Saturday, April 27

Mr. 1

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And like that, the earth went around the sun in a flying flash and we have ourselves a giant one year-old Luca.

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A sweetheart through and through, Luca was made to be the youngest of four. He is patient and curious and definitely big enough to hold his own. He beat every single milestone record of his siblings, kids who were no slouches themselves. Always busy and usually quiet, Luca fits right into our family.

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He really lives up to his name: Luca- light, Haru- Spring. The kid just glows. Happy birthday, my baby boy.

Tuesday, April 23

Where It's At

Spring at Meijo Koen

So despite my best intentions, I ducked away for what I thought would be a second and turned out to be three weeks. Sorry.

I have been lost in the confusion of job-hunting. The weekend before Nico started school, I lost my job. Or more accurately, I was squeezed out. It is for the best but it has left us scrambling to figure out lots of boring but important things. Like how to stay in Japan or how to pay the electricity bill. We are still working on it and I think I have it almost figured out. It is tricky though because I am sorta getting what I want. I want to work for myself, as a writer and craftsperson. I just didn't plan on it happening so soon. Puts a lot of pressure on my fledgling talents/business. I actually want a day job for a bit longer but I can't seem to find one that wants me.

You see, when a population shrinks that means there are less students and less students means less teachers are needed. Things were different a few years ago when I started my MATESOL, having the degree plus experience was the ticket to a somewhat plush university job. Now those jobs are few and far between and demand publications and Ph. D.s, for a salary that is just a bit above what I made on the JET Program. I've always considered teaching my day job so putting so much into something that would leave me too exhausted to do much more than lay on the tatami when I come home is not ideal. So I already started looking for a new path but I am also in a country where my skills are limited to the classroom. Like many other underemployed/unemployed people, I am overqualified for most jobs and under-qualified for jobs that would have been mine a few years ago. I am obsessively looking for a position and open to moving, though that is not really ideal for us right now. I have actually been job-hunting since August, to be honest. I was more discriminating then but now even the corporate chatty-chat boxes could have me.

It is frustrating but also liberating. I have figured out a way to extend my visa, get unemployment, and insurance to cover us. That is the good thing about living in a country with a social safety net (aka nanny state for my more cynical readers). I'll have three months to push harder than I have ever done before. Haru Aki will be busy, with new designs and pieces added daily. And I also have a list of articles to be written alongside my weekly short story. Now it may seem crazy but really, if anyone is going to pull this off, it is going to be me. You know why? Because this is the challenge I have been given and I don't like the alternatives. So, yeah, that's where it's at.

Wish me luck.
xo

Monday, April 8

And, like that, Nicolai entered elementary school.

Nicolai's elementary school entrance ceremony

We not only made it to the highly anticipated entrance ceremony, somehow it is already over. I'm pretty sure we just did this ordeal with Sebastian yesterday and yet he tells me that tomorrow he starts as a fourth grader. Though sometimes a little sneaky, he is fairly honest so I guess I have to believe him.

  Nicolai's elementary school entrance ceremony

For the first time in years there will be two first grade classes at the neighborhood elementary school. Both of them have 30 plus students. In America, I am sure this would not be something to be celebrated but in a country suffering from a rapidly declining population, it is a good sign.

  Nicolai's elementary school entrance ceremony

Nicolai's new teacher's name is Ruriko-sensei and she is new to the school. Luckily, Sebastian's old teacher who speaks excellent English, will be around to help Nicolai transition to elementary school life. Though his Japanese is good, it is still developing so knowing he will have a little extra support is comforting for everyone (including his new sensei, I suspect).

  Nicolai's elementary school entrance ceremony

At the entrance ceremony, the sixth grade students led the first graders in which is just so utterly symbolic that you can't miss it. This year, we know quite a few of the sixth graders because when Sebastian started they were just third graders. The benefit of staying in one place for a while has been the honor of watching the neighborhood kids unfold. It all happens so quick, too quick. You can watch it but in one blink they go from babes in arms to thriving, independent adolescents, showing the new class the way.

Monday, April 1

Recipe:: Coconut Doughnut Balls

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As you may remember, we are in the process of transitioning to macrobiotics. I like the challenge of taking junky food and shifting it to something healthier. Familiar and yet better. I do not always win this challenge but I persist. Changing your diet brings with it psychological obstacles. Food is not just a means of nourishment, it connects us with our culture and our sense of self. Macrobiotics helps tremendously to curb unhealthy cravings but only once everything is out of our system. Macrobiotics is not a radical diet but it is radically different from the conventional Western diet. This means that the first steps are often the most difficult. Hearing so many horror stories of bad health has made me want to try and create transitional recipes that will help to with those first steps. Every Monday, I will post a new recipe that reflects this ambition.

Donuts seem like a perfect place to start because, quite simply, I love donuts. With these I have found a sweet in-between spot that makes doughnuts almost healthy. They don't qualify for macrobiotic status but they are vegan, gluten-free, and low sugar. 


1.5 cups of favorite gluten-free flour (we used Bob's Red Mill GF Biscuit Mix)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup vegan "butter"milk (pour 1 tsp of vinegar into measuring cup then fill to 1/4 line)
2 Tbsp oil
grated coconut- to taste (about 1/4 cup)
oil for frying- about 2 cups

Coating:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
grated coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients with whisk. Add wet materials. You should be able to form neat balls so adjust dry/wet accordingly. Heat oil on medium and wait until little bubbles rise. Test with a little bit of dough. Fry balls until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on oil draining tray or absorbent paper towels.

Mix maple syrup and lemon juice until it looks almost clear. Dip donut balls into the syrup quickly then remove and place on plate. Sprinkle coconut and spices on top.

Enjoy!

Hello April

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Happy Easter 2013!

Happy Easter 2013!

Happy Easter 2013!

Happy Easter 2013!

Happy Easter 2013!