see where I love to hang out!
He was under strict instructions not to tell anyone that he is my husband. Why? Well he's very skinny and quite slight. As you know, I am the opposite. It's embarrassing to be bigger than your spouse. If he ever joins the gym for real it will be a great motivation for me to really get into shape!
What do you and your fella enjoy doing together? Do you dream of the day when you can do couple things together without the kids? Is it something you try and do now, have 'date nights'?
Last Thursday I found an iPhone lying on my driveway. I was pretty happy with how I resolved the issue of returning it to its owner so posted to Facebook and waited for all the lovely pats on the back from my friends. I got what I wanted and felt even more pleased with myself. Some of my friends wondered if I had called New Zealand or done anything else before handing it over. Of course I hadn't, and one friend mentioned 'karma'.
What goes around, comes around?
So thinking I was due some good karma I am puzzled over these events since then.
Thursday morning - I'm a good citizen, return a lost phone to its owner.
Thursday evening - Little Guy's swimming togs are taken home by another kid in the class. ie.lost
Same evening - We have locked ourselves out of the house and have to wait at McDonald's for Mr. Mee a Bee. Finally get inside at 7.30pm.
In the confusion of lost togs and forgotten keys we forget Little Guy's registration card at swimming.
Today - Little Guy's brand new sneakers are gone after swimming class (presumed stolen, hopefully mistaken identity?). He has worn these sneakers exactly three times since we bought them.
Faith is restored?
Just got a call from the swimming club. His togs have shown up. Yaye. We also found his card in the lost property box this morning.
Now we just need the sneakers back please oh gods of good fortune!
Looking at the picture I chose to represent my mood, you can see how delicate the balance is
a good day = I am coping vs. a bad day = I am drowning
Lately I feel just marginally over the threshold and it doesn't take much to tip the scale. Obviously I am letting myself succumb to self-pity. In the scheme of things none of this is dire. But combined with some of my other stresses it's easy to feel glum sometimes.
How do you deal with major slumps?
|View from the car, Lake Taupo|
Hi again everyone! I just got back from a delightful morning at Noodle's school for the annual happyokai - the class presentation day? Not sure how to translate this one! Here's what was done: group one demonstrated their skipping speed, ability and endurance; group two acted out a short play about water conservation; group three did a kanji quiz; group four asked the class and parents to calculate the area of some complex diagrams, like a pyramid and a parallelogram (thank God I wasn't called on!). The whole class told a story in parts and sang some songs. It all took forty five minutes. Short and sweet, just the way I like it.
Noodle's group gave a presentation about cars. Noodle's part was to list the names of all the Japanese car manufacturers. He did quite a lot of the speaking (announcements) throughout the morning which of course made me proud. Is he a kid who likes cars? I wouldn't have thought so yet apparently he is. We certainly love road trips and you know how I love to watch programs about car makers on Discovery Channel!
Which reminds me of a funny tale from our most recent road trip, around the central North Island of New Zealand last August. As always we rented a car. Go Rentals are the BEST rent-a-car shop in NZ. They have a great petrol deal whereupon you pre-pay for a full tank of gas at the time if rental. When you return the car there's no need to fill the tank, as is customary with a rental. Not only do you save money but you also save heaps of hassle if you are leaving early in the morning from the airport as I usually am. The thing is, in order to get your money's worth, you should return the car as close to empty as possible.
Can you see where I am going with this? How many times do you think the gas light came on during those last few days? As I tried to eek out as many miles as I could from small $20 top ups? One particular incident was not a pleasant one. The light came on while I was on a country road headed to my sister's place. I wasn't certain how far I'd be able to drive so crossed my fingers and gunned it for one of two petrol stations I knew of in her town. I arrived at the pump no worries only to find that cash wasn't accepted and credit cards needed to be PIN activated which mine was not! To top it off I didn't have a cell phone, so was forced to walk around looking for a phone box to call for help. Phone boxes don't exist anymore, apparently, grr. Fortunately the women at the service counter of a nearby supermarket took pity on me and let me use the phone there. It was terribly embarrassing both explaining my predicament and then groveling to dear sister to come down with her ATM card. (Thanks again Sal!)
This website just might have come in handy: Tank on Empty.com
I probably would have made it to a proper full-serve gas station!
This afternoon I've made a batch of Anzac Biscuits and a pot of Red Lentil, Kumara & Carrot Soup. In the oven I baked some Honey Mustard Salmon and the rice cooker was chugging away for a while. Little Guy just made me laugh by asking what was for dinner, and expressing his fervent wish that it be ... Macaroni Cheese! Oh such gourmet taste buds!
