Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weight Reduction Plan

Kaz advised me to not say "weight loss" because it causes my sub-conscious mind to avoid "loss" because it sounds negative. From what I have read, the sub-conscious mind is always trying to move towards the positive.

So, weight reduction plan it is then!

First, I'll explain this wonderful lay out. It was made for the Big Picture Scrapbooking class I am taking called "Design Your Life". For this assignment, we were supposed to make an entire album (with repetitive elements throughout) about our loved ones, but I just finished making one of those for a different class and didn't feel like doing it again. So, I decided to start a mini-album about my WRP, and then just take a new photo and add to it each month. This is January's installment, the first of 12.

Yep, that's right. This is a 12 month plan. It is, as you read in a previous entry, my MAIN goal for 2010.

My three rules this time are simple:
1. Wear the pedometer and shoot for 12,000 steps a day.
2. Limit to ONE vice ONCE a day.
3. Half-size portions of carbs.

The long walks are going well because I can listen to audio books while I'm walking, and for the last couple weekends, I have even managed to leave Yusuke at home while I go walking (with one or both kids and the dog). He knows what I am doing and why, so he doesn't complain about it.

The vice rule is going surprisingly well. I like to refer to it as "vice bucks", as in "Am I willing to spend my vice bucks NOW? Or should I wait until later in the day?" I realized that I have 3 vices - cafe mocha, chocolate & coke. Since I am allowed to have only one of those each day, I have to choose when and where very carefully. Sometimes, I am saving myself for the end of the day and that moment of bliss never arrives. It makes me realize that I CAN live without my vices after all! At the same time, I feel happy just thinking that I can have my vice later rather than NOT AT ALL. So, I think this rule does work for me.

Hey, this is Japan. Saying you'll pass on the rice will get you a lot of shocked reactions, and my husband is absolutely no exception. I decided instead of NO CARB, I would go for half-portions since I do need to set a good example for my dinner partner, Ailin. For lunches, I sometimes forgo carbs altogether.

I am taking this one day at a time, and for the first time in quite a while, I actually feel my stomach churning hungrily, but I am not starving. I just choose not to snack on candy bars and sugary drinks. That said, I do realize that I have to keep my blood sugar from dropping low - that's when I grab anything I can get my hands on and gobble it down. Healthy snacks like bananas or cheese have been helping me avoid those types of moments.

As part of the Create the Life you Love class, I am working up a rewards system for myself. I can reward myself in a variety of ways depending on the nature of the goal. For the WRP goal, I am planning to reward myself for every 5 pounds. I am 1 pound away from my first milestone! The reward is a trip to Lupicia to buy more tea. Normally, I would just go when I need more tea, but this time, I am holding myself back in order to use it as a reward.

For other goals, I am also working up some action plans and rewards systems for myself. The idea is to work a little bit each day on your goals. The background goals are pretty simple as they don't require a lot of thought, but the most challenging ones for me will be "weekly menu planning" and "keeping up with my cleaning routine". I am thinking about subscribing to a menu planning site, but I have to keep in mind that I cook A LOT of Japanese food so an American menu planning site won't help all that much. As for the cleaning routine, anyone know of a good cleaning person who is looking for more work?

Oh, and trying to think of rewards that don't involve food - that is challenging! More on that later!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Decoupage is back in a big way

When I first heard about decoupage in the Org 101 class at Simplify 101 last fall, I was a little perplexed. Is that something housewives used to do in the 70's? I barely remember the 70's myself.

So, curious, I started asking around in my circles, and the response I got was laughter. How could I not know? Where was I? (Uh, in the 80's when we didn't do decoupage, maybe.) Obviously, my friends remembered doing decoupage when they were young, so it was explained to me that it had something to do with gluing paper.

I looked it up on Wikipedia and found that the art of decoupage was imported from Japan to Europe during the Victorian age and it was called, fittingly, "the art of Japanning." Well, I am IN Japan, so I should know all about decoupage, right? I looked around my house. I did indeed have some tea canisters that were covered with paper and perhaps even glue. Now, I sort of had a inkling of what decoupaging might be, so I decided to give it a try.

