Thursday, October 31, 2013

Branden turns 12

Branden turned 12, last Saturday, October 26th! It was raining all day, so we just hung out at home during the day. But in the evening we took Branden out to yakiniku for his birthday dinner! He had a choice of any restaurant, though he had narrowed it down between Capricciosa (Italian) or yakiniku. Branden flip flopped all week trying to decide. : ) He knew it was his choice, since it was his birthday. : ) He decided though that he was feeling more like yakiniku, so that's where we went. : ) 

Noah enjoying nibbling on some fries while we waited for the lady to bring us our meat. We always get coupons for this place online and we get free french fry coupons, free drink bar coupons and whatnot, it's still not cheap granted, I think, we paid 8,000 yen (about $80 US) when we left last Saturday, but this place is so good, best in our surrounding area, we love this particular place, so really worth it. : )

Cool beans! The big platter of rosu (lean beef) came out and we were ready to start cookin'! Noboru had kalbi, he loves kalbi. : )  

Happy birthday sweets! : ) We sure do love you kiddo! : )

Marinating my meat, I like my meat to take a little soak in there for a bit, hahaha. : ) Then wrapped in lettuce leaves with some rice. 

You can tell Branden got a bit serious with his cooking, because he unzipped the sweatshirt! Hahaha. : ) 

Branden had a choice of a massive cake from Costco or a handmade ice-cream cake from Nagano. Either way, they're both special and good! Branden went with ice cream cake. He picked banana top layer and Nutella for this bottom layer, it says Italian chocolate, but if you read the description it says hazelnut flavored chocolate!!! We love Nutella around here and yes it is Nutella flavor, so we just cut to the chase and call a spade a spade, so bottom flavor, Nutella. : ) 

The happy birthday part used to be in Japanese only, but now it can come both ways. Which is great if you would like English or if you'd like Japanese. : ) A winwin for everyone ordering. Happy birthday Branden, you're a good kid and I'm proud to be your mom. : ) Same for you too Noah, proud to be your mom. : )

As if we weren't stuffed enough with all that yakiniku, we came home and lit the birthday candles, sang happy birthday. And had some cake! It was a Saturday, so no school the next day, which was so nice! : )

Branden has been wanting a radio control car by Tamiya for like years! In fact the 1 wish he wrote on that tanabata tree when we were at the Hilton Hotel in Guam 2 or so years ago, he wrote his wish to have a Tamiya brand radio control car! So Branden has been wishing and wanting and hoping for one, for like forever! Granted I am a girl and I'm not into RC cars at all! Though I did have a Barbie RC car and my regular Barbie did have the pink Corvette, lol. But RC wise, like major big name brands I know absolutely nothing about. However Noboru does! You know how nowadays, Spongebob, Phineas and Ferb and stuff is popular, right? Or in Japan, One Piece, Nameko etc. Anyway, in Noboru's day, there was a cartoon in Japan about RC cars!!! The cars on that cartoon were the brand Tamiya. The price of them. I'll tell you, 17,000 yen and up! @.@ Yep about $170 for 1 RC car. They are so expensive. Like holy crap expensive! Anyway, Noboru always wanted one, when he was growing up, all Noboru's friends had one. But he did not. : (  It wasn't for financial reasons because Noboru's family did have money growing up. His parents just didn't see it as important. Anyone see the Santa Clause with Tim Allen? Well that Tamiya racing car was Noboru's weenie whistle, if you know what I mean! The gift he always dreamed about but NEVER got! : ( Flash forward to now. Branden has been wishing for one for the last couple years. Noboru was always rooting for Branden getting one. But I was the one sorta semi holding out on it. Granted, I wasn't like all hard core about it or anything... but I admit I was more like, "meh, really?" 17,000 yen for 1 car? @.@ Then a month ago, Noboru told me while the boys were at school. " Look baby I know you're on the fence but...I always wanted one of those, but I never got one, now it's too late for me" " and I guess, I just don't want Branden to be like that, do you know what I mean" In that instant, I got it! I totally did. And I told Noboru about how I always wanted the Barbie dream house and I never got it either! I guess my parents didn't realize how badly I wanted it. My cousins got it! The thing was like only $30-40 bucks. I ended up with about 30 wonderful gifts that year (only child, I was) but no dreamhouse! The only gift I really wished for, wasn't under that tree, so yeah I "got it" completely. Yeah, I understood Totally! I told Noboru, OMG, you're so right... I get it! You're right, he needs to get this! : ) And so 17,000 yen later, Branden's dream came true. : ) 

