Monday, November 28, 2011

Gobble gobble gobble, Thanksgiving 2011

How our family spent Thanksgiving 2011. Branden and Noah first went to school, regular elementary and yochien (not Kumon). I let them miss Kumon however, I sent them to Kumon Monday, with a note asking for extra homework (Thursday's amount) since they'd be missing Thursday for Thanksgiving and she said that was absolutely fine and gave the extra work. So, Noah got out at 2pm from yochien and Branden got out at 3pm. So all relatively early. During the day, we cooked... I put the turkey in the oven while the boys were having breakfast that morning. My dad peeled potatoes around noon and we half boiled them to get a jump start on them for later. We all worked and did something to prepare and get ready for Thanksgiving. Around 4pm we started to sit down to eat. Here's a pic of Noah and Branden right before we started putting the food on the table. I think the table came out really nice. : )
Very festive.
Just about to sit down all of us. We had, a fabulous roasted turkey. Heaping amounts of mashed potatoes from scratch, we also had a very nice salad in the big wooden bowl, we also had black olives so the kids could put their fingers inside the olives (fun thing American kids like to do, I know I did that growing up ; ). Whole cranberry sauce, croutons for the salad, stuffing, green beans and crescent rolls.
Huge amounts of potatoes, huge amounts of everything. Beautifully decorated table to boot.
Two homemade from scratch pumpkin pies, and cute little gravy boat with gravy inside, we had extra gravy on the stove ready to refill at a moments notice.
Why is everyone looking at Noah and he laughing? Well, we are doing the..."what are you most thankful for this year?" family questions we always ask. We started with Branden and worked our way around the table, I went last but Noah was taking his turn during this picture. My dad was smiling as he answered. Very adorable answer he gave by the way. Noah did put thought into it, I could tell.
My serving. Noboru had picked the music we'd listen to and he picked Christmas music, so he streamed music from his laptop while we ate. So, it was fun, we ate and enjoyed Thanksgiving. And the Christmas music was fun to listen to during our meal and the volume was quiet so it was very light background music.
We were even joined by 2 Pilgrims. : ) The little ones on the table of course. ; )
Branden getting extra mashed potatoes and gravy. Noboru munching a cresent roll.
Homemade pumpkin pie, oh my! So good and the whipped cream on top yumm.
And afterwards, a very cleaned up and wiped down table. The following day/Friday was trash day, so we decided to slice up the turkey so the carcass could be thrown away the next day. Sliced white meat all on the plate on the right. And sliced dark meat on the plate on the left. Leftovers and sandwiches a plenty.

We had a very quiet, peaceful Thanksgiving. Just family. My dad wore normal/regular clothes but the rest of us all wore sweatpants and dressed for comfort. ; ) It was an amazing Thanksgiving holiday. I am thankful that you could join us dad.

My dad's visit was amazing he stayed until Saturday morning. We talked a lot and enjoyed our time from Tuesday evening-Saturday morning. He went with me and did my yochien and elementary school runs back and forth Thursday and Friday. We watched a lot of good TV and even enjoyed the Macy's day parade together on TV the whole family.

I hope for those of you that celebrate it, also had a lovely and wonderful Thanksgiving. And for those of you that don't, I hope you still had a lovely Thursday and weekend with your family. : )

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A fun festival on Japanese Labor Day