Turns out the decoupage is simply the art of attaching paper to a wooden surface and then painting over it with glue (the most popular decoupage glue brand is Mod Podge which comes in glossy and matte). This decoupage glue dries over the paper and causes it to appear laminated.

One suggested project in the Create a Life You Love class (simplify 101) was to create a goals binder that you can keep updated with your progress.

I bought this binder at a local department store, covered it with some nice paper, decoupaged it and then drilled a hole to add my label with a ribbon.

The binder tabs are made from chipboard, covered with paper and also decoupaged. I made labels on the computer and printed them onto an overhead projector sheet. The labels read "dreams into goals," "planning," "take action," and "victory."

Okay, so now that I had some practice, Yoko and I decided to make decoupaged frames for our goals boards. Aby from simplify 101 had made a beautiful magnetic board using a picture frame, so we decided to copy hers.

We bought picture frames at Ikea and then went to a Home Store to buy a large sheet of steel. In the store's workroom, we had them cut the steel to fit within our picture frames. We kept the frame's original glass behind the steel to make it more stable, but it also makes it quite heavy. Then, we went to a craft store to choose paper. I chose one pattern, one plain, one striped and one simple pattern in oranges and dark grays to match the decor in my house. Yoko chose pastel colors.

At home, we first had to measure the frames from inside out to determine how long each of the paper strips should be. Then, we cut the paper using our paper cutters. 

Like Aby, I chose to sand down the edges of my papers to blend with the white color of the frame. Yoko chose not to do this. I used a clipboard to keep the papers stable while I sanded. (Note the little guy in the background. I was feeding him his lunch at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking!)

Finally, all the papers are cut and sanded. Now, for the gluing.

Here, Yoko is gluing the paper to her wooden frame. She used wood glue while I used regular craft glue. Both seemed to work fine.

Notice how the paper wraps around the frame, and how I glued the papers down in a sequence.

Then, we used paint brushes to apply the Mod Podge. Just cover the entire frame in thin layers of mod podge, letting each dry in between. 

We made sure to sign our frames before applying the mod podge. You never know. They could become family heirlooms!

Here is Yoko with her finished magnetic board.

Here is my magnetic board. It will hang on the wall next to my computer.

I now love decoupage. I love it so much that I want to make a smaller magnetic frame for my desk at work, a cool frame for Shannon (because I love her so much and I always feel compelled to make stuff for her!) and maybe even one for Yusuke's desk at work! Plus, I am going to make an 8x8 picture frame to house my monthly lay outs about my weight reduction progress (will post about that later!). If I had time, I would make decoupaged frames and sell them...that is how much fun this is! No, even better, I would hire an assistant to make them for me and I would sell them. Okay, let's get back to just enjoying this wonderful goals board...first things first.

Monday, January 25, 2010

18,000 steps - perhaps that is overkill

I dug out my old pedometer (circa 2005) and replaced the batteries over the weekend. I would like to strive to take more than 10,000 steps a day. Since I can drive every where, this means I need to actually WALK at some point throughout my day. Aside from taking Max out for his daily walk, I have to get off my ass and do some serious power walking...the kind that would tire even Max out. Yesterday, I had a chance to take a walk and found that going to the nearest train station and back was only 5000 steps.

So, I (excuse the lame pun) decided to step it up today. I decided on a whim, since it was late in the day and I had not taken a serious power walk yet, to ... ahem ... walk to Ailin's day care and pick her up via stroller. That is 14,000 steps, which I did not realize until I was half way there and seriously regretted what I had done. It was dark, cold, a little windy & I was beginning to not look forward to the long walk home.

Someone had suggested I make the power walks fun by listening to music, so I have been listening to audiobooks. That did help. I also try to choose different areas and routes to walk so I don't get bored.

