Thursday, December 21, 2006

Heading to Honolulu today! : )

All the suitcases are already packed. The snacks are packed on the carry on already. The kids portable DVD player and movies and DS game are all packed in the carry on as well. Our flight to Honolulu doesn't leave Narita until 8:00 pm (flights to Hawaii are the night flights for some reason), but to avoid the long lines and crowds, we are leaving our house at 3:00 pm. I threw out all the stuff that wouldn't survive sitting in my fridge for a week, and good thing today was trash day, I threw out all the veggies that wouldn't make it, all the breads, and all the milk and eggs and walked it to the trash area down the street, for the men to come pick it up, since it's trash day (I just said that, lol :) So it seems nothing really has to be done now, except wait until 3:00 pm.

We won't be getting back to Japan until next Saturday, which is December 30th. The flight is 8 hours. I'll miss you guys and will have to catch up with you all, when we get back! I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Bye-bye! : )

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Candle lighting ceremony and the very last day of school!!! We are now officially on winter break now!!! : )

At 8:30 am the kids started school (a bit earlier then usual) and church for us parents started at 9:00 am. About seven dad's showed up, Noboru included, only because he had a swing shift for work and could make it, otherwise he wouldn't have gone which woulda been fine too. Tons of mom's showed up. Almost all of them, but a few didn't come. We drove Branden to school and then Noboru and Noah and I made a quick stop off at Mc Donald's. Branden was lucky that he got to eat earlier this morning and we ran late which is why we had to eat there, too busy to eat at home for the rest of us.: (

We raced back to the school and church quickly began! It was a very nice service, I enjoyed it a lot! I was wearing black nylons and a black dress with small white polka dots and a pink small bow with ribbon on the front of dress with a black cardigan, again horrible explaination, but it was cute. Everyone was all dressed up since today was the last day and also a special mass. Then they had us move from the actual Catholic church which is located across the street to the Catholic kindergarten. They said something about, with all the candle lighting they didn't have enough room for all the candles and whatnot in the small church so all of us would do the actual candle lighting in the school's auditorium.

On the chairs were a little silver candle holder and a thin white candle. These were each of us to light and hold during the ceremony! : )

The lights were turned off and the lighting around baby Jesus was started. The kids started filing in.

They warned people who were taking pictures to *not* use the flash and I didn't, I used the candle setting, I have on my camera. but with holding the damn candle with my left hand and trying not to let the hot wax roll down and burn my fingers and trying to snap the picture with my right hand, it was tough!

It was beautiful, the whole thing was so cool!

Each mom and her child who attends this school is to go up and light a candle with their mom's candle. Branden and I lit one together, it was very special, really. Meanwhile off and on during this thing, We sang Christmas songs. Usually in Japan, I never know the words to the songs and just mumble through the songs half-way muttering something or other! Ha ha ha! But actually with the Christmas songs? I knew them!!! Yippy and right on! When everyone was off singing Gloria and in Latin to boot, yikes, lol. There I was not even having to look at the words or sheet music! Ha ha ha! I was so happy, I finally knew something they didn't! Ha ha! And in Japan and living on their turf (for lack of better word) it's few and far between that this happens, to this lone western women here, so I was thrilled about it! Ha ha ha! : )

Okay this is a crap picture, blurry and all. Like I said, by now I actually *was* getting burned with a few wax splashes on my left hand and the right hand was getting tired of holding the camera, so things got shaky, sorry! But I wanted to show how bright it was by the end. After all the mom's lit candles around the baby Jesus, it was so bright!!! Considering how dark it was to start off with! The whole area was absolutely glowing, it was so beautiful!


