Can you believe it is Back to School season already? It is so obvious at work; the place has become a ghost town with everyone squeezing in that last holiday with the kids before September arrives.
Having started studying Japanese this year, I have been paying much more attention to school supplies than I have in ages. And as I have a steady income and can splurge more these days, my school bag is stuffed full of very cute and very pastel goodies that make me happy and want to study. The surprise guest that I can’t get enough of lately is San-X’s Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma. Did you know Rilakkuma means “bear in relaxed mood?” No wonder I like him so much, he is lazy and totally stress free! Who doesn’t need a good dose of that these days!
What’s inside my book bag?
- Well to start, my new book bag is Rilakkuma himself!!
- There is nothing like a cute, pink umbrella adorned with little bears and strawberries to brighten a rainy autumn day.
- iPhone/iPod earbuds are safe and sound inside a soft Korilakkuma coin purse.
- Lunch is so much sweeter when you have a kawaii lunch bag and matching bento boxes.
- When deep in thought, doodle away with a comfy grip pen.
- Notes, ideas, reminders and more can be jotted in these petite notebooks.
- Business cards, receipts, and other small bits of paper can be tucked inside these handy pockets. Just stick one to the inside of a binder and you are all set.
- Need a reminder? These bite size note pads are perfect for to-dos (and for leaving love notes inside someone’s lunch bag.)
- Paperclips and binder rings are easy to find in an adorable little tin.
Where to find Rilakkuma?
NY/NJ is fortunate and has 3 local shops that stock plenty of the cuddly little bears. So if you are local do checkout Kinokuniya across from Bryant Park or Mars and Sanseido at Mitsuwa Marketplace. I am pretty sure you might find him tucked away in some of Chinatown’s shops too, but I haven’t been in a while to be able to point you in the right direction.
There are a lot of great online resources to turn to. My favorites are modes4u.com because they have a vast selection (at least 400 items last time I looked) and dreamkitty.com (who hovers between 100 to 200 items.) The San-X website also maintains a great shop list where you might find a location near you.
P.S. I am not affiliated with San-X or any of the merchants mentioned above in anyway. But I am a really big fan!
There is nothing so simple and yet so iconic as the lanterns used in Japanese celebrations. I snapped this dramatic display on a recent shopping excursion to our local Mitsuwa Marketplace. Every year they hold a festival for “Hachigatsu Bon,” literally Bon in August.
Obon is a time when people honor the memory of their ancestors. For me I like the spirit behind the Buddhist story which gives the holiday its origin. The lesson at its essence is a great reminder to be selfless and to be of service to others. In the tale a gifted monk learns of his mother’s suffering in the afterlife. He seeks to find relief for her and in doing so reflects on the many sacrifices she made for him. With help from the Buddha, his mother is freed from her suffering and the monk so joyous at this begins to dance. And so the celebration of dance has been woven into the holiday’s festivities.
I often these days find myself caught up in the frantic pace of work, school, taking care of home and family and have a tendency to pull back in these times and be selfish. “Oh woe is me, look at everything I have to do, oh me oh my.” It is a part of myself that I am very mindful of as it so displeases me. So I am inspired this year for Obon to have an opportunity to reflect and try to think more of others and how I can help them. Even if it is small things, I think one is truly most happy when they work to ease the burden of others.
Just picked up the August edition of Nicola magazine. It’s target market is Japanese teens and focuses on the fashion lifestyle trifecta of clothing, hair, and makeup. This month’s edition includes a promotion from Love Toxic that includes an eyeglasses pin/badge and a neko mimi (cat ears) make up bag. The glasses are so cute. I can’t wait to pair them up with my Mingili London Ice Cream Pop cardigan once the weather cools down a bit.
Flipping through the magazine is a major flashback for me. I was Nicola’s target market back in the 1980’s. You could have literally handed this edition to me then and it would have been the epitome of coolness. Terms such as “grody,” “like totally,” and “for sure” are now replaced with “kawaii!!” I never expected to feel nostalgic over neon, shoulder revealing sweatshirts, and plastic jewelry… but there you have it. My original My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Bright, and Smurfs are back on trend but have long since passed from my possession.
I had a little fun playing around with different items from Love Toxic and the brand’s line is pretty versatile. You could pull together a dressier look or a very casual look easily. If you want to put together your own coordinate be sure to check out the Code Colle X Love Toxic dress up game online.
I have learned more in 20 sessions of Japanese than I did in a few years of Spanish and French. The Toyota Learning Center at Japan Society in NYC has really done an impressive job both with the selection of their instructors and the curriculum. Another key difference in this experience is that all the students really want to be there. It is not like learning a language in high school because there is an obligation. My classmates and myself are very intent on learning the language.
My class is a great mix of those who have Japanese spouses, those infatuated with manga and anime, and those doing business in some form with Japan or Japanese nationals. For me it is my complete and total obsession with the fashion, arts and culture in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Party @ Izakaya Riki
After our last class we all adjourned to the local salaryman’s bar, Riki Restaurant. Last semester we reserved the tatami room, this time around we had one of the karaoke rooms upstairs. Tons of fried food, bowl upon bowl of udon, and infinite pitchers of beer and bottles of sake were exactly what was needed to cement in everything we had learned!
P.S. And in case I haven’t had enough sake, I have a team outing at the Riki this Friday! （＾＿－）☆
Had the yummiest ice cream at Mitsuwa today in the Ito En New York specialty shop. Chocolate is my first and foremost love… but this blew me away. Who knew black sesame could be so sweet!
