Travels, tidying, tantanmen and… taiko! A welcome back to blogging update

Greetings readers, new and old!

It’s been a long time since I posted anything… almost four months.

Amazingly, my readership has not changed! Erm… maybe it’s not desirable that site visits are the same regardless of posting frequency (or plain old lack of posting).

Moving on.

I figured a first post back could be part update, part links of neat/fun/beautiful/delicious places in Alberta. All the topic tasters will be future posts.

Let’s roll back the clock to mid-August 2015. Hilary is sick as sick as sick can be for weeks upon weeks upon weeks. Boo hoo!

Tommy Lee Jones vending machine ad - Japan

Tired Tommy and I – we’re in this together.

Japan takes on Alberta

My brother-in-law from Japan arrived in time for the conclusion of my marathon illness. We, along with more family (uh huh), took on central and southern Alberta.

Hitoshi and his brother flew in an antique biplane (ya know, the ones where there’s no lid on the cockpit and you get to wear a groovy, canvas headpiece) at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, hiked the famous Sunshine Meadows along with a grizzly bear or two and made it to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, braving seriously soupy, smoky air from forest fires in Alberta, BC and south of the Canada-USA border.

I visited the Fish Creek public library in Calgary with our toddler (it was fun! they had a fabulous play area!   !!!!!)

Yup. Travel definitely changes with little ones.

colorful fire hydrant, Canada

our child’s favorite street side attraction

Marie Kondo – My Hero for Life

September’s theme was cleaning and tossing all due to inspiration from Marie Kondo, tidying leader of leader of leaders.

I read her book, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” three times.



I love her.

As of December, my tidying madness has slowed down. It’s okay though as it can take about six months to get your things in order.

My unsolicited advice… if you already don’t own much and are somewhat allergic to shopping, then toss only when you’ve got a backup. (Ahem. Lesson learned.)

changing light

My light! My joy! Marie Kondo is a genius!

Anniversaries galore and favorite Japanese restaurants

October is a special month for Hitoshi and I. We have both of our wedding anniversaries!

In Japan, the official wedding is a pile of boring (or possibly hilarious) paperwork at city hall.

The unofficial version is any ceremony you have following whatever you believe in.

We could happily celebrate our events with cupcakes and tantanmen every week but instead went for dinner.


Yummmm…. cupcakes…..mmmmmm…….

Set to the beat of a grand taiko (Japanese drum), here are some of our favorite Japanese restaurants in Edmonton and Calgary.

Izakaya Tomo, Edmonton

Hot Stone Rice Bowl, Calgary

Red Heads Bagel Cafe, Calgary

Yuzen Japanese Restaurant, St. Albert (city attached to north boundary of Edmonton)

That we have four to choose from is a big deal. Hitoshi and I were massive restaurant snobs for the first, oh, six years living in Canada.

Yes. It’s taken us that long to find any restaurant that passes our strict standards.

I’ll do a separate post on these fabulous eateries but for now, enjoy the links!

homemade tantanmen

homemade dinner!

A dream realized – taiko in all its muzukashii glory

Muzukashii is a word you will hear about a billion trillion times if you live in Japan. It generally means “difficult”, and like many other Japanese words, is layered with feeling and easily applied across a multitude of situations.

I hollered out this word prior to stomping my feet and jumping wildly around my practice drum while trying unsuccessfully to master (ha ha) choreography, stance and a song in my second ever taiko workshop put on by Kita No Taiko. (KNT is an Edmonton taiko group that is celebrating its 30 anniversary next year!)

Taiko looks deceptively easy but is ridiculously difficult. The first workshop in late November was easy peasy pants compared to number two the next week. In the words of my junior high school students, it made my brain hurt.

It also made my body ache… taiko is a full-body experience.

I’m not easily deterred though and signed up for a four-week taiko course hosted by Booming Tree Taiko, a professional taiko duo also in Edmonton. I’m already counting down for February 2016!

playing a really big drum in Japan

Taiko practice, circa 2006 (Big Drum Museum, Akita, Japan)

What’s next?


What has been keeping you amused/occupied/contemplating/any other adjective you see fit to use these days?

22 thoughts on “Travels, tidying, tantanmen and… taiko! A welcome back to blogging update

  1. Hi, Hilary! [waves and smiles] It’s great to see you blogging again!

    I actually heard about organizing using the Marie Kondo method. I think I actually stumbled on a YouTuber who demonstrated the techniques through the use of videos. Personally, as long as everything has a place, I am fine – that is my organization philosophy. But, I am not a very big shopper and I always ask myself if I really need something before I buy it.