Over the past week I've been dipping in and out of this blog: Dinner, a love story. I have my good friend Brenda to thank for sending the link my way. DALS, for short, documents one family's meals, as they endeavor to eat together every single night, as a family! Eek! That sends a nasty shiver down my spine, you know what my kids are like at dinner time.
In actual fact most of the time it's just me and Little Guy here at dinner, Noodle is out three evenings a week with his dinner in a bento box. Mr. Mee a Bee eats at eight or so, usually after he has read Little Guy a story and while I am at the gym. Still I do like the idea of everyone eating the same thing. Even though we don't eat together I still have to feed everyone.
I thoroughly recommend Dinner, a love story. We're definitely on the same page about broccoli. They are so down to earth and realistic about what families really like to eat.
Here's a little proud mum moment for you. Little Guy passed his swimming test! I was completely shocked last weekend when he rushed up to show me the badge and 'congrats' ticket he had gotten. He moved into a new group (the white caps) and has now started learning backstroke in addition to freestyle. I couldn't be happier with his progress especially after the tears and apprehension in the middle of the year.
The weekend is coming to a close and I have that awful feeling of not really having accomplished much. It's been gorgeous weather so we've tried to make the most of it - yesterday we cycled to swimming lessons then later took a stroll by the sea. Today a picnic at the beach and a lovely fresh dinner, lots of spring vegetables! I'm certain we have many more cold days ahead but it's been a nice break from it.
So I didn't do any sewing but I did do a little online window shopping. It's a happy time as many of my friends are expecting babies right now. Second and third little bubs, exciting for the big brothers and sisters-to-be! I'm thinking that the families already have all the baby guff that they need, but it's still nice to have new things for the new baby.
So I finally have a use for double gauze. I'm thinking baby swaddling blankets, burp cloths and little face cloths. We have been using our double gauze napkins for a couple of months now, they are so soft and lovely and wash up beautifully. This fabric is perfect for baby! And look at the gorgeous designs available! I am having a hard time choosing but I do like these non-gender specific colors and motifs. Which do you like? That will work for a boy or girl?
(Super Buzzy has a great selection of double gauze fabrics from Japan)
I spent the morning sitting in the sun, sipping coffee and reading a book at my local Nissan dealer. It was rather a nice way to spend it (forced relaxation). My car needed some lights replaced, a company-wide recall. Call me pathetic but I still feel a little bit empowered to accomplish these sorts of tasks on my own - things to do with the car, things that involve driving to a new place following a map, things that involve speaking Japanese.
The book I am reading is called "Why have kids? By Jessica Valenti. You may wonder why I am reading such a book considering how much I LOVE my kids, every moment of every day (he he) but I actually picked it up a while ago as part of my personal studies into feminism. Specifically I was interested in applying the psychology of parenting to my marketing efforts for Mee a Bee. Oh dear, I hear you say. It's not that sinister, but in order to sell stuff, anything, you have to understand the wants and needs of your ideal customer.
So far I haven't stumbled upon the magic formula but I have had a lot of thoughts running through my head. At times I have questioned the authority of the author given that she's a relatively new mom. I have also thought that the book was just her way of soothing her feelings of pain, guilt and distress over a difficult birthing experience. I also feel she is intentionally antagonizing mom-bloggers - she names quite a few! Aside from those thoughts, the topics in the book seem well-researched and are definitely interesting. Attitudes towards working mothers vs stay-at-home mothers (the mommy wars); policy debates about paid maternity (and paternity) leave; the dangers of helicopter parenting; statistics of child abuse and child abandonment. It's all presented with the author's bias but she never tries to hide that fact. It's all her own opinions but she's done her research. As I said it's very interesting.
When I got home I found a friend had linked to this article about school lunches in Japan. I have often talked about how great I think this system is.
I also think that the school lunch system is a very strong initiative that supports working mothers. It's a huge stress for me simply providing healthy dinner meals day after day. I also worry that my kids don't really eat enough at breakfast. If I were having to race out the door to an office job everyday there is no way I would be able to provide healthy balanced lunches for them both. Knowing that the kids have eaten well at school must surely lessen the pressure for working moms? Like I said, I love it!
One of the commenters at the foot of the article has raised the question of food allergies. Last week we were asked to fill in a form for kindergarten verifying that our child suffered anaphylaxis. Apparently a school child died recently after eating something she was allergic to in her school lunch. Our kindergarten has always been super-careful about Little Guy's peanut allergy. Today is setsubun, the day where kids throw beans at a pretend devil to ward off bad spirits. Peanuts are a lot tastier than the traditional soy beans so the kindy gets them instead. Last year I elected to keep Little Guy home until after the event. This year we planned to do the same. Yesterday his teacher approached me to say that the principal and head teacher didn't feel Little Guy should miss out. They planned to use balled up paper for Little Guy rather than peanuts. She promised they'd be really careful but still I have been anxious about it all morning. I guess no news is good news!