Noboru ordered Branden an extra battery pack and a quick charger. Sunday thank goodness, it wasn't raining, and Branden raced that car all morning until breakfast was ready! : )

Branden getting ready and Noah got out his $25 US, RC monster truck, so Branden could have someone to race with! Nobody wants to race alone! : ) 

Noah is the official fastest runner in our family, so Branden said, Noah run with the car and see who's faster, you or the Tamiya car! Hahaha. Kids!!! The things they think are super important to test out, like....who's faster. Noah or the car?!!! @.@ : )  I love their kid logic and minds! The way they think! : ) 

Birthday bliss! : ) Branden raced it to the battery was done! He played this all day long! : ) 

Branden loved the witty card my dad sent this year! We all thought that was the coolest card! Branden has slept almost 4 years of his life so far? Eaten about 480 slices of pizza? I think that is correct, hahaha! Wow that's a lot of heart beats! Again just a really cool card! 

He's shampooed at least 1872 times! : )

All of the little facts were fun!

Branden will be taking his birthday money to Denver next week. 

Aww. : )

Grandma Mitsuko also sent a special letter for Branden along with some pocket money, and I did have Branden call her and say thank you and talk for a bit. : ) Always important to say thank you, I know. : ) I had Branden skype my dad as well.  All in all, that's how we spent Branden's birthday this year. : ) 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Noah’s class performance, at our town music and talent day

Last Thursday, October 24th was a day we had musical performances and dancing from people in our town. The 2 different elementary schools in our town brought 2 classes each to show what they could do! Both schools did amazing. A junior high group came to show their stuff also! I know, because Genki's sister Momo-chan was there in her junior high school uniform and waved. : ) All the way to the grandma hula dancer group, that our town has and plays at many different venues around here. It was pretty cool actually! Plus I know Noah's class has been practicing for the past week or two pretty hard and he was getting so excited the days leading up. Making sure, "are you and daddy going to come and watch me on Thursday?" : ) "Yes, Noah honey we will both be there, wouldn't miss it for the world!" "Next day, "you two are going to be there, right?" Ahh, my little worry wart! : ) "Yes, honey not to worry." That's so typical Noah! : ) Anyway Noah's sensei sent a note home to the entire class, a poll if you will, right before the town undokai asking if we all had a jinbei or yukata type outfit because she had a great idea to have all the kids show up wearing one! We circled yes, Noah does have one and sent it back. Everyone had one, which was great. Our school sent the 2nd graders and the 4th graders to the performance this year. The other smaller school sent the 6th graders and the 1st graders. Our 4th graders all wore cute bandannas in different colors. When the 2nd graders arrived at the plaza though, you could hear the crowd in the audience all talking "wow they wore jinbei, they wore yukata, how cool" There were lots of elderly in the audience especially since the grandma hula dancers were there with their husbands etc. The whole auditorium was packed basically. Plus the other schools parents and our schools parents. But yeah the whole crowd did like the idea that our sensei had, of the showing up wearing jinbei and yukata. I whispered to Noboru, "our teacher had a perfect idea with this one!" : ) Noah had a speaking part at the beginning but because the kid who spoke before Noah.... said the name of our school, I can't show the video, no worries : ), but it was cute though. : ) That's why Noah was standing at the front in this picture, with about 4 other boys about to speak before they performed.

