Thursday, March 19, 2015

Project Life 2014

Project Life is not going to so well this year. I had planned to keep up each month as that is my dream goal every year, but I didn't even touch it until August last year. Doing 6 months of lay outs in such a short amount of time was nearly impossible. I never got back to it until winter break, but since I was quite busy during winter, I only made it as far as the end of July. I figured that I would have plenty of time during spring vacation to do more, but that didn't really pan out.

Finally, last weekend, I spent the night at Louise's with the intention that I would plow through the second half of 2014. I made it to the end of September. This is really not the way Project Life is supposed to be! It is frustrating. The last two years, I was finished before mid-February! What is my excuse this time?

Since returning from Louise's house, I have been more motivated and have been taking my laptop to bed with me. Instead of reading before sleepy time, I am scrapbooking a few pages before nodding off. This seems to help. I am now working on December pages.

This is only the first step of power scrapbooking though. Once all the photos and journaling are in place, I will have to go back through each lay out and put in the digital papers and elements. This shouldn't be too challenging since I have chosen two kits to use for the whole album. (Last year, I used a different kit for each month, and that took a lot of time and memory!)

Today is March 19. Can I really finish by the end of March? Is that a dare?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

One Little Word 2015: Nurture (February)

This is my vision board collage for February's assignment in Ali Edwards One Little Word class.

I collected images from magazines that I had lying around the house, but I had bought one Brit Women's magazine and a foodie magazine for just such this occasion.

I found that images of nature inspire the word "Nurture" for me, and I wondered if perhaps I need to get outside more. I like nature, but more than that, I like to get my work done, so I stay inside a lot using the computer, reading books and other materials, keeping up with housework, etc. What is that all about? That is NOT nurturing anything really!

So, I tried to think about my five best and most vivid memories from my childhood:
1. Playing on my tree swing
2. Swimming at the lake
3. Walking/skiing in our woods
4. Riding my bike
5. Girl scout camp

And, then I tried to think about my five best and most vivid memories from my 20s.
1. Skiing in the moonlight
2. Long, long walks at night
3. Riding my bike
4. Road trips with friends
5. Long drives into the countryside

And, now. What? I have barely been outdoors this entire spring vacation, and I am now entering my third and last month of vacation. Granted, I have tons of work to do, and I had several kid-related and volunteer projects on my plate, but one thing is clear.

I was really good at nurturing myself when I was younger. I knew what I needed and I allowed myself to take breaks. I allowed myself to enjoy the outdoors alone and in the company of others.

So, yes, while I may be a scaredy-cat about traveling to other countries, and even if I wasn't, I have to save all our money to go to Wisconsin every year, I can still make an effort to enjoy nature locally.

Other nurture-related issues that come up on my vision board relate to nurturing my family and nurturing my own body.

First, my family. I think I should win "Super Mom of the Year" award for all that I did for Ailin during the month of February. First, I cancelled two sets of plans (one was to travel to Sendai for an AFWJ Convention and the other to travel for a Cambodia for a teachers' conference) so that I could stay here and support her through a big dance event. Second, I spent basically the whole month, getting her ready for it - taking her to extra dance practices, re-making two costumes for her, buying stuff for her accessories, listening to that god-awful music over and over. Oh, it wasn't so god-awful, but let's just say it was a mix of 10 different songs and it was long, loud and repetitive. But, we did it. She enjoyed the big day, and she looked good, and she wrote me a few thank you letters this week - the heartfelt kind that took a long time to write and color. Oh, and did I mention that I hosted a birthday party for her? For the first time in five years? I am a brave and nurturing soul!
Ailin was in the "Fine Day" Group.
The costume for the ending number.

The Fine Day Group. Ailin is back center on right.

The ending number. Ailin is on right in the back. Very hard to see her here though.

Birthday party for several of her classmates

Second, my own body. I took up yoga (hot yoga) in January to see if I would like it. Luckily, I did like it and have decided to continue with it. The teacher made two yoga CDs for me because I commented on how great her choice of music is, and listening to those CDs helps me relax a lot. Unfortunately, due to my class schedule and commute, I will have to find a different studio. There is a hot yoga studio about one block from my campus in Tokyo, so I may decide to go there from April.

Three major areas of my life appeared in my vision board. Nature, which needs some work. Family, which went well and now I need to keep the momentum going. And my own body, which is still a work in progress but at least I have found something that is not only good for my body but also for my mind.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Week One and Two on Whole 30

You may be wondering how I survived two whole weeks without four of our major "food groups": Sugar, Legumes, Grains and Dairy.

