Sunday, August 22, 2010

Manic Mondays: My Best Recommendations

Today, I'd like to recommend some good stuff to you.

Glee Soundtracks...I now have four. Yes, I am addicted to Glee and I plan on using some of the songs for a music project in one of my classes next month. I am really excited about it!

I still listen to Paperclipping Roundtable and The Digi Show, both of which are about scrapbooking and are produced by the same people (Noell from and her husband Izzy from

Izzy recently started a new podcast with a guy named Tim Conley. This one is called Foolish Adventure. It's all about starting your own web business, and like most podcasts, it is FREE. I really recommend this one if you have any inkling at all of turning your passion into a career. Izzy no longer works for corporate America because he makes more than enough to support his family on his web business. (His wife earns her share with her scrapbook web site!) This is a great way to get the information you need all in one place.

Other podcast gems I found recently:
The Guy's Perspective - this is basically a group of dads who sit around talking about marriage and families. It's funny and clever, and for female listeners, we can glean lots of useful information from it.

The Moth - If you like listening to good and moving stories, this is the perfect podcast for you. Actually, the Moth seems to be a membership community of people who enjoy honing their storytelling skills, and the Moth provides a stage and an audience for them to do so. Many are professional storytellers of one sort or another, but others are just starting out. Each week, they feature one or two stories on their free podcast. If you want more, you have to pay for a membership to get access. Very tempting.

Annoying Orange - Just a funny video podcast about an orange and his encounters with other foods. My students loved it. You can see Annoying Orange on video podcast or free or you can just check him out on YouTube.

Blogs into Books
Finally, would you pay $84 for a book? What if the book was written by yourself? I recently took my old blog Mande's J-Life and put it through a web site called Shared Book - Blogs2Books, just to see what my book would look like. It would look awesome!!!! But, it is 234 pages and would cost a pretty penny. I am going to look at other sites and compare prices. My other idea is to put all of my columns from "Surviving Japan", published in the AFWJ Journal since 2005, into one blog and then have it made into a book. I think that would be an even better Xmas present to myself, since I am planning to officially retire this column in the December 2010 issue!

iPhone Apps
Aren't free Apps fun? Here are the ones I have so far.
Fun Ones
Shazam - the best ever. When you are driving in the car or watching a movie and you hear a song that you like, you can turn on your Shazam App. Shazam will listen to it for a minute or so, send it in to their database, and analyze it. Then they send back the info to you - name of song, artist, album, exactly where and when you tagged it. It is awesomely addicting. On my 5th tag, it alerted me that I am only allowed 5 tags per month! Five tags! I was already addicted. It asked if I would like to buy Shazam to get unlimited's $4.99, but for a music-lover, I think it's worth it.

Movies - lets you see the trailers of movies and then gives you theater schedule information. It doesn't go as far as Japan, but I do like to know what is coming out in theaters.

Baby Flash Cards - something for the kids to play with when they are bored.

Everyday Useful Ones
Evernote - You need to have opened your own free account on to then use this app. Evernote allows you to save all your ideas, web pages you like, notes, etc into one place, and you can create folders according to project or topic. The mobile version allows you to photograph, type up notes, or voice-record things you need on the spot and then saves them into your evernote folders.

Weight Watchers Mobile - Again, you'll need to open your own account online to use the mobile version, but you can track your meals and activities on the go throughout the day and it immediate syncs up with your online account.

Relish Relish - Once again, you'll need to have opened your own account online, but you can access your recipes and weekly shopping list on the go. Shopping just got a whole lot easier.

Healthy Recipes by SparkPeople - Another great source for recipes, so if you are in the store and have no idea what to buy and make for dinner, you can easily access recipes through this app.

Time Wasters
Facebook - just as much of a time waster on the go as it is when you are sitting at your computer, but this App makes it very easy to check up on your friends.

Twitter - I have not used Twitter much yet, but I do have an account. I made an account mainly to follow some of my favorite scrapbooking icons, but once in a while I do post a sentence. Having it on my iPhone means that I could potentially post while traveling and then have something to scrapbook about when I get home. How easy it is to forget all those random thoughts you have while on the road.

Skype - I used Skype mobile for the first time the other day to talk with Louise, who is currently in New Zealand for the summer break. I didn't have a good wi-fi connection so we kept getting cut off, but I can see the potential for this. International phone calls would be free and I could call while on the go or at work...this means that those nasty time differences would not be such an obstacle. Mom, Shannon, Amy, et al - get hooked up on skype, please!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

TGIF: That's what friends are for

The title of this post is a good way to sum up this week. I really needed help, and I called on a few friends, and they did just that. I am really grateful for all the friends I have.