They played this 1 song on their pianica. : ) Video is down below. But the coolest thing Noah's class did, was the 2 bottom videos. They sang 2 songs,  played ball and made a circle while singing. The cool thing about those bottom 2 videos is the song choice the teacher picked. Because those songs are very old school Japanese songs, everyone loved hearing the kids of today singing them. Noboru whispered in my ear, "these songs are from my grandma's age, she would sing these when she was young" Noboru also grew up singing those songs as well. So, those are like literally old school songs that people really really love and would sing during recess while at school a long long time ago, again Noboru's grandma age type song, so people have very fond memories of these songs. I don't know if I should say traditional songs, iykwim, but I guess they could fall in that category, because the older folks in the audience just absolutely loved seeing young kids of Japan appreciating and carrying on the tradition of playing the same games and singing the same exact songs...even today! Everyone was clapping and it was just super super cool, you guys.  Alright, maybe it was an "you had to be there moment" or I don't know, but it was pretty cool. : ) Again, I think our teacher is always so cool for being so traditional. It would be a fair statement to say the 2nd graders totally rocked it! : )  Anyway, if you want to hear the songs, check out the last 2 videos, the videos are super short though.  I'm glad that my kids are growing up with an appreciation of Japanese traditional things like songs and games from yesteryear and also American traditional things as well and just sort of maintaining that balance and respect of both ways. It's not always easy, but we sure try. : ) Anyway, hope you like the videos and pics and now you know what was our family was up to last Thursday. : ) 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October's bits and pieces. Town undokai, the typhoon that wasn't, flu shots done and a few other things for good measure

Sunday, October 13th was our town's undokai. There are so many wonderful things about my town. But, I wish we would do away with the town undokai. That's the only thing. : )  Because we already have a school undokai. So adding another undokai already on top of that, is a bit much. But that's my only grumble really about my town. : ) Anyway the interesting thing about our town undokai is we must sit according to where you live in the actual town. All people and folks who live in our housing community for example, must sit between the big white tent/tarp that says the name of our housing community on it. I took out the name of said housing community but it was there on the tarp. : ) 

The 2 elementary schools show up, along with the 1 and only junior high school. 

Noah about to run in this picture! Noah had 1 event only and Branden had 1 event only. But again everyone must attend or be marked abscent.  The town undokai is held at the junior high school. 

Noah probably wondering, "who is that kid" : ) If you look at the last kid, he is indeed from the other elementary school. : ) His uniform shirt is all white verses how our school shirts have blue around the neck and sleeve/arm area. Ours are ringer T, type tops. : ) This town undokai is one of the few times during the year where the kids from both schools see each other. : )  This particular race called for ALL 2nd graders and that meant from both schools. : ) After a couple years the kids do start recognizing the other kids. But Noah being a 2nd grader this is only his 2nd town undokai, so and I'm sure same for that little boy as well. Most of the kids come from our particular shogakko/elementary school. Since our school is the bigger (population wise) school in our town.

Branden came in 2nd place on this, this was a run and then bounce a basketball down the lane. The 6th graders were specifically told from their teacher to try and make friends with the other town school kids because they will be going to the same junior high next April. : ) Branden told me that and I told him I 100% agree and very important. : ) Fwiw, Branden swims with a 6th grade girl name A. And she is from the other town school and so they've taken the swim bus together for years and years. So, because of his friendship with her, the handful of 6th graders already heard of Branden and he's super friendly so he made friends already. And Noah already knows to make friends with them, when he sees them also. : ) Again, it just helps our kids in the long run. So, make friends now! : ) 

Branden in the background bouncing that ball. Noboru and I worked this town undokai. Which is a good thing for me, that the boys were only in 1 event each, so that I could take their pics. And then get to work. We were to wait for the delivery truck that we ordered our obentos for our housing community... to arrive. The truck arrived and we had to haul booty to the truck and carry boxes and boxes of obentos/packed lunches and mass amounts of green tea. Then we ran back to our tents and from hancho to hancho/block leader to block leader, you needed to make sure you fed and passed out the food to the people from your street! So, I made sure for example grandma next door was fed, and that her husband who was at work but also ordered an obento that it was indeed delivered. Rin's family. Grandma with big white pretty fluffy dog, lol. And etc etc. Oh yes, and Ayumi-chan's family, just had to make sure everyone who lives on our street got a lunch and a drink. Then went and crossed out their name on the list. Badabing badaboom! Done and done! We all "job well done-d each other!" "Otsukare sama deshita"-ed, everyone! ; ) And the good thing this year is we usually have this huge mass marching band dancing performance, the same one we saw at regular school undokai, ykwim. However both schools decided let's skip it this year! Yes and yay! Can, I get a hallelujah on that one?! : ) And so right after the food was passed out if you wanted to leave, you could! People left in droves! Sorry to say it, but it's true! : ) I collected both kiddos and we left and went home too. Noboru needed to stay because he needed to disassemble the tent from our housing community but he was chilling with the other dad's and he was having himself a ball. So that's why we took 2 cars there. 

