Monday, November 16, 2015

November: Waiting

So far November has been such a slow and quiet month, but it's perfect this way. Long walks, warm baths, afternoon coffees, watching the sunrise because I can't sleep. I'm essentially just waiting, waiting for bebe, waiting for my life to change forever. It's exciting and the closer it gets, the less scary it is. That's the beauty of pregnancy I think, the whole process of it allows you to adjust both physically and mentally to all the small changes, so in the end you're ready and thankful. I had no idea sleep would be so elusive during those last weeks, but it's probably just the way the body prepares for the upcoming months (or perhaps the rest of my life?).

I'm seriously just not sleeping, but somehow I can function during the daytime due to my relaxing schedule. November in Japan is the best, warm enough to sit outside, sunny and chilly enough to wear a few layers. I write and read books and protect myself from pushy elderly ladies at the supermarket- who knew discount vegetables could stir up so much animation in mid-afternoon? Also, I know I'm extremely late to the game, but I recently discovered Amazon Japan sells more than just books, and it comes in handy for ordering baby stuff and heavier items I cannot carry from the store. It's so convenient for a place like Tokyo, where we tend to run small errands on a daily basis by walk or train, and just get the essentials.

In fashion news, Uniqlo has a new collaboration with French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, it's a very alluring and form-fitting collection with pencil skirts, skintight blazers and leopard prints, but nothing I can really wear at the moment, so I'm sticking to cozy knits and lots of black dresses. I did stock up on some Heat Tech for winter, I love the collaboration with lingerie brand Princesse Tam-Tam, the loungewear is really soft and warm. It will be strange to wear regular clothes again in a few short weeks, I'll miss dressing the bump!

While it's been a blissful time on this side, there is a lot to think about with what's going on in the world, and the scary thought of bringing a small being in this turmoil. I'm sure every parent thinks like that. My condolences and thoughts go to my French friends, colleagues, readers and everyone in that beautiful city I've always dreamed of living in, where I imagine the streets are rather empty now.

IKEA meatballs

Our local sushi place

Saturday morning brunch at home

Typical afternoons

Special edition Mount Takao Keio train
My Miffy-themed mother and baby handbook-
I bet Canada doesn't have something as cute!

Friday, October 30, 2015

End of October

I more or less started my maternity leave from work, and it's been quite nice and relaxing. It's also a huge adjustment from my usual hectic schedule, but such a welcome change. I'm just waiting for bebe to arrive, and preparing as much as I can by reading and making lists of things I still need to do. In late pregnancy there's this thing called nesting, where expecting mothers feel the urge to clean and prepare the house, but it hasn't really hit me- I'm either too tired or too lazy to scrub everything, but I'm sort of hoping it does hit me soon!

We were extremely lucky to receive so many baby items from family and friends (in Japan and Canada!), and we have pretty much everything we need. I heard newborns don't need much and I like how in Japan they keep material possessions to a minimum due to space constraints. It feels a lot healthier, I couldn't imagine having to purchase long lists of things that are not necessary, even though I love shopping in general. Baby stuff is very, very cute in Japan, but also practical so I'll stick to that part.

I've been baking a lot, it's something I've missed and it's comforting and warming, especially with the colder temperatures. I made granola bars and next I'll make apple muffins. I also like to experiment with fruit smoothies, and I'm all about hearty breakfasts like oatmeal pancakes since I don't have to rush. I like to take long walks and keep as active as I can, but some days I just feel so tired- every day is so different. I have to slow down, but it's impossible. I also have insomnia, no matter what time I go to bed I never seem to fall asleep before 4 or 5am. It's a combination of excitement and anticipation (and trying to find a comfortable position!).

I feel so lucky I have all this time to enjoy autumn and those gorgeous days. I also feel lucky I'm giving birth in Japan, the level of care I've experienced here is far superior to what I would get back home, despite how strict Japanese doctors can be about weight gain- I had to learn to just smile and nod.

However, I recently found out how difficult it can be for Japanese women to keep their careers while raising children- the system makes it pretty much impossible to do so (nursery and daycare shortage, unpaid maternity leave or simply not welcomed to return to their company) and now I understand why so many women in Japan are forced to become housewives. It's not the worst thing in life, but it's sad if you love your job. Thankfully things are slowly changing, but I think it will take several years before it catches up with some other countries. My case is a bit different, being non-Japanese and working part-time/freelance (and being welcomed back).

In other news, this weekend is Halloween. I haven't celebrated for a few years (I do recall some cat ears and black tights about three years ago, and a kid-sized tutu and a horrible tasting chu-hai four years ago), but I do like costume-watching. I was just passing through Shibuya tonight and people go all out with their costumes.

I also know that Sunday morning will bring Christmas decorations and carols, a magical overnight transformation. I don't mind Christmas so much this year as we'll be celebrating as a family of three!

Korean feast (Japanese-style)

Tokyo Sky Tree is impressive

Tokyo is endless

Tokyo Banana

A few weeks left...

This dress still fits me, thank goodness for DvF

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Uniqlo and Lemaire

Just when I was starting to get bored with Uniqlo (I find the last few seasons have been so disappointing, especially spring and summer 2015), they suddenly come back with something exciting. Just by chance I stumbled upon the latest collaboration, this time with French designer Christophe Lemaire. He used to be an artistic director at Hermès, and now has his own label Lemaire.

Just like his brand's designs, the Uniqlo x Lemaire collaboration is all about clean and sleek lines, cashmere blends, minimalist designs and elegant pieces. I seriously wanted to buy everything, but thankfully the growing bump gave me a bit of self control. I did get a soft wool cardigan (which is on my list for the bébé's arrival and hospital stay so it almost doesn't count as a purchase…) and black cashmere blend coat, which will fit me now and after. The pricing is super affordable too, considering the materials and stitching details, equally impressive in the men's section.

It's my all-time favourite collaboration, and it's already pretty much sold out everywhere in the world, such as in Tokyo, Paris and NYC. The Japanese online shop and some lesser-known store locations do have a lot left now. I especially love the coats and cardigans, but I'm not sure how the jumpers and dresses would fit. You can view the entire collection here.

Last autumn, I also liked the urban sweats collaboration with Alexandre Plokhov, and I wore and re-wore every single item (and still will when I can fit in them again!). I will undoubtedly wear every Lemaire piece for a long time.

As for my pregnancy shopping days, I have everything I need thanks to ASOS and Uniqlo (stylish maternity lifesavers if you're in Japan) and I'm ready for the cold days. I really enjoyed dressing my pregnant body, I feel like I kept wearing similar outfits as usual, only with a growing belly. I feel so lucky. I look back and laugh at the days in summer when I thought my stretchy tunics would fit me throughout the whole pregnancy, how naive was I- I think investing in some maternity pieces is really important, as everything now looks like a mini dress on me. It's amazing how quickly the body changes, and I'm quite tempted to reach for the leggings and sweatshirts at this point!

From now on I'll be focusing on different kinds of collections, which are just as exciting, but a whole lot tinier and cuter. It's a whole new world, I barely know where to start, but I'll figure it out… like everything else.

33 weeks...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Autumn in Japan

And just like that it's already autumn, and soon I'll be celebrating six years living in Japan. Six years!! Sometimes I feel like I just arrived yesterday with my two suitcases, but on the other hand so much has changed in my life that it feels like forever ago. But no matter what happens, I'll never forget coming here in the first place and those new beginnings. Making that decision to move to Japan without any set plans really changed my life forever.

This time of the year always makes me nostalgic, autumn is when I left my life in Montreal and moved to Japan. It's also when I got married, and now it will be when bébé arrives- another big life change. I've been loving being pregnant, something I did not expect at all. I'm trying to keep a balance between working hard yet having lots of time to rest, it's not always easy but at this point I'm learning to be kinder to myself and realizing I have some limitations.

I don't know just how ready I feel about anything that's coming up, but like every other situation in my life, I tend to just go with it. I feel similar to how I did when I first moved to Japan, jumping into the unknown, equal parts terrified and excited. So, if this experience is anything like Japan, I think it will be extremely rewarding and filled with wonderful surprises.

These days I'm looking forward to cooking some nabe (Japanese hot pot dish), baking again, spending more time outdoors since it's so comfortable, catching up on reading books, sleeping sleeping sleeping (despite the recurring insomnia) and chilling out with that growing bébé making flips in my stomach.

A few scenes from lately…

A rooftop shrine

View of Shinjuku

My favourite spot

A Tokyo cat

A fringe

Train line at dusk

I interviewed Dominique Ansel from the cronut fame

A full moon on moon-viewing festival

Yukata style

Soy honey frappucino at Roppongi Hills

My puppy

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

End of Summer (Nearly)

Suddenly the temperatures in Tokyo dropped, but it's probably only temporary. Still, it's a nice break from the heat and humidity, and a sneak peek at autumn (even though September in Japan will be just as hot as August).

I worked a lot this month, but since every shift is so short, it keeps it interesting and just gives the perfect balance to my week. I love having an excuse to go to Shibuya, and at the same time I like how I can avoid morning rush hour commutes.

August also brings natsubate, literally 'summer fatigue'. Not sure if it's an actual condition, but it does feel real. Could be due to the intense heat or the overuse of air conditioning, or a mix of both. I'm trying to stay hydrated with room-temperature tea (cold isn't so good for the belly, especially if there's a bebe inside) and eat lots of fruit (watermelon, fresh figs and ¥300 apples). My summer go-to food is soba, I could eat it every single day. I've been trying different restaurants around Tokyo, ranging from local neighbourhood spots to Michelin-star places. I much prefer the handmade noodles, and the best side dish is tempura. I'm also eating lots of sashimi and sushi, which is thankfully not forbidden during pregnancy in Japan. I could never live without it! In fact, I like how relaxed Japanese are about all those  so-called 'pregnancy rules'. Although they can be strict about weight gain and keeping the belly warm, the rest is fairly relaxed, which I really like.