Thank you Shannon and Jill for helping out with the application process for grad school. This may be the start of a new path for me, and I am feeling good about it.

Thank you Sara and Amy for just giving words of encouragement and support. This helps too.

Thank you Adie for being a good sounding board. I hope you'll take the plunge too.

Thank you to Yusuke for being understanding about my decision and for keeping your mouth shut. I know you don't read my blog, but I felt really thankful that you agreed to respect my dream and told me that you admired me for having the courage to go for it.

Hopefully, I will be announcing some GOOD news on my blog in a few weeks! Wish me luck!

Now that this is out of the way, it's time to clean off my desk!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

July Lay Outs All Digi

In order to save time this month, I decided to do all my lay outs digitally on Photo Shop Elements. Each lay out took about one hour to complete...maybe more with the shadow tweaking at the end.
Field Trip: Used a digi kit from the Digi Files at The Daily Digi. The name of this kit is A Beautiful Beginning by MiCHELLE Batton Designs. The ticket stubs are from Kate Pertiet, Designer Digitals.
Love this lay out! Omg, these photos are the pro photos taken on the parent/child field trip we did back in May, and I wanted to make a lay out just using these gorgeous photos. Why gorgeous? Because, I actually look decent in them and how often does MOM get to look decent in photos with her kids? Let's save this one for posterity.

I want to add that for the first time in doing a digital lay out, I did NOT use a template nor did I look at something and try to copy it. I just used my inspiration gleaned from the Nic Howard class (Dimensional Design), and I paid more attention to drop shadows this time. This is when the idea of "dimensional" meets digital. There is an awesome drop shadow tutorial on this blog. Look to the right side and you will see the tutorial button. I felt like I could not take full advantage of this tutorial because I have PSE and not the full version of Photoshop, but still, it was very enlightening.
Hot Summer Moments: Used a quick template by (I wanna say) Crystal, but now I am not so sure. In any case, the cloud background, journaling spot, brackets, frames, etc. were already in place. All I had to do was add my photos and journaling. Took like 5 minutes or less!
It's fun to use these quick templates once in a while just to get the job done. I probably couldn't have done it better myself, and I thought the clouds looked pretty summerish. I am always talking about summer clouds with Ailin and showing her these gorgeous cumulous clouds that show up only in summer here. It reminds me of the movie Tonari no Tottoro, thus we made sure she had a chance to watch that DVD during the month of July.

Photos of Jimmy's Wedding: Used a template by Kate Pertiet, which can be dressed up or dressed down very easily.
Gotta include these little jaunts to Korea, don't we? Well, this time it was for a wedding, and I chose a very simple template where I could fit a variety of photos. Love the title? It's so obvious, but it came with the template and I just added the "of Jimmy's wedding" on my own. Notice that I changed all the rectangle colors to match the colors from the photos? Maroon, red, yellow, blue and white were all taken directly from their Korean-style kimonos and her wedding dress.
This is a template by List Girl Designs from a kit called Good Gumdrops. The red paper is from Geek Chic designs, otherwise known as Jen Graham.

This template is an Ali Edwards template (#20).

I wanted to see what would happen if I chose two completely different templates and tried to match them up by using the same colors and some of the same elements. I used the postage stamp-cropped photos from the right side template for the photos on the left side. I also copied the scalloped borders over. I think it works well and it gave me a chance to use tons of photos up.

July Birthdays: Most of the papers and elements used here are from a digi kit called When the Wind Blows by Geek Chic (Jen Graham). The green balloon is #1 from an alpha set inside a kit called Bug Catcher by Chelle's Creations.

Ah, the infamous birthday month for our family. Like the first page from this entry, I wanted to try my hand at designing my own page from scratch. Perhaps my style really has been affected by Nic Howard's class. Notice the balloons made from random elements and ribbons!

My Question to you: Which pages do you like better - the ones that look like they are layered with embellishments (meant to look 3D) or the ones that are purely flat-looking? Please answer in the comments.

Friday, August 6, 2010

TGIF: Four Day Weekends

For me, at least. I took Thursday and Friday off and stayed home both days to veg clean the house from top to bottom. I also got caught up on Glee, So you think you can dance and began researching for my new "project" - to be announced soon. Oh, and I saw 2 great movies - one at the theater and one on iTunes. No, actually, the one at the theater sucked, but it was Ladies' Day and I only paid 1000 yen for it. (Salt). The one on iTunes was surprisingly interesting (Chalk, a fake documentary about high school teachers). Salt and Chalk - that is a good pairing. I wonder what that would taste like.