(The truth is we do not know how severe his peanut allergy is. Our allergist advised we simply avoid peanuts altogether to be on the safe side. His one and only reaction occurred when he was about thirteen months old. He came out in severe hives within about half an hour of eating a tiny dot of peanut butter).
My auntie spent a week in Tokyo before departing Japan. I bet she saw some pretty amazing outfits on all the cool kids around town! Even here in our small city there are quite a few snappy dressers. We both noted that men's fashion is pretty advanced. Back in NZ upgrading to a collared shirt instead of a t shirt is considered pushing the boundaries!
You may have noticed here on my blog I have a page about my Personal Shopping Service. It's been a popular page as people from all over the world have enquired about help with buying stuff from Japan. One of the more interesting ones I am in the process of completing is for Japanese Street clothes and costumes. I hadn't ever searched online for such clothes but it's really fascinating to note that it's a hugely popular category of fashion. Having seen a documentary about this trend I do know that it's an all encompassing lifestyle, rather than simply about the clothes.
I had a hard time picking a favourite since I am really a jeans and t shirt kind of girl too. But I think this costume pictured is terrific. I love the bag that comes in the same range. I couldn't venture to say what genre it falls into? Steampunk? Gothic? According to the site this is one of the 'it' looks of 2013 and is a combination of Gothic, Punk, Lolita, Rock and Girly. Fabulous!
I have a small order of goodies due to arrive later this week. I know their new owner is over the moon about being able to get her hands on them! I'm rather pleased to have stepped into a new world as well!
If you are a fan of Twilight, then you'll recognize the title as a line from Breaking Dawn Part One. I am such a geek!
I woke up this morning with songs from Brettan Cox in my head. Another of my Noisetrade finds I am loving. There's not a lot of info on the web about this up and coming young singer but I really hope she makes it. Her songs really come from the heart. One of the themes seems to be marriage and relationships that haven't quite worked out. An interesting choice of material but so poignant for so many people.
I won't lie to you. I often wonder what life would be like if I had not married Mr. Mee a Bee. He's the world's greatest husband and father except when my dark moods descend.
I wish we could transport our entire life back to New Zealand (together). In a 'grass is always greener' fantasy, I imagine all our stresses would disappear.
High speed, super cheap travel between countries would also solve a lot of my problems.
When the sun shines I say "What problems?" !
Last week friends of mine celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary. I was one of their bridesmaids so I am especially happy the marriage is still going strong. We all know it's not that easy sometimes.
More and more of my friends are separating, both amicably and not so. It's always such devastating news.
By coincidence a book I picked up over New Year's about 'choice' compares the 'for love marriage' and the arranged marriage. It's interesting, most of my students at Chatty Cafe are of an age where their marriages were most likely arranged.
Today I read a review of a film at the Sundance Film Festival which mentions a rocky marriage (a new Japanese film/documentary).
That might be why I woke up singing the Brettan Cox song this morning. Stories of marriage and relationships are whirling around in my real life too.
In June, we will celebrate 13 years of marriage. We're still hanging in there! Don't worry, this isn't about us.
Mealtimes are a huge source of stress for me. The expectation of another failed meal builds into anxiety and quickly turns into exasperation and frustration. Is it just me or is feeding the family a nightmare?
Take last Saturday for instance. It was Mr. Mee a Bee's birthday this weekend. Noodle decided to make a Banana Cake. Little Guy elected to make some Ginger 'Dead' Men using our new Fred skeleton cookie cutters. We were all happy at lunchtime as we discussed making Daddy's birthday really special.
I did most of the baking myself in the end since they got busy with friends in the afternoon but I am happy baking. With music going, nice weather and the kids behaving nicely I was inspired to set the table with flowers from our own garden (there are only camellias). It was a perfect day in every respect.
Come seven o' clock, Mr Mee a Bee finally arrives home from work and all hell breaks loose. The kids are hyper-excited for the next twenty-four hours effectively ruining the rest of the birthday. Mealtimes are especially gruesome. Why?
Tonight it's just the three of us for dinner. I made an early start and prepared everything to be on the table by five thirty / six. The boys were a dream. We all chatted and ate heartily. There was even dessert. No arguing. No food spilt on the floor. No complaining over the dishes I'd prepared.