A Sunday lunch for the family. They got Cheese/Meat Doria while I got just the meat part with an egg baked on top.
First, the good parts.
I learned some great new recipes. I even made mayonnaise (a little challenging) and pesto (super easy). I also made salsa that I can use for some meat/fish dishes later. Today, I am planning to make a cucumber salad. Yesterday, I made chocolate chili, which was a big hit. The day before, I made three garlic-based dishes, which everyone loved. Even Y is loving all of these new dishes and he eats his share when he returns home from work.
Garlic-based dishes that the whole family can enjoy.
Homemade mayonnaise using Olive Oil

I read up on the rule about omitting legumes, including soybeans, because my husband was so concerned about it. I found out that soybeans, in their fermented form, are totally okay, and like Kimuchi and other fermented foods, are quite nutritious. So, soy sauce, miso and natto are fine, and Japanese people typically eat these daily but in very small quantities. Unfortunately, tofu, fried tofu, and other tofu products are not okay.

I did just fine with skipping the white carbs (rice and pasta) at meals and felt filled up with my meat/seafood and veggies. The kids still got to eat rice and pasta, but they also tended to eat more veggies...because they were there.

I found some easy recipes. I used the pesto for marinating chicken and later for a fish dish, so I found the pesto be very versatile.

A typical lunch for me at home. Pesto-topped scallops, some bits of marinated steak, nice big salad.
I tried the cauliflower (mashed potato form), and it was easy to make, tasted good and even the kids liked it. I have tried some other veggies, such as that cauli/broccoli high bred that has a nice, nutty taste.
Ground meat sauteed with mushrooms, basil and onions with a side of mashed cauliflower.

I experimented with making coffee at home, using coconut milk and some flavored extracts. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not. But, it was fun to experiment.

When I went out to cafes to meet up with friends, I managed to avoid the heavy mocha cafes, and made do with a coconut milk steamer at one place and an oolong tea at another place.

I felt more energetic. I thought I could do more and accomplish more in one day. The only time I felt truly relaxed was when I attended my weekly yoga class. This was not such a good thing. One hour per week is not enough relaxation time!

Now, the bad parts.

Have you ever drank coconut milk straight? No? Okay, have you ever put it in coffee? Yeah, I thought so. It takes getting used to. Even one of my friends grimaced when I told her I had resorted to putting coconut milk in my coffee.

My emotions began to get the better of me too. Because I was not numbing myself with sugar and carbs every time I felt any kind of stress (or anger, sadness, frustration...), I was feeling every emotion very intensely. This was really hard on me, and I felt like I was going through withdrawal. After the first week, this started to go away, and I began to feel more positive in general. In the end, I found that coming to terms with my emotions and understanding where they were coming from, and also talking it out with friends really helped.

The one thing I could not give up was chocolate, so I resorted to 72% cacao, which is satisfying enough, but watch out...slippery slope there!

And the dairy...I knew that it would be hard to give up dairy, but I have been able to avoid cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. The main issue is that I still want milk in my coffee. So, I have been putting a couple tablespoons of hot milk, a few table spoons of hot coconut milk, and then hot water. This combination is WAY better than my old combination, which was more like 2 cups of milk each time.

There are times, when out and about, that it is really hard to avoid these four food groups. Last weekend, I went on a women's retreat, and somehow, I was able to stay on my diet while there. I was very proud of myself. We even went to a nice restaurant on the way home, and I had German style carbs, lots of veggies. But, the next day, I had to take Ailin to a dance practice from about noon to 8pm. I didn't have a chance to eat lunch before leaving, and the timing of the practice sessions meant that I couldn't nip off and get something to eat right away. I couldn't eat lunch until 3:30pm. By that time, I thought I would die, but the choices were really limited. So, I ended up getting a KFC chicken burger. KFC is my least favorite restaurant on the planet, but that's how limited my choices were. Then, I topped it off with a donut from Mr Donuts. Call it stress combined with extreme hunger. I should have brought some snacks along at least.

This weekend is Ailin's birthday, she requested me to make Italian dishes for both her family party and her friend party. I haven't decided what to do for the family party yet ... should I sit down and eat with them, or should I make some alternative dishes for myself? I will likely just eat smaller portions and focus more on the veggies. For the friends party, it will be easy to avoid eating with them because I know I'll be busy hosting the party.