Small-town Alberta Girl Attempts Making Various Japanese Foods

As you will know if you get me talking on the subject (don’t do it, I’ll never stop talking), I am very much enamoured with Japanese food, fashion, and culture. I’ve visited Japan twice in the past, and am currently planning trip #3 once it’s safe to travel again. With the many different things to see and do and local cultures and food specialties in every prefecture, I will never get bored of visiting this lovely country.

In Japan, both my sweet tooth and my umami tongue (?) are satisfied. Yet, every time I fly back to Canada I find myself missing the delicious foods of Japan. Sure, there are a few wonderful Japanese restaurants where I live, but there are some things, like mochi and dorayaki, that I just can’t get in town. Some foods can be ordered online, but then they are heavily processed and super overpriced. Monthly Japanese snack boxes are fun, but you don’t get to choose what’s in your box, and after a while you get a lot of repeats and stuff that you don’t want. I also live in a small town in northern Alberta where the nearest big city with an Asian supermarket is at least 5 hours away.

So what’s a small-town Alberta girl to do? Well, I’ve started to stock up on Japanese ingredients. Some things I can find easily in town, like udon noodles or panko breadcrumbs. Other things, like mirin and rice wine, are more hit or miss. Then, some things, like kombu seaweed, sweet rice flour, furikake rice topping, are impossible to find anywhere in my area.

With no other options, I’ve had to bulk up my pantry. Between ordering things online, stocking up whenever I go to Edmonton or Calgary, and even bringing home a few things from Japan, I’ve begun to gather my own stocks of ingredients. I’m the flustered girl you see at the T&T market during my biannual trip to Edmonton rushing around and buying implausible amounts of dashi soup stock because I simply cant buy it at my home grocery stores.

Where to start!?

A good place to start might be the konbini egg sandwich. These humble and unassuming morsels are known to travellers as a quick and cheap option available in convenience stores (“konbini”) across Japan. You might be thinking “who the hell wants to eat a stinky convenience store egg sandwich when they are travelling?!” and in any other country you’re totally right. However, Japanese convenience store offerings are on a whole other level, to the point that one of the things I regularly miss about Japanese cities is stopping into a friendly neighborhood konbini and loading up on affordable snacks and meals. A lot of things are new and exciting in Tokyo, and it’s great fun to explore restaurants and try out new cuisines, but there’s also something so comforting about knowing that the bright lights of konbini are waiting for you nearby (always nearby) any time that you just want something that you don’t have to think about or navigate. A simple, quick sandwich.

RECIPE USED: A pretty simple mix of a couple mashed up boiled eggs, couple tablespoons or so of mayo, salt and pepper to taste. Throw it between a couple slices of bread and voila. Should give you enough to make 2 sandwiches.

I was pretty happy with how my egg mix turned out, but my whole grain braid couldn’t compare with the soft, thin, chewy, cakey white bread used on my favorite konbini egg sandwiches.

Next up, another konbini staple: onigiri.

RECIPE USED: it popped up on the MyFitnessPal app one day and I’ve since lost the recipe, but rest assured these are easy to make and if you google “onigiri recipe” you will get tons of hits.

I guess I never took a picture of an onigiri in Japan aside from this one of them still in the wrapper. My own onigiri look like sad little rectangular lumps because they took on the shape of the little bowl I used to form them, but I assure you they were tasty. I used tuna (with mayo, basil, salt, and pepper) for the filling.

Coming up: shabu shabu!

RECIPE USED: https://www.justonecookbook.com/shabu-shabu/ (with some substitutions)

Shabu Shabu is a type of hot pot and a really great meal for sharing in the winter when it sometimes gets to be -38°C where I live. I bought a double-chambered electric hot pot that we can keep on the kitchen table while we eat. The name Shabu Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) refers to the swishing (shabu) noise that the thin slices of meat make as you twirl them through the hot broth. The broth gets tastier and tastier as you eat, because the juices and flavorings of more and more ingredients get deposited to the pot as the meal goes on. I took this a little too much to heart when I was in Gunma and one of the ryokan staff noticed me putting pickled vegetables in my hotpot… they got a good laugh out of that (apparently the pickles do not go in the hotpot. To be fair I didn’t even know they were pickles).

I’m still experimenting with my Shabu Shabu, as some ingredients are hard to find. Enoki mushrooms are hit or miss in my town, and so far I’ve only found one grocery store that offers the thinly sliced hotpot meat.

Next, it’s bento time:

RECIPE USED: White sushi rice topped with furikake and mini hamburger bites with carrot shapes from The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go by Makiko Itoh, Mini-hamburger bento, p. 27

Bento are awesome kuz you can throw together whatever you want into a cute little portable bento box. Bento picks and other little accessories can add to the creativity, but bento don’t have to be Pinterest-worthy; leftovers make great bento fare and you can use whatever tupperware you have on hand. I also love making tamagoyaki, which is like a rolled omelette.

Speaking of omelettes…

RECIPE USED: not applicable ^-^’

Ok, to be fair I didn’t actually make omurice here, sorry… this is just a badly flipped omelette on top of some hastily placed lettuce and grape tomatoes. It was basically an excuse for me to try some ketchup art. Someday I will master the omurice in all of its smooth, saucey glory. Someday.

On to dorayaki…

RECIPE USED: Get Started Making Japanese Snacks: Step By Step Recipes for Delectable Bites by Yamishita Masataka, p. 14 Tsubu-an & p. 22: Dorayaki

I have something to admit…The first time I had dorayaki (well, actually it was taiyaki, those fish shaped cakes which are sorta similar) I was put off by the red bean paste that is a common filling in Japan. I am someone who has a huge sweet tooth and is used to overly sugary western snacks, so the first time I tried azuki bean paste I thought something like “this is weird…I’d rather have custard or icing inside”.

HOWEVER! I can honestly say that anko has since grown on me. Very much so, in fact. I’ve developed a taste for it, and I’ve bought my own azuki beans and started making Japanese snacks with anko filling at home. The first one I tried was dorayaki.

Dorayaki is like two sweet pancakes wrapped lovingly around a filling of anko paste. These pictures are from my second attempt. The first time I tried making dorayaki, I used custard powder (the recipe calls for custard sugar) and ended up with globby, chewy pancakes that were less than delightful. Pro-tip: regular sugar works just fine! Then for the anko paste filling, two common kinds of anko paste are tsubuan (chunky consistency) and koshian (fine consistency). I made tsubuan for my dorayaki, and I also used it in my next sweet:…

mochi!

