Monday, February 24, 2014

Taking Branden’s best friend to Guam with us, this coming March

Branden and Genki have been best friends since yochien (preschool and kindergarten) They both went through that whole Thomas The Tank Engine phase together, then Ultraman, boy....that Ultraman phase lasted long! lol. Then they both went through a big time Spongebob kick too. They live in the same housing community as us. He has 1 sister and he is the youngest sibling in his house. Branden is the oldest sibling in our house. Whatever it was...they just were always on the same wave length or whatever you wanna call it, but they just always "got each other" As a parent it makes you let out a sigh of relief like...phew...when you know your kid has a bestie like that. : ) This picture was taken the day they graduated yochien. 
Only 2 kids from our yochien transferred to our particular countryside town elementary school (the majority went to the small city nearest us...the elementary school in the city.) But, we never had a single worry, because the one they were starting 1st grade with was of course, their bestie. His parents were greatly relieved and so were we! This was taken on their first day of school. His sister is in the pic and my gosh, she is gorgeous and in junior high right now! The point is, they literally grew up together!
September 2013, is when this pic was taken, mini soccer match. Branden, Genki and Keita 1 side, and Noah and grandpa on the other side/team! : ) He's just always been an extended member of our family. : ) 
These 2 will definitely be at each others weddings some day. : ) I know it!
Noboru received 2 free roundtrip confirmed tickets, meaning not "stand by" that were about to expire .  So in January, Noboru mentioned, why don't we take Genki with us to Guam and he can use that free confirmed ticket? I thought about it for a few minutes and I said, you know what....that is a wonderful idea! So, when we had the town marathon, Noboru asked Genki's parents at the marathon. They were happy and surprised but also, asked if they could think about it. The next day, they said... sure! So we are going to take the boys, and Genki, 1 of the days to the PIC, so the boys can play. Our family hasn't been to the PIC since August 2011! When this pic was taken. I can only imagine all the fun, the 3 boys will have! : )

We will also take them to the PIC buffet, pictured here. I am just so excited that such a dear friend of our family is coming with us!

The first week of March is when our family, plus Genki will be in Guam. We will be there for 3 days. We have a hotel booked at another hotel. We have 2 rooms booked. 1 room for the kids, and 1 room for Noboru and I. Connecting room.

Passport! Genki's parents were over the moon excited and told us that Genki will be the first person in the entire family, both sides to have ever left Japan and he will also be the first person to ever get a passport! He has already applied and is now waiting for his passport! They can't wait to see it! Awww. : ) Very exciting!

Legal wise, (just to make sure our bases are covered) we have already made a consent form, in English and Japanese that states we may take this child for the specified dates (3 days) and his parents have signed it already. This way we are covered and we don't want anyone to think we're kidnappers or anything. @.@ Because clearly we are not. : )  I also feel really responsible for Genki. His family is clearly entrusting us with their son. As a parent, I understand and get that, so I will make sure he comes back happy and smiling. Maybe with a slight tan though. : )  Just last night, Genki's dad, called to ask, should they buy Genki a suitcase. : ) We just said, you really don't need one, just whatever Genki used on his over night stay to Hakone, will be more than fine. :  ) They're just really excited and I get that. : ) The flight is free (for us and them), the hotel we're covering (we got a super cheap deal). We just honestly, want them to have fun, plus he was invited by us, he's our guest! : ) He is bringing pocket money of course, to buy omiyage or whatever he would like.'s something we're just really looking forward to. : ) 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day. : ) We had a nice and quiet one here at the house. I did pick 3 chocolate haystacks from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, at Narita mall, while we were buying Branden's shoes on...... was it Tuesday? I think it was Tuesday. 

Noboru had been asking me to pick some chocolates for weeks and I said, if I see something, I'd let him know. These are my most favorite and since we were there anyway. I picked these. : )  Just 3 because I have a ningen dokku (big medical exam) at the end of March.
I also was running low on my face wash and green apple peel/exfoliator and so Noboru picked me up these too, while we were at Aeon. : ) Sorry, I just prefer practical gifts. : )

Eye glass cloth to clean your lenses, you know what I mean. : ) Again, practical. Sorry. :  ) I loved them, I picked the colored pencil and jelly beans. Branden was digging mine big time, so I convinced Noboru to get Branden, the colored pencil one as well. :  )  These were found and bought from Aeon. : )

I got an okay eye glass case with my glasses. But, I did wish for something a little more....hmmm. Stylish. And I found something and the price was pretty affordable.