The school gave everyone a Christmas card and a goodie bag the day before. And today everyone got a very nice hard cover book. And the funny thing is...they gave Branden his green funker-iffic pants from the Christmas recital, lol! Everyone got to keep their outfits! I wondered what on earth, would we do with silky green pants for? Part of a Halloween costume maybe? Ha ha ha! Oh well, it will be nice to save in his box of memories, box that I am saving for him for when he grows up! Shiny green pants (blech)! ha ha ha! : )

Anyway school is out and no school for the next 3 weeks or so! Woohooo! Winter breaks and vacations are just as much for the parents as they are for the kids! Now I can stay up as late as I want. And I don't have to wake up so early anymore either! I'm so happy! Now I'm going to be a lazy bum now for the next 3 weeks! : )

Monday, December 18, 2006

My mother in-law's visit!

Well, my mil got here around 8:30 pm. I had the curry dinner boiling away on the stove and Noboru went and picked her up from the train station. She arrived, I greeted her at the door. Thanking her for coming to be here for Branden's recital and whatnot. She brought me some treats to eat. A loaf of garlic bread. And some apple pie. She said the apple's came from a good place in Japan where they are famous for their apples. Fuji or someplace or other. I was so happy, I love garlic bread (duh : ) and apple pie. We were off to a good start. : )

I love food and I had to take a peek at what it looked like inside oh man! Looked so good!

We had dinner right away. She said she was starving, which was a relief! I asked her if Indian curry was okay, and she said it was fine! Phew! She loved it! All of us ate, all 5 of us. Noah had egg drop soup though. She'd never eaten a naan before and she loved them! So dinner was a success. I went and set a bath for my mil, while Noboru loaded the dishwasher. I insisted she bathe first. She asked to shower and stuff with the kids. Noah wouldn't go for it at all! But Branden said yes. So she and Branden must have had a ball up there, because we could hear loud laughter and singing and all the noise! She stayed and watched TV. Noah and Noboru and I all went up and showered and bathed together.
Came down stairs and we stayed downstairs and watched about 5 minutes of TV, before my mil started saying how we should *all* be in bed by now! Ha ha ha! It was barely 11:00 pm and Noah had already fallen asleep. I really wasn't sleepy at all, but I didn't see the need to argue about it either. So I went upstairs, quite frankly feeling like I was back again in the fourth grade or something ha ha ha! But it was okay, I oyasumi nasai-ed her and we all went to sleep. Well actually I stood laying in bed, staring at the 20 foot ceilings in my bedroom and the ceiling fan going around for a few minutes, until I got sleepy enough to drift off to sleep.

We woke up the next morning. Feeling extremely rested. Hmm, I was now glad I went to bed so early! Ha ha ha! I asked Branden the #1 important question on a school day.....waffles (frozen), cereal or egg's and rice. He said, waffle's. He had 2 waffles with butter and Mrs. Butterworth's, Noah had 1. And they each had some mikan juice. Got him dressed and all. And with 15 minutes to spare. Mitsuko asked Noboru (cleaarly she didn't know he had eaten already), so she asked him in Japanese, shouldn't Branden eat breakfast? Noboru told his mom, yeah he ate already! She was shocked, saying my sil's kids have a much harder time to get ready in the morning. She was shocked. And I did feel bad she compared grandkids again, I hate that when she does that. But as usual, I didn't say anything. I just don't see the need to fight with her on the tiny stuff or make waves, when I don't have to, you know what I mean? The school bus was picking up grandparents and kids today. So Branden and grandma went walking to the bus stop.

When they returned, she said he did so well! And that she was beaming and saying how the teacher was telling her on the bus (this is Branden's actual teacher) she was saying how well he does at school. This made grandma really happy!

Noboru was gone and at work when they came back. Mitsuko and I went and took the kids to Coco's restaurant. I've never been there before. Mitsuko had never been there before either. And this morning she mentioned to Noboru, we should have lunch and Noboru mentioned Coco's. I know he said that because he knew I had been wanting to try that place. So we went there and the food was really good! I had the quesadilla and a side of fries. I'll definitely go back there again! : )

Afterwards, I dropped her off at the train station. I thanked her for coming and then another car honked at me at the drop off area at the train station, so we had to say extremely fast good-byes and I drove off! It wasn't such a bad visit this time! : )

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Branden's Christmas recital! : )

Today was the Christmas recital for us parents and the siblings. Tomorrow the same exact thing will be shown for the grandparents, so Mitsuko will be seeing this exact same thing tomorrow! So here's a quick look at the recital! : )

Here's his entire class. Everyone here is in the middle grade yochien class. The 4 year old class and by now most of them turned 5. Still young little kiddos though! : )

Branden is on the back row and the 3rd from the left! : )

There's Branden! And again the cutest little girl of the class, is the one standing directly in front of Branden! She is as cute as a button! : )

The boy in the farthest left and the back row is Aoi-Kun and it's Branden's best friend! And he goes to swimming school. The girl on the right of Branden, also goes to swimming school. And the boy on the right of her, also goes to swimming school. And his dad is the towns/city head of police, ha ha ha! That's Taito-kun!

Here's Branden on the right and Taito-kun on the left and Chika-chan in the middle. They are announcing the play and also announcing they are two little goblins! Chika-chan isn't a goblin though. After going through the lines about a bazillion times, I can safely announce he totally aced it! He got every single line, word and everything just perfectly! Totally nailed his performance and I was really happy and so proud of my son! Job well done Branden and only 3 of the kids out of the 20 or so kids in the class got lines. I'm just so happy he did so well! Way to go kiddo, I couldn't be prouder! : )

Woohoo get down Branden! He loves dancing and being silly as most little kids do! It's true, just ask any parent and they will regale you with stories of silly dancing and hamming it up, I'm sure! Ha ha ha! Branden's no different, he really likes to have fun and dancing and running or doing anything that involves having fun, he's totally into!

Here's my little green goblin on the left dancing a jig! ha! : )

I really love this pic, I think it's because the look on his face. He's just so happy and he's really having fun! The little goblin in the yellow is another one of his swimming pals and his mom is a good friend of mine. His name is Shio-kun. But in western alphabet (romanji), his name spells something to the effect of Sean/Shawn.

I loved the Christmas recital! The costumes were so nice! The set was done beautifully! The school really went all out! All of the kids did wonderful jobs! Everyone had fun, including us parents! It was awesome and I'm actually looking forward to when it's Noah's turn to start attending this school! I'm really happy with this school! : )

Also Christmas break starts in 2 short days. And then no school until January 10th! Yay!!! : )

Oh and yes, no video taping was allowed, but picture taking was allowed. I didn't know that ahead of time, but good thing for me, I take my camera with me everywhere! Ha ha ha, So, I just whipped it out and started clicking! : )

PS grandma Mitsuko is arriving tonight. I am cooking her Indian curry and we will be having naan and some salad as well. Hmm, I sure hope she likes Indian curry. I did call Osaka to ask, but she had already left to the airport. : )

Best Ever Butter Cookies!!! : )

Best Ever Butter Cookies

1 cup butter (softened)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons orange juice (I used mikan juice)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

* Combine 1 cup butter, sugar and egg in large mixing bowl. Mix until creamy. Add flour, orange juice, vanilla and baking powder and mix. Divide dough into thirds, wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm (2-3 hours)

* heat oven to 400 degrees F. On lightly floured surface roll out dough, one third at a time (keeping remaining dough in the fridge), Cut with cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely.Enjoy! : )

Also like I said, this recipe isn't mine or my family's. It originally came off the Land-o-lakes butter package and who knows where they got it, but I have been using it for years and it's only fair to pass it along and share it with anyone who would like this recipe! But yes, these truly are "the best ever butter cookies." Nothing can beat the flavor of these cookies! Seriously, they're unbeatable! So please anyone who wants it, please use the recipe and enjoy them and make them for your own family year after year! Happy holidays! : )

A lazy Sunday of baking Christmas cookies and a yummy roasted chicken dinner! : )