Maternity fashion in Japan is another story, though. As expected, everything is quite frumpy, flowery, frilly and cutesy. Pregnant women in Japan tend to conceal their figure, instead of flaunting their beautiful growing bump. It's been interesting to flip through maternity magazines and see what's offered in stores. Let's just say, thank goodness for online shopping and Asos free Japan shipping.

I'm planning for more yoga, afternoon teas, reading, cafe lounging and hopefully a few getaways for the next few months. It's a nice change of pace, although my life is about to change even more, in the best possible way.

Doughnuts at Fred Segal

A visit to the aquarium

I feel like this animal

Never enough soba

Afternoon break at Magnolia

They painted Domo-kun! 
Summer fireworks

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer in Japan

So, it's been a while, and summer has fully kicked in, along with its suffocating, sauna-like humidity and cicada soundtrack. I was able to escape to Canada for a few short weeks, but to be honest, the weather was unusually hot and humid there too. Still it was a nice trip, as usual, but it felt very rushed and tiring. I never thought I'd say that, but coming back to my Tokyo life actually felt relaxing.

Canada was a mix of catching up with everyone, being at my mom's house and eating her lovely food and trying to catch our cat (who gives me bad allergies), meeting my adorable nephew for the first time,    going on a road trip to Toronto, having coffee with my former Montreal roommate and a dear friend who shared Osaka memories with me (and their cute babies), spending time with Seoul friends in TO, a day trip to Niagara Falls (eh, I had to introduce Canada's most famous landmark…), an impromptu stay at the Park Hyatt Toronto, swimming on one of MTL's rooftops, shopping trips at the huge supermarkets and marveling at the fruit selection, barbecues in the backyard, bare feet in the grass and every morning a delicious breakfast.

I found Canada a bit more difficult this time- have I been too spoiled by Japanese convenience and cleanliness? The first few days back home are always a reverse culture shock for me, but this time it dragged on: the horrible customer service (it's a hit or miss), the lack of public restrooms anywhere, the inability to buy water at vending machines on any corner. Have I been in Japan for too long? Still, I loved how warm people are, how strangers sometimes strike up a random conversation with you, and how it's socially acceptable to pretty much do anything you please. I also liked how everywhere is non-smoking, Starbucks are practically empty (and they have those healthy lunch boxes), you can find amazing-tasting coffee, sandwiches and pastries on every corner and green spaces for picnics.

It's always nice to be home, and this time coming back to Japan was equally good. I love my (fairly new) home here, I love my job and I was excited to get back into it. I've been a bit of a homebody lately, taking it easy. There has been a huge change in my life in the past few months... I'm pregnant! It was a lovely surprise (also to my family and friends, as I'm apparently the last person they imagined with a baby), and we're so happy and excited. It's actually been a wonderful time, even if this summer heat. I never thought I would enjoy it so much, as I had never even really thought about what it would be like. I cherish every moment of it, I like sitting alone sipping tea or iced coffee and think about the bebe. I also started maternity yoga, which is a great workout and so relaxing at the same time. I also love updating my wardrobe, with lots of summer tunics, bump hugging t-shirt dresses and treating myself to a little DVF wrap number, which I'll be able to wear for decades. Pregnancy in Japan has been a smooth experience, the health care is very good and I feel like I'm in good hands.

I can't help but look back at my time in Japan and realize how things have changed. I probably say that every time, but it's been quite the journey, and somehow it's just the beginning. I have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, May 25, 2015

End of May

May is already coming to an end, and it seems like all I've done this month was work, but I really enjoyed it. I love my new schedule so much- I work in shifts, sometimes during daytime, sometimes evening, and in between I write from home. I avoid most of the rush hour trains and I have time to cook, exercise and well, have a somewhat normal life. Last week I made a chocolate mousse cake and a lasagna, and every morning I make a different smoothie. I feel much more relaxed, for the first time in my Tokyo life.

The weather has been gorgeous in May, very warm and summer-like, minus the mosquitoes and humidity. Along with November, I think May is the best time of the year in Japan. June is rainy season, so I'm taking advantage of the sunny days and non-rain boots days.

We booked some tickets for Canada this summer, and we will visit in July. I'm so excited to see my family and friends again, the cats, and eat tons of fruits and kinds of cheeses (and butter!!! Japan has had a butter shortage this year). I will spend time in Montreal and also Toronto, just like last year. It's something to look forward to for the summer, and it's coming very soon.

I've had some fun assignments lately: I did a yukata photo shoot and class for a magazine, a beauty fair coverage at Tokyo Big Sight, interviews with some famous French and Japanese chefs, and a Tokyo food trends piece. I was also a special guest on one of the radio programs at NHK World, in the French section (my section!).

I'm also back in a Wong Kar-wai phase, I just re-watched "In the Mood for Love", such a beautiful movie. I wonder if I can sneak in a trip to Hong Kong or Seoul before Canada?

Sunday morning brunch in my household

NHK elevator selfie

View from the Yurikamome train line, Odaiba