RECIPE USED: https://www.justonecookbook.com/daifuku/

The mochi I made in Japan with friends is probably about as authentic as you can get. We made it as part of a New Year tradition, and took turns pounding hot rice in a giant usu mortar.

Take that, mochi! And that! And that!

The one I made at home, on the other hand, involved using sweet rice flour to quickly make the mochi dough. I put a bit of anko paste inside, and voila: daifuku mochi. Make sure to have some potato starch or cornstarch on hand to keep the mochi from sticking to every single surface imaginable.

It’s even got the Butters’ seal of approval!

Next: kakigori

RECIPE USED: No recipe… just shave some ice and pour a bit of syrup on top. I ordered grape kakigori syrup online, but you can also use sno-cone syrup or whatever.

I had to buy an ice shaver to make homemade kakigori, but I’m so glad I did. It’s such a nice summer treat, light and cold and sweet. The closest thing I can compare this to is a sno-cone, but in Japan shaved ice, as with so many other things, is taken to higher levels of sophistication (levels which I clearly did not successfully replicate at home).

Finally, a soothing beverage:

RECIPE USED: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uavCHN_k0Lk&t=9s

Latte art is beyond my talents currently, but nonetheless I was super surprised at how tasty my matcha latte turned out. It’s so easy to make, too! This is a recipe I will whip out again and again. Heating the milk also gives me an excuse to use the cute spouted Animal Crossing pot that I bought at the Nintendo store in Parco Shibuya last year! I think it makes the latte taste better…

Bonus time: pudding!

RECIPE USED: Dr. Oetker Crème Caramel boxed pudding

I’m calling this a “bonus” because I only have a picture of a pudding label that I stuck in my travel journal (can’t believe I never took a picture of an actual konbini pudding! I guess I was too busy eating them), and the pudding I made at home was from a box…

The custard puddings from Japanese konbini are… TOO good. I ate way too many of them. Breakfast with a side of pudding? Pudding with lunch? After dinner pudding? Dangerously delicious.

You don’t see these puddings out and about in Canada. The closest I could find for a quick pudding was this Dr. Oetker box mix. It was tasty! Still, not quite as tasty as the plentiful puddings of Japan.


Well, that’s about it for my forays into Japanese cooking for now, but I have more ideas for the future that I want to try, such as matcha mochi, kushiage skewers, and maybe even a fluffy Japanese style strawberry shortcake!

Anti-Black Racism Is Alive In Canada: Resources To Learn From

With the protests happening in America right now, us friendly Canadians may like to think that we are a more welcoming country unburdened by the problems of our neighbor. In school they taught us that we are the mosaic to the US’s melting pot— aren’t we setting a good example of inclusion and diversity? Don’t we have welcoming immigration policies? Aren’t we above what is happening in the United States? It’s a sentiment that I’ve seen being bandied about in recent days. The trending hashtag #meanwhileincanada popped up and at first was being used to contrast us to our neighbors south of the border with viral images and videos like that of a moose taking a dip in somebody’s swimming pool⁠— hah, good ol’ Canada eh?!

Fellow Canadians, talk to your Black neighbors and you may learn that this “friendly Canadian” label is nothing but a dangerously convenient facade. We cannot grow complacent because we think we’re “not racist in Canada”. There are many things I love about our country, but we have a long way to go and it is always our responsibility to educate ourselves the best we can about the realities in Canada so that we can actively work toward a better tomorrow.

Below I have collected some information on articles, books, and videos with anti-Black racism in Canada in mind. However, there is a further wealth of information available on how individual and systemic racism is very much alive in Canada in many forms. Such racism is rooted in our colonial past and impacts many people every day, including people of colour, immigrants, and our Indigenous peoples.

Note to reader: I am a white Canadian woman and I am not in any way an authority on racism in Canada. I hope that these resources may serve as a jumping-off point for personal learning and an introduction to some Black Canadian voices. These resources are not exhaustive; please feel free to share any resources that you feel should be added.


Articles

Jen Katshunga; Notisha Massaquoi; Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Justine Wallace for Behind the Numbers: Black Women in Canada

Today, more than ever, urgent and sustained action is needed to tackle persistent and profound barriers to change and to challenge entrenched norms and stereotypes. Success will only be achieved if Black women are equal partners and leaders in this work.


Claire Loewen for CBC, 2020: As Premier Denies Systemic Racism, Black Quebecers Point to their Lived Experience

They put their knee on my neck, like they did to George Floyd.

Alexandre Lamontagne

Benjamin Shingler & Simon Nakonechny for CBC, 2020: Montreal Protestors Aim to Drive Home Message Racism is a Problem Here Too

For years we said there’s racial profiling in Montreal, and now it’s a message that everybody has to hear us.

Will Prosper

Eternity Martis for Chatelaine, 2020: 5 Black Women Talk About Their Lives In Canada– Past, Present and Future

In Canada, Black women are still discriminated against in the healthcare system, where we face alarmingly high rates of maternal death. We continue to be victims of police and state violence, and in the workplace, continue to be paid less than both white men and white women.  

Eternity Martis

Annette Henry for The Conversation, 2017: Dear White People, Wake Up: Canada is Racist

Those who do not experience racism may be unaware of how it functions in Canada — perniciously and insidiously.

Annette Henry

Carl James for The Conversation, 2019: The Crisis of Anti-Black Racism in Schools Persists Across Generations

Black students say they are “being treated differently than their non-Black peers in the classrooms and hallways of their schools.” They say there is still a lack of Black presence in schools. There are few Black teachers, the curriculum does not adequately address Black history and schools lack an equitable process to help students deal with anti-Black racism.

Carl James

Janaya Khan for Flare, 2017: Don’t Kid Yourself, White Nationalism is on the Rise in Canada Too

Canadians have a deep investment in seeing themselves as more enlightened than their counterparts to the south, as if racism and bigotry suddenly stop at the U.S./Canada border. 

Janaya Khan

Stacy Lee Kong for Flare, 2018: If It Feels Like Racism In Canada Is Getting Worse, That’s Because It Is”

Every time we hear about another example of blatant racism, we tend to be shocked, as if we’ve collectively agreed that sure, things happen here—but it’s nowhere near as bad as it is there. That’s B.S., obviously.

