2018: April

We ended March and started April with a visit from Hannah and her husband.
It’s always hard to say goodbye, even harder when you don’t know when you’ll see each other again. But it’s been amazing to see how God has always provided opportunities for time together in the last 4.5 years when we haven’t lived in the same city, much less the same country for much of it.
Not only that, but to have a one-on-one afternoon exploring Seattle and enjoying a lovely evening at Luke’s chorale concert, and then to have three days of being all together with husbands and our girls was just incredible.
Here’s to many more days, weeks, and months of laughter, food, crafting, games, and encouraging one another where God has us.

Inspired by the Great British Baking Show we tried a hot water crust pie.

We had a trip for my class and preparation for our move. This is one of the places we love to walk there!

I started working some on a tshirt quilt, and made tshirt yarn with the scraps (and stuffed the cushion with the rest of the scraps).


Learning to darn – the girls wear through so many clothes!

warm enough to workout outside

I brought henna back from Dubai and she wanted me to do some on her. It was very hard for her but she sat very still!

We’ve had more days of sunshine and took advantage of one sunny day for a hike.
But with all the rain still there was a lot of mud!


Ellie has wanted to sleep of a pillow so I pulled out this pillow that I believe belonged to my dad. The lighter blue cover is the original, but my maternal grandmother managed to copy it for me a while ago – and made a plain gingham cover that we use on it for Ellie.


The last few days of April I think we finally turned the corner into full Spring. Sunshine, blossoms, not just glimpses but everywhere. I am starting to wonder if I do have S.A.D., since I feel like a different person when the sun is shining, most clearly seen in how easily I get overwhelmed. If the weather was just a little warmer, I think Spring would be my favorite season, seeing everything come ALIVE again.


making our own choffy.

We’ve traveled a LOT lately but most of it has been to see other people, so we took a short family trip to Vancouver, Canada.
We enjoyed Granville Island and Stanley Park, then drove over to Fort Langley.


We are definitely not city people, though, and while the time at our rental was restful, driving was not!
Ellie enjoying our rental studio suite. We paid a little more than we could have so we could have a place for Ezra and I to hang out while the girls were sleeping and a kitchenette so we could cook our own breakfasts and bring snacks.
For other meals, we really enjoyed Momo Sushi (first time we’ve been brave enough to eat sushi outside of Japan!), Meat & Bread, and a variety of places on Granville Island – poutine, perogies, gelato, hand pies…

Fort Langley

And thanks to a tip from a coworker of Ezra’s, we went to Walmart to buy cheaper maple syrup.

favorite recipes// freezing bread (after a bread slicer we bought turned out to be junk, we just freeze it whole and hope we eat the thawed bread fast enough) // Moroccan Fava Bean Soup (added 2T harissa)// choux pastry buttermilk crepes // rye cornmeal buttermilk muffins (can you guess what we had a lot of?!?) // blackberry ricotta and onion tart (just put it on pizza and used frozen berries) // gingersnap green smoothie (so refreshing, though not really that gingersnap-y) // using your crockpot as a smoker // berry cheesecake overnight oats // cheesy garlic popcorn (vegan) // hibiscus mint tea // crockpot chocolate steel cut oats //

best of online// the enduring effects of a parent’s daily chatter // A Disney Princess with an Abortion // Be Kind to Yourself (Andrew Peterson) // playdough // kitchen storage hacks (love the pegboard and CD rack) // what does it mean to find my hope in Christ? // protein cost comparison (I’d been thinking about doing this so love that someone else did it for me!) // balance with treats for kids // language learning at home // why we cringe at submit (submission as function VS as value) // 5 minute lace bow //

WORLD Magazine is always a great read; this issue was phenomenal. They addressed a number of current events but rather than focusing on all that is wrong, highlighted some of what is happening in response, with rebuilding after ISIS in Nineveh, changes in the police force in Camden, and recovery for women abducted by Boko Haram.