Last weekend got together with friends and had dinner at North End Grill in Battery Park Manhattan. Asumi is a sales representative (and awesome social marketer) for Dassai Sake with some great connections in the restaurant industry. She dropped a line to chef Floyd Cardoz and hooked us up with a seriously fun evening filled with food and drink.
The restaurant was opened earlier this year and is a great addition to downtown’s ever expanding nightlife and weekend scene. The space is wrapped in a very modern dark wood paneling. There is ample space between tables – which is nearly impossible to find in NYC. And the vibe is very upscale casual.
We opted for the tasting menu so as to get an idea of all North End Grill has to offer. They were very kind and allowed us to substitute the beef dish for a fish dish – many thanks from the crew’s pescaterian (that would be me). Everyone agreed the charcoal grilled shrimp served on top of watermelon and topped with micro cilantro was the star of the show. The rub used on the shrimp had a nice punch of heat and flavor. We had a fun moment trying to guess what herb/green it was. It also showed up on our second favorite dish, hardwood grilled scallops. Asumi gets high marks for being able to guess it and we had it confirmed by the sous chefs in the kitchen.
Speaking of the kitchen, we got our own private tour. Learned that they are the first kitchen in the US to have a Josper oven from Spain. It’s a really incredible charcoal barbeque that uses technology to control the intake of air and output of smoke. They also use a hardwood barbeque that is equally as amazing. The fire is built in the center and the coals can be adjusted to accommodate two grill surfaces on either side and further controlled by adjusting the height of the grill.
No evening is complete without a sweet treat. The tasting menu included a goat cheese macaron. The idea is great but the goat cheese was a bit too strong for my taste, however the macaron’s texture itself was nice and crunchy. Now, the gold medal goes to their strawberry sorbet parfait topped with toasted pine nuts. The beverage director sent it to the table to thank Asumi. It was so so so delicious.
Credits: Tapes used for labels are from puglypixel.com; wood panel image is from Rakuga-cute, a purikura app on my iPad.
Our charming summer intern brought in a box of Financier Patisserie Macarons the other day. She was already winning our hearts as she has been a life saver on an insanely complicated project. This cemented our debt to her.
The macarons are lovely. They have the perfect balance of crunch, nice proportion of filling, and are not overly sweet. They are also gluten free, a plus. A box of 15 runs $20 which is reasonably priced as far as macarons go.
Need a afternoon pick me up? Stop by any of their dozen or so locations across NYC.
Credits: The adorable tape strips are a freebie you can download over at puglypixel.com.
It was a perk I never expected to have at work. And it is a perk that is most likely lost on many of my colleagues. But every time I step into the R/GA office at 350 W. 39th street I get a special treat. That treat is being exposed to Robert (Bob) Greenburg’s massive collection of Outsider Art, or as it is also known Art Brut.
Art Brut describes works created by a spectrum from insane-asylum and prison inmates to individuals not within the mainstream art world. I believe this to mean they have no formal training, do not show in galleries or institutions and most likely are only discovered after they have passed from this world. I will be totally honest, the work is not really my cup of tea. The pieces often represent very extreme and disturbing mental states; mental states I personally wish to avoid. I am a big advocate for “that which you focus on you will become,” so plan to stick to happy, bright and uplifting thoughts. But that is art for you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and different tastes appeal to different people.
What I really dig about the collection at R/GA is that Bob has brought a museum setting into an active creative workspace. It makes it tangible and provides an interesting contrast to the digital work – visceral art meets virtual art. The work is right there in your face. My only qualm is attending meetings in their second floor conference rooms. The rooms to start with are pretty compact, so it is very intimate. Then there are these really creepy dolls separated from the conference table narrowly by a glass wall. Which means they command a major presence in the room. Basically they are participants – participants that evoke a certain tension putting this genre of art well into context.
If you want to learn more about Outsider Art I recommend diving into the Art Brut Collection in Lausanne, Switzerland. The web site has a fantastic index of artists and their works.
And if you are keen on seeing more of Bob’s collection do check out this video. Cameos of the art work are woven throughout the footage. In the last minute or so, Bob gives a brief tour and provides some background on several of the pieces.
Hard to believe that August is just hours away. Here in NY we have already experienced many shades of summer from crazy dry-heat to brisk nights to humidity worthy of Japan’s Tsuyu.
I love transitions. Even something as simple as the last day of the month to the first of the next. A lot of people fret over the passage of time. For me it is an exhilarating evolution. A chance to look back at what has been accomplished and what has been learned. Also, a chance to look forward at what can be improved and what can be let go of. This photo really struck me as portraying that spirit of movement and reflection. The snap was a happy accident while riding the train down to Manhattan. Life is so full of surprises.
My diary is packed full already for the month of August. Much to look forward to. What do you have in store for this fine summer month?
A girl’s best friends in this century = PayPal and international shipping.
Picked up a new dress this week. It is Baby the Stars Shine Bright’s Strawberry Letters from 2008. It was my first time buying second hand on fairy-angel.net. Very pleased. The dress is in perfect condition. I need to fix the attachable bow, it is a bit loose from its clasp. But that is about it.
So pleased with the whole Fairy Angel experience (dress shipped in a record breaking 4 days) that I just picked up the matching hair bow and a pair of Jane Marple socks. The socks are a gamble. Very hard to tell the colors online and if they will really match or not. But they are cute and simple so even if they don’t match its no fuss.