They are a steel eye glass case, they are lined, they open with a flip top and were just 1300 yen each. I was going to pick just black, but Noboru said, if we ordered 2, we could get free shipping. And given the cost of shipping it was just wiser to pick 2. I have the jelly bean cloth folded inside the silver case, and the colored pencil cloth folded in the black case. I am using the black case right now.  And that's it for me. Very practical Valentine's gifts, but gifts, I will really use and love. :  )

Meanwhile, Thursday at swimming school Branden received this haul of Valentine's gifts from some of the girls there. 1 or 2 is friendship chocolate (tomo choco) from some girls. But most of it is starting to become, "I like you" or "I think you're cute" chocolate. @.@

Her name has been erased by me, just for her privacy, not that any of you would know her anyway. But you can read this. Also, I think this will be the last letter of Branden's I share, because he's getting older and I need to keep his letters private from now on, so last one. Basically, she says she really likes Branden. She is sorry she couldn't come to swim school that day. I want to hold your hand. And she loves Branden. Yep, that's the gist of the letter. She is a 5th grade girl and goes to our same elementary school. He also got a couple little notes similar in other treat bags. 

Inside one of his presents. 

Anyway, Saturday Feb 15th was to be a huge meeting for us yakuin ( leaders) of the kodomokai, however us, 3 heads, pres, and us 2 VP, had a meeting on the 14th before the rest of us met on the 15th. It was okay, because it was at the plaza, 20 minutes before the kids got out of school. So we could talk "important" stuff before the kids let out. So, since I do weekly menus....I knew I was going to be making my 3 guys delicious chicken parmesan and pasta for our Valentine s dinner. So, I breaded and prepped it up until this point in the day time of Feb 14th. 

I also baked Noboru and Branden and Noah some chocolate coconut cupcakes. Yumm. I just added a little coconut essence into the batter. And the frosting was coconut flavored anyway. Best frosting ever, by the way. 2 thumbs up on this frosting. So anyway, I baked the cupcakes in the daytime, breaded and cooked the chicken paremesan, did 2 loads of laundry, washed and tumbled dried our laundry. Vacuumed, and cleaned toilets. Not in that order. Then I slapped on some clothes, put my hair in a pony tail. Some concealer and powder foundation and lip balm, that's it, I was ready for my pre meeting...meeting. @.@ Hahaha. Dance...Footloose...notes, notes notes. And next thing we knew, the kids were all arriving down the hill to the plaza, so the meeting ended. Phew! What a day. : )

Branden brought home 2 more Valentine's Day treats. He also asked Noah immediately..."I heard your teacher confiscated all V-Day treats in your class? The whole school was talking about it!!!" Meanwhile I'm like... What? What's up Noah? ......
Luckily for Noah, he arrived early and a girl got to give him this before the ,majority of the class came in and the teacher came in and he put it/tucked it away in his randoseru. Apparently...a girl told a few kids, I am going to give treats and she brought them. But one fell out of her locker, right near the class. The sensei saw and was annoyed....she said "no Valentine's treats allowed for anyone...whoever has them, bring them to my desk you can't have them, if you want to give V-day gifts give them after school at their houses." So most every one's treats were confiscated, not sure if they were returned at the end of the day or not, I don't think so. Noah and the girl who gave them to him, said nothing and he just kept his hidden in his bag. According to Branden, the whole school heard about what happened in Noah's class. Noah was supposed to get another little gift from another little girl but it was confiscated. : (  Did the teacher eat it, throw it away? or I am not sure really. : ( Also, Noah's treats are "friendship" chocolate though, even though they are from girls. : ) Last year we had a different ichinensei teacher and she didn't mind V-Day gifts, but this sensei doesn't care for it.  The girls who did bring gifts were not carrying the bags back with them down the hill and the boys who were receiving the gifts didn't get them either. I somehow think the teacher kept them or threw them. @.@ 

I was about to add some very pretty sprinkles on my choco coconut cupcakes when Branden said..."mommy, can I say something....those silver ball ones hurt my teeth." @.@ I had no idea! Noah said, "yeah me too." @.@ I asked Noboru who was also standing in the kitchen. I said, sprinkles or no sprinkles, the 3 of them all said, "no sprinkles please." Wow...I had no idea. @.@ was for them anyway, so, I didn't add any. : ) 

Sprinkles or no sprinkles....  they were seriously.... so good! : ) 