Stacy Lee Kong

Tayo Bero for The Guardian, 2019: Canada is Overdue For a Reckoning With Its Anti-Black Racism

Young black men across the country have spoken for years about being surveilled and criminalized simply for existing.

Tayo Bero

Andray Domise for Hazlitt, 2015: White Supremacy is Not a Black Problem

The message now is that white comfort is worth more than black lives. This has to change.

Andray Domise

Maija Kappler for Huffington Post, 2020: Racism in Canada is Ever Present, But We Have a Long History of Denial

It’s tempting for Canadians to fall back on the idea that we’re not as racist as Americans…

Maija Kappler

Byron Armstrong for Now Toronto, 2018: Dining While Black

Sometimes, I just want to order an artisanal handcrafted lobster roll without getting the feeling that it’s somehow unusual for me to do so. Or be able to sit in a dimly lit speakeasy while a gentleman in a bow tie and handlebar moustache concocts a $16 cocktail for me, without becoming more of the show than the actual show.

Now the controversy over Hong Shing restaurant comes along to remind us that it’s not just white-owned establishments practicing discrimination against us, but also other people of colour.

Byron Armstrong

Neil Price, Radheyan Simonpillai, and Chaka V. Grier for NowToronto, 2019: Black Futures Month: Five Torontonians want to make 2019 the year for change

I want Black children and youth to no longer feel ashamed of crumbling school buildings, or be afraid to drink the water, or experience unbearable physical and distractive cognitive challenges due to sweltering heat in their classrooms. The nearly $4 billion backlog in school repairs must be fixed. Schools must become fully accessible, infused with colour, arts and green space.

In my dream, roaming the mall for a new pair of jeans or for a knapsack is no longer hazardous for our kids’ health. Shopping while Black is a carefree experience. So is interviewing for a job while Black.

Jill Andrew

Robyn Maynard for The Star, 2020: It’s Long-Past Time to Talk About Policing of Black Women in Canada

It is clear that combating the violent policing of Black women remains an urgent necessity for all of us.

Robyn Maynard

Various Authors for The Star, 2020: Racism Exists in Canada: These are the Stories From People Who Have Lived It As Eyes Turn On The U.S. After George Floyd Death in Minneapolis

(Monday) morning, the day before I earn my Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Toronto, I awoke to an online comment which stated “I would never let her treat me.”

Dr. Chika Oriuwa, MD

Vicky Mochama for The Star, 2018: Systemic Racism in Canada is Real, Folks

Questions about systemic racism are less about our personal interactions but rather about how the institutions that govern our lives have internalized and implemented racism. 

Vicky Mochama

Desmond Cole for Toronto Life, 2015: The Skin I’m In: I’ve Been Interrogated By Police More Than 50 Times– All Because I’m Black

There’s this idea that Toronto is becoming a post-racial city, a multicultural utopia where the colour of your skin has no bearing on your prospects. That kind of thinking is ridiculously naïve in a city and country where racism contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle of criminalization and imprisonment.

Desmond Cole

Books

The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power

Desmond Cole, 2020


Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter In Canada

Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson & Syrus Marcus Ware (Editors), 2020


Talking About Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity, and Language

Carl James & Adrienne Shadd (Editors), 2001


In The Black: My Life

B. Denham Jolly, 2017


Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada From Slavery to the Present

Robyn Maynard, 2017


Blank: Essays and Interviews

M. NourbeSe Philip, 2017


Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies

Rinaldo Walcott, 2016


Videos

Desmond Cole for CBC, 2017: Firsthand Episode 2: The Skin We’re In

Acclaimed journalist Desmond Cole explores what it is to be Black in 21st century Canada. Do Black Lives Matter here?


Roaring River Films, 2019: Our Dance of Revolution: The History of Toronto’s Black Queer Community

Our Dance of Revolution tells the story of how Black queer folks in Toronto faced every adversity, from invisibility to police brutality, and rose up to become a vibrant, triple-snap-fierce community. 


Yamikani Msosa for VAW Learning Network, 2018: Roots and Resistance: Sexual Violence and Anti-Black Racism

Roots and Resistance is a webinar that explores in depth conversations about the connections between sexual violence, state violence, and healing from collective and individual sexual abuse and trauma for Black survivors.

SuperM in Vancouver

A couple of days ago I had a whirlwind trip to Vancouver to see SuperM- as a Shawol I wanted to support Taemin on his return to Canada while Key, Minho, and Onew are doing their mandatory military duty.

I was (and still am) fighting off a nasty cold, and my voice was completely gone the whole time I was in Vancouver, but the trip was still worth it!

I also got to debut my WIP jean jacket with SHINee Married To The Music on the back:

Originally I had booked my 2-night stay at the Cambie hostel in Gastown, thinking that an historic hostel might be a fun new experience, but I cancelled that booking the day before leaving when I realized that my cold would make communal living much less fun for everyone involved… so, I booked a hotel room instead. I was so glad to have a quiet sanctuary at the Ramada in which to rest, watch HGTV, and blow my nose with reckless abandon.

Soon after checking in I took a photo out the window of my room, and minutes later Taemin posted a photo where he is standing with the same landmark in the background, so I definitely fangirled.

The morning of the concert, Feb 6, I did a little bit of exploring in downtown Vancouver, stopping at the Paper Hound bookshop as well as a couple of fabric stores.

Finally I headed out toward the venue, Rogers Arena, and met up with some lovely new Shawol friends! A couple of them were women I had been talking to online for a while (Yo, Court and Gabby!), and several more were people that joined up just because they saw we were Shawol- I love our big Shawol family! I met so many lovely, friendly people.

One of the Shawol I hung out with was Kiki from YoursTrulyDance- check out this talented group on YouTube! Here is their Jopping cover:

Yassss that’s Kiki in the plaid pants, doing Taemin’s part OF COURSE! ❤

It was especially special connecting with Shawol at this concert, because SuperM is made of members from several groups, so when I saw another SHINee World fan it was like ONE OF US! ONE OF US! ONE OF USSSS!!!

We chilled for a few hours before the show started, getting cheap eats at Costco and geeking out. When we made our way into the arena we had to separate into our different seats, but I was so happy to find that I was sitting next to another Shawol named Katie! Her ult is Key, too! After a couple of minutes someone approached Katie and said “Wow are you Katie!?” and I was like, Katie are you a YouTuber? Yup, she is! She does lots of cool unboxing videos, kpop hauls, and stuff like that. Glad to meet you Katie!

