THE ART OF THE CARD

We love receiving cards in the mail at Christmas time. Seeing pictures of everyone’s families, the well-wishing notes, and the words of encouragement for the New Year to come. We like it all. We also like creating our own family card each year too. That’s one tradition we kind of fell in to, but cherish. There have been plenty of years when we were too busy traveling, moving, or just down right tired, but we always came through with something.

Aya loves the written word. I think it’s one of her love languages. Cards are important to her. They always have been. She has every card or letter she has received since she was in elementary school. I’m not joking. Moving back and forth between US and Japan, that’s how she stayed in touch with her friends. So for as long as I’ve known her, Christmas cards have always been a big deal for her.

When I was a kid, my dad was into photography. He had a fairly fancy camera, and he even had a dark room where he developed his own photos. There were a few years when he had a big idea for our family Christmas card. This was in the days long before Photoshop and Shutterfly. So all of the editing he did was in the dark room or was just set-up with the camera. I remember thinking these cards were the coolest thing! When Aya and I had kids, those ideas of doing something different were transferred to me. Continue reading “THE ART OF THE CARD”

2018 NEW & NOTEWORTHY CHRISTMAS ALBUMS

It’s no secret, I’m a total Christmas music junkie. It used to be a weird thing once upon a time, but with people starting to play Christmas music a few days after Halloween now, I’m not looked at as the weirdo I once was. And with music being as accessible as it is now, finding new and different Christmas albums isn’t as challenging as it once was.

My brother and I used to rummage through rows and rows of CDs at Best Buy. And then we started looking though pages and pages of Christmas albums on Amazon. Anything worthy we scored was brought to Thanksgiving dinner and shown off with great pride. But now with iTunes, it’s becoming easier to do deeper searches for Christmas albums that aren’t in the pop charts. For example, this year I found a great jazz group called B3 Kings  with some fantastic arrangements, and this guy Andrew McAuley with a new take on the Charlie Brown Christmas music. But those aren’t current albums. I wanted to scour the internet to find what good and unique albums that were released this year.

There are heaps of pop singer Christmas albums, smooth jazz, and reworked compilations with Frank Sinatra released every year. It’s usually all the same stuff. The same arrangements of the same songs, just with a different singer. Once in a while, someone does something unique and catchy enough that and it enters the Christmas music collective that we will come to enjoy (or be annoyed with) for years to come.

Ingrid Michaelson, Jessie J, Eric Clapton, Pentatonix, Lauren Daigle, Diana Ross, William Shatner(!?) and even The Monkees released Christmas albums this year. Most of these are decent. They are nice, but not awesome. I kept poking around and these are my top releases for the 2018 season. Continue reading “2018 NEW & NOTEWORTHY CHRISTMAS ALBUMS”

AKI MATSURI and MAKING YUKATAS

The kids go to a Japanese immersion school as their primary school. In addition to learning the Japanese language, they also get to participate in cultural events. One of those events is called, “aki matsuri,”or Fall Festival. For half the day, we convert the school into different games popular in Japan during these festivals. At the end of the games, the kids parade around the school with decorative floats, chanting, and dancing. One thing that is very common for people to wear at the fall festival is a yukata. I’ve been told it’s like a casual kimono. The girls really wanted to wear one, but even after all of our trips to Japan, we had never bought them one. The basic garment is constructed similarly to a bathrobe. It looked simple enough, so I decided to make them one. I mean, I made an Elsa dress for Halloween before, I could handle this​, right? In the end, I was right. But getting there, that was the tricky part.

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MEAT LOAF? NO, MEAT CAKE!

My sister-in-law claimed to hate meat loaf. She also never had it and refused to eat it. My brother couldn’t even cook it at home for her to try. It’s not like she doesn’t like ground beef. She eats burgers and other meat dishes. How can you not like meat loaf? Or even more shocking, how do you hate it? It’s the classic mid-western American meal. What was her problem? It was my goal to investigate this, and then later educate her on the greatness that is meat loaf.

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SHRIMP FOIL PACKETS

I really enjoy cooking. I like the artistic part of it. Selecting a menu with foods that my family will enjoy, all the while balancing complimentary flavors and colors. It’s my daily challenge. But sometimes life is busy and I just want a simple, quick meal. And if I can find one without sacrificing quality and taste, even better! And these shrimp foil packets are a great answer to that.

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