What a bad cupcake picture and chicken paremsan pic, sorry about that guys. :  ) But, anyway, in a nut shell. Valentine's Day was special because we were all together, dinner was delicious and so was dessert.... it was snowing and raining and back and forth all day, the weather was bitterly cold outside. We were glad the weekend was starting. Just a quiet little V-day here at home with the fam. : )

Thursday, February 13, 2014

National Foundation Day...a holiday in Japan, day off school. So, mini getaway! Palm Terrace Hotel, Kua’Aina Burger at Ikspiari and Blue Water Shrimp at Aeon Makuhari Shintoshin

Tuesday, February 11th was a holiday here in Japan. School would be closed, so the perfect time to have a little getaway/overnight stay. Last month, we decided to book a hotel stay at that hotel near Tokyo Disney. We have 4 free hotel stays to use up, before the end of March, don't think we can use up all 4, but we at least used up 1, for this little trip. Plus it gave us something to look forward to, this little mini over night get away. : ) Then, the snow storm happened and we wondered if we would indeed be able to make it? But it turns out we did. : ) So, Monday as soon as the boys got out of school, they came home, dropped off their randoseru/backpacks. Noah did his homework since he got off school at 3pm and we waited for Branden to get off at 3:45pm. Branden came home dropped off his stuff and we hit the road immediately. Everyone had an overnight bag packed beforehand. Just jammies/PJs, next days clothes, not too much. : ) Also I know different areas of Japan, got hit with different amounts of snow, here are the pics of the snow in Izai/Chiba New Town. Where we live.... we also got slammed with snow! And Chiba New Town/Inzai was also slammed, with a ton of snow. This pic was taken in Chiba New Town. Lots of snow on the side of the road. This was taken Monday evening, so a couple days since the snow came (Saturday), it still had not melted at all. In fact it snowed a bit more even. 

Chiba New Town, a bit more city-ish but again tons of snow, snow in the middle of the road/median, huge amounts of snow the the right. Again not melted at all. And the roads start to freeze as it turns to night, the streets become black ice. Driving on a sheet of ice. Same for our area as well. 

Still Chiba New Town, look at the level of snow. 

Chiba New Town, 1 car abandoned pictured here. Snow all over the road and again once the sun sets the roads will become a sheet of ice. Usually snow melts in a day. Not this time....let's see, it snowed last Saturday and Monday it will still here. It even started lightly snowing on Tuesday as we were driving back to home. @.@

Look at the street on our side of the road, where's our driving lane? Under snow, that's where. Hahaha. : ) Shovels were sold out everywhere. It just....never snows like this here... really. So sorta really weird. 

Sun is indeed setting... there is ice patches on the road already. 

There was still the same amount of snow there Tuesday when we came back home. And I was just at Costco Chiba New Town yesterday and yes still snow on Wednesday. And snow is supposed to hit us yet again this coming Friday/tomorrow. Anyway....we made it to Urayasu just fine, where the hotel is and Ikspiari is. : )  Checked into the hotel, dropped our stuff in the room and headed to the mall for dinner. 
Walking around Urayasu ready to grab a bite to eat! : )

Yumm, Kua'Aina Burger! We have been thinking about you, for the past couple weeks, almost month, we were so ready. : ) 

Noah picked the chicken strips and he shared fries with Noboru. Last time we ordered Noah his own fries and it was just, way too many fries, we didn't eat them all, so this time, we didn't make the same mistake. 

 Noboru and Branden both had picked the cheeseburger and fries. We all had sodas. 

I had the teriyaki chicken sandwich and half onion rings, half fries. It was a delicious dinner, we were relaxed and happy. We walked around the mall a bit, the boys each got a fish pen at Sony Plaza and we headed back to the hotel. 

We went to Lawson's in the hotel, we each picked a drink and a snack, went back to our room. We had eclairs, Noboru picked instant ramen or udon. We each showered and we again...just relaxed in the room. Went to sleep after an hour or two. And I woke up first, brushed my teeth, did my hair and makeup, got dressed, woke up everyone else. And we went downstairs to the breakfast buffet. 

The buffet here is always pretty cheap, I think the kids are 500 yen each. Adults are 1000 yen. So not a bad price for Japan. And we really filled up. It was a nice leisurely breakfast, because we had planned heading to the new Aeon Makuhari mall, omg, is it huge! So since the mall didn't open until 10am, we just slowly enjoyed breakfast. It was nice. 

I had pancakes, croissants, cheese bread, and the omelets, I made sandwiches out of omelets. : )

There was a stamp rally at the hotel for kids. 