I bought both the boys a choco banana and myself one too. And we hit the road and went home! Rice field across the street from the junior high walking to my tiny red car. 

This is what the lunches looked like, that we passed out for free to whoever lives in our housing community. Your homeowners association (HOA) fees cover the meal. Which is why we only feed who lives here. : ) But you know, behind the scenes what people don't see, we need to decide which place to order the obento from. Also there was a complaint that last year someone who doesn't live here was getting a meal? @_@ Oh holy goodness, really? I mean so much behind the scenes stuff that is work real work on top of our own regular life stuff ykwim and night time meetings at the place near the tennis courts, the place we cleaned in April. Heck, a month ago, Noboru was off making 200 copies of something to make sure it got passed around the keiranban. I mean it is work. Work that people don't realize. If you have a gripe or you think your neighbor has been putting his trash out on the wrong day? Your dog bite the neighbor kid? Do you need a squabble settled? Well more then likely we're the ones trying to unravel said mess. : ) Eeek! : ) I am trying pretty hard not talking about the workload on the whole hancho and fuku kaicho front, but it is work and we will be doing a jig next March when our household is done with this job and our term is finally over, let's put it that way. : ) Boy next door's mom is up next year though she'll probably just be a hancho and not the fuku-kaicho like we were nuts enough to do, hahaha! Ganbatte! : ) Anyway, that's enough of that for now...

I meanwhile was going to make an obento which is why I prepped the chicken and had bought the mac and potato salads the day before, however Noboru told me, not to bother since we could go home right away. So, we had lunch at home. So this would have been our town undokai obento, but we had it at home instead. : )  Being fuku kaicho and even the block leader/hancho is really hard you guys. It is very time consuming, every time the gardeners landscape the community they come here to our house when they're done and I have to whip out the stamp and take responsibility that it is done and I approve it. I mean yikes, you know. : ) Anyway, we were just happy to be over another hurdle regarding that. March is our last month of that duty! 

The day after town undokai, Monday. We went and stocked up on some of those cassette bomb things. For when you cook on the dinner table and make nabes or whatever. These are typically used a lot in Fall and Winter time. Noboru likes to buy these in bulk because he often tells me, if we had a serious earthquake or yadayadayada, we'd be happy we had these. 

We were all over Chiba New Town that Monday after town undokai and we had lunch from Costco in the car on the way home. Noah had a hot dog with ketchup.

Branden had a huge slice of pepperoni pizza.

I had the hot provolone chicken sandwich.

Noboru driving and that's his hot dog on the dash. Every red light we had, he'd take a few big bites. : ) 

Noboru has been keeping both cars full of gas, totally topped off type full.

We bought yet another rotisserie chicken and a hunk of cheese for cheese and crackers or whathaveyou. : ) 

The cassette bombs.

Stocking up on body wash and antibacterial hand soap yet again. 

3 cases of water from Costco. Our town has well water, like super deep well water. It's so delicious. But, again better to be safe then sorry. : ) 

A box of matches and long lighters. Again just to make sure we have them on hand. Anyway....

Apples are cheap around here. I'm not sure why, but they are. : ) 

Making the crumble for my apple crisp. 

Buttered the bottom of the dish. This was the day before the big typhoon by the way. The big one, that caused the landslides. School had already been canceled for the next day. And so I wanted to bake a nice apple crisp. 

Apple mixture done, a little flour for thickening, cinnamon.

A few nubs of butter in there to give it a real mellow flavor. 