We sat in anticipation as the arena filled up around us. Our seats were directly in front of one of the catwalks.

And then, it started!

The concert was really awesome, with solo and group performances, lazers, streamers, and cannons. Surprisingly, we were allowed to film with our phones, and I got some great videos of Taemin!

Sadly, I thought I got all of Jopping on camera but in the last 15 seconds of the song I realized that I hadn’t hit the record button T-T .

***EDIT*** NO ACTUALLY I DID GET MOST OF IT, YAY!

There was also a very tense moment when Kai tossed his frisbee directly toward me and it landed on my feet, but I had been looking in Taemin’s direction so I didn’t notice at first and two girls in front of me whirled upon me and began scrabbling at my feet for the frisbee! Katie and I exchanged glances like “holy crap” and the frisbee was snatched from where I’d clamped it between my two shoes. Oh well…

And so quickly, it was over (2 fast, you might say) and some of us met up again in front of the Costco to freak out together and get some food down the street.

Just like when I saw SHINee in Toronto in 2017, the concert was amazing but the experience was especially wonderful because of all of the new friends I met. Thank you for making me feel welcomed in Vancouver!

I hope SuperM enjoyed their time in Canada. Mark is from Vancouver, so it was heartwarming to see how genuinely happy he was to return to Vancouver for a concert.

Thanks Taemin and SuperM for coming to Canada!

Freaky Tales from Wood Buffalo

Happy Halloween, boils and ghouls!

My library has just started a blog, and I wrote up our first post, all about strange tales and occurrences in Wood Buffalo (in and around Fort McMurray).

If you enjoy local ghost stories, please check it out here!

Happy haunting!

Smuggling Rats Across Canada: A Charming Family Memory

Did you know that rats, particularly domesticated “fancy rats” are available in many parts of Canada as pets? Much like a hamster, these little guys are cute and charming companions. My family has a history of having pet rats, starting with my Father.

Before I was born, my Dad had a rat named Studley. He would tell me about how Studly would accompany him on walks, and even swims, and that he was just The Best Rat Ever. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, rats are cute. Look at this ‘lil guy!

rattie1

So, one Easter morning in the mid to late 90’s, when we were living in New Brunswick, my little sister and I awoke and ran into the den, where we found the usual candy, chocolate, and little toys awaiting us. After surveying our treasures, our parents peeked into the room and asked if we’d observed the cage yet. We had a large cage on one side of the room which, until recently, had been home to our rather grumpy rabbit, Peter. While Peter was quite old and sadly didn’t make it till Easter, I gazed inside and saw that two new friends were quietly exploring the cage.

My sister and I were delighted and each named one of the rats- we decided to name them after the Rugrats, Tommy and Chuckie. Tommy was my rat, and he was white with grayish markings on his back. Chuckie, my sister’s rat, had a more reddish tinge to his spots (like Chuckie’s hair!)

The rats were so adorable- while many of our family and friends who visited were squeamish of them (particularly of their tails), others would remark at how cutely they munched on their food, how diligently they cleaned themselves, and how curious and smart they were. We would let them crawl over and around us, and they loved perching on our shoulders as we watched TV or did our homework. The two were brothers, and would sleep nestled up curled around each other.

ratties2

We loved our rats very much. Domesticated rats live longer than their wild counterparts- about 3 years. Tommy and Chuckie both passed away of “old age” within short time of each-other, and it was one of my first real-life experiences with the end of the natural cycle of life and death.

A short while after Tommy and Chuckie died, my parents got us two new companions to fill the rat-shaped holes in our hearts. I asserted my tween power and declared their names would forever be known as Frodo and Sam, as I was in the middle of reading The Lord of the Rings and enjoying it immensely.

Our new rats were again white with some grayish colorations. Frodo was my little guy, and he was very active, always climbing things and wanting to have a look around. Sam was a bit lazier, but again they were best buddies as well as brothers. Sometimes we would give them pieces of French Toast Crunch cereal, and laugh at how cute they looked crunching on their little rat-sized toasts.

After we’d had Frodo and Sam for a little while, our parents informed us that we were moving to Northern Alberta, to a province far away in the middle of the Boreal Forest. I pictured us living in a quaint little wooden cottage in the middle of nowhere. Great! Sounds fun! But, although my parents didn’t want to alarm us, they mentioned that rats are banned in Alberta. While this policy is meant to keep Alberta free of wild rats, it affects pet rats too.

Image result for rats in alberta

This poster is so dramatic. “White rats can only be kept by zoos, universities and colleges as well as recognized research institutions in Alberta. Private citizens may not keep white rats, hooded rats or any of the strains of domesticated Norway rats.” – Alberta.ca

My family is united and defined, perhaps more than anything else, by our love of animals. My Mom has worked at vet clinics and at the SPCA, and we’ve had all sorts of creatures in our home over the years. Our pets are our family, and it was inconceivable to us that we wouldn’t bring the rats to our new home in Alberta. So, we prepared ourselves for Frodo and Sam’s potentially perilous journey.

My Mom actually had both of the rats anesthetized and neutered at her vet clinic (I’m thinking this procedure, for pet rats, is a medical rarity?)- they were both boys, but now there was no possible way they could breed even if they somehow escaped into the wild. I suppose she did this partly so that if we DID get into any trouble at the airport, we’d have at least a chance of keeping them.

So, we finally set out to move, with a large number of critters. Each of us was responsible for at least one pet-carrier, and we took our babies to the airport- a cockatiel (Jerrie), 2 cats (Jill and Smudge), an aging Labrador Retriever (Stinker), and the two rats.

The rats’ carrier was made of thick plastic with thin slots on the sides. Panic gripped me as we approached the security gate to get cleared for our first flight. I watched in terror as the airport staff inspected the carrier, peering inside and craning his head.

“These are…?”

He looked at me quizzically. I steeled myself.

“My hamsters.” I squeaked.

ratties3

Whether it was an act of mercy on his part, ignorance of rodent species diversity (or the regulations of our destination province), apathy, or simply not wanting to initiate a dramatic scene, he let us through without any difficulties. I can only imagine the absolute chaos that would have ensued if they had tried to take away our Frodo and Sam. It would have been devastating and traumatic for our whole family, and probably the entire room…

And so, we made it to our new home, safe and sound with our entire family, including the rats. We settled into life in Alberta. You might think that Frodo and Sam, once they lived out their few years on this earth with us, were the last rats my family would know in our new home province. However, this was not the case…

My mom continued to work in SPCA and vet roles in our new town, and as had always happened before, we often ended up fostering or adopting animals that didn’t have homes. And wouldn’t you know it, it turned out that other people in Alberta had pet rats, and in some cases (such as moving into an apartment with an inquisitive landlord) they needed to re-home their rats.