I used to do this frequently, but stopped for a while - it's called a Monthly Round-up. So, for the month of July 2010, this is what went on in my life and in my family's life.

My 34th birthday
Yuki-chan's 60th birthday
Yusuke's 34th birthday

Parents went on road trip to Reno
I assisted in a 3-day lecture (no, not all day lectures!) at Kanda Gaigo University's summer seminar


  • Draws bodies complete with arms, hands, legs, ears and bandaids
  • Applies bandaids to MY owies
  • Goes swimming every day with her daycare buddies
  • Still likes pink
  • Fell in love with the movie Shrek
  • Went to a movie in a theater for the first time (Toy Story 3)
  • Learned how to sing Doe a Deer, a Female Deer, Ray, a drop of Golden Sun...complete with hand gestures (that I totally made up!)
  • Loves to listen to Simon & Garfunkel (but still calls them the Wiggles)


  • Still has a very charming smile
  • Is learning to walk - can do up to five steps before falling
  • Says Mama, especially when upset or in need of being picked up
  • Gets mad during mealtime and throws food, plates and/or silverware (then gets over it and starts eating again like nothing happened)
  • Tries to get into Max's room whenever his door is open
  • Enjoys playing with the pots and pans in the kitchen while I cook dinner
  • Likes to turn the shower water OFF while others are using it

Movies I Saw in the Theater
An Education
Sex and the City II

Movies I Saw on DVD

Books I read
An Abridged Version of Me, from A to Z by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Best Discoveries

  • Lupicia tea makes great summer iced tea - just add water, no boiling necessary. Amazing!
  • Joined Weight Watchers online - hoping to finally make some progress on my weight loss goals.
  • There ARE online Masters programs from the USA.
  • Yusuke feels lonely when I fall asleep with the kids and he comes home to a dark, quiet house.
  • All Top . com as a way to manage some of your favorite blogs for reading.
  • Evernote as a way to keep track of your project ideas, resources & inspiration.
  • Facebook is actually kind of fun.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Working Mom Wednesdays: English in the Media Class

Some people wanted to hear about how this class turned out. The last day was yesterday, and we took a survey to see how the students felt about each of the activities we did.

Day One: Video Sharing and Viral Videos (You Tube)
Here is a list of what we showed:
Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up (The Art of Rick Rolling)
Frozen Grand Central (brought to you from Improv Everywhere)

After explaining a little about the short history & purpose of You Tube (my students first guessed that You Tube is over 20 years old!), we talked about viral videos in general. Then, we showed them the videos and had them fill out a chart where they had to match the number of views they thought that video had gotten so far. (The year of posting was listed next to the video titles, and the answer box with all the numbers in it was provided below.). They also were asked to jot down their impression of each video.

If we had had more time that day, we would have asked them to go ahead and find a few virals on their own and then recommend some good ones to the class.

We ran out of time though because we also showed them some of the parodies and remixes that people have made based on the original viral videos. Once again, the BLACK HOLE that is You Tube.

Day Two: Interactive Web Sites and Games (Discovery, Scholastic, Cartoon Network, etc.) - we will be sticking with the G-rated types!
I was not in class on Day 2, 3 or 4 due to a prior commitment, but Chris taught by himself. From what I gather, he introduced some of these web sites and then let them play around.
He then gave them some hints about how to get more information about their own hobbies  and showed them how to bookmark the sites.

Day Three: Social Networking Sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.)
I think MySpace is kind of dead and in fact, was bought out by Facebook or something? Anyway, it is the "original" social networking site for English-speakers, so Chris introduced it. In Japan, they use Mixi, which is still very popular.
He first had the students make their gmail accounts since most of them only use their cell phones for texting. He then talked about each of the above sites, their purposes, and had the kids brainstorm ways to stay safe while using these sites. Then, he let them start their own Facebook and Twitter accounts. Most of them are already using Facebook, I think.

Day Four: TV Shows & British Humor
Pink Panther (actually from the Steve Martin movie)
Little Britain (interview with Elton John)

Since I wasn't there, I am not entirely sure which clips from these shows that Chris decided to show, but the above links will give you an idea in case you have never seen these shows.

Chris let the students watch the clips, write down some of the phrases they could catch and then rate the clips according to "funniness".