About to throw in the oven. 

Homemade from scratch apple crisp! The whole house smelled so good! Like apples and cinnamon.

The rain was really coming down hard by now. And I was making supper by now. But I let the boys each have a little bowl of apple crisp before supper. So they went and sat down on the couch enjoying a small bowl each of this. Meanwhile I got back to cooking dinner. 

We had curry nabe on the kicthen table. You can see the flower mat underneath. The winds were howling like crazy! But we had a nice piping hot curry nabe and homemade apple crisp for dessert. We had a very well stocked house, so we didn't need to go anywhere. : )  The next morning we woke to the rice fields flooded and the road back there under water. Crazy.  

Remember that pic of the road still drying out after that big typhoon? Well, I was coming back from the laundry mat. It was a nice sun shiny day after the typhoon. So I went and washed all the bedding from Branden and Noah's beds. And I also washed my pink and turqouise fleece extra blanket too. Both Branden and Noah's washable duvets were in the washer to the right. 

Tons of soap. 

Threw in a couple dryer sheets. And the blankets were so fresh and clean. Went home and made both of their beds. This week, I went to the laundry mat and washed my bedding from my bed. : ) 

I made baked chicken parmesan, date says October 19th. 

Bought a baguette from the bakery, sliced it in half and made garlic bread. Baked in the oven. 

One of our dinners, this past week. I like to eat Italian once a week, if I can. 

Says sale, but this is pretty much the price around here for a full bag of sweet potatoes, 70 yen. Could be because they're local. My cheap meat shop and meat store are both in Ibaraki. : ) You know how we live teeter tottering between Chiba and Ibaraki. : ) Being able to buy veggies and fruit and meat at such prices really helps the monthly grocery budget. : ) 

I steamed them and after they steamed for an hour, nice and slow, I sprinkled with salt and then roasted in the oven for about 10 minutes. Oh man, they were so good and sweet. : ) The boys like munching on one when they get home from school. Same for Noboru when he's home he'll munch one. I love them too. : )

Okay by now the big typhoon had already hit and by now we were expecting the other typhoon that was a dud. But boy were we happy about that. : ) Anyway, went and stocked up on meat. Bought about 10-11 nights worth. Some gorgeous thick pork for fried pork chops (we haven't had these yet), 2 pork roasts, 1 beef roast for beef stew, tons of chicken, like lots. : )  That is one thing I love about our fridge we have massive amounts of space, freezer space and just space pure and simple. It helps especially since Noboru likes to stock up and so do I. : ) 

Bought some treats for the boys. To put in their pumpkin here at home. : )
Then went to my normal store, bought some roux, (stew and curry) karaage powder. Again just nice to keep in the pantry, you never know. 

Coffee. I mix this with a spoon of the pumpkin creamer and it is nice. : ) 

For crackers and cheese type snackin'. 

This was last week, I went and bought enough drinks to ride out the typhoon if it was big or to ride out the weekend either way. : ) That grape juice is really good.

Our 1 and only grocery store for our town went out of business. : ( Yes it did. This has caused quite a few problems. Noboru being the fuku kaicho head (since the actual kaicho is living in Thailand doing tanshinfunin), and at town meetings with other areas and housing area heads. Noboru heard that the elderly are having a huge problem since the store closed. Just the ones who do not drive. Sure in the bigger cities, most can get by with trains and bus or walking or bikes. But here in the countryside. You need a car. There are no buses in our town, we have a town minivan and I'm not kidding, I'm serious and it's free and it only goes once an hour but doesn't leave our town. There's no real mass transport like in the bigger cities unless you count the 1 and only train that runs once an hour. The space or land from town to town is vast/big. We have 1 teeny tiny train station that runs once an hour and cuts off at 10pm. : ) So long story short, while younger people and families drive. And to be fair there are also many older folks, who do drive also. But still, some older people don't drive. And this 1 and only grocery store is their only place to shop. Since this store closed.... the handfuls of elderly that do NOT drive have had a very hard time. Stories have been told to the heads. That they have taken costly taxis to the nearest store which is FAR btw. Or hopped trains wearing backpacks and we're not talking genki seniors, we're talking more frail seniors. The elderly who don't drive in our town are having an awfully hard time. However the good news is, a chain is going to take over where the old store used to be. So hopefully in a month it will be back to normal. Anyway, the old shop was closed for 2 weeks and then they opened and said everything MUST go! : ( 20% off. Then 30% off. Now I personally don't shop this store, I find it very expensive anyway. I have cheaper shops I shop at. But, when the ice cream went 50% off, I had to stop. Sorry but, an 80 yen ice-cream 50% off, that's 40 yen! That's a great deal, too good a deal to pass up. So, last week, I went and stocked up on ice cream. Cookies and cream, choco chip mint, waffle sandwich, lemon shave ice, vanilla (Noboru's fave), the waffle was also Noboru's. Anyway hopefully the new store opens soon for the seniors who don't drive sake. : (