In steps my Mom, of course- she can’t bear to see an animal in need- and so over the years we acquired three more rat companions. One was a lone rat who we named Sir William after the character in A Knight’s Tale. Bill, or Billiam, as I often called him, was white with black spots, and had the softest and sweetest temperament of any rat I’ve yet met. Later we also became the guardians of two sister rats named Sugar and Spice for their respective fur markings.

I’m still living in Alberta, but my family has since gotten a home back in New Brunswick- they’ve had more rats since moving back. I haven’t myself, but I’d be willing to bet that there are more pet rats in Alberta living out their quiet lives in secrecy today.

 

Canadian Library Month!

The month has flown by, but before it’s over I really want to acknowledge on my blog that October is library month in Canada! This month we celebrate our libraries and raise awareness of the vital roles they play in Canadian lives each day.

“More than just a place to find books, libraries promote cultural awareness, engage in the community, provide educational programs, support freedom of expression and so much more.”

CFLA

Libraries have been evolving and keeping pace with the changing needs of communities today- when oblivious people (usually non-library-users) try to claim that libraries are becoming obsolete, they are met with fierce library defenders who realize the true value libraries continue to provide to their communities (despite recently enduring closures and/or huge cuts to their budgets).

This library of nothing but books and silence is a lie. It’s a myth of a previous time, and that myth gets in the way of us realizing an important truth: that our world needs libraries more than ever… in an age of technology and information, in growing inequality and social isolation, our world needs libraries. They’re essential.

Laurinda Thomas

Libraries, both here in Canada and worldwide, are thriving and doing more with their communities than ever before. They are reinventing their collections, their strategies, their programs, their services, and their physical spaces. Check out this slideshow article from Matthew Hague of Chatelaine, “15 Of the Absolute Coolest Libraries in Canada” , and also Brian Bethune of Maclean’s: “How Public Libraries are Reinventing Themselves for the 21st Century“.

Libraries are not just places to consume- they are places to create, and places that engage with their communities.

“Librarians no longer have all of the answers. We no longer expect that we do the talking and you do the listening. We are building a world… where we share in these experiences, and we are co-creators in the experience that people are going to have in libraries.”

Ellen Humphrey

 

Here are some titles to check out for Library Month!:

These are just a few I’ve come across, and there are so many more awesome resources out there! Please let me know if you have any other favourite recommendations 🙂

 

This is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information for All by Kyle Cassidy

“In 2014, author and photographer Kyle Cassidy published a photo essay on Slate.com called “This is What A Librarian Looks Like,” a montage of portraits and a tribute to librarians. Since then, Cassidy has made it his mission to remind us of how essential librarians and libraries are to our communities. His subjects are men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and personal style-from pink hair and leather jackets to button-downs and blazers. In short, not necessarily what one thinks a librarian looks like.”

 

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady and Amiko Hirau

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“A touching story about Japanese American children who corresponded with their beloved librarian while they were imprisoned in World War II internment camps.”

 

Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

“Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activists are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth living.

This is a funny, gripping, and relatable tale of life and local politics in middle America”

 

BIBLIOCraft: The Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects by Jessica Pigza

“There is untold wealth in library collections, and, like every good librarian, Jessica Pigza loves to share. In BiblioCraft, Pigza hones her literary hunting-and-gathering skills to help creatives of all types, from DIY hobbyists to fine artists, develop projects based on library resources. ”

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

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“When twelve-year-old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.

But June can’t give up books . . .”

 

Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa

“In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves—the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she’s finally a recruit, she’s finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it out for her!”

Why We Don’t Need “Straight Pride” Flags

Chipman, a small village in my home province of New Brunswick, is in the headlines today because officials approved the raising of a “straight pride” flag next to a main road.

“Chipman resident Glenn Bishop and 11 others met over the past few months to find ways to show support for straight people.” –Global News

Interesting, I didn’t know that people in New Brunswick were in need of support for …being straight?

The flag was swiftly taken down amidst backlash, and although the town claims that the flag was intended to show support for “all groups in the community” I fail to understand how that is possible, unless it was a decision made from ignorance.

Pride for what?

“Straight pride” flags are at best completely unnecessary and at worst incredibly offensive symbols of hatred towards LGBTQ+ people.

LGBTQ+ communities have pride parades and raise pride flags because they are coming together, not only as a positive celebration of who they are, but also to take a stand against the discrimination, prejudice, unequal rights, and violence that they are subjected to just for being themselves.

If your response to seeing a pride flag is to feel excluded and think “where’s my straight pride flag?” you are totally missing the point of the pride flag. Pride flags are used worldwide as a bold visual symbol that says “we’re not ashamed of who we are” in a world that still positions straight, cisgender people as the apparent default way to exist.

If, like the man behind the aforementioned flag,  you don’t get why “straight pride” flags are unnecessary and offensive, here are some reasons:

Straight, cisgendered people are not shamed for being straight.

Neither their sexuality nor their gender are perceived by the public as remarkable traits of their identity.

They aren’t screamed at in the street for holding their girlfriend’s hand.

They aren’t denied the opportunity to take their boyfriend to prom.

They aren’t approached at the bar and told “you’re a waste of a perfectly fine girl”.

Nor are they targeted, profiled, denied rights and privileges, attacked or murdered because of their sexuality or gender.

When “straight pride” flags are flown, they carry a toxic message: “I don’t care/believe that these things happen to you, I’m important too, look at MY flag!”.

“Straight pride”  flags are arrogant, as they were created in direct response to pride flags as a way to claim “it’s just equality!” while simultaneously overlooking the reason why we need pride flags in the first place- people (not straight people!) are being attacked solely because of who they love and who they are.

While the mayor of Chipman recently said that no formal apology was forthcoming,  I think that further shows that the people behind this flag, and those who claim not to understand why it is controversial, are in need of education on this matter.

Note: Making threats, hurling insults, and jumping on an internet hate train are NOT effective or ethical ways to educate people. Please don’t do that. Rather, consider sharing information and statistics about LGBTQ+ realities , contacting officials in Chipman, and showing support to your local LGBTQ+ group(s).