And an article from the next issue on Syria.
“The onlooking world has sat paralyzed three ways…. our hearts have grown cold. Tiny bodies gray-blue from chlorine gas no longer horrify us. Young women and girls raped and sold by ISIS don’t hold our attention. Can we not see their plan? Kill the men and end the ability of women to conceive and carry on anything approaching their own race. You do not have to be a Nazi with a lab to devise the 21st century’s barbaric eugenics. You do not have to be Hitler to with inattention incite “death-head formations.””

reading of late// Sit (Ellis) // The Pastor’s Wife (Furman) // Changes that Heal (Cloud) // The Insanity of God (Ripken) // A History of Children’s Books in 100 Books (Cave/Ayad) // snippets of Poirot Investigates (Christie) // Henry V // Philippians // finished Neptune’s Inferno with Ezra

thinking about// how I really haven’t viewed God as KIND in the last few years. But He is kind, not in a give-you-what-you-want sort of way, but a redemptive way // growing a lot through the mental and spiritual challenge of class and studying scripture more, also realizing more and more of how thorough my high school education was! // simplifying life in what we do and in my attitudes and by setting and owning boundaries, and by getting to sin’s root and not its fruits // my planning details is often a sign of worry // I don’t deserve or “earn” rest or help – they are gifts! // the balance of emptying myself for others but also making sure my soul is cared for and fully partaking in His fullness given to me //

what brings joy// SUNSHINE // BLOSSOMS // SPROUTS // BLUE SKIES // HIKING //

The Munchkins// keep us laughing. The day I’m writing this they were happily playing outside and then when I checked on them I found that they were dumping dirt on each other’s heads…

S used enormous properly in a sentence the other day. Ellie repeats everything and remembers full sentences sometimes and uses them correctly later.

writing// shared the text version of the 20 minute talk I gave for class on ApricotPie.


Observations on Traveling with Kids

27 July Csehy 8 {empty cups = amazing for a 10 month old! And yes, United served us stroopwaffles!}

Since S was born, we’ve taken two US road trips (+ lots of 5 hour trips), flown internationally 3 times (round trip), and numerous times in the US. About half of that has been since Ellie was born… and I don’t think I could do both kids by myself very well. Just S and I was not too challenging for me most of the time (but, much of the solo air travel I did was in Japan, where it’s much easier to go to the bathroom with a baby in tow because they have infant seats in some stalls).

I feel like all ages have their challenges, but we have found that some are easier than others:
Before 3 months, they really are just along for the ride! You do have to stop more frequently for feeds and diaper changes, and pack more clothes for them, but they don’t need a lot.
Then we found that 3-4 months was hard in the car, because they wanted to be entertained but couldn’t do it themselves. But, they’re not eating solids yet and don’t nurse and fill their diapers quite so much so you can drive longer stretches and don’t have to pack as much for them.
4 months – mobile seems to be a sweet spot for traveling with babies. At that age ours have been content to sit and play in the car seat or on a lap for longer periods of time, they’re going longer between feeds and eating some solid food but not relying on you having packed food for them, and they’re not going through as many clothes from spit up and diaper leaks.
I feel like the most difficult age is when they can crawl and are learning to walk – they’re not content to sit on your lap, are less easily entertained (though there’s still a lot to be said for a cup!), need solid food, and don’t sleep as comfortably in a carrier or stroller, but aren’t flexible to skip naps like an older toddler is.
Then it’s been easier again in our experience, especially once they turn two and need their own seat on the airplane (but then they definitely need you to pack food and things for them to do!).

We try to travel as light as possible, which never looks like it sounds with 2 kids, since that still includes 2 car seats, a stroller (or two), a peapod (better than a pack n play for travel!), plus clothes, toys, books, etc.
S gets her own backpack and it’s usually filled with books (usually a week before we travel I hide what I’m going to pack so it’s “new”, and try to pick books that entertain her for a long time), stickers (we love Melissa & Doug’s puffy sticker sets), and a paint with water book, plus a few small toys like cars.
Ellie is pretty entertained by non-toy items like magazines, cups, etc. but we always pack her bolli, rings, and a few books.

I organize my suitcase differently depending on the length of the trip:
for short trips (2-5 days), I pack an outfit for each person for each day and throw in a few extras at the bottom. It’s arranged by day, with each stack having an outfit for me and each of the girls.
for long trips (5+ days), I pack each person’s clothes in a separate section of the suitcase and pull outfits together each day, since on longer trips we take most of our clothes anyway.

