December Challenge 11 – Breakfast


Ok, let’s be honest. This is what I wish I were having for Breakfast today. A matcha (green tea powder) & adzuki (sweet red bean) pancake with soft-serve ice cream at St-Marc Cafe in Ikebukuro. What I’m really having is less glamorous, because it’s a weekday, and I have to go to work. So while I stuff my face with whatever I can find in my scramble to get out of the house, let’s just enjoy the beauty of this dessert-for breakfast.

Are you hungry yet? I am! I actually did eat this for breakfast in Japan, about 3 years ago when I was on a month-long trip visiting my then-fiance (now husband). Hopefully I will get to try it again on my next trip to Japan!

There really is just so much good food in Japan, and I want to try everything, that some dishes don’t make it into my regular rotation. I haven’t found a bakery or coffee shop that does quite this kind of pancake, but there are several good Chinese or Taiwanese bakeries that have similar creations.

What did you have for breakfast today? Was it closer to this gourmet creation of my fantasies, or a grab-n-go like my actual breakfast? Let me know in the comments!

December Challenge 10 – Bright


For today’s December Challenge theme of Bright, I return to my favorite – Christmas lights or illumination. When it gets dark early and stays dark late, what better way to brighten up the long night than with Christmas lights? Even if it’s cold outside, walking around with your friends or loved ones brings an excitement that makes it worth bundling up.


If you have been following my challenge so far, you’ll know that lights are one of my favorite parts of the season, although I haven’t been able to get out to see as many this year as I would have liked. But the month is still young! So don’t worry, there are most likely more holiday light photos on the way.

What do you think of when you think of Bright? Let me know what my one-track mind might have missed when coming up with a post for this theme!

December Challenge 09 – Snack


For the Snack theme for the December Challenge, I turn to a favorite of mine that isn’t necessarily suited to cold weather, but that I love to eat in the winter anyways. Anmitsu – a Japanese dessert that includes cubes of clear agar jelly, sweet adzuki bean paste, mochi bits, and fruits (like mikan or peach), which is topped by black syrup and sometimes soft-serve ice cream.

AnmitsuThis dessert can be eaten any time of the year, but since it is especially cold in the winter I enjoy ice cream more. However, if you accompany the anmitsu with a nice hot green tea, the slightly bitter green tea offsets the sweet and the cold quite nicely. So my choice for a winter snack is anmitsu!

What is your favorite winter snack? What is the most unusual winter snack you’ve tried? Let me know in the comments!

December Challenge 08 – Ornaments


What better way to show the theme of Ornaments for the December Challenge than with larger-than-life ornaments? These outdoor Christmas ornaments are about 1.5x as tall as me, and combined with the festive lights they definitely add to the Christmas spirit.

OrnamentsSince I have been moving a lot lately, I haven’t invested in a Christmas tree. But visiting various Christmas displays gives me the opportunity to see a lot of trees, lights, and ornaments in a variety of holiday displays. What kind of Christmas or other holiday displays does your city have? What kind of displays have you seen during your travels? Let me know in the comments!

December Challenge – 07 Best Part of the Season


In response to the theme of Best Part of the Day for the December Challenge, I chose my favorite part of the Season instead. I wanted to celebrate my favorite part of the holidays: illumination. Illumination is the Japanese word for holiday lights. All over Japan you can find special Christmas light displays, projection mapping, and elaborate crafts relating to the season.

In America you can find similar displays, including miles of road that are decorated with lights that you can drive along and view from your car or entire neighborhoods decked with lights. Even the zoos join in with light displays and extended hours.

In Japan, you can view illumination almost anywhere, but I think my favorite place to stroll and check out the Christmas and illumination displays are in Ginza. The first photo below is at Tokyo Station, but the rest are in the high-class shopping area of Ginza. Each store does its own illumination and window display. Many people are out on December nights to stroll down the streets with you.

What is your favorite place to view holiday lights? Tell me about your favorite part of the season in the comments!

Tokyo Station

Ginza - Louis Vuitton

Ginza - Mikimoto

Ginza - Bulgari

Ginza - 4 C Bridal

December Challenge – 06 Favorite Meal


For today’s December Challenge, the theme is Favorite Meal. While I have a lot of favorite foods during the holidays (turkey, ham, etc.), in recent years I have begun to enjoy a different kind of holiday food.

When I first visited my husband’s family in Japan (he was my fiance then), his parents treated us to yakiniku, or Japanese BBQ. The meat is cooked on a grill in the middle of a table, and you can order by the plate. There are also onions, parsley, and butter that come along with the meat to season the grill.

The photo I selected to represent my favorite meal shows beautifully marbled meat that was served at my in-laws’ favorite restaurant, Tokyo Hanten. It’s also now my favorite yakiniku restaurant, and every time we visit they take us to eat there because they know how much we love the food.

Favorite Meal

When I think of holiday food, after turkey and pie and Christmas cakes, I also think of yakinikuWhat kind of holiday foods do you eat during December? Let me know in the comments, so if I get a chance I can try it, too!

December Challenge – 05 Green


The December Challenge theme of Green made me think of course of evergreen trees, which are a major symbol of the holiday season. I selected a Christmas wreath to represent Green, with pine cones and Christmas lights to complete the evergreen image.


This wreath hangs at my parents’ house, and for me it represents spending time with family and good memories. Do you have any favorite Christmas or winter holiday symbols? Let me know in the comments!

December Challenge – 04 Winter Beauty


The theme for today’s 31-day December Challenge is Winter Beauty. The wilds of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming embody this theme exquisitely. In the summer, Yellowstone is teeming with vegetation and wildlife, and while much of the vegetation is absent in the winter, the charismatic megafauna still abound. The snows transform the peaks and valleys into a different scene entirely, and I find it beautiful in a barren way.

Winter Beauty

What is your idea of winter beauty? Is it a barren winter scene, or a warm sunny beach? Tell me about it!

December Challenge – 03 Morning


Today’s theme for the December 31-day challenge is Morning and so I am sharing my favorite winter morning view – Mt. Fuji! I lived at the base of Mt. Fuji during my study abroad in Japan, and went back again over Christmas three years ago. I woke up early to get some shots of the stratovolcano at sunrise, and I wasn’t disappointed. In the quiet morning hours at the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko, the photos of the peaceful (but really cold!) scene still bring back good memories.

MorningWhat is your winter morning like? Tell me about it in the comments! 

December Challenge – 02 Tradition


Today is the second day of the December 31-day challenge and the theme is Tradition – so I selected Christmas decorations! There is nothing like Christmas decorations to bring out your Christmas spirit. The photo below is from the Hotel Del Coronado annual Christmas tree decorations, taken in 2012. Lights, Santa Claus, and snowmen all get me in the mood for Christmas, even if the hotel is right next to the sunny beach!


Aside from decorating Christmas trees and looking at Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies and spending time with family are some of my favorite Christmas traditions.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments!