February ‘22 Afternoon Tea with SJ

Good Afternoon to you!

I can hardly believe that my reading break is over, let alone February is over. This month felt really short compared to January (which is partly because it actually is) since my uni went back to being in-person which was kind of…well, kind of a whirlwind. ( ´•௰•`)

But overall, I am super excited to be here to sit down with a cup of tea, some Japanese sweets, and talk with you. ꒰◍ᐡᐤᐡ◍꒱

-February Afternoon Tea ‘22 Setting-

Location: Cozy home library

Tea: Hong Kong-style milk tea, Paris Afternoon green tea, Camomile tea 

Offered with: Dorayaki, Anmitsu (Japanese parfait)

This month, I fell into a reading slump. *gasps* Compared to last month, where I was sort of on fire to read as many books as possible, this month saw me picking up a book and not finishing it, then picking up another book and ad infinitum. 

Which is simply terrible.

But, to be fair, a lot of things were going on this month. Here are the books I did manage to finish:

  1. Vita Nostra
  2. The Journey of the Iwanami Children’s Classics
  3. Typee
  4. The Communist Manifesto (Broadview)
  5. Hear the Wind Sing/Pinball, 1973
  6. Mere Christianity

Looking back, although I DNFed and didn’t focus on my reading as much as I would have liked, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the books I did read (well, except Typee) so I guess that’s what counts!

Also, my siblings and I got a chance to visit an old used-book store in downtown that we’ve always wanted to go to. It was much bigger on the inside than we thought, and we unabashedly spent over a hundred dollars on C. S. Lewis books. (Now we have two copies of Mere Christianity, most of his major works, and a C. S. Lewis encyclopedia.) Really, I was not expecting them to have many Lewis books. Our favourite find was the Compact Oxford Dictionary the size of our Mac desktop (times two) complete with a huge magnifying glass to read the dot-esque letterings. Sadly, it was around another hundred dollars and mum told us there was no room for it. (After all, one shelf of our bookshelf is dedicated to our various dictionaries.) The bookstore itself didn’t have enough space for all the books, so some of the books were piled on the ground, on the tables, on top of the already towering bookshelves, etc. 

I am definitely going back there again. (   ¯꒳¯ )b✧

Currently reading: On the Genealogy of Morality, (still re-reading) Crime and Punishment, Wind-up Bird Chronicle vol.2

Would you like more Hong-Kong tea? My friend makes the most delicious Hong Kong tea and suffice it to say I am now a fan. 

Music 

This month, I listened to a lot of Studio Ghibli soundtracks. Some of my favourites were:

Practising: The Breakfast Song, Subarashi Hibi (Amazing Days)

Listening to: more Studio Ghibli soundtracks, Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, anime & classical music lofi

Movie/TV Shows 

Since I was really busy this month, we didn’t get to watch a lot of new movies or TV shows. But I did continue watching some of the ones that started this January, so that was good. 

Current favourites:

  • DCU–Deep Crime Unit…the name is pretty self-explanatory and if you know anything about the Japanese actor Hiroshi Abe, you get the idea
  • Mystery to iu nakare–Do not say it is a mystery…this one is actually a dramatisation of the manga with the same title. I thought it was kind of wacky to start with, but now love the psychological elements of it!!
  • And various others…now that I think about it, I think we watch too many Japanese dramas (ˉ ˘ ˉ; )

Manga/Anime

I didn’t start new manga or anime either this month. 

However. 

I am very much looking forward to Spy Family starting in April with WIT studio!! *goes to convince mum it’s a good idea to start yet another anime*

Also, I got a Jujutsu-Kaisen T-shirt from Uniqlo which I’m hyped about. ୧꒰*´꒳`*꒱૭✧

More tea or sweets, anyone? The dorayaki is back on the menu again partly because I had some yesterday and was reminded how good they are and partly because it’s the taste of nostalgia!

I talked a lot this month about slow writing (again) and keeping a writing journal. Initially, I was planning to work on a shorter WIP after Osthauptstadt. And in the first week of starting it, I decided to switch gears to re-work Juliet. This has been one of my oldest works that I can actually call a novel and while I got to the climax of book 3, has been on hold for the longest time because of various structural issues. 

Notice I didn’t say rewrite. It’s rework. 

Reworking a novel I’ve been writing for the past seven years or more is painful. It’s fun; at the same time, I have to face the many incongruities and discrepancies in my characters and plots that I’ve so far taken for granted. It’s like taking apart a music box that’s stuttering when you only have the basic idea of its workings. Every day for the past few weeks, I had to face my fears that I don’t have enough to bring my WIP into working conditions. Some days went better, other days not so much. 

And at the end of this month, I think I’ve done the best I can for now. I still have ways to go until I can actually begin my rewriting for the umpteenth time, but I guess a little patience goes a long way. 

Have you tried the Anmitsu? It’s a kind of Japanese parfait with matcha and clear jello, tofu mochi, fruits, red bean paste, matcha ice cream &c. I tried making it for the first time this week and loved it, so I thought I’d share it with you here. (୨୧ ❛ᴗ❛)✧

Back to uni. 

I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy being back in a classroom and I’m still not sure. Of course, it’s nice to be able to see my friends, classmates, and professors since you actually get to talk to people versus being online, on Zoom where it feels…awkward? And at the same time, it’s a bit exhausting for an extreme introvert like me. Hopefully, I’ll get fully back into the swing before my midterms and finals!!

Other than being head-flying-ly busy (imagine the current AoT season, if you get what I mean), I got more chance to spend time with my family which was great! We went shopping, went on a driving trip (for cheaper gas than in the city, lol), attended a secret meeting no one should know about, &c. (If anyone is familiar with the current Canadian politics, just pray for us. Canadian democracy has gone to the grave.)

And while too many things happened that I can’t tell everything in a single post, I want to leave you with some verses that I found encouragement in recently.

17The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.

19 Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight.

20 Put them in fear, O Lord: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.

(Psalm 9:17-20, KJV)

Thank you for reading! How was your February? What are some things you did this month that was exciting? Did you find that February passed away in a breath? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

January ‘22 Afternoon Tea with SJ

Good afternoon!

It feels like a long time since I’ve been here. And, my greatest apologies to those who were waiting for blog posts for the last two weeks. I wasn’t planning to disappear on you, dear SJ readers, but something came up…

Sickness. *inserts soundless horror*

Which, I’m pretty sure was Covid. Some of our friends got it, and I ended up being in bed for a week or so with an extremely high fever, chills, pains, &c. that was not fun at all. Hence, the last two weeks were mostly spent in bed feeling like I was dying (but obviously that’s being too dramatic). I knew I was in for big trouble when I didn’t want to read. *elongated gasp*

Anyhow. 

I’m back, somewhat with less energy but very much alive. So, without further ado, let me present to you January ‘22 Afternoon Tea with SJ!

-January Afternoon Tea ‘22 Setting-

Location: Japanese-style living room

Tea: Lemon ginger, masala chai, apple cinnamon  

Offered with: Strawberry mochi, Fruits sandwich, custard pudding

I had a bit of a reading slump this month. Of course, I did end up meeting books I absolutely loved, but I’m thinking of taking things more slowly…or not. 

  1. The Saga of the Volsungs
  2. Shukusai to Yokan (Festival and Feeling)
  3. Still Life with a Bridle
  4. Der Sokrates Club
  5. Confronting Christianity
  6. Colourless Tsuzaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
  7. Five Children and It
  8. A Little Life
  9. The Abolition of Man
  10. Dark Rise
  11. Oshi, Moyu 
  12. The Song of Achilles

Reading: Crime and Punishment (re-read), The Japanese Emperor and the Army’s Modern History, Journey of the Iwanami Children’s Classics, Shibusawa Eichi, Vita Nostra

And that kind of tells you that I should probably focus more on my currently-reading list. Plus, I’m still trying to balance my various reading lists with the books I already have checked out. I really should stop going to the library…(ˉ ˘ ˉ; )

Would you like more tea or mochi? (Sidenote: We often make custard pudding. This time, I actually helped, which I’m kind of proud of!!)

Music 

This month, we did a karaoke! I made a playlist based on my family’s favourite songs, which we like to listen to in the car or while we cook. (And you can probably guess my sister’s picks…they’re all BTS or Radwimps.)

Practising: Mozart Sinfonia concertante K.364, various Sonatine & Sonatas

Listening to: Studio Ghibli soundtracks, AoT songs, UNICORN

Movie/TV shows 

One thing I’m kind of sad about was how I was planning to do a post on Studio Ghibli the week I was sick. Hopefully, I’ll get to post that next month!

Some of the movies/tv shows I’ve been hyped about:

  • Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea…a childhood favourite ( ᐢ˙꒳​˙ᐢ )
  • Oi! Handsome…an insanely funny Japanse TV show feat. a showa-era father
  • Wife, an Elementary Schooler…a super cute but thoughtful family drama
  • 99.9…a lawyer drama, feat. an unconventional lawyer TM

Manga/Anime

And here is the list we’ve all been waiting for. 

