Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from our family here in Chiba, Japan!

Hope all of you really and truly have a very Happy Halloween. Here's a little Halloween post of the things our family has enjoyed this season. For Halloween 2011. Isn't that a beautifully carved Jack O' Lantern! I think the family did really well this year. A very happy Mr.Pumpkinhead indeed!
We had 4 floating and glowing illuminated Jack O' Lanterns where the flowery hanging baskets usually hang. All October, as people would get their evening walk and stroll done in our housing community, you'd see people walk by our house smile and point. We get a kick out of that every year. That it makes others just as happy as it makes us. The carved Jack O' Lantern sitting between Branden and Noah. I used the night time setting and my gosh this looks like broad daylight almost right? The flash went on and everything, yesterday/Sunday night when we took our yearly Halloween family photo.
And this is where he sat all weekend. We gave him the best spot on the porch. That way he could see all the passers-by.
A bit blurry, but I did try. Anyway, this is how it looks at night if you were to come to our home in October. Scarecrow and Fall time wreath on the door. And the 2 lights that are on the front porch we switched from a regular little bulb to an orange flickering Halloween light bulb for the month of October.
Here's a better shot. We also have the other side of the house and the one other pumpkin head floating over there but it's hard to get a pic of the entire house from the front, because it can't all fit in 1 frame. I guess if I walked a little bit down the block that would help, but this picture shows a better idea anyway with this pic.
The spooktacular caramel apples the boys and I made!
The family pumpkin carving we did.
And not to forget the fun Halloween festivities we enjoyed at Tokyo Disneyland as well.
This morning as soon as Branden and Noah were sent to school, I started baking some cupcakes, some for us, some for friends. Halloween cupcakes.
Close-up of the Halloween cupcake liners. We had many different types of orange and black sprinkles. Some were just regular colored sprinkles and some in neat little shapes like, orange Jack O' Lantern shaped sprinkles and black bat sprinkles too. : )
These 3 plates are going to 3 other families. Just wanting to bring some friends some Halloween cheer as well. So, 1 set of cupcakes is going to Kaito/Kouiki's family. And the other went to the Kumon sensei already when I dropped off Branden and Noah after regular school today. And the final cupcake plate will go to my friend right down the lane from us, I'm also saving her a caramel apple. : ) She lives in the same community as us.

Happy Halloween everyone! From our family to yours! : )

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Halloween and Fall time favorite, making caramel apples

One of the classic things I always remember or associate with Fall or Halloween in America growing up, are caramel and also candy apples. Going to Halloween parties as a child, every party usually either had bobbing for apples and also had some caramel apples as part of the food table, perhaps because Fall is when apples are in season. I also remember those daffy apples already packaged at the stores in Colorado every Fall and Halloween season. Those were so good. With living in Japan, there's traditions that I hold dear and things I'd like my boys to grow up with as well. Like Thanksgiving every year. Halloween pumpkin carving. You know simple family things we can do here at home. Anyway this year we made caramel apples. We made them this Saturday evening after dinner was finished. They came out so good.
We baked them in the oven, for a very short time, just like 5 minutes not to cook the apple but enough for the caramel to melt.
These caramel apple wrappers are so easy and they made making them a breeze. And you know...I have fond memories of making these with my own mom growing up! : ) A wonderful Halloween treat indeed! : )

From pumpkin to Jack O'Lantern!!! And yummy roasted pumpkin seeds.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know every single year our family likes to carve us a Halloween pumpkin! Friday night our family got together to make our Jack O' Lantern for 2011!
Ready to start carving!
But first... time to dig out the pumpkin guts! LOL. : ) Definitely this part goes to the kids. They like cleaning it out and getting all those seeds for roasting later.
Go Noah!
Branden I see slimy pumpkin bits on your hands and a smile.
All clean. Now time to let daddy get his carve on! ; )
An eyebrow! Ha! : )
Definitely these are boys from the modern age?! : ) Noah took pics with his keitei and also made a short video to show the boys in the neighborhood! And Branden with his digital camera taking pics. And here I was also doing the same. But my pics are for our family memory book/scrapbook.
Noah all smiles!
And all done! A nicely carved pumpkin! I think the face came out pretty awesome. And the roasted pumpkins seeds were delicious.
Also, this was sort of interesting it happened the night of the pumpkin carve. Noah opened a pack of M&M's and they were all orange except 1 yellow one. Is that a little weird? We sort of thought so. And even weirder for us because those are Noah's 2 favorite colors. I mean like really. Anyway...yeah that was definitely weird. Noboru thought, maybe we won something or.... He asked me to check online. We ended up getting sidetracked though with nightly shower routines and with watching the Halloween Charlie Brown DVD with the boys. And Noah has since eaten them anyway, lol. Gee, I hope we didn't like... win a million dollars and not even know it. ; )