    Happy very belated anniversary. That cupcake looks delicious, especially the icing!

    • Waving back to you, my dear! It is great to be back. As I read so often from other bloggers who have had a break for any reason, it’s the people that I missed the most. 😀

      It sounds like your organization is in place! For me, I “organize” and then get messy all over again. I have too much paper and keepsakes that have lost their meaning. Then I get overwhelmed with all the stuff and do nothing. Her tips have really helped. Discard first, then organize. Makes sense to me!

      Thank you for the anniversary greetings! I *love* October and couldn’t imagine getting married in any other month. Yes! That cupcake was amazing! Are bakeries with icing covered treats popular in Taiwan??

  2. Lovely to hear from you Hilary,

    In his song Beautiful Boy, John Lennon sings “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, and I can see you’ve been very busy making plans and living. It’s great to know you’re feeling better and I look forward to hearing about all those neat -fun – beautiful – delicious places in Alberta you mentioned.

    Clare – Oh and October is a wonderful month to get married and subsequently celebrate wedding anniversaries.

    • Thanks, dear! I suppose it does seem like I’ve been pretty busy the last few months. We got our little one into a playgroup on Friday mornings and it’s been a big hit for both of us… new toys, seeing the same group of kids every week and a chance for me to practice my social skills. 😀

      Isn’t October fabulous? I can’t imagine getting married any other month. The weather in both Japan and Canada is fabulous. I’ve never been in AU during October but I think it would be nice then, too??

  3. Welcome back!!!! You’ve clearly had a very busy four months – wow!!

    I was just remembering a Taiko drumming class I took many years ago (ok late 80s) for a summer… part of the drumming class was having to run over a steep bridge then climb up and down a set of stairs multiple times. All baby steps to build sufficient stamina to be able to keep up with the drumming. Loved it!! Miss it too!

    • Wow! You took taiko, too?! That’s really exciting. Do you remember much? Honestly, that first workshop didn’t seem like much. It wasn’t easy but it also didn’t seem too difficult. The second workshop, we switched to sideways stance and combined with trying to figure out proper arm positioning, making a good sound, memorizing the beat sequence for the song and then jumping around the drum at the correct time was soooooo difficult! (But also super fun. I’ve been practicing the tune the last week and I’ve got it memorized now. erm… except the choreography and proper arm positioning is gone, oh, gone. :D)

      • LOVED it!! But I honestly don’t remember much… This wasn’t too long after my ballet / contemporary dancing days so the jumping around in unison was do-able. Muscle memory for the drumming movements just somehow kicked in. 🙂 Now though.. I probably wouldn’t last a minute!!!

            • Isn’t this the truth for so many of us… then I think of the older adult superhero fitness models from my first degree in phys ed and remind myself that the body can do wonderful things, no matter your age. 😀
              Btw, I can’t figure out why most of your comments keep needing approval?? Weird wp buggie, I s’pose.

                • I know (re:WP)! Egads… yes… that would likely have me feeling like I too had to join the high profile folks in becoming superhuman in an effort to be consistently (yet effortlessly, of course) gorgeous. On the other hand, maybe they are envious of “regular” people who don’t have to make the effort??

                  • Oh I definitely fit into the category of ‘regular’ who doesn’t make the effort… eating and enjoying life to the fullest! 🙂 Would never in a million years want to be size “O”… quite happy fluctuating btw 10 – 14 thank you very much! I will admit to trying to keep out of most of the red carpet type shots though… happier if those just focus on my partner.

                    • Well… I kinda do know… helped my partner lose 13 kg to play the role of Jinnah in an upcoming film “ViceRoy House”… Whereas me on practically the same diet… just ‘cheating’ with a single multi-grain toast or brun maksa pau one day? I gained 3 kgs!? After that I gave up completely!!! And lost the 3 kg eating whatever I felt like. Go figure.

                    • Wowsers! That’s a lot. Did you have a pretty short timeline? Ha ha! Impressive that you managed to gain weight and when you weren’t trying, the weight fell off. In my case, I think I need to exercise more. I’ve done the hardcore calorie counting and it really worked, but I don’t have the energy right now to do it. 😀

                    • Exercise is actually the trick for me – I need to do a LOT of consistent sweating over months to budge even an inch off!

                      Whereas for my partner, as long as he cuts out carbs and does a little cardio, the weight melts away. His challenge now is regaining the weight and muscle… as he had to loose muscle mass also to fit into Jinnah’s clothes without alteration.

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