Cinnamon Tea and The Great Snow Writing Challenge

Image Source: Wallpapers AM

Image Source: Wallpapers AM

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 sticks of cinnamon

Pot full of water

1-2 cups of ice cold water

Loving friends

Optional: yuzu or lemon; honey

DIRECTIONS:

1. Fill a pot with water and add 2-3 sticks of cinnamon. Do not cover. Turn on heat to medium high.

2. Bring water to boil. Water should have a bit of foam as it rises to the top of the pot. Add 1-2 cups of ice cold water and lower temperature to medium. Allow contents to brew until water begins to boil again. Shut off heat right away. Serve cinnamon tea with lemon or yuzu and a teaspoon of honey.

3. Drink with loving friends who were kind enough to stay with you through the worst and best parts of your sickness ❤

 I’ve been catching colds on and off since October but this past weekend I had a cold that hit me harder than the others. I was achy, my head hurt, my throat didn’t feel that great either, and my nose was running like a fountain. Lots of love to the friends who helped me get over the worst of my first really bad cold, for running out to the super market to get me some groceries, for keeping me company, and letting me veg on episodes of Angel.

Thank you!!!!

😀

The great snow writing challenge of 2014: write a short story that takes place in the snow!

Snow being in abundance in this ken (prefecture), the travelling guild of writers decided to create a special snow writing challenge for the month of December. A couple other caveats that we considered: a scene with a romantic overture, development of a pre-existing character or world, dangerous things that could happen in the snow…

Ultimately the main challenge is to write a story in and around snow but best of luck with writing and any other imaginative add-ons you can think of for a delightful winter story!

The Adventure to Sendai

As charming and picturesque as Aomori Prefecture has been these past few weeks, the need to hit the road for another grand adventure set in last weekend… again. Lately it feels as if there is no distance too long to drive for yet another new experience… or for Christmas shopping! We chose Sendai as last weekend’s prime adventure location for a variety of reasons, primarily because it is home to the Pokemon Center for the whole of Touhoku Region (shameless nerds ;D). Other factors that led to this decision: a) it’s south of the great cold in Aomori Prefecture, b) it’s the largest city in Touhoku, c) Sendai’s weather forecast balanced out at 0 degrees Celsius during the daytime (we were at -6 degrees Celsius up in Aomori).

With the best of company that any driver could desire, an ETA of four hours, snowy roads, and the navigation demon worshipped as  Siri, I think Sendai is going to be one of my more favorite road trips for 2014. I probably spent half my paycheck in gifts, tolls, and food but it was worth every last yen.

Things to prepare in advance if you are contemplating a spur of the moment trip to Sendai:

  • Tolls: ~11,000 yen round trip
  • Hotels: ~7,500 yen per night, breakfast included (the cheapest hostel is about ~2,000 yen)
  • Pokemon center: 10,000 – 20,000 yen, depending on number of gifts you will buy for friends and family (or yourself)
  • Shopping center: ~20,000 yen for gifts for friends and family (including omiyage)
  • Food: depends on your style! Cheapest will be convenience store purchase. Sit down restaurants and bakeries are slightly more expensive but more delicious alternatives.
  • Parking: fills up fast and it’s not going to be cheap. Plan to spend anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 yen in parking for the day.

Illumination fills the streets as the spirit of Christmas spreads across the nation; everything – from snowflakes patterns and globes made from lights to glowing orbs and icicles – can be found adorning shops, alleys, and department stores. Driving around the city is quite the experience as well: like every other highly densely populated location on the planet, Sendai is a pain to navigate simply because it’s so crowded (frighteningly enough, it didn’t have nearly as many people as Tokyo) and lacked cheap parking lots. We did not use mass transport that day as everything we needed or wanted to see was located within easy walking distance of the mall’s parking lot (Parco Mall, in case anyone wanted to know where they could hit two birds – Starbucks and Pokemon Center – in one go).

Childhood dreams aside, Pokemon Center was a blast! Despite having lived in Tokyo for a year, I never once stepped inside (a travesty, I know) but hopefully I will soon be able to remedy that (should New Year’s plans go through accordingly); I’m not as big a fan of the show or games as I was at age 8 but I’m still not too old to admit that there was a definite electric shock of 懐かしい feels that went through my spine as soon as I entered. Never before – or ever again, I suspect – will I ever be able to knock out so much Christmas shopping in a single aisle of a single store in a single anywhere. Huzzah!

And now to the interesting tale of the tomato cube lunch from Gontran Cherrier. It’s literally a cube of bread stuffed with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. They are extremely satisfying to eat, delicious, and interesting. Kim and I probably ate more bread (two muffins, a cube of tomato and cheese per person, quiche, coffee rolls, and a berry tart) in that one meal than at any other time… ever. I have now made it my life’s mission to apprentice at this bakery sometime in the future. The meal in the cube practically sealed the deal for me 😉

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One final note before closing: the people of Sendai are always going somewhere. This place, though not quite as busy as Tokyo, is definitely a breeding ground for go-getters. The relaxed inaka lifestyle is nowhere to be found but it makes for an upbeat cross city journey. You’re more likely to see the latest fashions being paraded by members of both sexes than you would in the inaka towns since people actually doll themselves up for a day or night out in the city. That being said, bring your most comfortable pair of shoes because the sales are on and the stakes are high!

Winter Kindness

Every Tuesday night at the local grocery store in Gonohe, Mister Donut comes to set up shop for us poor inaka folks. Like clockwork, every Tuesday before kendo, I’m lined up for groceries and a doughnut (or three). By now my internal clock has a Misdo switch; also it’s the only time I seem to talk to adults outside of work hours. Chatting up the lovely people at Yokomachi is my favorite Monday through Friday activity, most of them are the parents of my lovely pupils… because, you know, inaka Japan. Everyone is related to everyone… or knows everyone. But I digress. In any case, I also chat up the lovely lady from Misdo, too. By slow degrees, we’ve come to expect each other at Yokomachi every Tuesday at a given time. Pleasantries exchanged, money handled, donut (or three) delivered.

Except, this Tuesday we deviated from the usual how-do-you-dos. She asked me, for the first time, about my hometown and if I was going back for the winter.

I am not.

She expressed her regret, especially since I was from such a warm place (SoCal, for the win!), and happened to glance over at the sole remainder of that day’s special sale: a single Misdo Christmas doughnut. She glances around, slips it into the bag, and in true Japanese fashion makes a single comment:

“You may not like it, but by all means please have this.”

The tears just about started to pool around my eyes. A Christmas doughnut. A Misdo Christmas doughnut. With sprinkles and a cute paper character. On the house.

I have never 感動ed as much as I did that day. I can’t even remember how many formal thank yous I said, just that I was really touched by her winter kindness.

Misdo lady, you are my hero *salute*.

And for the winter part of this Winter Kindness post… SNOW! In all it’s glory! That sad looking snow blob you see is a snow bear. And he’s not sad! He’s just… derpy 😛 Made him with my students and we had a three person snowball fight with no clear winner.