Noah's Fall ensoku/field trip to the Chiba zoo

Friday was Noah's Fall ensoku/field trip. Our yochien takes the kids to the Chiba Zoo every Fall. So, first things first is I made sure Branden was ready and taken to school. Once back at home, I skillet/pan fried the yakitori, I had cut and marinating since the night before. A super simple but filling obento. Yakitori, on a bed of rice. Steamed veggie, 2 grapes and omelet fried in a bit of sesame oil for flavor and a dot of mayo on top. And 2 jelly's. The PTA provided the snacks for every child.
Meet up time was at 8:30am and at 8:40am the bus was to take off.
Not a very good picture, but what can you do, when it's through a blue tinted window. : ) Aww well, I tried my best.
And away the bus went and drove away. Us mom's all waved until we could see the bus no more.

Immediately after that I was meeting 2 other mom's for a mini shaon kai meeting of sorts at the restaurant Jonathan's. The 3 of us ordered the pancake set with drink bar. And we went over theme's for the shaon kai. Table toppers. You name it....we went through it.

Also, the messages to each person at the school. Meaning the principal/encho-sensei, our kids teacher meaning the Yayoi sensei, even the secretary/nurse. All the messages that will be read aloud at the actual shaon kai have already been written. The Jogo-san started reading them and by the time she got to the note/message for the Yayoi sensei we all just lost it. The 3 of us all crying at Jonathan's. A little embarassing to admit. The Jogo-san told the other lady, that her daughter and Noah had Yayoi-sensei all 3 years. The other lady didn't know that. And we then talked Noah and her daughter would both cry so much when they first started. And how we both were trying so hard for them to get adjusted. And how nice the Yayoi sensei has always been. And now they're a wee bit older and wiser. And soon they will have to leave. It was just really difficult reading the messages. Okay...maybe it was an "you had to be there" type moment. ; ) Next shaon kai meeting, November 4th and 7th.

After that, I went home. Cleaned my bedroom a bit and dusted. And just waited and relaxed for a couple hours watching TV, until my afternoon pick ups. I was really glad the weekend was here on Friday. I was really looking forward to a weekend of nothing major or pressing to do, just family time type stuff. : )

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hitting the double digits...Happy 10th Birthday Branden