The Disney Cars winter/metal obento box got here! Yippy! It's brand new and he will probably be the first kid in his class with it! Come on, if you have kids or if you ever were one, you'll know how cool that feeling is, right?!!! But as this is a present from Santa, he will have to wait until Christmas and be surprised! : )

Around 8 years ago, I saw this recipe on the back of the package of the Land-O-Lakes butter. It was a recipe for and I quote "Best Ever Butter Cookies", I tried the recipe thinking it would be so so or fine. But damn! These really are the best ever butter cookies! Seriously no boxed cookies can compare with these homemade bad boys! I usually sprinkle little cute green and red candy crystal's on them for Christmas but you know what? I didn't have any, this time and since I live in Japan and stuff like this isn't available "all over" like it would have been, if I lived in the states, I had to look all over and I still came up short handed. I thought about canceling making the cookies all together for about 3 seconds, but I just couldn't! We gotta have the cookies with or without the sprinkles! I'll of course have to buy a box of sprinkles in Hawaii, when I'm there to stock up for next time. But oh well the Christmas shapes were good enough! Ha! : )

Here is 1/3 of the dough rolled out.

All the shapes we made this afternoon! : )

Here is the first batch. Three more batches followed! So we are in cookies overload here at our house! I packaged some off and wrapped them really nicely for Branden to take to school tomorrow for his teacher's. They are gonna love these, yumm! : )

Sunday's are always the best day to have a family meal at home. A day to relax and unwind before you're thrown to the wolves again at work the next day or school! Or even for me being a stay at home mom, before the hectic week of early morning's and obento making resumes! So I really enjoy Sunday's at home and the time to rest and cooking is very relaxing for me, I love it! Today after the house smelled like cookies and the last batch came out of the oven. I took out my defrosted chickens and prepped them for cooking!

*Warning* you must be 18 to see this picture! Naked chickens here! Ha ha ha! Okay, you can see a small square of butter and some black pepper. I put the butter, between the meat and the skin. Under the skin. But I still had some butter left over and I did butter him a few times while he cooked! : )

After an hour, they were done! Look at that skin, looks so crispy and you know what? It really was, so crunchy and crispy that skin! Oh man! And the chicken was tender, tender, tender! Very delicious chickens! Beautifully cooked, if I don't just say so myself, lol! Nerdy me! ha! : )

I love some good red cheddar cheese on my potato. So does Branden. Noboru dislikes it and so does Noah. But anyway here's my serving and here's what we had for this restful Sunday! Cheesy baked potato, green beans, a small portion of rice and some roasted chicken! : )

Here's our family's dinner servings. And as if you didn't know the routine by now (wink), we right away loaded the dishwasher. Meanwhile we started the bath and we all showered and bathed and watched TV for the rest of the night. With cookies and popcorn! : )

I've been watching good stuff on satellite this week. I have watched Clueless, this is old but so funny! I've seen Edward Scissorhands twice this week as well. The Other's with Nicole Kidman, I think I've seen 4 times in the past week and a half now! It's not even scary to me anymore, I've seen it so many times! ha ha ha! I will be skipping the Other's if it plays again, I'm tired of it for now. A Charlie Brown's Christmas was on and we caught that! American Pie, I've now seen twice in the past 2 weeks. We just saw that again on Fox! Ha ha ha! I'm still watching that dance show on Fox and boy is it getting good! : )

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lunch and the beach, the stuff we did after Kashima Jingu! : )

After walking all over the Kashima Jingu for about two hours. We really worked up an appetite. Especially since the walking was on a few steep climbs and somehow walking in the freezing cold made us even more hungry and ready for lunch! We stopped off at Saizeriya for lunch, which is a chain of restaurants and it's very cheap Italian food. Since it was just lunch and not dinner, we got 2 pizzas and 2 dishes of pasta and we four shared. It was great and really cheap! Unlimited drink bar as well! : )

Noboru wanted to see the beach before we left the area. And I didn't mind. We were at the beach for about 10 to 15 minutes! It was just too cold! Also the water looked really dirty and the beach wasn't really clean at all.

