Japanese Candy Wrapper Journal Video Tour

I love Japanese candy and snacks- they are often packaged very creatively and cutely, and feature all kinds of unique textures and flavours. For a while I had a subscription to a Japanese snack box (best birthday present ever) which gave me the chance to try out all kinds of different stuff. I love the cool packaging of these treats so much that I thought it was a shame to toss out the wrappers, and so I decided to start a Candy & Snack Journal. I’ve since added more and more as I’ve gotten candy as gifts, at shops, and on my trip to Japan in 2017.

When I first started this blog I made a post with a quick peek of my journal, but I decided it would be fun to make a video going through each page. I’ve enjoyed looking back at the candies and snacks I’ve tried, and hope that some others will enjoy the video too!

 

 

 

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Daily Inkling: Crooked Man

Matthew of Normal Happenings has challenged me to participate in today’s Daily Inkling:

Write a blog post inspired by today’s Daily Inkling:

“THE MONSTER IN THE DELL”

Take your favorite nursery rhyme and turn it into a nightmare.

I love the Daily Inklings ideas posted on Normal Happenings and I really should participate more!

And now, without further ado…

Here’s my disturbing take on the nursery rhyme “There Was a Crooked Man”

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

He wasn’t literally crooked, at least in the beginning (though his sour face often twisted in disgust) but he saw everything and everyone else to be crooked, never supposing that his was the truly twisted view.

Nobody knew what turned him so bitter against the world- he just showed up in the town one day  with the rage already inside him- but for as long as anyone could recall he was known to be an angry recluse with a grudge against humanity at large.

His condition worsened steadily as he aged. His damaged worldview was paranoid, fearful, and angry. What started as bitter verbal vitriol eventually began to manifest in his physical mannerisms. His posture was affected, too- his back began to hunch and his shoulders bunched up tightly. He would sometimes be seen peeking out of his crumbling house, shrouded in shadow, craning his neck to look out at passersby and twisting his body as though to see them proper. His startling eyes would bulge and his mouth would hang open, revealing useless brown stubs of teeth on a face tight with silent fury and judgement. His face wasn’t seen often, but when it was, it was never forgotten.

His home became more and more dilapidated with time and his shoddy slap-dash repairs. Sometimes newcomers and visitors to the town would inquire sympathetically about the aging recluse in the patchy old house on the corner, but the town residents would dredge up abominable memories that swiftly dashed any potential for pitying him.

The only companion he had was a mouser with a sharp kink in her tail – the clever shorthair was fast and wily, and loved nothing more than catching mice to bring, still wriggling, to her master.

~~~

One fine and fateful day a young girl was selling cookies in her neighborhood without much luck. Her friends, who lived nearby, had already hit these familiar streets and taken the pocket change of her willing neighbors. These cookies are famously delicious, but nobody’s biting, she thought.

So she took her cookie wagon, and her business, elsewhere.

The new neighborhood was a ways away, and much more receptive to her Minty Crunchies. The little girl was feeling pretty good about her smart business choice. She moved briskly from home to home, feeling a lightness in her step, and in the red wagon she pulled behind her as the cookie boxes dwindled.

She was left with just six boxes when she noticed the sun was nearly done dawdling- it would soon be dark. She was about to turn around and head home when she saw a slender cat on the sidewalk a couple of houses down. The stripey cat looked curious, and very approachable. The girl couldn’t resist. She sidled up alongside the cat and gently stroked its fur. She noticed a bend in its tail and thought aw, poor kitty, did you get your tail caught in something? Did something fall on you?

The cat seemed to smile as it rubbed its face against the hem of the girl’s corduroys. It turned and padded languorously down a weedy, broken path towards the house on the corner, as if beckoning. The girl figured that this decrepit place was where the cat lived, and she felt a bit guilty for thinking I doubt they will have any money for cookies at least I can make sure the cat gets home, and who knows, maybe they’ll buy a box.

She grabbed a box of Minty Crunchies and skipped after the cat, who kept looking back at her invitingly as they approached the neglected old house.

 

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~~~

The girl’s parents had begun to worry- didn’t we tell her to be home before the sun was down? She knows better than this. 

As the minutes turned to an hour, and then another, they knew something was terribly wrong.

They called the houses of all of her friends. The mother circled their neighborhood in the car. The father’s frantic calls, echoing from the garden, grew more desperate every minute. The police were called. Two officers visited the house. They wrote down some things. Said they would drive around the neighborhood. They were calm, they obviously didn’t realize, this isn’t like her, this isn’t normal.

A neighbor offered to watch the house so the parents could search for themselves in the car. The mother insisted on a thorough search expanding outward from their neighborhood- maybe their daughter wandered somewhere new and got lost?

Their circle widened and widened as the father called out the passenger window into the darkness. The mother drove slowly but purposefully with a grim determination.

Isn’t this too far? the Father asked, why would she come all the way out here? We should turn back and go around our neighborhood again, then we-

Then they saw it. The red wagon, there on the sidewalk beside an old weedy path. Abandoned, along with 5 boxes of cookies. The little girl was nowhere in sight.