Alrighty so you know what I did Wednesday morning. I went to that music concert. : ) But, that was also Branden's birthday. October 26th. Branden finally hit the big 1-0! The double digits. Very exciting. Huge milestone for him. Anyway, for starters we had asked Branden the week before, what would you like for your birthday dinner? Would you like me to make something here at home, or would you like to go out to eat? It's your choice. Sometimes we go to Capricciosa for birthday's but we've also gone to the Hard Rock Cafe a few times before as well. I think though... with us just recently going to that Capricciosa knock off/copy cat place recently in Hakone, nobody was really wanting to have it again so soon. And with us not going to the HRC after undokai. I think Branden was craving that and so he asked if we could visit the Hard Rock Cafe for his birthday. And both Noboru and I said...absolutely...done! So, at 3pm, I picked up Branden from school and we went home, he switched shirts from that navy and white rugby shirt he wore during his music performance to a regular shirt. And we headed to the HRC in Narita City. We started with an appetizer. The four of us munched a small nachos. Enough for a good snack but not enough to ruin our appetite for our meal. So perfect size for us.
Happy Birthday Mr. Dimples. : )
Then came our meals. Branden did an..I'm about to eat this fry pose for this picture. LOL. : )
I had the chicken fajitas and Noboru had the fish and chip platter.
It was all decorated for Halloween.
Then after our meal, they came out and said they would be singing for Branden soon. So, we switched seats. We put the boys on the other part of the table. And next thing you know, they interrupted the music and said in English....we'd like to interrupt and tell you we have a very special birthday boy here today and his name is....Branden! The entire restaurant clapping, a medium crowd not dead but not totally packed either. They showed his face on all the screens around the restaurant, poor Branden was beet red. Noah in this pic just watching everyone. You know when it feels like the entire restaurant is turning around and looking at you. @_@ : p Yeah that was the feeling. It was all in good fun and they did ask Branden would he like a birthday shout out?! He did say yes. And he did go to school the next day and tell all his classmates so I know he did enjoy it. : ) It was really fun. A nice way to spend a quiet little birthday with just us 4. Plus the nice clapping folks and staff at the restaurant, they were very cool.
The boys enjoying Branden's free birthday ice-cream sundae.
The birthday cake. You know, ever since Noah's super cool birthday cake. I really wanted to try something special for Branden's birthday cake too. I have been quietly watching countless videos, reading so many "how to's" and everything you could imagine. I have a rectangular cake pan and a circular one. I had decided to make it a circle 2-3 weeks ago, during one of my early morning treadmill sessions...the ol' what shape should I make the cake decision I had been debating about. So, I have been ready! I mentioned to Branden last week, for your ice-ream cake would you like me to use strawberry cake, yellow cake or chocolate cake and what flavor ice-cream? Your choices are...I can buy the big gallon size of vanilla and use that or I can run to Baskin Robbins for special flavors. What do you think? Branden said..(imagine my surprise.) "Mommy if you don't mind, I'd just prefer a birthday cake from Baskin Robbins" @_@ Trying really hard to hide my shock. "Ohh ohh okay, if you're sure honey, it's your birthday." He said...well you know this is my 10th birthday and all. I smiled and said sure not a problem. Later that night when the boys went to sleep and Noboru was home, I told Noboru. You know..I sort of feel he was doubting my ice cream cake making skills. :P We had a small laugh. In a way I was sort of disappointed/sad I didn't get my chance to try to make one. But then again it was his birthday after all. I did go to the Baskin Robbins in Narita and ordered him his cake though while I was at the Narita Mall on Monday.
Ten candles. White cake and strawberry cheesecake ice cream. I have to admit it was absolutely delicious.
Happy Birthday Branden. You are so loved kiddo! : )
Grandpa sent him a Birthday card and 10,000 yen.
And grandma Mitsuko sent this package.
It was a really great book on the earth lots of pictures. And some cash. My mom also gave me that big lump some and wants me to buy Branden something. And also both the boys something at Christmas from that. So, Branden will get to pick a few things.

All in all, Branden had the birthday he wanted. A nice family meal just us 4. Some birthday well wishes at the restaurant. And to finally get back home wind things down and enjoy some birthday cake. It was simple. And really fit our family to a T. Happy birthday Branden, and finally you are 10!!!! Never to be a single digit again. Onwards and upwards as they say. : )

