Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The American Idol, finale is on tonight at 9:00 pm! Everybody getting ready for it? ha ha ha! : )

I made beef stew for dinner tonight. I bought two small lean cuts of beef and then cut the beef into squares. fried them in a bit of olive oil and some garlic salt and pepper. And boiled the meat for about 2 and a half hours, nearly three hours actually with the lid on. This meat was boiled to an oblivion and fall apart type tender. I then just threw in some sliced up onion, some mushroom's, potatoes and carrots. I bought a box of beef stew roux and added it when it was done. Dinner came out really good. A simple meal I know, god only knows it certainly wasn't fancy, but it was sure yummy though! : )

Noboru works the 4:00pm to midnight shift tonight. So he wasn't able to have dinner with us. So it was just me and my two boys. I managed to get all of us fed and the dinner table all cleared off by 6:30 pm. Yahoo! We sat and watched TV until 7:00 pm. And then we all went to take our bath. I got both the boys all showered and cleaned up and ready for tomorrow.

We are all out of the bath tub now. And everyone is in their pajamas now. Branden said he's sleepy so he went upstairs to lay down. I just checked on him a minute ago and he was dead to the world! He's totally asleep!

Noah on the other hand is full of energy and raring to go! That's okay because I know he won't be able to stay up for much longer! Ha ha ha! He will be asleep by 9:00 pm for sure.

I've got a towel on my head because my hair is still wet and I am wearing my night gown/night shirt. And just sitting here drinking a tall glass of oolong tea. Good thing I am not expecting any visitors this late, because I must look like a dork! He he! : )

I have to go to school tomorrow from the morning. All us parents are supposed to go and watch the kids do PE. We are supposed to leave before lunch. After that I am trying to decide, if I should head to the salon to see if they can schedule me for something. Or if I should head over to Costco (but if I headed to Costco I'd have to wait until Branden got off school first though). Hmmm, I'm still trying to decide, head to Costco or head to the salon? Hmmm. Oh well, I'll think about it tomorrow.

Yippy, Noah just fell asleep, see? I knew he would fall asleep! Ha ha ha!

Anyway the American Idol finale is on tonight at 9:00 pm. I know who's going to win, but I still can't wait to see it for myself! Please, everyone enjoy American Idol! I know I will, I'll be glued to the TV set while I sit here in my pj's lol!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Onigiri Wednesday's

Most of you know my son goes to a Catholic yochien here in Japan. Now, I was raised Roman Catholic, but I'm not super religious or anything. I celebrate the holidays sure enough, yet only go to church every once in a while.

After we enrolled him and paid out the 90,000 yen entrance fee. And paid the whopping 60,000 yen uniform fee. And gave them again another 10,000 for the books he *has* to order throughout the year. Imagine my utter surprise when they told me about onigiri Wednesday's!

Every other Wednesday, which is twice a month. We are supposed to send him to school with onigiri. Nothing else! Usually I send him to school with some type of sandwich (chicken salad, potato salad, grilled chese or chicken cutlet sandwich and the likes. Fruit (apple, watermelon, or raisins, etc), french fries, since potato chips are seriously forbidden! This got me, though because I thought french fries were just as greasy as chips were! Yet fries are acceptable and chips aren't, go figure! Sometimes I send him to school with pasta. And in the winter's when it's chilly outside and they heat the kids lunch, I send him with cream stew or curry.

I thought I was doing okay. In America it woulda been so much easier, a sandwich, an apple or banana, some chips and a Twinkie.

But in Japan, things are never that easy are they? So, I have been making obento's for the past year. I thought I had it down packed. Until we switched school's, when we moved and this whole business of onigiri Wednesday's came to light.

As an American mommy living in Japan, yes I know what onigiri are, have seen them a million times, but I never have made one before. I was feeling, a bit out of my element. I knew my onigiri's would suck! And probably look horrible. So I had to go and buy these little plastic molds that can shape your onigiri in shapes of stuff. I bought a 3 pack and it has a shape of a bear, an elephant and a fish shaped mold. I have spent quite a few evenings practicing this. Even forked over the cash to buy a little onigiri book, hoping to get some ideas!

Today is Wednesday, as you can tell. And today was the second time I made them. Since Branden is pretty much anti- seafood lately (this has got to be a stage, right? ), I made his with a small karaage ( inside of plain white rice. I used the three little molds. So he went to school today with a little white elephant with a fried chicken hiding inside, and same with the bear and fish. I decorated the face with little strips of seaweed. Phew! It was harder then I thought. Definitely harder on me then sending him to school with a grilled cheese sandwich would have been.

Here's the clincher, Yesterday, when Branden got off the bus, he brought a little milk carton finely decorated. His teacher kindly informed me, that since we have onigiri Wednesday's and and it's the school's opinion, we are actually saving bunches of money, since we don't have to make a regular lunch. And we are also saving lot's of time too. She wants us to donate the money we saved, on every onigiri Wednesday from now on! Basically the *supposed* money we saved on him eating the onigiri, we should donate that money to the school!

I wanted to tell her, what does she mean, all the money and time we saved? It would have been easier and cheaper if we coulda just sent Branden to school with a simple sandwich instead. I wanted to tell her, how I was out of pocket, by spending cash on those damn onigiri molds and the darn onigiri cookbook thing! How I spent my evening time instead of watching TV shows and relaxing after a long hard day, I spent it in the kitchen after dinner time, practicing with the darn tootin' elephant onigiri mold instead! Sigh.

But I didn't, I didn't say anything, because I realize it's tough on Branden having an American mommy sometimes. If I caused a big stink over Onigiri Wednesday's and me not wanting to donate the money I ever so, *supposedly* saved, that could make him look bad, or the teacher's might treat him differently or mean and I didn't want that! So I just smiled and said, sure no problem! It's hard enough, when I go to the school for a class function, he's having and the class stares at him mom to death and all the little kids are in total shock! And run up and say "hello" to me a million times and or point! LOL, the other school got over it in time, I hope this school and the kids and parents get over it in time too. Sigh, I really just want Branden, to feel some degree of normalcy, with regards to how he's treated at school. If I was supposed to be lucky and save money by the onigiri Wednesday idea, so be it! I'm not going to split hairs over it.

I sent him to school with 680 yen in the milk carton today. He was thrilled and jingled the carton all the way to the bus stop. This part made me happy, that he was happy. : )

BTW, the onigiri Wednesday rule is supposed to be all over Japan at the Catholic private school's. This info was told to me, by the teacher's. They want the kids to realize even though Japan is a wealthy country, some countries are still suffering and don't have much food, yada yada yada, so this is a day picked to reflect and think about how lucky they are.

Hey, I don't have this whole American mommy in Japan thing down perfectly yet, maybe I'll never have it down perfectly! But I am certainly, trying my best! And that's gotta count for something right? : )

Yard work today. : )

The weather sure is getting warm in Japan! Today was just so beautiful! We did yard work today. I know, nothing very exciting is it? Ha ha ha! Sorry, you guys! : ) Every day, we have to water the flowers and sweep and whatnot! So it seems we are always out in the yard doing something. I don't mind, I like being in the yard! The kids do too and so does Noboru! I know I haven't shown an updated picture of how the front of the house is coming along, so I thought I better do that! The grass came in beautifully! I think Noboru did a fantastic job with the grass! I put up a floral wreath on the front door. The flowers are a beautiful purple color. And I planted four hanging flower pots with some brilliant bright red flowers! The flowers really give it that "home in the country type feel" and I love that! Nothing shi shi poo poo about our house at all. We just went for the ol' relax in comfort vibe! A place that could even make Aunt Bee, Andy and Opie proud! Ha ha! : )

The grass is all grown now. Amazing this was all from seeds huh? Oh well, it was the cheapest way to get grass and so we went for the cheapest route! Ha ha ha! The grass is kentucky blue grass and we bought it affordably at an online place in Japan.

We got this bench for sitting on the front porch! We love it and use it everyday when we are just vegging out on the front porch or keeping an eye on Branden playing. We are also going to get some more chairs at Ikea for the other side of the front porch but that will have to wait still.

I have been wanting to have some hanging plants. But I waited until we got back from Honolulu first. Anyway, last week I went to a DIY/homecenter and bought 4 hanging pot holders and I looked around until I found some flowers that were perfect for the shade, since the front of my house is a bit in the shade. I bought these red ones and I planted them last week. Now I have four hanging flower planters. I also hung up my wreath on the front door! Remember this was in my old house. I originally brought this wreath all the way from Michael's craft store in Denver, Colorado!

Having a big brother means, he is used to keeping up with the big boys! Noah, can book up these stairs in no time flat!

Here are Noah and daddy doing their early morning yard work together! Branden had just left for school. Noah honestly really helps Noboru! Sounds unbelieveable, I know but I am telling you he has been going out there helping Noboru with the yard work since the very beginning. And he just copies whatever daddy does! He's a total pro already! : )

Hmmm! He has a push walker, that he uses inside the house. But he loves pushing this car outside! He pushes this thing on the deck every single morning while I am sweeping the front porch! Look at those legs go! Was he cruising or what? Not bad at all for 10 month's! We are just so proud of our little Noah!

At just 10 month's of age, Noah stands unassisted for very long periods of time. The other day he was just standing right in the middle of the kitchen all by himself and Noboru and I were like, "hey look at that!" Figures we didn't have the camera at the time! Sheesh! Here he is just standing and leaning up against his car! Striking his best Mr. cool type pose! He he! : )

Noah is just so mobile, he cruises the yard with ease! (under our supervision of course though : ) The house really is coming along quite well isn't it? : )

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ikea Japan, an update on how our furniture shopping has been going! : )

We spent our Saturday at Ikea. This has been our third time we've been there, since they opened up a month ago. As most of you know, we just moved into our new home a few month's ago. We have saved for our furniture and furnishings, since last year, like crazy! And we knew Ikea would be opening and so we have been sorta doing without much furniture the past couple month's. Except for the few pieces we brought form our old place, most of the stuff we sold or gave to our friends. We did this, so we could buy new stuff. So, every week when we get the chance we head to Ikea, where the old ski dome thing used to be, near Lalaport.

The furniture is very affordable when you compare with the inflated costs of your typical Japanese furniture store. Plus they have some stuff that isn't available anywhere else in Japan. So this is why we keep coming back and will continue to do so, until we finally finish furnishing our newly built home.

Let me share with you what we've bought so far.

My poor baby fell fast asleep in the cart with all the shopping we did! I don't blame him one single bit though, because we were all tired afterwards as well! : )

Remember the last oven mitts they had were only available in blue? These were on sale for like 79 yen! Cheap and I needed them! I also got the pot holders as well.

I wanted this, and it was cheap and I want to use this for meal time once in a while. : )

We have bought so far, a coffee table, this is a super cool one and has little cubby holes, that I figured would be great for stowing cute little baskets. And the baskets are actually holding important stuff we really need, except now it keeps all the junk outta plain site. One basket for example, is holding all the remotes, like the VCR remote, DVD remote, TV remote, and satellite remote, sigh and a few other remotes as well. Hey, typical families sure do acquire a whole bunch of remotes huh? Sheesh! Oh well, this way they will be sorta hidden and outta plain view, yet still very easy access for whoever's watching TV. And the price on this was no different then the price of a coffee table at a typical/regular Japanese furniture shop, except this is normal sized though and not super short like how most furniture in Japan is. Which is what we have been looking for.We also got this little area rug to go in our living room at Ikea too.

This couch we are getting rid of. We bought it at Costco here in Japan, a couple years ago and it's in fantastic conditon, no wear or spills/stains at all. If anyone wants it for free! Anyone is welcome to have it! Seriously, we don't need it since we are getting a new one! Otherwise we will just chuck it at the garbage dump in the city we live. We'd hate to do that, though which is why we are asking everyone we know. Hopefully someone at Noboru's work might take it! Crossing my fingers about that!

We also bought a nice sized TV rack. This is a matching set of the coffee table and we will be buying one other piece that goes along with this as well. Sorry the pic was taken right before we got a chance to properly fill it much, it's all filled on both sides of course with DVD's and videos.

We also bought this great big painting for the entrance way/genkan area! We originally wanted a great big fancy looking mirror. Most places in Japan, charged about $500.00 and up, for a mirror as big as we wanted. And honestly that's *way* outta our budget for something to hang on the genkan wall! Yet we still wanted something to be big since our genkan is big, so it needed to be size proportionate to match our entrance way and yet nice looking too. Noboru and I fell in love with this big canvas painting of tulips. It looks pricey, but in all honesty it really was very affordable. The size was perfect for what we wanted. And the piece was under $100.00 US! It was like 9,000 yen! So it was still totally in our budget. So, that's why we chose this and I think it goes beautifully in our entrance way!