I hope that the village of Chipman will learn from this experience and grow together as a community. I agree with recommendations that were shared by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP), a sibling to Moncton’s River of Pride:

“NSRAP strongly encourages the town council and mayor of Chipman to seek training on diversity and inclusion and sensitivity training to attempt to understand the lives of their marginalized constituents. Additionally, a formal apology, beyond the previously released statement, should be made.”

 

 

 

 

 

Challenged in Canada: Tracking Attempts at Censorship

Banned Books week is next month, and right now I am working with my department on a presentation about censorship in Canada to share with our coworkers.

I made a collage of some of the titles that we currently have in our library which have been challenged in Canada in the past:

challengedbooksatwbrl

The diversity in even this small representation shows that challenges are submitted on titles from a wide range of subjects, authors, formats, and intended age ranges. Maybe you see some of your favorites up there? These are only a small portion of books that have been challenged in Canada in recent years.

I’m sure there are tons more challenges that aren’t ever submitted for record-keeping. It’s important that we keep records like this of materials that are challenged, because it serves as a real-life reminder and example of how everyone’s standards are different. If we start censoring information, each act of censorship may be perceived as a precedent, and since one person’s treasure is another person’s trash… I know it’s overused, but the term “slippery slope” definitely comes to mind.

Access is vital. Even titles that contain extremely problematic information and views can serve as reminders of past atrocities, case studies for learning, and material for developing informed criticism. How can you knowledgeably criticize or condemn something if you don’t have access to the source material?

Freedomtoread.ca offers a book list keeping track of Canadian challenges, each of which “sought to limit public access to the works in schools, libraries, or bookstores.”

Freedom to Read week is organized by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council, and is celebrated annually in February.

Freedom to Read

Here are the details of some recent challenges as recorded by the Freedom to Read website.

 

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

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2016-In January, a patron of a public library in Ontario challenged this novel for young adults.

Objections: “The book is age inappropriate… because it contains a bi-sexual sex scene not alluded to on the cover.” The complainant requested that all books with homosexual content be located “in a special area reserved for adults 18+” and put on a shelf marked with a rainbow. The complainant wanted the books labelled “so that children, as well as adults, do not happen upon [them] unwillingly.”

Result: The library decided that labeling LGBTQ content would be an example of expurging library resources and, therefore, would violate the Library Bill of Rights… The Scorpion Rules remained unlabelled in its usual location.

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

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2016- In May, a parent in a public library in Ontario challenged this graphic novel for children.

Objection: The parent disliked depictions of violence and the book’s “poor attitude toward women’.

Result: In June, the library resolved the challenge. The library moved this book from the children’s section to the teens’ graphic-novel section.

The Graveyard Book (Graphic Novel, Volumes 1 & 2) by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

Related image

2015/16- In December 2015, a parent challenged this children’s picture book in a public library in Ontario.

Objection: the mother didn’t specify what action she wanted, but she used the complaint form to complain about the book’s illustrations. her 10-year old son was crying because of the illustrations.

Result: After evaluating The Graveyard Book by checking other libraries’ collections and book reviews, the library retained the books in its collection.

 

Adult Magazines

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2015- A patron in a public library in British Columbia challenged the collection of electronic magazines (from the Zinio distribution service) and paper magazines. The challenge affected a minimum of 17 titles: Cosmopolitan, Details, Esquire, Glamour, GQ, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Redbook, Rolling Stone, SELF, Seventeen, Shape, Sports Illustrated, Teen Vogue, US Weekly, and Women’s Health.

Objections: Sexism, insensitivity, inaccuracy, depiction of bodies that are “negatively objectified”. The patron demanded that all subscriptions be cancelled.

Result: The library kept the magazines and the subscriptions. They were popular with other readers.

 

Young Adult LGBTQ Publications

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2016- In July, a female parent in the St. Albert Library in Alberta challenged all young-adult LGBTQ publications in a teen summer reading program

The library displayed pamphlets that listed the young-adult LGBTQ book titles in the summer reading program.

Objection: The parent was offended by the inclusion of queer lit as one of the book category choices in a turn of the library’s Teen Summer Reading Game.

“There is a difference between showing respect for all peoples and using the summer reading program as a place to further LGBTQ propaganda,” the woman wrote. “My son recognizes that there are people who choose to live this lifestyle; however, it is not a healthy lifestyle to promote to our youth, and it is contrary to God’s plan for human sexuality, love and marriage.”

Result: The Teen Librarian inferred that the patron wanted the queer lit category removed from the Teen Summer Reading Game book category choices and that she may have wanted the queer lit booklist removed from the brochure display in the teen area of the library.

After reading the parent’s comments, the Teen Librarian wrote a letter which was given directly to the patron when she brought her child back to play the reading game. The Teen Librarian informed her supervisors of the challenge and consulted with them on the content of the letter before it was delivered. The queer lit category remained a choice for one turn of the 2016 Teen Summer Reading Game, and the queer lit booklist remained on display with the other booklists in the teen area of the library.

*Note from Shauna: How awesome, informative, and professional is this letter!? Amazing.

Here is the body of the letter:

“Thank you for expressing your concerns about the inclusion of the Queer Lit category in the St. Albert Public Library’s Teen Summer Reading Game. As stated in the Guidelines for the 2016 Teen Summer Reading Game on the player dossier:

‘There are multiple categories listed for each turn of the game. Choose just one of those categories to select your reading material from.’In other words, players are not required to read from any one book category to advance to the next turn of the game.
“For the Mission Nighthawk turn of the game, three categories are provided for
players to choose a book from: In Real Life (realistic fiction), Romance, or Queer Lit. Players can select a book that fits into any of these three categories. Librarians
recognize that not all books are suited to all readers. Library patrons have a choice in what they read.
“As the Teen Librarian, I am responsible for creating a reading program for teen
participants that encourages them to read over the summer, for selecting books for the Young Adult collections, and for making booklists to help teen patrons discover books of interest to them. The St. Albert Public Library serves all members of the community, regardless of age, race, faith, education level, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic background, or language spoken. We serve LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) youth, and the Library is a safe public space for them to visit.
“Many of these young people, as part of an invisible minority, have learned to be
secretive about their sexual identity or gender identity for fear of rejection from their peers or their own families. They experience isolation and are often victims of bullying. For these youth, a realization that there are library materials available to them which address LGBTQ identities and issues can help them to become more resilient and to feel that they have a place in society.
“Including the Queer Lit category in the Teen Summer Reading Game is a way to
raise awareness of the existence of LGBTQ materials in the Young Adult Collection, and it communicates to our patrons that the library is a welcoming place for all people. Having LGBTQ material available in the Young Adult collections and on book displays alongside other materials, not hidden away, helps to create an atmosphere of acceptance.
“If you would like further information on the importance of LGBTQ Collections
in public libraries, I can direct you to some journal articles on the topic. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.”
After receiving the letter, the mother did not contact the Teen Librarian or take
any further action regarding her challenge. Her son did complete the Teen Summer Reading Game and received a book prize. The family continues to regularly participate in programs at the St. Albert Library.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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2014- In Camloops, B.C., Dean Audet demanded the removal of this coming-of-age novel from his son’s high school and other schools in the Kamloops/Thompson school district.