My dad arrived Tuesday evening as planned, and all of us end up going to have dinner together. We went to have Chinese food at the Ohsho, it was delicious as always. This pic was from the following day, Wednesday morning, it was a holiday for us here in Japan, Labor Day. And Branden and Noah did not have school that day. However they had their English study, so grandpa (my dad) jumped in and helped them with that, while I got cracking on the homemade pumpkin pies. : ) There are so many books and cards etc, that say things like 356 words you should know how to read/write by the first grade, etc etc. And Noah is knee deep in learning all those as well as on a good path of his reading. So, my dad went through the words with Noah. My dad flipping through some flashcards with Noah in this picture. He's actually such an amazing reader. Branden is too. Anyway this was from Wednesday morning.
My dad brought us a lot of stuff! I thought we were so totally stocked up for the Winter before. But now...wow even more so! Totally appreciated, thanks dad! These are the Christmas edition M&M's. Mint chocolate and the other Christmasy bag was peanut butter. And all colored for Christmas to boot! These will go great in my snowman candy dish!
Chips galore! I had brought back 2 big bags of chips a week before this. And now wow....we have even more chips. I see plenty of guacamole and salsa dipping with chips in our Winter break future. And nachos, yumm. And the Ruffles were for those turkey sandwiches. The tortilla chips were from Cost u less so they're a huge bag. Good thing we have a huge food pantry so it all fit in nicely.
When grandpa skyped before he came, he spoke to the boys, Branden had asked for Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
2 packs of bean and cheese burritos. Great for lazy weekend afternoon snacking. Ranch dip for those buffalo chicken strips in the freezer. Tortillas for wraps. And provolone for those delicious turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving. And another 3 pound pack of bacon. We now have 9 pounds of American bacon total. Definitely enough for Winter... for sures.
German cookies. We cracked these suckers open while my dad was here, they were so good, we still have half left. And fresh raisin bread from American bakery, perfect toasted and sliced with butter.
And 7 cans of meatless chili beans. Perfect for nachos or just a bowl of warmed chili beans on a cold Winter's day. Plus we also brought 6 or so cans the week beforehand.
Noboru wanted to put the turkey on this rack. However he was testing the weight limit of said rack that's why he put the case of jasmine tea on it. It worked beautifully and we placed the turkey on this rack when roasting our Thanksgiving turkey the next day. So no greasy bottom of the turkey.
After the pie baking and English study were done. The 5 of us headed to the plaza in our tiny town for the festival that takes place here every year.
Shaved ice/kakigori with about 10 different flavors to choose from, seriously so many choices of flavors (peach, cherry, green apple, cola, grape, lemon, blue Hawaii, etc etc. Choco bananas. Yakisoba, curry. The curry looked delicious and was made in huge pots.
Grilled fish.
Flowers. Everything locally grown from our tiny town of less then 5,000 people. You could buy fresh rice grown from right in our town/locally. Which is peace of mind so we know where it's from. You can buy this though readily around here though anytime anyway though. Farm fresh veg again grown in our town. Again if you're worried about it...it's at least peace of mind, if you are worried about food safety at all, since we know it's grown in a safe area. Around here has never had a spike at all after the March 11th aftermath. Our tiny town for being as small as it is. Was so completely quick to react after the March 11th and the reactor problems. They sent notes home from the local elementary school immediately saying in case you're worried, school lunches are all locally produced and grown..... all vegetables and things made for the school lunch are local. The milk from the local dairy. Eggs from the local dairy. And veg. Very honest and upfront our elementary was. The meat came and still comes from a safe place far away not even remotely near the reactor problems a totally different part of Japan altogether, again it all came on a school "take home" note immediately afterwards and ran in the town paper for months afterwards even....just in case anyone missed the notice the first few times. The monthly bulletin, was sent out almost immediately too... after it all happened.... saying our water in our town is well water from deep down in the earth never even is shown the light of day blah blah blah our water does not come from the bigger cities #1 and it is well water #2, that was huge peace of mind for us in the town. And saying furthermore if you still are worried you can come to the water facility and see. Again very upfront and honest. And why we had a lot less cause for panic and worry here, then say the bigger cities where they had water issues which we saw on the news afterwards. But we did leave Japan for a while and went to Guam, the kids and I for a while afterwards that is true and that was just for extra safety precaution and we are glad we did that. But our town is fine and the fresh veggies and rice, eggs, milk, etc fine. Noboru knows a lot about the wind directions, and has always felt the area our town is in, is very safe, so we feel lucky with that. And we feel safe living in the location we are. Anyway I went a little off topic, so getting back on track.
Noboru and Branden enjoying some real locally made mochi. Grown and made. Branden's friend from his class, his dad was the one who made this.
Branden, Noah and the ever popular Chiba-kun.
Sweet potato fries. These were delicious and local.
These are the things we bought from the festival. The school made homemade things to sell. Buying homemade things kids make are very cool! And the money goes to a good cause, our local school so why not! : ) My dad bought the fish plate because he has an older Japanese couple that are his neighbor's in his condo complex and she/they bring him omiyagi when she and her husband get back from Japan. She just got back recently and brought my dad omiyage. So my dad bought her that homemade fish plate, I think she'll love it. The Fall homemade plate with leaves meanwhile are what, I picked, I love this and knowing some child made this and poured all that work and love into making this plate. 200 yen to buy it, was a steal! I am very happy with this plate. Besides making dishes the kids also learn to sew and the school was selling homemade school bags, handmade sewn scrunchies (this always makes me think of Sex and the City when Carrie and Burgar (?) had that argument over the usage of scrunchy in his book, lol) and they also sold homemade coasters. Easter is not so common in Japan, Halloween is very common, but not Easter. I was surprised to see a kid, had not only had the fabric of Easter eggs and Eastery things but the child also sewed the set of 3 coasters very nicely for 100yen. I had to buy them...I will 100% appreciate these Easter coasters and will use them every Easter and think of whoever made them and smile. We also bought some local eggs. Local farm fresh eggs are very common in our town and readily available all over. They are so good and so affordable.
Senbei I put it face down, because it said, the name of our town on the other side. My dad wanted to also give this pack of senbei to his neighbor as well. He liked the fact the name is on the front that way he can say...my daughter is from this town. My dad very carefully packed these in his carry-on when he went back to Guam. : )
Wednesday after we got home from the town festival. My doorbell rang. It was my lovely friend Rumi-san from down the street. She had brought me many farm fresh carrots and sweet potatoes. My dad was so happily surprised she brought these, he said wow you really do have wonderful friends in this town. And the whole while we walked around the festival, my dad kept saying you're town is so self sufficient. I nodded my head and agreed. he saw me chatting and talking with friends while there. Branden too. My dad really likes our town. Kept commenting living in the country is so good for the boys. And when my dear friend rang the bell and brought these to us, he was just really blown away, very impressed with the kindness and hospitality.
The homemade pumpkin pies. The from scratch butter crust, so delicious. They cooled at home while we went to the festival and when we got home they were then ready to be put into the fridge for the following day.
Wednesday nights dinner. Cocoichi curry nabe. This was *so* freaking good! This is now my most favorite nabe now! My dad loved this too! We all gathered around the table and ate, then added more fresh veg as we ate, fresh cabbage, mushrooms, carrots my friend just gave us so they were superly farm fresh, we had so many veggies in there. It was so good. We had chicken, chicken balls, udon. It was totally yumm! Anyway this is what our family in our neck of the woods did last Wednesday. : )