I feel so sorry for Mr. Mee a Bee that he seldom gets to see the kids getting along and enjoying life as a family. Can anyone relate?
I spent a lovely morning cleaning up my sewing room, listening to a little set of songs from Matt Pond. It was a free download from Noisetrade and for the price of a cup of coffee I was able to leave a tip. In one of the songs the lyric is "Some day I'll stop breathing. My heart will stop beating. But I'll never stop singing"
I like it.
Little Guy and I went out for lunch, something you know I love to do. We have but a few months left of time together, just the two of us, at lunch-time. Once school starts for him the half-day Wednesday will no longer exist. He's still just a little annoying to take out, either walking painfully slowly, or not watching where he is going or jumping crazily from midway down flights of stairs. At lunch though he's great, a good little eater.
While we were out we stopped in at the shoe shop. My LEAST favourite place with kids. Happily we found a cool pair of sneakers for Little Guy for half price! Getting ready for school slowly. Though they wear a uniform at our primary school any kind of sneaker is allowed. They seem to get wrecked pretty quickly so you need at least a couple of pairs.
At the same shop I found a little stand of Burt's Bees lip balms and cuticle creams. It's the first time I have ever seen that brand for sale around here.
It's Wednesday! midweek. hump day. and I have swimming tonight! I am happy to be getting back into a fitness routine after the tremendous eating schedule over Christmas and New Years.
I've been thinking about a couple of really great days spent with my aunty. We had such a good time these holidays. Even though the holiday is over I am still reveling in the memories.
Friends! my friend Tam, new owner of BabyBites had some very kind words to say about Mee a Bee on the site this week. My lovely friends, sisters Kim and Jodee are being reunited today as Matisse has finally been given the go-ahead by her doctors in the USA to return home to NZ! And I am thinking about Maddie today as little Aspen undergoes a tonsillectomy. I know she'll be fine but it's a harrowing thing to go through (Noodle had the same surgery when he was four).
Got anything to share today that's making you smile?
This morning Little Guy was bothered by a scratchy size label on his undershirt. Normally I'd have been quick to make suggestions: cut it off, get a different shirt, GRIN AND BEAR IT! but before I could do any of that he had whipped it off, turned it inside out and put it back on! What a clever idea I exclaimed, something I would not have thought of doing (being somewhat pedantic about things done 'right'). He told me it was his teacher's idea. Oh I love that woman! no moanie groanies in her class!
Today I am sewing a bag for a little customer who has a birthday coming up. Over the course of a week or so we've been trying to pin down a design. Turns out the birthday boy is a little bit stubborn and is dead-set on a plain canvas bag despite mum and dad's efforts at persuasion for a cool Mee a Bee handpicked fabric. So plain it is! Makes me smile everytime I think of it. I know a couple of boys just like this.
It's been ages since I wrote about movies, hasn't it? We watched a few over the holidays, but it was case of win some lose some. One that we enjoyed was Beginners which stars Ewan McGregor, playing a character called Oliver (did you watch that Oliver Jeffers clip yet?!).
It's a quiet little film set in LA. Oliver is a single guy who can't seem to find luck in love. He's not really shy but he is kind of introverted. You get a sense of the reasons why when you see flashbacks of his childhood memories. Early on in the film he meets a delectable French girl, an actress with that amazing sense of style that French people have, quirky and chic. I don't want to divulge to much more of the plot but I definitely recommend this film for its study of family dynamics. (her wonderful outfits, the cool homes they live in and of course Ewan McGregor are an added bonus).
A Night for Dying Tigers was one of the weirder ones we have watched recently. The house was exceptional (apparently designed by the architect father character). It was a bit too odd for my taste and very melodramatic.
Did you watch the Golden Globes? Of all the films both nominated and winning awards I can't say that any of them really appeal to me. Except maybe Argo? Musicals are not my thing so I don't think Les Mis will be on my watchlist. No doubt my husband will come home with Zero Dark Thirty at some point and I will love it, strong female lead and all. It's always interesting to watch films like this one to see different points of view about war/terrorism/The Middle East.
Got any films to recommend?
It's long been a dream of mine to attend a trade show like Playtime Paris. This is an event showcasing children's fashion. There are sister shows in New York and Tokyo. I love the Paris one for all the wonderful European clothing brands we may not have heard of.
There is tons to see on the website: a list of exhibitors, a wallpaper download.
There are several exhibits and installations atthe show. This Bottlerobot one has caught my eye. As a parent of boys I have dabbled in robot construction over the years - raided the recycling, scrummaged for superglue and initiated my kids into the world of power tools. Still our happy creations were never anything as spectacular as these pictured! This is the work of Antoine Geoffrion, visit his website to see more. It's very cool. The colors are what I love best. http://www.bottlerobot.com/
Want to get a robot messenger bag for your children? Visit my shop and use the HAPPYNY discount code for 50% off!