On the way home, I carried Luka in my ergo pack and made Ailin sit in the stroller. Of course, she wanted to walk at first but I convinced her that would not be a good idea. She kept asking me why I had walked instead of bringing the car, but the explanation about needing exercise in order to lose weight went over her head. (She thinks I am perfect...ha ha.) Finally, she became quiet (and cold even with a blanket covering her) and she sat back in the stroller.

About 3/4 of the way home, Ailin began wailing about her desire to get out and walk. I was really thirsty, and it was about 6pm by now. We should be back in our warm, cozy apartment with the smell of steamed rice and dinner cooking, but we were not.

Then I saw a beacon in the wind. The big yellow arches.

(Side note: Last July, our local Denny's restaurant went out of business and was soon replaced by a McDonalds. I was going to write an entire blog entry about what this would do to the neighborhood, how it would affect our family and especially our kids as they grow up with a McDs so close to our house. It is literally 1 block away.)

But, there it was beckoning us to it. And, I said to Ailin, "Would you like to stop at McDonald's for a rest?" Of course, she immediately said yes and practically began jumping up and down in her stroller.

Once inside the McDonalds, I soon discovered the my wallet was completely empty of cash and that the only change I had added up to $5. After some quick soul searching (and much searching of all my pockets & bags), I decided to sacrifice myself and order a happy meal for Ailin. I figured she could eat her dinner now and then I would not have to make anything when we got home.

So, I sat there watching her eat, begging a few fries off of her and letting Luka play with a few fries himself. All I had was a cup of water. Okay, this was torture, especially with the poster on the wall by our table which shows all the items that are $1 or less. I mean, come on! I didn't even have that much!

Once home, I vowed to always hide a $10 bill in my wallet. The last one that was hidden there was not hidden well and I think Yusuke took it out just last week. (He was asking me if he could use it, and I said no, but I am pretty sure now that he did anyway.) I'll find a better hiding place for it next time.

I also vowed to not walk that far to pick up Ailin. It was a bit much, and it really wore me out. That said, I do have a secret agenda for our old red stroller that has definitely seen better days.

You see, I really want a new one - one of those spiffy double strollers that costs only $300. Yusuke refused to let me buy one, so now I am determined to wear the heck out of this one to the point of literally breaking in half so that I have a good excuse to get a new one. Seriously, I don't think it will take long.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Date Night (Project 52) #2

Project 52: Date Nights logo

This time, I decided the date and announced it to Yusuke on Thursday night when he arrived home from work. He was up for it, and we had our date on Saturday night from 9:45pm to 10:45pm.

We had a great day on Saturday because we got out of the house early and were back from errands and shopping by 3pm. Everyone, except me, got to take a nap and were well-rested by dinner time when I served Ailin (and Luka) a dinner that they were sure to eat without much prodding.

After their bath and bedtime routine, both were off to dreamland by 9:45pm. That does seem late, but Ailin sometimes has a hard time settling down.

We had bought sashimi (raw fish) and Yusuke set everything out for our meal as soon as I finished putting the kids to bed. He started the conversation, and so we talked about traveling within Japan. Mainly, we discussed various neighborhoods in Tokyo and small villages in Chiba where we would like to go and just walk around. We thought about trying to do "penny walks". Amy and I used to do penny bike rides around Antigo when we were kids. You bring a penny with you and every time you come to a corner, you decide (for example) "heads is right, tails is left". Bring an extra penny with you in case it drops down the sewage drain when you flip it. (Amy and I learned that the hard way.) Yusuke was very interested in that idea.

In any case, the idea of walking tours around Tokyo covers three of our aspirations for this year - do more family stuff, see more of Japan and exercise more.

It was a great conversation, and our dated ended at 10:45 when I went to check my email and he turned on the TV. So, there you go. Later, we started watching a movie "State of Play" which Yusuke had picked up for free at work. We were interrupted a couple times when the kids woke up and I had to get them back to sleep, so I never got to watch the end of the movie. Oh well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's Your Style?

What is your style? We're talking about home interior style, not clothing. But, if you had tons of money and could completely redecorate your house, take this quiz to find out what style would best suit you.