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Flu shots done, the Thanksgiving turkey is here, and grandpa's on his way as we speak

Last week, Noboru, Branden and Noah and myself, all went and got our flu shots. We had an early morning appointment. We went in and out. And then to school, a bit delayed but the boys did get to school. And we told their teachers beforehand they'd be a good 45 minutes late for class due to them getting their flu shots. According to my girlfriends and the doctor and nurse, , you know how...the kids usually get 2 shots, however this year they only need to get one.
A quick pic as I drove Branden to the front of the school, the day we went and got our flu shots, Noah was next to be dropped off.
In other news the turkey arrived this Sunday. He's been in the fridge ever since, just defrosting and literally just chilling out. ; ).
19.86 pounds so nearly 20 pounds.
What else have I been doing, hmmm..... besides cleaning getting ready for my dad to arrive. He arrives this evening by the way. Buying new cutting boards since we'll be chopping so much for Thanksgiving, figured it would be a good time to replace them. Since they needed replacing anyway and the price was so fair.
Even ran to the Daiso to get an extra peeler. With all the potatoes we'll be peeling for homemade mashed potatoes an extra will come in handy.
Veggie side on the cutting board....
Meat side on the cutting board....

So in a nutshell, Noah's fine and happy and healthy. Branden is fine and happy as a clam. Noboru's happy and genki and still fishing in his spare time. And I'm fine as well too. ; ) My dad's in the air as we speak. Should be arriving around 5:30pm-ish this evening.