Travel days:
If we’re leaving early in the morning, we make overnight oats to eat on our way out the door and try to have the car packed as much as possible.
I plan what I wear pretty carefully, since with all the ups and downs and ins and outs, lifting, reaching, bending, nursing, etc. I want something comfortable easy to nurse in but also modest, so I usually end up wearing a longer nursing tank and then a higher-necked shirt on top, with jeans and shoes that come on and off easily.

We generally pack our own meals for the airplane, but don’t usually get more creative than sandwiches. I pack pouches and larabars for snacks and sometimes try to make something else… but this is an area I really want to grow in!
We do love our beeswrap for packing sandwiches, and have some stainless steel containers that we use for other snacks.

Do you have any travel tips or hacks? What are your go-to travel foods?


Started August in NYC… doing not-so-crowded things since I didn’t have much interest in Times Square and wanted to avoid crowds with the girls. My first time in NYC was 14 years ago and it was awful… So I’m thankful for the chance to make happy NYC memories (traffic and parking ticket aside), but even more it was great to watch the girls have so much happy cousin time and get to celebrate Cait’s birthday WITH her for the first time in a long time.
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Carnegie Hall

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We spent a while watching the fountain at the Lincoln Center and being overwhelmed and excited by how much talent walks through that place!

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Then it was to MI for my friend Hannah’s wedding. I did not take many photos since I was trying to enjoy every moment.
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Except here. I pulled my phone out to take a photo of one of the most moving parts of the day.
From Instagram:
She’s been with me for Celtic festivals, road trips (& my first car accident), desert camping, serving in childcare and leading small groups, Irish & country dancing, music and sewing, exploring Israel, visited us in San Diego and Japan (and was the most wonderful doula ever for Ellie’s birth)… she’s shot me in the eye in a nerf war and been asked if she’s my sister more times than my sisters and I have been put together (and we’ve accidentally twinned so many times)… I kept thinking of Revelation 19 yesterday, watching Hannah clothe herself in fine clothes, but knowing her radiance is so much more than her physical beauty, lying in her character & the way she follows Christ. I’ve never seen her as happy as she was yesterday.
I don’t think I have ever “meant” the benediction as much as I did while singing it last night, after watching her exchange vows & embark on marriage, thinking of the joys, sorrows, and struggles Ezra & I have experienced and that she now gets to taste of as well, but also having so deeply worshiped our Savior in the ceremony, knowing He is able to bless & keep them & give them peace.

And my involvement with the wedding would not have been possible without Ezra tirelessly caring for the girls for large parts of 3 days!

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Since I lived in MI for a while as a kid, I still have friends there, like Anna! We enjoyed shawarma in a cheesebread, some playground time for the girls, and then joined my family for church.

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And since Hannah went to Csehy, it was also a great time with lots of Csehy friends who were in town for the wedding.

But we also spent some time doing things in Michigan we had loved doing when we were growing up (like eating lots of Lebanese food!) – the biggest thing there was going to Greenfield Village.
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Ezra coming out of Robert Frost’s house. We had a sleeping toddler in the stroller so were taking turns going in and out of houses or pushing the stroller.

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Trying on hats in the millinery was always one of our favorite things, as was the carousel – it was the first time either of our girls had been on one, and they both enjoyed it (even though S was sad to not get the frog).

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On our way home… Ellie’s favorite book fell apart.

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The girls charmed a pilot flying standby while we were waiting for our second flight and he gave S wings – not cheap plastic ones but a real pin. Made my day!

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update on the beeswrap: we love it! I just did some maintenance on them as they had lots of cracks, but it only took a few minutes of ironing between parchment paper and they’re as good as new. They are great for traveling with and eliminated the need for plastic sandwich bags on our trip. We mostly use them for sandwiches and baked goods, but have occasionally used them for veggies or other snacks.

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Paid way too much for strawberries at the Farmers’ Market (but they were local and organic!) – and topped them with some cream.
It is overwhelming to go to the Farmer’s Market and see all the local, organic food we could be buying and then feel guilty we don’t. So instead of trying to do it all we decided to focus on ONE thing for now and make that happen as much as possible, and that’s these pastured eggs from down the road from church… That somehow are cheaper than the organic grocery store eggs.

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Free, organic blackberries. YUM.

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We’d been reading Blueberries for Sal so S had to have her little tin pail… thankfully I had one. And she did a better job than Sal picking and not eating them all!

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One of the most unique trees I have ever seen. Pinecones, swoops like a cedar, but prickly like a cactus.