Day Five: TV Shows & American Humor
I came back to school on this day, so I could actually teach this class, but I was very pressed for time in choosing clips. In fact, since there are billions and billions to choose from, it was so hard to narrow it down! Here is what I showed in the end.

Saturday Night Live
The Famous sketch starring John Belushi, where he is a samurai sandwich maker. We could not get this off of You Tube and Chris used another web site to access it. It was actually quite difficult to get decent-quality clips of SNL from You Tube. We do not have access to because we are located outside of the USA.

Sara Palin & Hillary Clinton (done by Tina Fey and Amy Poelher). This was inaccessible as well, and we could only get the Good Morning America news report clip. Sucks! But anyway, our sophomore students barely remember Palin and they only know Hillary because of her husband, Bill, so they didn't really get it. But, we wanted to show an example of political satire because that is SO NOT DONE HERE in Japan.

Mad TV
It was so easy to get clips of Mad TV from You Tube.

Sitcom - That 70's Show

The Culture Lab (Japanese Sushi) - Since this is subtitled in English and narrated in Japanese, the kids were on the floor laughing about how hilarious and off-putting this explanation of how to eat sushi and how to act in a sushi restaurant. They loved seeing how Japan is "made fun of" by other countries and wanted to see more. They felt the same about the Korean drama parody.

We asked students to observe the "style" of comedy, which we broke into the following categories:
Cultural (ethnic, age, gender, political, etc.)
(Honestly, I cannot remember any more of our categories.)

Day Six: Blogs
We introduced them to various types of blogs, parts of blogs (blog rolls, link lists, comments, etc.), history and purpose of blogs, what makes them popular, etc. Then, we showed them how to find blogs according to their interests.

All Top

Finally, we gave them time to use one of these resources to search for a few blogs that they could recommend to the class. This is a tough, but important topic, for students because we want them to read more! Plus, we want them to read about topics they are interested in and choose by themselves, BUT so many of our students don't like to read.

Day Seven: Podcasts (both audio and video podcasts)
The Podcast industry has grown immensely in the past couple years, so it is harder than ever before to go through iTunes (or other web sites) and narrow it down to a good sampling. First, I wanted to show students how to access the podcasts on iTunes. Some of them have iTunes and use it for music and music videos, but most had never ventured into the podcast category. What you must remember is that audio podcasts are going to be very difficult for them to follow, even with a vocabulary list. (Believe me, I have tried it!) So, I tried to stick with video podcasts. Here is what I showed them:
Annoying Orange: The Lady Pasta episode
Delicious TV: How to make Cauliflower Rice
Sesame Street: The Letter L
The Sound of Young America: Jordin Ranks America (audio)
TED: Legos for Grown-ups

The students really loved Annoying Orange because the episode happened to be a spoof on a Lady Gaga video, and my students are really into her right now. They were absolutely shocked that someone would make a cauliflower dish to look like white rice, and they thought it was a joke! They enjoyed writing down all the L words as they watched the Sesame Street episode. No one (including me) really got the Jordin Ranks America, but I have to say that it is one episode of a variety/interview podcast, and is actually quite interesting. TED, if you don't know, is conference which invites people to give speeches about a certain theme. It is a great way to find good example speeches to show students when teaching presentation skills.

Day Eight: TV Shows: Sitcoms - I ended up showing an episode from Full House, Season 8. I didn't have time to make a brand new worksheet and was also unable to download the sitcoms I wanted from iTunes. I guess they are not available on iTunes or something. In any case, Full House is fairly easy for our kids to follow and they already know all the characters, so it was easy to do it, even without a worksheet! We just stopped the DVD about every 5 minutes and asked them to summarize what was going on so far.

Student Response
Response to the class included comments about how fun it was to watch the American comedy clips, how difficult the British comedy clips were, how they would like to watch other sitcoms, dramas or movies, and even suggested a few (Glee, Friends, Ghost Whisperer, Mr Bean, Hannah Montana, etc.), how they would like to try some singing and dancing themselves, and have more chances to "talk in English." (Well, I would love for my students to talk more in English and I give them plenty of chances to do that. They need to take it a step further by responding to me in English rather than stare blankly or continue chatting with their friends in Japanese. Oh, I love being a teacher.) Anyway, that is it on the Media Class!

On that last day, we allowed the kids to bring in snack food, and we provided the beverages, so we could have a "party" while watching Full House. It was a fun way to end the class, and now I am officially DONE for the summer. I still have to work and prepare for the fall classes, and I need to start checking summer homework (deadline on August 10) which will be coming in via email.