our Advent calendars this year (spoiler: they’re picture books and Duplo!)

We always end up with a chocolate calendar, even on the years I swear them off, but this season we’re trying out a few popular Advent trends to see if one of them sticks around and becomes a family tradition.

Our first countdown to Christmas is this basket of children’s books. I had originally thought of wrapping them and putting them under the tree, but then I realized how much paper (and time!) that would take. Instead, I evicted our board book collection from its basket and refilled it with holiday books numbered from 1-24. Tie a red ribbon around it and we’re done! READ MORE

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Kinder Advent calendar & this week’s meal plan

Do you do a chocolate Advent calendar? In our house, we usually get one but since the kiddo is so little, he has to share the chocolates with mom or dad (one of my better ideas, I must say). And because the chocolate is a treat for the adults too, we try to get a good quality set that everyone can look forward to after dinner. In the past we’ve picked up something nice at Costco or the Lindt shop at our train station, but this year one of mochi’s sisters beat us to it and definitely scored major “cool aunt” points by arriving from Germany with a giant one filled with Kinder surprise eggs. I think building the little toys is at least as exciting for the kiddo as eating chocolate, so he’s loving it! READ MORE

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creamy tomato gnocchi & this week’s meal plan

Did you celebrate Thanksgiving last week? If so, I hope you had a great one! We made a little feast, including this pumpkin pie and the pecan slab pie from Smitten Kitchen‘s new cookbook and both were great. The kiddo loves baking, so it was nice to have the day off to slowly prepare everything together. He also made our cranberry sauce and is so proud of it!  READ MORE

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why we’re loving Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

We spent over 2 months in the US this summer and found ourselves visiting the local library several times a week. Having access to so many beautiful children’s books (in English) was such a treat for this little Tokyo family and we fell in love with a range of new authors, illustrators, and characters. But out of all those books, the one we *had* to buy as soon as we got home was Not Quite Narwhal. 

The illustrations are adorable, but that’s not the only reason we love it. READ MORE

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Thanksgiving in Tokyo & this week’s meal plan

This year marks my 13th Thanksgiving since moving to Japan. It’s probably my favorite family holiday, which makes it my most homesick weekend as well. Over the years I’ve celebrated in every way from turkey delivery at work to fancy course menus, and with anywhere from one other person to several dozen. These days we mostly celebrate as a little family, enjoying a comfort food feast with all the sides I love and as close to a turkey as I can manage. Luckily, Thanksgiving Day coincides with a Japanese national holiday this year so we’ll have all day to prepare together. Our little guy loves to bake and help mix things (and is actually old enough to be helpful now!), so I think it will be extra fun.  READ MORE

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a fun new book: Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

I stumbled on this book while browsing Amazon and had to buy it because our kiddo gets stuck like this just about every time he gets undressed. As impulse buys go, Still Stuck was a great one!

The little boy in Still Stuck finds himself in the tricky position that toddlers (maybe even all of us?) seem to fear most – discovering that you might actually need to ask for help, even after insisting that you don’t need it. READ MORE

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making bentos & this week’s meal plan

Do you make bentos for yourself or your family? I’m not much of a morning person, so I’m usually impressed with myself if everyone has breakfast and makes it to work/day care with the things they need (bonus points if we’re not terribly late!). Since the kids have lunch prepared on-site at their school, mochi and I usually grab lunches close to work and only prepare bentos when we’re feeling super organized the night before. READ MORE

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preparing for hoikuen (Japanese day care): sewing project tips

Our little one started going to hoikuen (day care) recently and I’ve been slow about getting all of her prep done. And there can be a lot of prep to do!

I’m sure it’s pretty standard to write names or iron tags into everything, but most of us in Japan also have a list of items to sew. READ MORE

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satsumaimo muffins & this week’s meal plan

We were pretty successful last week! The chicken chow mein got pushed out to Saturday, replaced on Friday by a quick meat sauce pasta, but otherwise we stuck to the plan. I cleared the fridge and tried a stuffed mushroom recipe that went over well (although the kiddo prefers them sautéed). Our little Halloween party was rescheduled to Sunday, so we had a taco rice buffet and barely had room to think about dinner last night. It was a great meal for a casual party though – prep was fast and easy, people could customize to their taste, leftovers are minimal and easy to use up.  READ MORE

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quick & easy project: convert baby headbands to clips

I’ve been collecting bows for our baby since before she was born (there are so many mama-run shops making gorgeous ones that it’s almost too easy). For a long time I ordered the soft headband type, not knowing when she’d have enough hair to use a clip. As much as I wanted to love them, they never seemed to look right – too much hair? weird head shape? And when she did wear them, it was always short-lived since they’d either slide or get pulled off. I started buying clips instead and they worked much better for us. At some point I realized we weren’t using her headbands at all, which was such a waste. Today I finally did something about it.

Here’s how I converted all our baby headbands into adorable bow clips: READ MORE

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