  • AoT Final Season…Can we just ignore me screaming??
  • Kimetsu no Yaiba Yukaku city…Ditto here. 
  • Golden Kamuy…a recent development. It’s one of the darker mangas, but I’m finding it really helpful since it’s based on Ainu and the post Russo-Japan war era.

Overall, since our entire family has fallen ill, we’ve been spending way too many hours watching tv shows and movies and the like. But honestly, WHO CARES?? They’re good, that’s what. ୧꒰*´꒳`*꒱૭✧

If you recall, I’ve started this new attempt called a writing journal. It’s like a normal planner, except I write my writing goals/tasks for each day and journal my experience on it. 

It was going well. Except, you know, sickness struck. 

But reading back my journal, I’m glad to find I was writing more often than not, and I’m actually really satisfied with what I did get to write, even though it’s not a lot. I’ll definitely continue my writing journal. (Also, this month was the Osthauptstadt writing month. It’s slow going, but I’m looking forward to where this is leading me to!)

Have you tried apple cinnamon tea? They’re kind of like apple cider, except it’s tea. 

And here, I do hope no one gets sick with Covid, although I know that’s asking for a lot in this time we’re living in. Honestly, being sick has drained a lot of my energy, including academics. I’m really blessed to have an understanding professor, but if not, I don’t know where I’d been. Also, this month my university was online, so that helped a lot, too. I don’t think I would have imagined ever feeling grateful that my uni would be online! And yet, here we are. I’ve been finding how I’m more grateful for the small things and even those things that aren’t normal. They help me realise how there’s blessing in the unordinary circumstances of today. 

But everything isn’t all doom and gloom and sickness. Some things that has been helping me in life are:

  • Candles. I love scented candles, and I’m so glad my brother got me a fancy candle holder for Christmas, it’s my favoruite! Watching the small flickering flame is really calming.
  • Devotions & Memorization. Lately, I’ve been spending more and more time for my personal devotions, including trying to memorise Psalms. I’m kind of stuck at Psalms 7, but it’s been helping me greatly having His Word stored in my heart. 
  • Chores. Believe it or not, I’ve been finding it more fun doing chores than before! It’s exceedingly satisfying when you find the washroom sparkling, or when you get to brainstorm what to eat for dinner. Also, listening to music/podcasts while vacuuming. 

And lastly, a verse that’s been on my mind lately:

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

(Hebrews 3:13-14, NIV)

Thank you for reading! How was your January? What are some of the highlights this month? Did you meet any new books? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

December Afternoon Tea with SJ 2021 Review

Good Afternoon and Merry Christmas, everyone!

We are actually having a WHITE CHRISTMAS this year!!! It’s been raining/sleeting/snowing on and off, which means we had many false starts, but the snow stayed, and I can’t contain my joy. ( ᐢ˙꒳​˙ᐢ )

And, I can hardly believe it’s Christmas, let alone the year 2021 is ending…Where did all the time go?? *incessant flipping of my journal*

But without further ado, let me present to you today’s tea!

-December Afternoon Tea ‘21 Setting-

Location: living room with a roaring fireplace & twinkling Christmas tree

Tea: Elderflower blackberry, cream of earl grey, lavender-rose

Offered with: matcha snowball cookies, Japanese cheesecake, eggnog ice cream

This year, I read 157 books. Earlier in the year, I resolved to rethink my reading ethics. Last year (2020), I read a lot of books that didn’t matter to me or were valuable to me despite reading a lot. I felt like I wasted my time and efforts and certainly didn’t want the year 2021 to look like that.

So, I set up some values in reading books, created various reading schedules (Note: they have been updated three times from the month I wrote that blog post) and overall, am really happy with what I read this year. I think I could regain my focus and improve the quality of my reading life, so I hope to continue that next year. ୧꒰*´꒳`*꒱૭✧

>> See my Year in Books on Goodreads

More tea, anyone? I absolutely love the elderflower blend! But the cream of earl grey is also fantastic. Fun fact: Our family makes hundreds of snowball cookies each Christmas to give away to our friends, neighbours, and pastors. We haven’t been able to continue the tradition in recent years, but this year we went back to it & I’m remembering how much fun this is!

Anyhow. Let’s move on to one of the most fun discussions here. 