Here we were heading back to the black minivan in the background and about to head home! Brrr! We got home around 4:30 pm. Put on our comfy clothes and started supper and just stayed home, hung out, watched TV and stayed warm in the house! But today was an A-okay day! : )

We went to Kashima Jingu today! : )

Well it's official we have done absolutely diddly squat for the past 1 month (4 whole weeks) since before Thanskgiving is when we last went and did anything even remotely interesting or even went to a restaurant. We planned it that way, because we wanted to save money for our upcoming trip. Now today was supposed to be the same and I frankly was fine with it. Noboru was going a bit bonkers at the thought of staying home yet again, so we went and did something free! Unless you count the 300 yen parking, ha ha ha! So we hopped in the car and headed to Kashima Jingu.

Here's the boys and Noboru at the entrance! : )

One thing I appreciate is traditions. Not just my own or of my own faith, but I appreciate everyone's tradition's and that must be one thing I love about Japan, is because they do have many tradition's. Here's some "how to's" or some rules for purification or how you should wash up before entering the shrine and temple area. Hold the cup with your *right* hand and wash the left. Then do the same to the other hand. Next cup your left hand rinse your mouth, spit out the water in your mouth and wash your hand you used to cup your hand with, to rinse your mouth. Sound a bit hard? It can be, but it helps having a Japanese husband, ha ha ha! : )

Like father, like son! Here's Noboru showing Branden how to do this and then he will be able to pass this down to his kids when he's grown up! Ha! : )

I snapped this picture to show just how enormous these trees were. The whole entire area was just huge and so open, it was awesome!

Here is where the road forked. We wondered if we should go right or left? Ala Dorothy asking the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz! Ha! We really didn't mind either way but we finally opted on going left! Only because everyone else seemed to go left. ha ha ha, we were such followers today! It was really peaceful and very chilly! I brought the boys' coats and we eventually had to pull them out and make them wear them.

Kashima Jingu! : )Part 2

They had a couple shops and snack restaurant type places scattered around and it was nice. Nothing really worth buying at the shops and the restaurants were "regular Joe" type places, so nothing fancy, if that's what anyone is looking for. One stand was selling a fish on a stick and some mochi type looking thing on a stick. Good simple type snacks.

These eating places were so cool! I imagine eating at them in the summer must totally rock! With all the green foliage and eating on the cute little tatami mats and such. But with it being winter, we skipped all that! : )

Here's another eating place and I thought this one was really nice and must be gorgeous when the summer hits!

I was surprised the pond was this super clean! I could clearly make out the carp. And I've seen a whole lot of ponds in Japan and this one really was quite clean.

Noboru and the boys. I liked this picture because it captured all the different colors of all the trees. I see brilliant gold and orange leaves and some tree with flowers still hanging on! And the clear water reflecting the guys!

Here's the boys and I. : )

There were deer! Poor deer, must have been freezing their little deer butt's off! Ha! Because we were! : )

Now I'm no expert about Japanese stuff. Especially old traditional stuff. But this is where you put 100 yen in the small slot on the right. And then put your hand on the left in the hole and pull out your fortune. Hmm, somehow the term "fortune" sounds wrong or a little off. And my husband isn't here for me to ask him the proper word. But it tell's you like, if you should travel or not if you will have a boy or girl if you have kids. Will you have a lucky year and in a lot of great detail! So it does sorta predict what will happen for you! However if you pull out a *bad* or unlucky one you can go and get things to counter act your future of bad luck! Again, I'm no expert on this, but this is the gist of what I recall Noboru was telling me.

I pulled this out! And Noboru said, that I pulled out the best one! This is the one, most Japanese want or hope to pull out! Mine is really lucky and all good news! : ) Phew! Ha!