~~~

Jesus! the father cried. The mother screeched to a halt and flung open the car door, racing toward the wagon. The father joined her, shouting and sobbing his daughter’s name. They grabbed at eachother and followed their feet the only direction that made sense- down the overgrown path that was long forgotten before today.

The path led them to the steps of the dilapidated house. They raced to the top, hammering on the door. Nothing.

The father noticed a solitary box of cookies near his feet, and he made an inhuman sound. They beat on the door again. Still nothing.

Then the mother’s eyes met the eyes of another, peeking through the broken front window. Bulging, watery eyes, staring intensely. A crinkled nose and rotten mouth, open in a wide grimace.

The thing dangling in his arms couldn’t be their daughter. How could it be? Human bodies don’t bend that way.

CROOKED! the man screamed. ALL OF YOU!

Consuming vs. Creating

I wish I could find the exact quote; I read a book once, a good few years ago (I can’t even remember what book it was). I have no recollection what the book itself was even about, but I do remember this: the author quoted someone who said something like “if you aren’t actively creating, you’re just a consumer”. That simple, harsh truth really stuck with me.

Back then I realized that, for a variety of reasons at that particular moment in my life (okay… decade of my life) I was barely creating anything. I was solely consuming in all meanings of the word- consuming food, entertainment, and material goods mindlessly. I wasn’t using my creative mind in my job, in my hobbies, or in my day to day life. I was spending way too much time scrolling endless junk articles on my phone. I’d lost my teenage penchant for writing poems and playing with visual art.

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^Ignoring my friends for my phone? >.>

I don’t want to come off as preachy- technology is super useful, and we use our cell phones for so much more than distraction seeking. Plus, it’s fun and recharging to do mindless things once in a while, and I have abandoned the term “guilty pleasure” because if you love something, why should you feel guilty about enjoying it? Speaking of which, read this awesome blog post by @biblionyan on the topic of guilty pleasures!

But that’s the thing; this “guilty pleasure” pastime of scrolling and losing myself in click-bait wasn’t actually enjoyable for me. It was just a habitual, unfulfilling distraction I automatically turned to because it was easy and gave me a hit of dopamine.

I knew I wanted to spend more time creating again and really using my free time to learn new things and develop new skills, but for some reason this mindset just didn’t stick. I’d read an inspirational book, or watch a documentary, and feel motivated- for a couple of days. Then I’d fall back into the same stale routines.

Happily, I have now gotten to a place where I am creating and living so much more again. I am writing, drawing, painting, dancing, studying, traveling, and learning new skills like public speaking. I’m seeking out new opportunities rather than hiding from them. This has come about in the last two to three years. How did I get my creative spark back? Why hadn’t I been able to reignite it sooner?

My anxiety and depression were holding me back.