On a parent's group discussion board I saw one mum had laid down the law of 'one activity per child per term'. We have a similar rule in effect here: Little Guy takes swimming lessons, Noodle goes to his tutoring school. Yet even with these restraints in place I feel our afternoons take on a hectic feel since tutoring is three nights a week, swimming is one afternoon and one morning a week. And don't forget I also take swimming classes myself in the evening.
With all the demands of modern life then I would think a little time in the school day for some gentle exercise, stretching and quiet reflection aka. yoga, would be a good thing. So I have been dismayed and a little shocked at this developing story in the USA: Yoga Programs in public schools face backlash. I think it's ridiculous that some parents have withdrawn their children from school based on what they perceive to be indoctrination into eastern religion.
Perhaps I am a little more open-minded since I live in the east? Or maybe I appreciate foreign cultures since I enjoy traveling, world exploration and am a expatriate? Admittedly I am not a religious person either.
Perhaps the parents mentioned in the article really only represent a very small percentage of the population and not general consensus at all?
Though I do take issue with some aspects of the education system here in Japan , so far I have not had any cause to object to the curriculum my children are taught. But that's not to say I might not be up in arms if something was taught that I disagreed with. I guess it all comes down to personal beliefs. But honestly, if it were called "Quiet Stretch Time" rather than "Yoga" would these parents have a different viewpoint?
Bears love yoga in my shop!
Are you fortunate to have good skin? If so I envy you! I think it's probably closer to the truth that most people will have some issue with their skin, be it wrinkles or sun damage, pimples or oil control. It's seems unfair to be have reached my forties and now suffer all of the above, yet I am often complimented on my lovely skin. Let me just say I wear a LOT of makeup!
On to the topic of pimples. With Noodle an up and coming teen-to-be I often exam his face with glee in search of that pioneer pimple. He has marvelous skin, not only is it smooth and even, it's also incredibly elastic. Sometimes we can't help touching and pinching at it, both my husband and I. As yet it's unblemished and I would be so happy if it remained so. We should probably keep our hands off it.
Yesterday Noodle told me that one of his friends has a giant pimple on his cheek. I explained that its not nice to have a pimple (or heaps of pimples). They are sore and you feel like everyone is looking at you. I didn't have too many pimples as a teen, I was pretty normal in that regard I think. Though my mother had me on a skin care regime from a young age. Still I remember the pain of bad skin very well. I probably imagined it was worse than it was.
After I gave birth to Noodle I suffered more than a few painful acne type spots so I turned to Proactiv. It was amazing and really worked. Eventually I stopped using it as my skin had cleared up but I had also developed a sensitivity to it. I am glad to know that a good product exists if either of my kids has a problem in the future. In contrast, my skin was never better than after I had Little Guy.
Another product I have been using for a while is BioOil. It's touted as the magic formula to repair scars and stretch marks (don't get started on those). I started using it after a pimple I had on my face a couple of years ago left an awful scar (YES I picked at it, tsk tsk). Despite applying BioOil correctly for the recommended period of three months I didn't notice the scar improved dramatically but I did notice how smooth my face seemed. It contributed to a much more even skin tone and really helps counteract the dryness in the air during winter. I use it under my normal moisturizer. My skin is generally quite oily in the T-zone and obviously this is an oil but it's not oily if you know what I mean.
Do you have skin-care tip to share? Or a nagging issue with your skin? Anybody who knows me knows about my obsession with skin. And teeth. And eyebrows. I know, weird!
You know it's worth checking something out when suddenly everyone is talking about the same thing. Today in my Facebook feed two artist friends who I admire greatly linked to this video about children's book author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers. He's just wonderful.
I could spend all day watching little video clips like this, about people doing what they love.
Today was a public holiday. It was raining heavily for most of the day, perfect sewing weather. I happily holed up in my little room, next to the heater, for the better part of the afternoon. As I was sewing a few odd bags I wanted to finish, a couple of weekend orders, some gifts for friends, I couldn't help thinking how happy I am when sewing. I mean I could happily do it for hours, days, weeks. I sometimes wish it was all I had to do since there are so many incomplete projects in my sewing cupboards.