Objection: Audet described the novel as “pornographic, offensive and vulgar”.

Result: Audet’s son was given a different book to study. A committee of teachers, a parent and librarians reviewed the novel and approved it for continued use. Audet considered taking legal action to remove the novel from schools.

 

Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman

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2014- In August, a patron of a public library in Alberta objected to this children’s picture book.

Objection: The patron disliked the theme of same-sex marriage.

Result: On the same day, the library resolved the dispute and kept the book in the collection.

 

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett

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2014- in May a parent complained about this children’s picture book in a library in Quebec.

Objections: The parent disliked the depictions of violence and didn’t think the book was funny. Her 10-year-old child was “traumatised” by the bunny’s “exceedingly violent” actions, she said. Many parents would share her opinion, she added, and she asked the library to remove the book from its collection.

Result: Librarians evaluated the book. They agreed that it was a work of humour and satire. They thought Battle Bunny could appeal to reluctant readers. The librarians also noted that professional book reviews were positive and that four previous borrowers of the book had made no complaints. Battle Bunny remained in the library’s collection.

 

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith

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2014- In November, a patron of a public library in Alberta said this audiobook needed a warning label on the cover.

Objection: This book has dark, adult content.

Result: The library kept the book in the collection.

 

Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss

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Toronto

Objection: Violence. In this children’s book, children hop on their father. The complainant argued that children are being “encouraged to use wanton violence against their fathers.”

Result: The library kept the book in its collection. In an e-mailed message to the complaining parent, the library explained that its collection aims to reflect the reading needs of diverse individuals and communities (cultural, ethnic, or religious). The library relied on parents to involve themselves in their children’s use of the library and their children’s reading choices.

 

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

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2013- In Strathmore, Alta, a parent complained about the inclusion of this graphic novel in the library at Crowther Memorial Junior High School.

Objection: The parent objected to “extreme violence and swearing” in the text.

Result: A committee reviewed The Walking Dead and deemed it inappropriate for use in a junior high school. The book was withdrawn from the collection.

Animethon- My First Time :o

We just got back from Animethon, a 3 day anime convention in Edmonton. This is Animethon’s 25th anniversary, and it’s expanded so much over time that they had to move it to a new location this year: the Shaw Convention Centre.

I left work early on Friday afternoon (THANKS TO MY LOVELY MANAGER!!!) and hubby and I did the 5 hour drive to Edmonton. He was super tired when we checked into our hotel, so I did the 6 minute walk of awkward to the con solo in my InuYasha dress.

Why hello there, No Face.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into

When I arrived at the centre, I registered and immediately got in line for the Hatsune Miku vocaloid concert. I was an hour early and the lineup was already out the theater hall, into the hallway, and down the stairs. After about half an hour of standing alone on the stairs and sweating in my voluminous yukata-style Robe of Rat, I started feeling a little gross and tired. I was very happy when we started moving into the concert hall.

As soon as I entered the cavernous room I scurried up to the standing area (which wasn’t as full as I was expecting- most people chose seats) and I got out my light sticks. Seeing adorable Miku, whose rhythm games I adore, dancing, singing, and playing guitar in front of me accompanied by some really talented musicians was SUPER COOL. @metadatastudios put on a great show.

After the concert I chatted with a few cosplayers and attendees, and met up with a friend to attend the idolish7 panel where the presenters showed us some clips and shared some info about the characters – now I really want to get into idolish7, it looks hillarious and cute!

After the panel I headed back to the hotel because I was exhausted.

Disqualified from the Cosplay Contest ^-^’

On Saturday morning, Dustin and I headed out to the con together and explored the vendors and artists alley. I couldn’t stop squeeing at all of the adorable plushies everywhere, there are just so many ridiculously cute stuffies from Japan!

I fell in love with a character named @pugliepug and bought a bunch of Puglie merch. I also found a new designer that I really like, 1percenttalent and I got a super cool tank with eyes on it.

After spending All The Money, we checked out the gaming hall, and I tried out the visual novel Love Hues ( @love_hues_game )- the full version isn’t ready yet (I played the demo) but it has a very cute style, college setting, diverse characters, and is LGBTQIA+ friendly! On their twitter it says the full release is expected later this year. They gave me a free poster and pin just for playing and filling out a short survey about my game experience.

I spent more time exploring and chatting with people, getting my Tsukimi (Princess Jellyfish) cosplay ready for the cosplay contest which would start at 2, but in a very un-Shaunalike move, I missed the cosplay rehearsal! I can’t believe I didn’t check my emails more thoroughly, but I was disqualified T-T oh well, no biggie. I still had the Take The Stage prelims later that day to look forward to…

Tap Dancing On Carpet Sounds Like Nothing

Take the Stage is like a talent show, and I had hastily prepared a little tap dance to the opening song of Princess Jellyfish (Koko Dake no Hanashi by Chatmonchy). It included some really basic tap techniques and of course my giant Clara plushie was part of it- I planned to lift her gracefully into the air and twirl her around. It all sounded really lovely in my head.

Anyway, even though the finals were to take place on the main stage, the prelims ended up taking place in a teeny panel room with a carpeted floor. The old thought experiment came to mind: If a Shauna tapdances on the carpet and no-one hears it, does it make a sound? After watching some of the others perform (singing mainly) it was my turn.