I unpacked about my struggles with anxiety and depression in a blog post recently, which you can read here. Long story short, after years of battling these issues, talking to counselors, and trying lots of methods unsuccessfully to manage, I finally tried medication prescribed by my doctor, and it helps me so much. Life is exciting and fun again. I feel like the old self I once knew and lost somewhere between adolescence and adulthood.

The passion for my job at the library, which I knew was lurking inside me, finally bloomed. I worked on building up my self-confidence from my lowest low. I started seeking out new opportunities instead of waiting to be asked. I began using my creativity more in work projects, and at home.

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Feeling lifted out of the muck, I sought out new hobbies: handbell choir, dance classes, sewing, yoga, cosplay, crafting, dabbling with ukulele, volunteering at the SPCA. I even helped out with some small roles in a local web-series created by-nerds-for-nerds. Speaking of which, my dorky fangirl self, who had been hiding in a sort of shame cave, fearing judgement of others, emerged proudly once again.

I started creating visual art again, something that I had largely abandoned in the height of my anxiety and depression. Before long it became a familiar habit. I get a regular urge to create art now, and when I get into my flow several hours can pass without my realizing.

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I’ve since started sharing my art in small local galleries & markets, and online. Sharing my art and creative projects with the world brings me joy.

I think that everyone has the capacity to be creative in their own way. Sometimes we get bogged down by a narrow idea of what “creativity” means, but we can be creative in so many different ways- at our jobs, around our homes, through the clothes and accessories we wear, or in our gardens, for example. Right now I am slowly but surely working on a goal of being more creative in the kitchen with baking and cooking.

Speaking of infusing creativity into our daily lives, recently I came across this extremely interesting Ted Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee about the roots of joy.

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She presented her insights about some of the universal triggers of joy as discovered through studies of people all around the world- things like bright colours, soft shapes, fractal patterns, novelty, abundance, a feeling of light and air.

Two take-aways that stuck with me:

  1. Why,  if these playful, colourful, and creative expressions bring us joy and increase our happiness and productivity, do we design so many aspects of our homes, offices, hospitals, schools, and streets in uninspiring, predictable shapes, and shades of beige and grey?
  2. Why do we judge people who embrace colour and creativity in their own lives, in what they wear, how they decorate and so on, by labeling them as kooky, emotional, unprofessional, or “girly”?

I think we can learn so much from people who incorporate fun fearlessly into their lives (or rather, refuse to let go of it just because they are getting older). I’m fascinated by people like Iris Apfel, Yayoi Kusama and Elizabeth Sweetheart who present themselves however feels right to them, and don’t give a flying fluevog what society thinks of them for being different. Thanks to social media like Instagram, it’s easier than  ever to find unapologetically creative people and bold sartorial inspiration.

A potential struggle for being creative is the busy lives we lead- there were times when I thought “how will I possibly have time to finish this personal project”? But as with anything in life, you make time for what is important to you, what makes you happy and fulfills you. I work on art during my work breaks sometimes, and because I consider my art time important for my well-being, I will pass up invitations or events on occasion if I know I haven’t had time to paint in a while. I am lucky to work at a library where I have the option of using my creativity on a regular basis such as illustrating the Joke of the Day, making fun book displays, or drawing pictures to accompany my power-point slides!

Yes, I still check my phone, yes I still watch Netflix and play video games, but when I do I always aspire to be mindful and intentional with this use of my precious time, and avoid getting lost in zombie-like distraction. Time is the most important commodity we have, and in this often cruel and unfair world I’m privileged to be a healthy woman living in a safe country where I have the gift of free time to explore my creativity. I don’t want to squander that.

Freeing myself from depression and intense anxiety has enabled me to enjoy my life and creativity to the fullest. I am glad that the days of dragging my feet through life are behind me. After 10 years of waking up with sighs of fatigue and defeat, sighs of contentment are a welcome change. There are so many things I want to do with my life that I don’t know where to start, so I am dipping my toes into everything.

I wish I could share this wake-up call with the world (well, that’s what a blog is for, I guess) but I think that, first and foremost, it’s something that you need to truly want for yourself.