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Hiking for my birthday!
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A really beautiful trail, and also the longest we’ve done with kids – 3.5 miles.
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“playing” hiking in our backyard.

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birthday flowers from Ezra – along with serrated knives that work for lefties and some handlettering he did.

favorite recipes// banana tahini popsicles // sweet potato lentil soup // turkey apple sausage patties // blackberry ricotta pizza with basil (needs some lemon zest! More blackberry recipes coming later) // 30 minute posole // chicken salad // healthier cake // loosely followed this recipe for carrot cake ice cream – just added the syrup part to our usual vanilla, and blended it // baklava pull apart bread (halved the sweetener!) // cookie dough hummus (would add more oats and cashews) // whole wheat muffins (left out the honey) // crockpot refried beans //

and lest you think every recipe works, here are some that weren’t as great as expected: indian bread with zucchini (not bad, but just a basic flat bread with zucchini in it) // oatmeal cookie ice cream sandwiches (fantastic idea, but the cookies didn’t work for me!) // chocolate chip cookies (these were like cake) // 2 ingredient chocolate frosting (even very cold this was like pudding)

best of online//  Yazidi women freed from ISIS // 6 ways to raise a sex addict // biblical womanhood doesn’t begin and end in Proverbs 31 // reflections on the 50th anniversary of Joni’s diving accident (and more from Joni) // breathtaking arrangement of Fairest Lord Jesus // the need for rural ministry // missionary mommy wars // why “did you have fun?” is the wrong question // spectacular clouds // you don’t have to love your postpartum body // 5 Strategies for a Christ-Centered Home // ultimate guide to homeschooling styles // stuck in the middle of unresolved suffering: part 1 & part 2 // how to love your friends of color well // 11 Beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses you should know about // witnessing Yemen’s desperate suffering // Trio Mediaeval – the Little Child // How to Care for Parents of Prodigals // photography posing tips // the perfect body size // I updated this resource page // narratio // global buckets – a neat way of growing things and a neat mission! // how to use your whisk the right way // giving up the confederacy
reading of late// skimmed Charlotte Mason’s Home Education // Pursuit of God (Tozer) // Roaring Lambs (Briner) // Pride & Prejudice (Austen)

thinking about// in my recent reading of the psalms I have been struck again and again with the theme of publicly praising God for what He has done. So here’s for today, a day started with exhaustion and too much to do, and I knew I was going to bite off everyone’s head unless something changed. It was a constant all-day running to Him and teetering on the edge… But even with Ezra working evenings we made it with His protection. Not perfectly but without snapping. God is good!
Psalm 71:3, Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come.

The Munchkins// how are they growing so fast? Ellie is standing and saying a few words; S is starting to play pretend and invite us along.

Food in Japan, 5

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Making the octopus crackers
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In line for them!

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The best okonomiyaki – we went out of the train station while transferring to the subway in Tokyo and walked down the street looking for a place and found this one.

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Finally found more kitkat flavors than just green tea. I wouldn’t have known it was sake if it wasn’t for the label. It tasted fruity like sake, but not alcoholic.

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MosBurger, Japan’s fast food chain like McDonalds. Better quality for sure.

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Yakitori stand

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bean paste filled pancake-type stuff.

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Convenience store breakfast

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trying natto again, with leeks, since that’s how my Japanese friends said they like it. Still not a fan.

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one last time at our favorite sushi place

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food from the playgroup Christmas party. I feel bad for Ezra that he never really got to experience what I got through playgroup and English Class – homemade Japanese food!

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had to stop at the bakery again… we were hoping for curry bread but there was none. And then on our walk home we got some dried persimmons that were SO tasty.

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pastries at last English Class – two days before we moved and probably the saddest part of leaving.

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we brought back a box of goodies for both sides of the family, and these are just some.

Japan: What we didn’t do + resources

I still have a few more posts coming about our excursions and exploring in Japan, but with only a small amount of time left it’s pretty safe to say this stuff won’t get done – but if we had another year here we would have done it!

Quick Travel Guide
Ninja House
Golden Pavilion
Ninja Museum (their website).

Peace park

We had planned to do Kyoto and Hiroshima with this package.