I was surprised to find out that my style is 100% Wine Country style. I have never been to Wine Country, but now I definitely want to go someday!

When I look around my living room, I do see a lot of ... ahem ... orange, and if I could afford a big, comfy oversized couch with some matching chairs, I would go for it.

Wine Country Style

Tuscan sun, here we come! The Wine Country Style reflects the feelings evoked by the seaside regions of Europe such as the South of France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The style manages to be both refined and casual, such that you can mix beautiful antiques with more rustic wrought iron or wood and the result is both sophisticated and cozy. Furniture is large and comfortable, colors are bright and cheery, and regardless of the color palette the spaces almost always feel warm. You can easily translate the style into the perfect family environment but you can just as easily emphasize the more formal pieces and make your room the perfect adult getaway.


To those with a Wine Country sense of style, texture is very important because of how it imitates the surrounding landscape. Walls are often made of plaster or stucco, or faux finishes that emulate these textures. Rough-hewn or wrought iron is very common in tables, chairs, lamps and accessories. Natural pine is also common, although darker stained woods are more popular. The wood pieces (chairs, tables, armoires) are large in scale and each piece has a good sense of presence in the room. Mosaic tiles are very popular for flooring as well as accents on tabletops and other furniture.


When it comes to color, Wine Country Style literally attempts to mimic the landscape of the regions. Earthy tones such as yellow, orange and red highlight the golden hillsides and beautiful sunsets. Blues, lavenders and greens mimic the fields and countryside in springtime. Focusing on the blues and whites imitates the seaside and white sandy beaches.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Date Night (Project 52)

Project 52: Date Nights logo
Simply Modern Mom is doing this project over at her blog, and I have decided to join in since this was one of my new years resolutions AND my foreground goal. I thought this would be a fun way to keep me going with it. I told Yusuke about it and he was thrilled to hear that date night only needs to be for ONE hour ONCE a week AT HOME. When I told him no pajamas, he kind of scoffed because we don't really wear pajamas (just at-home comfy clothes that we also happen to sleep in) and we bathe early in the evening with the kids, so changing into our formal wear would seem kind of like a waste of time. Nonetheless, we are going to give this a try.

January 17, 2010 - Sunday
Our first official date night of the year, though technically, we did go on a date to a coffee shop on January 3rd, took place at our dining room table over a cup of homemade chai and strawberry roll cake. Our main purpose was to discuss our budget for the year 2010. Ooh, how romantic. But, believe me, it was. Our annual budget discussions allow us to be very frank with each other and we have never argued or fought about our ideas concerning money. (No, we just fight about everything else.) So, this is a date we always look forward to at the beginning of each year because it assures us that we really are in this together, for the long haul.

Hey, if any of your readers want to join in this project, it is for a great cause - Your Marriage! I can't think of anything better than that, can you?

Goals Culled from 101 Dreams

So, for this online class called Create the Life You Love, I finished making my list of 101 Dreams. Then, we had to categorize our dreams. My categories included relationships, finances, home, travel, career, personal growth, fun stuff, & a few more.

From that, we had to choose or combine some of the dreams and then create a goal statement. We had to choose carefully - only choosing dreams we were able and willing to commit to for now. In fact, we had to choose some goals that would be "foreground", meaning they would get more of a time commitment and other goals would be "background", meaning they would not require as much time but we would still be working on.

This was a real soul-searching step for me because naturally I wanted to choose some of my scrapbook projects as my foreground goals and maybe even some travel plans as my background goals.

But, Aby asked us the all-important question. If you could accomplish some of the goals in just ONE area of your life, knowing that this would have the biggest impact on your life, which would it be. Well, that is an easy question to answer. Health (weight).

Aby advised that we could have any number of foreground goals (up to 7, that is) but that less was better, so I chose 2 foreground goals. Health and Marriage. Folks, I am now making a true commitment to improving these two areas of my life in 2010. Hey, if I could make the commitment to learning photoshop and organizing my home, then I can surely do this, right?