Later Little Guy was watching an old episode of Bugs Bunny on television. Bugs was asked where he gets all his money from. He explained that he had invented a carrot peeler. Each month he received royalty cheques. He lived off his invention. His friend Daffy (?) wanted in on the action and attempted to invent some stuff too. It did not work out too well and he complained that all the good things had already been invented. Bugs explained how inventing works. He said you have to have passion, as he does for carrots. He pulled out a little notebook in which he kept all his ideas, waiting for the best ones!
|Year of the Snake|
Are you a note maker? I have tons of notebooks myself. I often come up with ideas for bags and other Mee a Bee related things. My problem is that I get bogged down in the day to day drudgery of life and never really give myself over to working on new idea development. Maybe this will be the year to do it? My husband has complete faith in me. Just yesterday he asked me to think about where xyz computer company had its beginnings - in a garage! he exclaimed. That was his version of a pep talk. He's most definitely a "slow and steady wins the race" type of a guy. The perfect compliment to my " I want it all and I want it now" way of thinking?
Visit http://www.meeabee.etsy.com to to order your kids' bags, bags for their friends, cousins, the girl next door.It's finally here, the much anticipated January sale at Mee a Bee. Everything, EVERYTHING is included! The code for you my friends is HAPPYNY Use it as many times as you like to save 50%! No good at math? That's half off!
Stock up your gift drawer. Get your big sister or big brother new baby arrival bag now. Add some fun accessories to your dress-up cupboard. Get rid of the plastic eyesore you found at Kmart. Make any outfit instantly cool with a spiffy new bag. Clean out your own handbag of matchbox cars, action figures, and all their other prize possessions.
Want something special? Just ask as I normally have to sew during the sale anyway, some things don't stay in stock!
Last Friday a couple of very stressful events confronted me. After the first I actually experienced blackening around the edges of my vision and a deep sense of despair. Being a migraine sufferer since childhood I have experienced similar things before. I decided to apply my mum's remedy of a hot cup of tea. I did feel a little better.
Later in the day yet another awful incident occurred and in my fragile state I was close to hyperventilating. I was out at the time so I just sat quietly for a time before returning home for a hot shower and an early night with a book. A cup of tea would have been nice but I couldn't face the bright kitchen.
Now they say when the student is ready the master shall appear. At some point on Friday afternoon I followed a link to this book: The Republic of Tea, How an Idea becomes a Business
It was available for Kindle so I was able to start reading straight away. As tea is to the soul this book has been to my bruised psyche. And it has led me on a small path of discovery about new ways of thinking, seeing the world and living.
Don't worry I won't go all new age on you! At its essence this book is a business book, not a how-to, more of a fly on the wall and a peek inside some masterful brains and business visionaries. Yet the passion for tea and the 'tea way of life' of the founders of the successful two-decade old business The Republic of Tea was evident on every page. Coincidentally I had received a tin of divine Marco Polo loose leaf tea just last week. I spent yesterday reading and sipping. Slowly recovering.
At various points one of the authors touches lightly on the zen aspect of tea and its historical roots in China and indeed Japan. He mentions the The Book of Tea by Okakura Kazuzo. I already owned this book but despite my best efforts had never really gotten into it. Today I am seeing it in a newfound light. Will we see more of a respect towards tea and the sacred rites in my cafe classes? That remains to be seen. But for today I have adopted the zen mantra "without pain and suffering there can be no joy and happiness". I enjoyed this article on Zen Habits.
And I sip my tea.
|The Piano Guys|
I have my friend Erinn to thank for my latest musical obsession: The Piano Guys. Have you heard of them? They are marvelous. According to their google blurb they're an Internet sensation but don't let that put you off. You really must visit their site, buy their album(s) and watch every single one of their YouTube videos. It's essential that you read their explanation of each piece of music, the back-story, their inspiration, their reasons for performing a song a certain way. I can't enough of their mashup songs. True artistry. Like Beethoven's 5 Secrets / One Republic. It's just amazing. My kids are big ColdPlay fans and love The Piano Guys version of Paradise. It's sung in African! Oh my goodness there isn't a tune I don't love, except maybe the Star Wars one ...
Now I am really wishing I did not give up learning the cello. Of course after a year of lessons at age thirteen and never progressing past Mary had a little lamb, obviously I have zero musical talent.
If there's one thing both my aunty and I both love it's a good coffee. We were out one afternoon at around three on the other side of town. We still had things to do over that way so with little choice available I decided to try a little cafe I have passed hundreds of times in the years I have lived here. I was pretty pleased with myself getting a spot in the tiny car park so was feeling quite confident about going in. But really as soon as we walked in we should have realised we were in the wrong place. We spent a very awkward hour in a cafe for people with DOGS!