Since most of the couches at Ikea are sold in 2 pieces (cover and actual couch). We bought the cover for it first. Because we worried if by the time the couch itself comes back into stock. What if the cover suddenly became outta stock, do you know what I mean? This way we have the cover now and can just sit back and wait until the couch comes into stock, in the two weeks time frame.

Here he is again double checking to make sure it would fit. Checking the blue prints of our house versus the measurements on the little tag thingy! Yup it'll fit no problem. Thank goodness! Phew! : )

Sticker shock, no doubt! But, then no wonder, we saved money all last year for our furniture and never ate out at restaurants (sigh) and brown bagged it everywhere! Friends were telling us all last year to gambatte! Ha ha ha! They were right! We saved, and now we can buy the stuff, we've been saving for! I guess it really does pay to save!

Here's Noboru writing the item number down on the order form.

Like I just said, we bought the cover to our couch immediately, because we worried it might go out of stock too. So at least we now have the striped cover for it now at our house. The couch itself was out of stock, but no worries because it has been ordered for us and will be here in less then two weeks. It's a great big L shaped couch like we've been looking for and when we saw it on display, we fell in love with it. So anyway I hope you all enjoyed the update. I know some of you all reading and keeping up with us, have been wondering how the house is coming along, so that's why I wanted to keep you all informed! So the furniture shopping and house isn't completely furnished yet, but we are really getting there! : )

Grandma's here! : )

My mother in- law is here. She flew in this morning from Osaka. She came for two reasons. My brother in- law just bought a mansion/condo in Narita and she wanted to come check things out! The mansion will be ready this September. My brother in- law is really happy!

Meanwhile, she wanted to stay the night with our two boys. She is just nuts for her grandkids of course. So she is here right now. And has been here since this morning. She is leaving tomorrow. It's really nice, that she is here. It's good for the boys.

She brought us a bunch of food that she made for us. She made homemade potato salad, karaage. Homemade buta kimchee sauce. And homemade yakiniku sauce, her sauce is the best sauce ever!

Tonight she is making us dinner. We will have karaage, ebi furai, corn on the cob, potato salad and watermelon and ice-cream for dessert. And Noboru is having. something else, I'm not quite sure what she is making for him. : )

Washing the panko off his hands! : )

Grandma and Branden prepared this ebi furai together! And boy did they ever have a lot of fun! : )

My brother in- law went to Tahiti for his honeymoon and he brought us back these delicious chocolate chip and coconut cookies. I have had three of them already! Ha ha ha! : )

The homemade potato salad she brought for us and her homemade karaage she brought for us as well.

The sauces she brought for us. I will make either yakiniku this week or some buta kimchee now, thanks to her homemade sauces. : )

Some fish with chili, not really quite sure what this is but Noboru really likes it when his mom brings this.

This is some famous Kobe castella and also some type of sushi she seems to always bring for Noboru.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Our Friday at the immigration office in Chiba and also frog catching! : )

We went and renewed my visa. Gee, that's always just *so* much fun! Ha ha ha. Honestly it was a total snoozer. But yet it had to be done, right? I was # 110. And they on # 94 when I got there. Which roughly translates, that I spent a good hour and a half there! I made a big meal at home, right before we left and also brought the kids a bunch of snacks so they could munch on them during the long wait time.

We also spent most of our time outside while waiting for my number to be called. I figured It would be good so, I could let Branden run around outside and get all his extra energy out of his system out there . I went inside to check the numbers once in a while though. Time went by much more easily outside.

We went and ate at a Chinese restaurant on the way home. Oh it was so delicious! It was still bright and day time by the time we got home, so Noboru and Branden took advantage of us, living in the Japanese country side and did what typical father's and son's do and went frog catching together! Ha ha ha! I actually don't mind them frog catching anymore and sorta think it's cute now! And it's good that Noboru and Branden have a good father and son thing to do and look forward to every week! They go frog hunting about twice a week in the field's behind our house. They both changed their clothes into their comfy clothes. And threw on their rain boots, grabbed Branden's simple 100 yen net and his cheap 100 yen frog box. And went out back. They caught one frog and 1 tadpole. They released them the next day! : )

PS and yes, the big American import house pictured in the background of the frog catching pics, is my house. It's really quiet and peaceful where we live. The pace of life is slower and we appreciate that. The air is fresh and clean. It's a great place to let our kids grow up. And we have a big backyard the boys, can always play in. Plus the view of all the greenery is really quite breath taking, if I don't say so myself. : )