Music 

So for those of you who have noticed, I have officially been converted over to Spotify. I think I started using it earlier this year, became a regular listener until I was habitually complaining about the ads, and have finally upgraded to premium, which I love so much I wonder why I didn’t subscribe earlier. Here’s my Spotify wrapped:

(Although, tbh, it doesn’t represent the classical music sector as well since I listen to them either as borrowed CD or on the radio…)

>>My 2021 Playlist on Spotify

Practising: Mozart Sinfonia concertante K.364, playing from chord charts

Listening to: Brooklyn Tabernacle Christmas, Studio Ghibli soundtracks, various playlists & classical music (like Tchaikovsky’s 5th & 6th)

Movie/TV shows 

Another new thing that has popped up in my life since the pandemic was intense movie-watching! This year, we haven’t been able to watch that many movies, but we did watch a lot of Japanese dramas and TV shows. Some of my favourites this season were:

  • Pierce the Blue Sky (a year-long drama/documentary about Eichi Shibusawa, who will become the new ¥1,0000 ($100) bill)
  • Come, Come, Everybody (a morning short drama about English conversations radio in Japan which is too heartbreaking and cute beyond words)
  • I Only Gave Consent to Marriage (another super cute fake-marriage rom-com!!)
  • Japan Sinking (a very realistic eco-sci-fi based on a book)

Manga/Anime

Would you like another slice of the cheesecake? Or another cup of ice cream? Or more tea??

If you hadn’t heard my squeals and flailings earlier, now you hear it. *inserts extreme fangirl squeals, screams, and any other indescribable sounds you probably also make*

Well, for starters, I have acquired more wotaku goods than the previous years–I have an acrylic key charm display on my writing desk that I absolutely love. I have a Mob Psycho 100 calendar by the talented pea/helen beside the display that I absolutely love. I got a bunch of die-cut stickers for my computer (TPN, MP100, KNY, JK, Narnia, Wycliff, etc.) that I absolutely love. 

You can probably already see what my problem is. 

Some of the fandoms I’m so happy to have found this year are: 

  • Kimetsu no Yaiba (actually cont. From last year, but who cares? It’s KNY!!)
  • Attack on Titan (I can’t believe I didn’t know AoT before. Seriously.)
  • My Hero Academia (MHA has been the most surprising fandom out of all here. I was not expecting to love it as much as I do now)
  • Jujutsu Kaisen (I just read the manga up to vol. 9 and can’t wait to read more!!)
  • Spy & Family (Okay, also technically not this year but when the serialisation started on Jump+ back in 2019 but who cares? It’s getting an anime soon!!)

Okay, enough fangirling for now. I think I’ll have the lavender-rose tea. I love lavender, and my sister loves rose. Nothing can ever go wrong with those two. 

Writing. 

*inserts crickets chirping*

Date Title of WIPWordcount
Jan, May, Sep, NovOsthauptstadt50.2 K
Feb, NovElijacomb 17th27.4 K
MarchSecret project no. 19.9 K
March-April, NovWoodstone30.2 K 
May-June, DecJuliet (revision)20.6 K
June-Aug, NovSecret project no. 211.2 K 
July, Oct Secret project no. 34 K
Jan-DecBlog39 K 
Jan-DecBrainstorming18.9 K 
154 K (in WIPs) 212 K (in total) of 200 K goal

At first, I thought it was nothing to be fan-faring about, which explains the crickets. But after I went back to see how much I’ve written, I’m quite relieved. Although one can’t deny there was a lot of project hopping done this year & a lack of focus in general, I’m surprised to find I’ve actually been writing consistently this year. Through reading various writing books this year, I’ve been struggling to find the writing life that works for me. (You can see the trend in my posts about writing.) A writer’s life is one marked with struggles. It’s daily, when you’re trying to excavate writing time. It’s monthly, when you realise you haven’t written what you promised yourself you’d write that month. And it’s yearly. 

Yet, when you look back, you very often realise that you’ve done so much more than you believed to have done. And I’m going to leave it at that. 

I’m so thirsty now I actually need to boil more water for tea… (Here, I am placing the kettle on the stove IRL.) 

Anyhow. I don’t think I need to mention academics, other than I’ve finally started university and am so happy for the Christmas break. There, done and taken care of. Plus, next year we’re probably back to online classes. *sighs*

All in all, this year has been a busy one after the leisurely one of 2020. I can’t explain all that’s happened this year; what I can do is to tell you that yes, there were a lot of adjustments, struggles, fangirling, &c. But at the end of it all, what matters is the heart of what I do. And even though I made a lot of mistakes, I can say with confidence, that I could focus on the why and how, more than the what

So thank you, dear SJ readers. I couldn’t have done it without you, and I’m looking forward to another year with you. ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ੈ♡‧₊˚

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to you all!

Thank you for reading! How was your year 2021? What are some of your highlights? Have you discovered anything noteworthy this year? Or accomplishments? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!