Next, we had to make goal statements for each of our goals and announce them to the class. Following are my goal statements.

Foreground Goal Statements:

I am losing weight every week by fitting exercise into my daily life, by limiting my vices to 1x a day, and by managing my intake of white foods & dairy so that by the end of 2010, I am at my ideal weight of 140 pounds. I am feeling exhilarated & proud to be shopping for trendy skirts & dresses!

During the month of February, I am happy and enthusiastic about my marriage because Yusuke and I are having date night 1x a week and I am showing affection to him each and every day.

Background Goal Statements:

Personal Growth
By May 2010, I am feeling calm and relaxed in the face of adversity, and I can control my emotions by keeping anger at bay. I am using the EFT method to overcome my issues with emotional outbursts.

I am excited because we are saving 90,000 per month for our travel budget so that by the end of 2010, we will have 1,080,000 yen saved for our annual trips plus a few extra fun trips, which we will begin planning for in January of 2011.

In February, I am feeling confident and at ease in the kitchen because I am experimenting more with Japanese recipes along with other new-to-me soup & slow cooker recipes.

In February, I am feeling proud and happy when I look at our beautiful home because I am following the cleaning & maintenance routines.

I am diligently & enthusiastically making weekly menus and sticking to our budget so that we can save money for our future dreams which we will re-evaluate together in January 2011.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Perfect Cup of Chai

Those who know me really well will know that I have other passions besides "scrapbooking." I also happen to love tea - making it, collecting it, serving it, splurging on it, etc.

My favorite brand is Lupicia, which is a chain store that started out in San Fran, I do believe. There are nearly 200 branches in Japan, making it seem like Lupicia is a Japanese company, but it's not. That said, because tea stores like this are so very rare in Wisconsin, some might feel like bringing tea gifts bought at a Lupicia store in Japan would be the perfect Japanese souvenir. My mother, when visiting in December, spent a pretty penny at a nearby Lupicia, on Xmas gifts for her friends and family. It started because I brought her a chai gift set that I bought at a Lupicia Exposition, which Kaz and I attended back in October.

So, in this entry, as my ode to my 2nd passion of tea drinking, I will explain how to make the perfect cup of chai, as I see it. But, I also want to introduce a couple of my other favorite teas from Lupicia.

A Few of My Favorite Teas
This is made with black tea and cherry leaves, with some tiny red cherries to boot. It is colorful and has a wonderful aroma, and it can be served as a hot tea in winter or an ice tea in summer. Milk and sugar are not needed as it is a fruity herbal tea. If you want the the green tea version, look for Sakurambo Vert.

I do believe that this word means "clown" in French, and I only say that because the Japanese word for clown is "piro" and that is certainly not from the English language. This tea is fruity & flowery. It is similar to Sakurambo but more obvious in it's flowery flavor. Also served hot or cold and withOUT milk or sugar.

Orange Chocolate
I discovered this lovely tea at the same time I found the chai booth at the tea expo back in October. Orange tea brings back memories of childhood because Mom always had it in the house and we would drink it during those cold days of winter. Milk and sugar are of course a welcome addition to this soothing tea.

How to Make Chai
Chai is a type of Indian tea using black tea mixed with spices. Spices can vary, but common elements include black pepper, cinnamon stick and or ginger. At Lupicia, you can buy the spice mixtures in small jars, and there are 3 types to choose from.

Masala - a mixture of black pepper, pink pepper, cinnamon stick & cardamom.
Ginger - dried ginger plus cardamom
Cinnamon - a mixture of cinnamon stick & black pepper

The most recommended tea for making Chai is called Assam, which is a plain black tea commonly used for serving English tea. I'll take a cup of Assam any old time, but I found that Orange Chocolate performs rather nicely as the black tea of chai.

The finished tea is a mixture of the black tea, spices, hot water, milk & brown sugar.

Here is the best way to make chai, as I see it, with lots of trial and error. I find the methodical actions of making this tea a very soothing excuse for me to be in the kitchen in the mornings.