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Spoiler-Free Review: Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Dustin and I are enroute home to Alberta from our 2 week vacation visiting my parents in NB.

Our flights got changed unceremoniously at 3am last night, so while we got a lot more sleep than we were expecting, we now have a really weird mishmash of flights and a 7 hour layover in Toronto.

To look at the bright side, though, I’ve got a ton of ebooks downloaded from Hoopla and Overdrive, and lots of time to catch up on my reading!

Lucy Knisley is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read several of her graphic novels, which are gorgeous, comedic, and full of honest, sometimes uncomfortable, reflections on life.

I enjoy the messy truth of an honest memoir, and Lucy never disappoints. I am currently drafting a comic memoir of my own, and Knisley’s work played a big part in opening my eyes to the versatility and potential of the comic format for memoirs.

ANYHOO, without further ado, here is my review of Displacement (as posted on my Goodreads).

Another fascinating personal memoir from Lucy Knisely- this time on a cruise ship with her grandparents who are in their 90’s and facing debilitating physical and mental health problems.

Lucy doesn’t censor her thoughts, even when they don’t cast her in the most positive light. She struggles with her inner criticisms, her candid thoughts, and her desire to understand her elderly grandparents.

As with her other works, this beautifully illustrated comic memoir is a mixture of self reflection, emotion, reminiscence, people-watching, existential pondering, and comic exasperation.

I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of Lucy’s situation on the ship paired with snippets from her grandfather’s war journal.

Yes, it is hard to confront aging, infirmity and death, but Knisley does it with love and honesty. It’s always a treat to read her work.

Freedom to Read: A Poem

I wrote this poem for Freedom to Read week, which happens at the end of February each year.

 

Freedom to Read

 

The Freedom to Read is truly precious;

vital, essential.

Take grave care that you do not lose

the freedom to learn, explore, peruse,

and pick up or put down whatever you choose.

This freedom, in fact, is the right to get wise;

to consider all sides, agree, criticize,

approve or disprove, with unlimited sources,

to scour all evidence with your own two eyes.

Having access to something doesn’t mean you promote it.

How do you seek truth in what you consume?

Pull it apart and consider who wrote it,

discuss every view, question, thought, and idea,

regardless of whether or not you support it.

Upsetting words upon a page,

voices in your ear, scenes on a screen,

may be deemed problematic, or fill you with rage,

but ignorance is not a solution.

How do we praise or denounce ideas

when they are locked tight in a far-away cage?

Who is to say what shouldn’t be

available to you, or them, or me?

Censorship, despite claiming noble intentions,

fixes nothing, suppresses all.

If you don’t like it, you need not look;

simply close the book.

 

Library Haiku

Someone on the Library Think Tank FB group had the super fun idea of making up library Haiku.

Haiku are such a brilliant form of poetry, because they force you to pare down your sentiments to the bare essentials. They lend themselves well to humor but also to poignant, meaningful, and thoughtful reflections.

I find they are quite addictive to make. Here are some I came up with this afternoon:

 

 

That groaning squeaking

Is it the library ghost?

Just the creaking stacks.

 

 

 

“Libraries are dead”

he said, yet hadn’t

been in one in years

 

 

 

Precariously

Books sway in my grasping arms

One falls. My toe. Ouch.

 

 

 

Don’t pull the book cart

behind you as you’re walking

or you get torn heels

 

 

 

Friendly gentleman

Struggling with homelessness

You are welcome here.

 

 

 

Programs, access, fun

Singing children, books and tech

It’s a library.

 

 

Candy Journalling

A couple of years ago my hubby bought me a Japanese subscription candy box for my birthday. It was the perfect present, as I absolutely love Japanese culture AND candy.

The wrappers of Japanese candies and snacks were so cute and interesting that I couldn’t bare to throw them away. But what does one do with a bunch of old candy wrappers?

I decided to start a Candy Journal. I’ve kept at it, and I am now at 81 pages! I love looking back at all the yummy candies I’ve tried. It also helped me to make more educated candy decisions when we went to Japan last year! 🇯🇵💙