Bits and pieces from the week

On Monday of the week that just passed, I ran to Narita city after dropping off both Branden and Noah at both of their different schools. Ran to Hanamasa, picked up 2 whole chickens for the roasted chicken dinner I would be making that week. Some pork for making miso pork and a few other meaty things, then swung by the mall in Narita and picked up a schedule/planner. There's just so much going on, with the shaon kai meetings, all the last bits of things needed for me to do with the yochien, plus all the Noah elementary things also going on. And Branden's things. And though they're on my calendar at home. Often I am asked..."Gina are you free such and such day?" I can no longer wait until I get home to check the fridge calender. I really need a portable one, I had one 2 years ago and prior, but not last year, I finally decided this year looks like a year I really need one again. So, I found one I liked and picked that one and headed back home. Once at home, I decided Monday would be my day to clean the living room. So dusting the blinds, ceiling fan blades, vacuuming and also dusting and straightening the book shelf. Then I swooshed both toilets in the house. Threw a second load of clean clothes into the dryer. Tuesday, I cleaned both boys rooms very quickly (dusting and vacuuming, also making sure nothings on the floor). And vacuumed upstairs and swung around to get Noah for that health check thing. Then Wednesday was a bit tricky for me. Wednesday was our town's music concert. Branden's class would be performing. I drop off Branden at the Plaza at 7:20am every morning. and come home make obento for Noah. However this day, was Noah's half day at the yochien so no lunch that day. Noboru wanted to also attend the town's music concert and see Branden perform. So, back at home, I quickly got Noah ready for yochien. I told Noah, I will be there for you at 11:30am. Not to worry. We left the house at 8am, a bit earlier then we usually leave. Noah and I got to the yochien around 8:28am. Parked the car. The earliest you can drop off your child is at 8:30am. I saw all the sensei's and 3 children were already there. My really good friend's daughter being one of them. So, I walked Noah in, by now the clock struck 8:30am. And I handed Noah off to the Yayoi sensei and I left. To my town without delay. Noboru had took the MPV to the town plaza I gather while I was driving Noah to yochien. And I drove my tiny red car meanwhile to the plaza. He was parked in the first row, great parking he got. I was not so lucky I was like the 3rd row from the back of the entire parking lot. Oh well, the walk did me some good. And I zipped through all the rows quite fast. We went in, and I saw a few mom's I knew. Kouiki's/Kaito's mom. Genki's mom. Etc. We sat down. And many brought their camcorders etc. I did not bring my camcorder. : ( All I brought was my digital camera. The time by now was 9:11am. Amazing really how much I had done and all the running here and there I did before then. ; ) The first pic shows I was there before it started, Branden saw me as did his classmates. I heard a.."Branden your mom's here" He smiled and waved. All his classmates are pretty nice and a good bunch of kids. They were also looking for their own parents, and many were there.
Branden's class, did 2 numbers. They performed once with instruments, mostly the pianica, drums and the piano. It was good.
Then they sang.
Group/class shot.
They even started swaying their arms... reminded me of Glee. ; )
An older women's group performed 2 songs. One being the song, "Edelweiss" These ladies were fantastic.
So many classes performed. And this was the big finale. It was the junior high music club. They performed 2 numbers. First one being..."In the Mood" Noboru and I both love that big band hit. We both turned to each other and said...Glenn Miller. Next was, a Disney medley, it was so amazing. I mean, we really enjoyed this quite a bit. The entire concert ended at 10:45am. We walked out of the plaza and said, see you at home. He left in the MPV and I meanwhile darted through the parking lot and to my car, we met at home. Not much to do at this time...too little time to clean...too much time to leave and get Noah at this point. So, we sat and had a coffee at the kitchen table together and Noboru said to really enjoyed that concert, I can tell and so did I. We should go and see something like that more often since we both enjoy it. I agreed. By now it was time for Noah to get out, so we both decided to go and pick up Noah together. Once at home. I did a load of laundry, towels. And we just all sort of waited until Branden got out of school at 3pm. So that was Wednesday.
Thursday, I stripped my bedding off my bed first thing and also pulled out all the fleece warm snuggly blankets out of the sealed plastic huge bag I keep them in, in the attic when not in season. Made obento. And Noah and myself and the entire bedding of mine left the house. I dropped off my bedding threw it into the huge blanket washer, Noah went into the laundry mat with me wearing his little uniform. 35 minutes is how long I have. Quickly dropped off Noah to yochien. Then I went back to the laundry mat and waited a short time for the laundry to be done. Threw it into the dryer, and went home. Made our bed. Put 2 of the fleecey snuggly blankets on the couch for evening snuggling on the couch cozy time. Noboru's day off.... after I made the bed....Noboru said I'd like to go fishing this morning but I want to help, so I will clean the kitchen, sounds great I said and I meanwhile cleaned the shower area. I vacuumed the entire house and swooshed toilets again. House was pretty much cleaned for the day. It was still pretty early. Before noon even. I waved him off. And to fish he went. I meanwhile, skyped my dad for about 10 minutes and used my time to treadmill. For me it's a stress reliever, not that I have huge stress or anything. : ) But yeah, it relaxes me. I walk, listen to music and go through things in my head...did I finish blah blah? What do I have to do tomorrow again? Should I order that shirt in a different color? What should I make this weekend for supper? You know...just momly things running through my mind. and when I get off the treadmill, I'm like yay me! : ) Oh yeah, threw the chicken into the oven right before I went to pick up the boys. Noboru came home so happy with all the good fishing he had done, he said, let me peel those potatoes for you. He peeled a huge amount of potatoes for the mashed taters. And I meanwhile got dinner ready which was pretty easy. So, a roasted chicken dinner, mashed potatoes,gravy, stuffing, veggies.
Here's the pic from the laundry mat. All my bedding in the dryer on the left. All our fleecey warm snuggly blankets (5 of them) 1 for Noah's bed, 1 for Branden's bed, 1 for my bed and 2 for the couch.
This is the planner I bought earlier in the week. I liked that it was really preppy in color and design. Green & white and polka dots on one side and pink & white stripes on the other side.
And it doesn't say Mark's diary on the actual planner, it was just the plastic wrapper that said that. : )

I also picked this one because it had lots of writing space for all the notes I need to write/jot down. Anyway that's just a tiny snippet of all the things that got done and that we did at our house this week. Friday was Noah's Fall ensoku and my other shaon kai meeting, but that will be in a separate post.