1. Fill your cup with water to measure the amount you'll need for boiling. Remember that about 1/4 will boil off in the simmering process, so fill it to the brim.

2. Pour your water into the sauce pan and bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat so it is just simmering.

3. Add the spices. About 2 teaspoons will do for starters, but if you are making tea for two, then add about 1 tsp more. You can play around with these amounts as you make more cups of chai.

4. Add the black tea. About 1 tsp will do at first, add another tsp if you like your tea a little stronger.

5. Let the mixture simmer for about 3 minutes. Set your timer for sure because the water you'll need for the tea will boil off sooner than you think.

6. After 3 minutes, the tea mixture is properly steeped. In the meantime, fill your tea cup with 1/4 of the way with milk and warm that up in the microwave.

7. Use a tea strainer to pour the tea mixture over your cup.

8. Fill it up to the top and you'll see the milk / tea mixture has come just to the brim of the cup. Perfect!

9. Now for the fun, sugary part. Lupicia sells special sugar for teas, and this one is especially made for Assam teas. I thought I would try it out so I splurged, but I found that this brown sugar is eerily similar to the brown sugars you can buy at any store. Brown sugar dissolves better in tea, so keep that in mind. Honey is another good alternative.

10. And, now it is time to take a sip of this wonderfully, aromatic tea.


Check out Lupicia's recommendations for chai as well.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What a Decade

I've seen more than a few bloggers writing about the highlights of the past decade and thought I would join in, although I am not sure if need an invitation to do so.

2000 - I was working for ABC Rail Systems and living in Fitchburg, a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin. I lived in an apartment complex that was located near a park with a pond where geese often rested. I know this because I often went walking very early mornings or late evenings for exercise. I also enjoyed X-country skiing at a local park, and for some reason, I  preferred skiing in the moonlight until someone advised me not to. At that time, I was still working for REM, doing 24 hour shifts on 3 weekends a month, and I was officially single but still seeing Michael off and on. Yusuke and I had been out of contact for about a year, but we began writing letters here and there in the spring. And, one more thing, I took a temporary 3rd job in the spring to pay for my enormous tax bill - it was correcting essays for some high school achievement exams - and it was there that I met Warren who ended up referring me for his old position at Scholastic Book Fairs. I landed that job and started working there in the summer. It seemed like a good time to make some major changes in my life, and since I was moving to a new apartment in Fitchburg in July, I also "left" Michael. What I mean, is that I moved and changed jobs without giving Michael my new contact information and it took him quite a while to track me down. It was the only way to get out of that relationship because I was kind of addicted to him. This is turning out to be long, but bear with me. Yusuke & I officially got back together later that summer, and he came to visit me for Xmas. We got engaged then.

2001 - Wedding planning took up most of the year. I was finding out that Scholastic really didn't pay well, so I was quite poor. My new car payments, slightly expensive apartment & long commute to work didn't help much. I remember that my fridge was empty most of the time, and the only social outlet I could afford was the $2 a week country line dance lessons down the road. Despite that, in March I traveled to Japan to meet Yusuke's family and to attend a wedding. I went again in July to spend more time with Yusuke and finalize some wedding details. At that time, we discussed the possibility of living in Japan (temporarily!!!) because he had a much better job than I did. I moved out of my expensive apartment in September and began renting a room from a woman who owned a condo. It was located much closer to my job, so I was able to start paying down my debts. Despite my money issues, I rocked at planning my wedding though and budgeting it down to a $5000 event, and I was quite proud of myself for that. Our wedding took place in Madison on November 24. Yusuke & his family flew in for the week. I quit my job at Scholastic right around Xmas time and moved back to my parents' house.

2002 - I moved to Japan at the end of January and began working for ECC in March. Yusuke had found a small apartment for us in Inagekaigan, near his parents' house and also near the high school where we met. I felt comfortable with this neighborhood already. I began taking Japanese classes with a teacher in Tsuga once a week, and I joined AFWJ in the summer. We took a few hot spring trips that year. The best trip we took was to Kurumayama in the Nagano highlands. I went back to Colorado to visit Shannon and to Wisconsin for Xmas that year.