I had a shaon kai meeting today. We went to Mei-chan's mama's house, 6 mama's total including me. We had lunch, we talked and worked. Our next meeting is December 2nd. We picked out the music today. Music while we're eating during the actual shaon kai (thank you party), music while we're looking at the picture slides during the shaon kai (we're thinking the 2 songs from Sister Act and a few others like It's a small world, etc etc. Music when we're presenting presents to the sensei's (a piano cd or someone playing during this time). It was quite hard picking all the music out for the different moods and emotions we want everyone to feel. But, we did it. Then we got right back to the invitation cards. Ran into H's mom yesterday and we had said we forgot about Wednesday being a holiday (tomorrow) so their play date, of staying an hour late at yochien has been rescheduled for next Wednesday instead. So the boys do not have school tomorrow either.

What else....tomorrow is my pumpkin pie making day. Baking 2 from scratch with a delicious homemade butter crust...same as usual. And prep for the following day, Thanksgiving. The white table cloth has been washed already for the table. It's getting so close. Everyone's getting excited for Thanksgiving, it's nearly here.

I asked both Branden and Noah already...the question we ask each Thanksgiving around the dinner table..."What are you thankful for this year? They've been quietly thinking of their replies for days. Myself too. I've been giving some thought about the things I should be thankful for. Good family and good health are at the top of my list. : )

Both Branden and Noah are home right now. And we should be heading to Narita soon, we'd like to get something to eat before picking up my dad since we know he's going to be eating a nice meal in the airplane and won't need to eat here tonight. Noboru is off work for 3 days in a row, today and the next 2 days aftewards. So we'll all be here and home. It's going to be nice to just relax all of us. Tomorrow night we are planning to have curry nabe with my dad being here, he should enjoy it. : )

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) with a Catholic twist

November 15th, is Shichi-go-san for those of us living in Japan. If you'd like to read more about it, here's a link. I explained it when Branden went here and, I think last year as well. Also, quite a few yochien's throughout Japan have little ceremonies at their kindergarten's for the children as well. Our yochien has one too. But ours as you know is a little bit different...with a twist, since it's a Catholic yochien. From left to right, we have our extremely Catholic encho sensei. In the pink cardi is the lovely Yayoi sensei. And on the far right is Noah obviously and 3 of his classmates. After the ceremony was finished the younger classes left back to class and the oldest class remained in the church with us Sakura-gumi parents. This was our last opportunity to take pics of our kids for the 7-5-3 at our yochien. So to make sure everyone got a good pic they took the kids in groups of four. Noah was in the first group. The priest is lovely, I feel like I've known him forever. I'm really going to miss these people when Noah graduates. I really will. Anyway...here's how it began/started...
Knowing this was the last 7 5 3 Noah would have at the yochien we came early. It was to start at 10am and last until 10:30am. But we arrived at 9:30am. The church was open and the priest was already inside. So we went inside. Like 2 seconds after we sat down, someones grandpa and grandma came in and sat down. And then more people shuffled in. Noboru wanted to come and see this since this was Noah's very last one. I understood. We took separate cars since I was heading to Mei-chan's house along with the Jogo-san for our shaon kai meeting afterwards. Anyway....so, us mom's chit chatted before the ceremony started. The mom who sits behind me, cracks me up to no end. She lives in the small city Noah goes to yochien in. However she was born and raised from the tiny town we live in and call home. She loves this town. She gives me more info on this town then I ever knew. : ) She said, did you see our town on TV? I did not, I said...what was it about. Then she told me....did you try the town butcher yet? (she told me about it 2 weeks ago while at swim club) Yes I did, last week in fact! : ) See, she also has a daughter who swims the same day Noah does. And so we chit chat there too. Anyway, she told me 2 weeks ago, that our town has a very good butcher. And to try their miso pork, since I mentioned liking miso pork. She also rec'd their chicken wings. LOL. Anyway, at the church she now told me to try the town bakery. Bakery? I said, I had no idea we even had a bakery in our town!!!! @_@ Are you sure, I asked? She laughed. Where is it at, I asked. Near the clinic she said. Oh...I am going there this week for our influenza shots, I told her. Then Sera's mom came in and sat next to Noboru and I. Before you know it we were all talking up a storm....the kids were at the back of the church by now so we stopped our chatter and began the ceremony. We had a talk about this years flu shot, it seems things are different this year and it was good to get a heads up with talking to my girlfriends about it.