OMG! my aunty is not a pet person and I like my food served well away from furry friends. It was a few minutes before we cottoned on and unfortunately we had already secured a table and spoken to the cafe owner. We didn't feel we could leave! The place was packed. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes, including a large retriever and a fully grown labrador. It took forever for our order to arrive (it probably seemed much longer since we were so obviously fish out of water) but I am happy to say it was worth the wait.
|Cherry Cafe Izumisano Caramel Chiffon Cake|
I doubt that I will ever go to the cafe again, unless Little Guy gets his wish of a puppy for his birthday. But check out this cake, it was to die for.
We definitely got our money's worth that day: a great coffee, delicious cake AND a story to remember for years!
I'll admit to being just a tiny bit resentful of having to get Little Guy up and ready for kindergarten on the last SUNDAY of the winter holidays. And in truth I left it all to Mr. Mee a Bee, he's such an early bird. I soon changed my mind when I arrived at the event the kids had been invited to: our city's annual firemen appreciation day! Little Guy was in seventh heaven when we picked him up.
|Dinky little fire engines in a row|
The kids in the third year class actually got to go inside the fire station to watch everything and spoke to real firemen.
Little Guy is a huge fan of emergency services, particularly the police and fire brigade. It was like Christmas for him and has spawned three days of furious Lego City building here at home. My hands are raw from the constant sifting through piles of tiny sharp blocks looking for that one piece we need! A little while ago I would have said we have way too much Lego but seeing the results of our efforts I am changing my mind. It's very hard to get Little Guy to concentrate on anything for any period of time but we've just done two full days of five to six hours straight Lego building. Today he couldn't wait to get home from kindy to get an hour in before his swimming lesson.
|60 m high!|
Last week there was a real fire a few streets away from me. There was an amazing amount of smoke and even ash blowing over our house. Little Guy and my aunty went to have a look at the scene the next day. It was both terrifying and exciting for them.
I don't know what Little Guy will be when he grows up but for now I am happy he's showing such an interest in this worthy profession and that it's helping his attention span!
My aunty has departed (sob, sob) and the kids are back at school (yaye, yaye) so here goes! 2013!
Recently the Mee a Bee family has been bombarded with new technology. My 'new' mobile, well I still haven't worked out all the kinks. Today I almost jumped out of my skin when it started talking to me, in a scary voice, it was an alarm I had set up a month ago!
Two days ago Mr. Mee a Bee bought a 'smartphone' for work. He was reading the manual in bed before we went to sleep. In the middle of the night it started beeping then proceeded to flash brightly sporadically for the rest of the night. I was too tired to move it or really even become conscious as to what was going on. Turns out the battery was dying.
We also had to replace our home phone just last week. Yesterday it rang for the first time. Sorry to whoever was calling, it took me quite a while to realise where the music was coming from, actually Little Guy pointed it out. "It's the phone!!!" what phone? the phone, my phone, skype on the iPad? By the time I got to it the answer phone had picked up. I missed the call completely.
Which brings me to our latest and scariest new acquisition. A cell phone for Noodle. Heaven help us! Naive as we are, we simply handed it over, wrapped up on Christmas.We have been backtracking ever since with RULES that should have been imposed from the start! Let me just say I am dreading the first bill.
Here are some of the rules I have discussed with the boy. He's eleven. His phone does not have internet access. It's not a smartphone. He cannot send long emails, nor send photos to his friends. His plan lets him ring other phones connected to the same network (such as mine) free between the hours of 9am and 9pm. His school has a no cell-phone policy.
Don't make the mistake we did. Review the rules BEFORE you hand over the phone, even before you buy it. Don't assume a mature kid will 'get' the "It's not free" clause. Take a look at this helpful page on CommonSense Media.
Mee a Bee opens on January 6th with our massive 50% off sale!!!
Originally the kids had intended on going to a public bath house. One of the kids has coupons or some connection to it. This was the only part of the evening I was not keen on. Being responsible for eight boys, riding their bikes in the dark, then coming home after a steamy bath in the cold winter air, I was more than concerned. Thankfully the gods saved the day with rain! The boys were easily persuaded to take their baths here at home. (And they did so without fuss in little teams, very civilized!).
So far it has been a great success. They're all excited but their mothers have told them all to be on their best behavior. Sleepovers are a rarity in this country so they're not willing to push any rules. Armed with the ubiquitous GameBoys they are all happy. I did entice a few of them out of the room to play board games with Little Guy and they watched TV for a little while. Now they're all snuggled up under the covers on the futons I made up on the floor of Noodle's room. Their gameboy things are internet connectable and they have tapped into some hapless neighbor's WiFi.