And even went back for these for the boys. And many were doing the same. I mean the people working there will be working for the new place, I bet. And nobody from the actual town went out of business because the store prior.... was also chain owned too, it just went out of business the chain. : )  Anyway, I am grateful for good freezer space. : ) Between all the meat and frozen veggies and ice-cream. : )  Anyway...

Last week, cleaned the tub super good and even used that water heater cleaner thing in it. And bought a new can of shea butter bath powder, this is my fave. : ) 
The typhoon, the last one was supposed to hit, Friday October 25th or Saturday the 26th. So, since it was supposed to hit. I decided to make a nice hot beef stew. Same with the typhoon the week before with the nabe and apple crisp. : ) And btw, by now we knew that because of the 2nd typhoon it sorta knocked the other typhoon off it's course. Last week Oct 25-26th, it was 2 typhoons at once. Otherwise it would of hit our town. So 3 cheers for the 2 typhoons! 1 knocked the other one right off course! Phew! It was nothing more then a light mist of rain last Friday and Saturday. But that's all really. No matter, the weekend was here. And a nice piping hot stew was boiling all day. The beef was fall apart tender. 

The beef boiled most of the day and the veggies boiled the last 25 minutes and the frozen green beans the last 5 minutes. : )

Japanese beef stew is my favorite, even more then American beef stew. Sorry for saying that. : ) But it's so hearty and delicious. Yum. : )  I always buy the beef stew box with the green bean in the picture and probably why I use green beans too. : )

I did get another fresh loaf of bread from the bakery for last Friday nights supper. 

Sliced and buttered.

And a very very small amount of rice at the base of the bowl. 

A nice hearty beef stew with potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, green beans. Beef was so tender. Bread for dunking. It was just a good dinner this last Friday night. Branden had seconds. And that makes me happy because I've got 2 growing boys who need a filling meal each and every night, like I always say. : )

Sand bags, this was what our town looked like all last week. Everyone on regular road level/rice field level, used sandbags and hoped the typhoon would skip us, which yes it did. Phew! 

This particular house, put up gray slabs of concrete and sandbags in front of the concrete slabs. I think because of the typhoon the week before everyone was a little scared. Anyway, just glad the last typhoon was a no-show except for some light rains. : ) 

Ahh, before I forget last Friday as soon as the boys got home from school, we went to the doctors office in our housing community to get our flu shots! Noboru and I each got a flu shot. And both Branden and Noah each got their first half of their flu shots. In Japan, kids get their flu shot twice. Meaning, they have to go back 1 month later and get the 2nd dose. So, the kids are 50% done with their flu shots now. : ) And Noboru and I are 100% done with our flu shots. And Delta pays/reimburses Noboru 100% for the cost of the flu shots so for us, getting them is free. : ) 2,500 yen a person last Friday. And then the boys will go back next month. and that will be another 2,500 yen for Branden and Noah next month as well, but he'll get the money back that he spent, so it's okay and plus Noboru is really big on everyone in our family getting their flu shots so, don't ask me why but that's the one thing he really is a stickler about....: ) Anyway we went home and I warmed up the beef stew and we all just enjoyed dinner. Everyone took showers. And we just enjoyed the night. : )