The treat bags that hold the Chitose Ame. Chestnuts with faces on the bags on the right.
See the tiny seats in the front? Those are for the oldest class. They get to sit in the front front. Noah you finally made it to the front row seats baby!!!!

There were no actual pictures allowed during the ceremony this year. Which sort of made me a little bit angry because I would have loved to take pics of the actual ceremony and also the kids sang a lovely shichi go san song. It was so cute. I would have loved to keep that as a family memory. But... the bright side is at least I have these pictures. So that is good enough.
All the kids who took pictures all patiently waited while kids in sets of 4, took their picture with the sensei and the priest. Noah patiently waited. : )
This picture was taken for the yearbook. So, I quickly snapped a picture too.
Wow, you kids got so big! : )

After this, Noboru left and I waved him off. And in the MPV he went. Meanwhile us Sakura-class/blue badge mom's, once again started chatting in the parking lot (about graduation stuff). Then, Mei-chan's mom and the Jogo-san and I all hopped into Mei-chan's mini van, I meanwhile parked my car towards the back of the yochien parking lot and folded my mirrors that way my car wouldn't be in the way, so my tiny red car stood at the yochien all day. So the 3 of us left together the rest knew we were starting the cards that day so they all waved us off...first went to a bakery to get some lunch. A new bakery to me. They bought 3 things each and so I bought 3 things too. I picked, a curry pan, first time I ever saw a curry pan not deep fried, it was good and way healthier, I prefer it not deep fried. And I picked an egg salad. This had great bread but the egg salad wasn't as good as my regular bakery makes it. And I picked one sweet thing, I picked a cream pan. The Jogo-san and I both picked these cream pans. The name said, special original type of cream pan, it looked very different. I loved this. We all took our baked goods to Mei-chan's mom's house. We enjoyed our lunch with plenty of good conversation. And then after we were done with lunch we got right down to business. We got started in on making the invitations. We worked and worked and worked until the yochein was about to let out. So, we all cleaned up and we all hopped into Mei-chan's mom's car and she drove us all to the school. Also, they loved the wrapping paper I brought and we are using it! Which makes me happy I could help. : )

We will be going back to Mei-chan's house on November 22nd to work on the invitation cards again. Hopefully we can finish them. We'd like to get them done before we break for Christmas, for the Winter holidays. Also, they knew Thanksgiving was the 24th, because I mentioned it when we were talking days we were not available. And yep right before we left we all 3 whipped out our calendar/date books and picked the date best that matched us. That date matched the 3 of us best. We will either be bringing obento or we'll buy lunch for ourselves from the bakery that day again. And then get right into our work. It's fun, it's social for me and I have a ball spending time with my friends, the ladies from the yochien.

Meanwhile, Noah continues to have play dates with yochien friends. Next Wednesday, his best friend Hikaru and him will be staying late and do kagai until 3pm because they can play at school together for an extra hour together. And a few of their friends are also doing the same. H's mom, told me last week about it. She said, can Noah do kagai in 2 weeks. Because the swim school is closed this week. So we had to skip a week. I said, for sure! She said, perfect! That way, H, and Noah and R-kun and S-chan can all play at the school run around like maniacs if they want to. And then at 3pm, they will all go to swim club together. So, next/this coming Wednesday play date. The day before Thanksgiving.
Here's the treat bag the sakura class/blue badges received this their final year for 7-5-3.
Noah's. : ) This says Noah. Awww, the last one he will get for 7-5-3 from the school.
And this lovely necklace, they receive these every year and I have all Noah's saved and tucked away and Branden's too.
Close up, so pretty!
These are small, so I will save all these things for Noah in his yochien memory box.
The treat bag also had velcro. Just probably used velcro tape but these details were cute that they added this anyway. : )
Each student received chitose ame (thousand year candy) and Noah gave one to his brother and I thought that was thoughtful. Noah ate the other one.

Anyway this is Noah's final 7-5-3 at the yochien! We love you Noah!!! : )