I’m not the most impressive tap dancer in the best of circumstances (I’ve only been dancing for 2 years), and Dustin came and took a video of my performance but I haven’t seen it yet… not sure if I want to to be honest! XD

The carpet threw me off a bit, as well as nerves, and I ended up forgetting my choreography halfway through, improvising some random moves. Heck, I had fun though, and I don’t regret it. If I go next year I think I’d like to try singing!

I was kind of low-key hoping I wouldn’t make it to the finals (which take place on Sunday) because we wanted to head out early and do some shopping and eating before driving back home, and I was in luck(?) because I didn’t manage to make it to the finals, haha.

Honey, Do You Love Me? WHAT HAPPENS AT ANIMETHON STAYS AT ANIMETHON (Except for blog posts, apparently)

Dustin peaced out to the hotel and I headed to my next attraction- I had bought a ticket to the Butler Cafe. I joined a lineup of people waiting and was soon ushered into the Riverview Cafe room. I was alone- my friend wanted to come but the tickets were sold out unfortunately- and I was escorted to a table of strangers. Once everyone was seated it was apparent that we had one extra seat beside me left, so I gave Clara her own seat!

Each table had their own butler assigned with a bell to ring for service. Our butler had a fancy name I can’t remember and horns on his(?) head. He served us tea and choice of dessert (tiramisu or vanilla creme brulee). I opted for the creme brulee, which was very tasty but didn’t have a seared top to crack T-T it was more like a delicious sugary pudding or custard.

For a moment I was wondering if I had spent $16 for a scalding cup of tea and a dollop of pudding, but then the head butler went up onto a stage to introduce himself and the other butlers, and I realized that there was going to be some theatrics involved. Everyone at each table was given a slip of paper with a dare on it. They could issue these dares to the butlers as they pleased.

A wild hour ensued with butlers embarassing eachother, professing their love to eachother, performing kabe-don, singing on the stage, and other shenanigans.

While my butler was at our table fulfilling someone’s dare to draw her a picture, I asked if I could use my dare ticket: Your Butler must play “Honey, If You Love Me” with another Butler of your choosing.

“Honey, If You Love Me” is a game where one person gets in the face of the other and tries any trick they can to get them to smile while saying “Honey, if you love me, won’t you please, please smile?”. In my drama classes in high school, this usually involved silly voices and flirtatious gestures.

I chose Haru (the only name I remembered from the introductions). Our butler called him over and showed him my ticket, saying “She chose you”. Haru either misunderstood or chose to ignore the part where he was supposed to play the game with my table’s butler, and instead he came to face me.

“Oh, so you want to play with me?”

I stammered “wha- um, with me? Isn’t it- with the But- My Butler- I was not prepared for this…” I could hear the members of my table giggling behind me.

My butler decided it was more fun to watch Haru play with me instead, and allowed him to proceed. He got down on one knee in front of me where I was sitting in my chair, took my hand, and said “Honey, if you love me, won’t you please smile?” I summoned up the skills I had practiced in drama class more than 10 years ago and maintained a flat, resting bitch face, but then he leaned in and pressed his cheek against mine for just a second, and I looked away, blushing and smiling.

Yeah, he won. I was never good at that game…

When I went back to the hotel later that night I told my husband what happened and he teased me for “cheating on him with a butler” 😉

I Didn’t Make it To The Finals So I Guess I’ll Go To The Concerts

I got the email saying who got into the Take The Stage Finals, and I didn’t make it, which meant we’d be able to sleep in a bit and wouldn’t have to rush around the next day. As such, I decided to make the most of it and check out the concerts of the night. I headed once more to the concert hall still in full cosplay with my giant Clara plushie clutched in front of me.

Kanako Ito was first- she is a singer known for her work on visual novels, including Steins Gate, which I am a fan of! She was so cool on stage with her flowing dress, sunhat, and powerful voice.

Soon after, ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D came out and performed a full concert for us. They are so cool! I was especially taken with the bassist Ryota who was closest to where I was standing- headbanging and swinging his hair around wildly, aiming his bass at us like it was a machinegun. They really got the audience going, clapping, jumping- I got a good workout, and since I had Clara waved her tentacles in time with the music and raised her into the air while cheering after each song.

When the concerts were over I rushed back into the hall to get autographs. I bought a ROOKiEZ towel to be signed, and I used my basic Japanese to tell the band that the concert was really fun and that they spoke great English (because the lead singer had been apologizing for his lack of English, but he spoke very well!). They were very kind and thankful.

Kanako Ito signed my pass for me, and she was so sweet. I told her that I really enjoyed her singing, and she complimented my Japanese, then I complimented her English and she said 本当に!? HONTOU NI!? ありがと arigato! (REALLY!? Thank you!)

I staggered back to the hotel a sweaty mess, wig askew. I hastily changed into my nightgown (throwing my cosplay every which way), washed my face, brushed my teeth, and fell into bed sooooo ready to sleep.

It Ain’t A Trip To Edmonton Until I Get My Crepe

We checked out of our hotel and headed to West Edmonton Mall to do some quick shopping. Because we had spent most of the weekend eating complimentary hotel cheese and granola bars, I had one mission first and foremost: Get a crepe from Crepeworks. This has been my tradition at West Ed since I was a teen. I usually opt for the strawberry or blueberry options, but this time I chose a simple Custard Delight. Soooo gooood.

Satisfied after the custardy goodness, I did some speed walking, skirting and dodging the annoyingly slow and spread-out families and couples who were browsing at a snails pace and simultaneously blocking the walking path- in these situations I can’t help but quietly call to mind Ludacris’ “MOVE B*TCH, GET OUT THE WAYYYY, GET OUT THE WAY B*TCH GET OUT THE WAYyyyy”! I’d never say something like that out loud, but we don’t go to Edmonton that often, so when I have some shopping to do it’s SERIOUS BUSINESS, OK!?

I mainly did some shopping at Oomomo, the new Japanese store where most items are $3. They have these really great acrylics that I love for raising my figurines in their case, and for displaying items at craft shows.

After the mall we stopped at another of our usual spots- New Indian Village (formerly New Asian Village)- they have an amazing buffet spread with curries, naan, spring rolls, salads, chicken, all kinds of stuff. I also love their desserts, like gulab jamun, kheer, and jalebi.

Lastly, we visited the new Miniso for the first time. It’s super cool! Dustin loved the fun tech accessories they have, while I lost my mind over the super cute plushies and beverage containers.

We drove back home singing to rock ballads most of the way. It was a fun little weekend trip!