2003 - I took on the job as Journal Editor for the AFWJ Journal and began learning how to use the design software. I also was offered the Native English teacher job at the same high school where Yusuke and I went and began working there in April. That job really stressed me out in the first few months and I began having a few health problems because of it. Luckily, they hired two more teachers in August so things got there are 5 native teachers working there. We went to Kurumayama again in the summer.

2004 - My parents came to visit for the first time in March. Shannon and Jill came later that year in July. I was still editing the Journal so that kept me very busy. I was becoming good friends with some other AFWJ members like Kaz and Louise. We are still great friends to this day. Rather than return to WI for Xmas, Yusuke and I took a road trip called the Music City Tour, and we traveled to Nashville, Memphis & New Orleans.

2005 - This year we had a lot of changes. I lost weight using the South Beach Diet and then we also signed a contract to buy our condo. Most of the year was spent preparing for that, but I did a bit of traveling as well. Kaz & I went to visit a friend (Wendy) in Osaka, I went to Nagoya to visit Amy O., and Yusuke & I spent Xmas in WI and then roadtripped with Shannon out to Colorado.

2006 - We bought Max from a breeder in Chiba and then moved to our condo in March. In June, I attended the AFWJ Convention in Kyushu and then got pregnant upon my return. Ha ha. Shannon came to visit in July, and I went home to WI for a couple weeks in August. We spent Xmas in Japan.

2007 - Ailin was born in February, and I was on maternity leave for the whole year. I started the Bilingual Babies group with a friend, and later started the Craft 'n' Chat events with another friend. Both still going strong although I no longer participate in Bilingual Babies group.

2008 - Ailin went into daycare and I returned to work in February. A couple friends and I started the Bilingual Kids Club, which is still going strong. We visited WI and Colorado in July & August. Shannon got married so I stood up in her wedding. For Xmas holidays, we went to Okinawa instead of going home to WI again. Oh, and I got pregnant with Luka in September.

2009 - I started maternity leave in May and Luka was born in June. We traveled home to WI in November and stayed for about one month. I finally began doing digital scrapbooking.

There you have a nutshell. I actually think that the beginning of the decade was much more exciting, but I think I am much happier now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2010 Goals

Every year in January, Yusuke and I have a meeting to discuss our goals for this year and last year. We have a spiral journal where we write up our lists separately and then check off the goals we have accomplished. Then, we each write up new lists for the coming year. This tradition started in 2004, but I was doing it for several years on my own before that. I am really glad he joined me in this tradition because it is a great way for us to take a step back and see if we are on the same page...and also of course to acknowledge each other's growth & development, or lack thereof.

2009 Goals Achieved
Following are the goals that I did accomplish:
  • Do a 2009 Chronological Family Scrapbook
  • Do a "Travels in Japan" Scrapbook
  • Enjoy maternity leave with new baby!
  • Take an on-line photography class
  • Learn how to use Photoshop Elements
  • Keep dining table, coffee table & counter free of junk
  • Keep scrap/computer room neat & organized
  • Teach Ailin more English songs & words
After looking at my list and noticing some of the goals I did not achieve in the past year, I try to keep them in mind when I make my new list. I do sometimes include those goals - other times I leave them out or I reword them. For example, last year, one of my goals was to "be more sympathetic to Yusuke." I asked him if he thought that I had achieved that goal and of course, he said, "NO!"