Dinner was a happy event, pictured. I cooked up a whole packet of spaghetti, a huge bag of frozen meatballs went into my homemade spaghetti sauce, a few oven chips and some baked chicken nuggets satisfied their tummies. They all tried out their English on me, they just started learning at school this year.
The night is still young but I honestly think they'll all go to sleep without any trouble. They have all brushed their teeth (so well-trained) so I don't think midnight snacks will be needed. I might as well put my feet up in front of the TV while I wait for Mr. Mee a Bee. Easiest sleepover ever! Touch wood.
Shamefully I don't know the story but I was kind of familiar with the characters. Little Guy played Scrooge, as a child. I couldn't get enough of the costumes. Little Guy was dressed in this adorable ensemble which included marvelous turquoise check trousers. Even though I had a front row seat (due to a stroke of good fortune in the seat lottery) I did not get a good photo. My friend gave me these yesterday so they're just scans.
Little Guy cannot read so his teacher patiently coached him for several weeks to get his lines just right. He did so well! I had my parent teacher conference on Tuesday and expressed my concerns about his lack of interest in reading. Being the great teacher that she is, she calmly reassured me that reading is not a prerequisite for entering school. Even though some other kids read well not all of them do. In fact Little Guy is doing well with his writing, pencil control, sitting still and concentrating. She is not in the least worried. Thanks goodness. We chatted for a moment about how chalk and cheese like my two boys are. She admitted she was a bit shocked by the whirlwind that is Little Guy when he first came into her class! She said his best personality trait is his ability to strike up a friendship with any kid within seconds, she has no worries about him doing well at school next year. Yaye!
|Little Boy Scrooge|
Everywhere I go I love to observe the decor. At Cafe KU ON this very modern birch tree arrangement was stunning.
Today I went to La Cipollina, another local Italian restaurant. The tree outside looked gorgeous though I didn't take a shot myself. It's a decorated olive tree (hinting at the Italian cuisine). According to their Facebook page it was decorated by a nearby florist/antique shop.
The local restaurants cater specifically to this crowd. It's reassuringly similar everywhere. Perhaps a little boringly predictable. There is always a recommended lunch course which goes for ¥1500 (for simplicity lets say that equals about US$15). That's considered affordable, every so often, among my crowd of friends.
There's always a starter, such as antipasto in an Italian restaurant or soup in a French restaurant. The main is usually pasta and there will be about three varieties to choose from. Or it might be a choice of fish of the day or some kind of meat dish. Or pizza. There's usually a bread basket too. Dessert comes next, a little slice of cake, some homemade icecream or gelato served with your preference of tea or coffee.
Service is crucial and has a high expectation placed on it. The staff must be very well-mannered, unobtrusive yet attentive. I find that Japanese people are quite fast eaters and don't like to be kept waiting between courses. There's a delicate balance between rushing the customer and being tardy. They are fully aware that kindergarten mothers have to leave to meet their children by early afternoon so you never need to make the awkward request of asking them to hurry things along.
I am quite critical of the ambiance of a restaurant. A place I went to not long ago felt quite staged, and cold. By contrast the sit-down pizza place around the corner just exuded atmosphere: friendly, hip and happening.
Do you have a favourite local hangout? What are the critical elements of a successful restaurant in your opinion? Is there such a culture of "ladies who lunch" and are they catered to in this specific manner where you live? How damaging is a bad review of a restaurant? Today my friends carried on a lively dialogue about the fact that the chef was new and reputedly better. Another place is routinely avoided due to a never-changing menu. The two places I have been to in the past week are booked solid everyday for lunch. Big business?
Here's a list of some of the places I have been to locally, should you also be a resident of my town.
Cafe KU ON
I'm all lunched out for now I think. Anyway the kids go to half days from tomorrow with their last day of term on Friday. Going out for lunch is not quite as much fun with kids in tow!
My heart goes out to the families in the US who were affected by the terrible shooting last week. So tragic.
|Simple Overlocked Napkins|
Still I do get side-tracked easily. Here is the result of today's delay tactic. Some colorful napkins for the family to use. I found this beautiful double gauze fabric online a few months ago. I knew it would be perfect for our family table since we have a lot of the same colors in our living area, yellow, green, blue and red. Double gauze is a very soft muslin type of fabric. It's often hard to know what to use it for, baby items?
To complete this project I simply cut the one meter I had purchased into eight rectangles (roughly measured) then folded them in half and overlocked them into squares. They're not super neat but they will certainly be nice on our table. Noodle is a big user of napkins. Little Guy is in the "wipe your hands on your jeans when mum is not looking" camp.
Thanks you guys! I promised to put a picture on my blog. Shall I put up one of you two?