Top 10 Must See Places in Nikko

Closer to Tokyo
Yunessan (mostly from curiosity, and I would have liked to have gone to Hakone)
Ofuna POW Camp (this is where Louie Zamperini was held). We never did it because there’s not much to see and it’s not that easy to access. More info, and the actual location.

6 Places to Escape the Elements (we wanted to try Kid-o-kid but never made it).
Tokyo has tons of crazy restaurants and themed cafes. We usually stuck with Japanese food, though.

Resource for travel in Japan
– Google Translate App
– Hyperdia App (or website, for trains)
– If you’re coming from outside Japan and not living her, get the Japan Rail Pass if you plan on taking the train a lot, especially the Shinkansen.
stuff to do in Japan for Free
Japan on a budget
booking a ryokan (not budget friendly but well worth the cost!)
Japan guide
Tokyo Urban baby
Japanican (we actually booked our ryokan through Japanican)
– Some more links for booking Shinkansen and tours: one, two, three
– we used TripAdvisor a lot, mostly because they’re linked with GoogleMaps so we could find a place to go or eat on TripAdvisor and then get directions to make sure we ended up at the right place.

(This ends my scheduled posts, so I’m not sure when I’ll be posting again. We’ve been with family for the holidays and then will head to our new area to look for a house, but I have some half-written posts, including at least one more on Japan, and by then will probably have some other thoughts to share as well).

Tokyo: Ueno Park

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We wanted to do something over Thanksgiving weekend since Ezra did get most of it off and our house is pretty empty right now. But we didn’t want to take too big of a trip and end up exhausted, so we picked Ueno Park and don’t regret it! We went to the zoo and science museum, and spent a while walking and sitting enjoying the leaves and nice weather after the previous day’s snow.

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S’s first zoo trip was when she was Ellie’s age. It was so much fun to take her now that she’s old enough to interact with the animals: the elephants and polar bears were her favorite, she roared at the lion and tiger, was scared of the gorilla, was underwhelmed by the long anticipated porcupine, and thought the noises the emu and hippo made were them pooping.

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S was an attraction…

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Science Museum. We enjoyed it more than S, but she loved seeing the “bisaurs” (dinosaurs).
We actually hadn’t planned to go to the science museum. I had heard about a Ninja thing in Ueno Park, so had planned to go to that, but when I pulled it up on TripAdvisor when we were in Ueno it said it was 271 miles away! Apparently there’s another Ueno park near Kyoto, which would explain why none of the Tokyo Ueno Park info had had anything on the Ninja museum. So we decided to check out the science museum.

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Periodic Table of the Elements WITH the elements

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Enjoying lunch in the park before heading home

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Tokyo: Studio Ghibli Museum

When we heard there was a Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo we decided we had to go. Tickets go on sale the 10th of every month and sell out fast, but we managed to get some thanks to my mom and Candace staying with the girls so I could make a quick trip to Lawson to get our tickets, and to the man working there who helped me with the machine that was entirely in Japanese. Apparently you can book online, but I didn’t want to risk that not working since we only had one shot at it before we moved.

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Signs walking from the train station

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We had the last time slot and it was plenty of time, although if it hadn’t been closing (and we hadn’t been hungry) we might have waited out the line in the gift shop and taken S to play in the Catbus one more time, since she had a blast climbing all over it and then sitting inside it with soot gremlins in her lap and a huge grin on her face.

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One of the downsides to the museum is that you can’t take photos inside. I wish I could have captured S’s joy at the Catbus. But other than that I can see why Miyazaki doesn’t want photos inside, since it takes away from the wonder. There truly is a sense of wonder as you wander through the rooms and find all sorts of nooks and crannies with little details among the gorgeous wood trimmings.

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You also get to see a short film that only plays at the museum and changes every so often. That was S’s first movie and she loved it and wouldn’t stop talking about it or the Catbus. I was afraid she’d be too young for most of the museum but she really enjoyed it and so did we. There’s no question it’s worth the price (only about $10/adult), and even the trip across Tokyo (though trains cost more than our tickets…).

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Here are a few photos of the interior of the museum.

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I will say, though, that most of the lesser-known Ghibli films are lesser known for a reason. But we love Ponyo, Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and The Wind Rises. And even when the storyline falls flat in some of the other movies, the animation is always beautiful and enjoyable (and if you want to cry, watch Grave of the Fireflies).