2010 Goals
  • Keep surfaces clutter-free
  • Do cleaning & maintenance routine
  • Stick to budget & save money
  • Make weekly menus, eat out less & buy less
  • Complete all tasks & projects on the Master Project List
  • Learn more Japanese / soup / bean recipes
  • Learn more slow cooker recipes
  • Finish the 2009 Chronological Album
  • Keep up with the 2010 Chronological Album
  • Try to control anger & emotions
  • Continue participating in Craft n Chat & Bilingual Kids Club
  • Make a peaceful atmosphere in our home
  • Do workbooks with Ailin 3x a week
  • Have a date with Yusuke 1x a week (even at home.)
  • Make whoopee with Yusuke 1x a week.
Well, as you can imagine, this list includes a few items that were on last year's list but I failed to accomplish. I have to admit that I didn't do such a great job with our budget last year, but since I was not earning a paycheck for most of the time, it was beyond challenging, so I kind of gave up. This year, when I go back to work, I plan to get back on the wagon with that. And, let's just say that "be more sympathetic to Yusuke" has been replaced with "try to control..." and "make whoopee..." I think that will suffice. Several of the items in the first half of the list are a direct result of the Simplify 101 classes I took last fall.

This time, Yusuke did something different. After reading over my list, he put a star next to the ones that he fully encourages & supports. I don't think it means he will necessarily do the cleaning for me, but at least he will be aware of it. And, even though he did not add that last one to his own goals list, at least he is aware of "my" goal and he will try to help me achieve it in any way he can.

He also suggested that we up the ante by awarding each other 1000 yen (that's about $10) for each goal accomplished when we check our lists next January 2011. So, I could potentially earn about $150 next January if I achieve all the goals in my list. (Yusuke has 18 goals on his do the math.)

I won't list all of his goals here, but here are just a few:
  • Go for a walk around Tokyo more than 1x per month with family
  • Clean my desk each night
  • Eat less junk food
  • Say "yes" as much as possible

That last one is a good one. We recently saw the movie "Yes Man" starring Jim Carrey. What a great, inspiring movie for anyone who feels like they might be in a rut! Basically, he lives his life in a very lonely, non-flexible routine where he avoids answering his cell phone, avoids most social situations & hates his boring job. Then, he takes part in a seminar where he promises to say yes to every question no matter what it is, and from then on, his life takes him in a direction he never imagined. Nothing really spectacular happens, but he meets an interesting woman and they start dating, he gets a job promotion & he starts having fun. I can see why Yusuke was inspired by this movie, and I hope that he continues to move towards this goal.

Creating the Life you Love
This is the title of another online class taught at Simplify 101. I was going back and forth on this one, but it is a popular one, offered only in January, and several of my online acquaintances were really excited about taking it. Even Yoko, a friend in my building who has become addicted to online classes because of me, was signed up for it. A few days before the class started, I signed up as well. I thought I would use the class to get me on a diet/exercise schedule so I can lose some weight this year. Notice that health and weight were not included on my 2010 Goals List? This is why. I wondered what Aby Garvey would have up her sleeve in this class, so I wanted to save those big health-related goals for the class.

It turns out that this class is more about changing you into a goal-oriented person who lives a positive, gratitude-filled life, not necessarily about helping you achieve one specific goal in a short amount of time.

The first week's assignment is to create a list of 101 Dreams. I tried to alter my blog to reflect my growing list, but I suck at managing this blog, so it didn't work out very well. Aby taught us 5 techniques to use when making our lists, and I tried all 5. The first was to answer several questions about various areas of our lives - relationships, finances, career, things, etc. The, we could do some mind-mapping based on some statements like, "I am at my best..." Another technique was to create a list of things you DON'T want and from that, make a list of things you DO want.

I finally got to my 101st dream tonight. It was interesting to do this list because many of them will be fairly easy to achieve with some planning. I didn't go all out and write down "pie in the sky" dreams, like you might imagine. However, when I got to about #95, I started to really struggle, so I read back over my list again. I found that I had repeated certain things a few times, so I decided to go to 110 just in case. Those last 15 dreams were probably the best ones because I felt like my mind was unlocking a little bit.

I am curious to see what Aby will have us do with these 101 Dream lists because obviously it is too overwhelming to start planning for all these dreams right now.

The other part of this class is to write gratitude journal every night before bed. I am trying to keep up with that because I already know what a difference it makes in your daily life. I recommend to anyone who is feeling a little down. We really do have a lot to be thankful for and the more we acknowledge it, the more we will express it to those around us...which makes for a more positive environment all around.