I sliced my croissant in half and put the omelet in there. lol. : ) 

A pretty good selection. 

We stayed at the Palm Terrace Hotel (for free) and had a very affordable breakfast the next morning. It was an excellent way to spend the day off school we thought. : )  

This is the Lawson in the hotel. And behind that is a Disney store. 

This may be one of the biggest Aeon malls (I think this is #3 biggest of the Aeons, but don't quote me on that, lol), and they do have some pretty awesome stores in there, but, it's a pain walking around there. Imo. I much prefer a regular Aeon. :  ) The mall is broken up in pieces and put together by these walkways pictured here. There is 1 kid cluster, so if you want to check out kids clothes for example, you have to walk to the kids cluster part of the mall. We were looking for shoes for Branden, so we had to walk the entire length of the mall to look for sports shoes in the sports cluster part of the mall, long long walk ways between each cluster. We parked at the Grand mall cluster, where the Blue Water Shrimp was. And main food court, however the sports shoe cluster was the opposite end of the entire mall, so we walked through many a clusters, pet store cluster that had a pet shop and pet pool @.@ All and everything for your pets needs inside the pet cluster, then walked through the kids cluster all the way to sports cluster at the opposite end of the mall. Then walked passed every cluster taking the walk ways back, there are windows and also parts where there are no windows and since the weather is freezing, we would walk through overly heated mall temps, then freezing outside temps, cluster,cluster, cluster walk way... freezing walkway to another cluster of the mall. And the corridors to the walkways were quite narrow and since everyone was stopped and blocking walking traffic, it was hard to walk around the hoards of people and folks. Just the whole cluster cluster, narrow corridor, walkway was weird. Maybe in Spring or in warmer weather, I'd feel differently. The positive and bright side will definitely get your daily exercise coming here! : )

A walkway, we walked this to get to the sports area. See Costco in the back, sorta smack dab between all the clusters of Aeon Makuhari. Hahaha. : ) 

This is the grand mall part, whatever that means. But the main food court is in there, though there is a smaller food court in the kids section, at least I think it was in the kids section, we got Noah's KFC from there though. Put it this way...if you went with a friend, take your phone, you will more then likely get lost if you guys separate and go and look at different stuff. : )

I had heard of this store, from Denmark. we walked around, didn't buy anything. There was however, a Hawaiian shop and it knocked my socks off, the prices were fair/comparable. Meaning a big and cute picture frame for 1200 yen/ 1400 yen. Just all sorts of cool stuff in the stuff from the Hawaii store. 

OMG! A free standing Kiehl's! I love Kiehl's! If I didn't restock in Denver, I would have bought something in there. I know Kiehl's delivers in Japan, but shoot, I'd go back to this mall just for the Kiehl's and the Hawaiian store. They also had a big H&M store in there too. Yay!

Blue Water Shrimp. They've had one in Yokohama for a while now. But now they have one in Makuhari now too. Very cool. We've been to the original one in Honolulu many times. 

Prices were comparable to the prices in Hawaii. Not double the cost at all. Same price/cost. 

Next to the Blue Water Shrimp is Honolulu Coffee. 

We checked out Blue Water, but we walked the entire length of the mall, corridors, walkways and clusters and all, to get to the sports section. We wanted the blue ones in this pic to the right, behind the pink shoes. The blue with pink laces. Price is reasonable for Branden's shoe size. However, same as last week, they had 25.5cm. But Branden needs a 26cm size. His shoes he's been wearing since last June are 25cm and he needs a 26cm. We tried the 25.5 and there's almost no room to grow at all. So we left this mall with no shoes and we checked every shoe store in the whole mall and nothing. : ( Gah!!!! 

We thought this was cool! Here at this pizza place you can bake your own pizza that you make. : ) We make ours at home from scratch, so we don't need this place personally.... but this is very cool for folks who might not get the opportunity to make one at home. 2 thumbs way up for this place! : ) 

We did pick up Noah some lunch at KFC in the smaller food court along the way. In another cluster/section/area. 

We 3 picked spicy garlic shrimp. We picked the 10 pieces of shrimp., came with a scoop of rice and a salad.  

The three of us loved it! It tasted the same. Price was the same. It was really nice. Good thing, Noboru checked online last week, all the restaurants this mall had, we had been waiting to try this shrimp since last week. : )  We did walk around the mall for about an hour after eating our lunch. So, it would be fair to say we walked ourselves silly Tuesday. Hahaha. 10,000 steps easy! We walked from one end of the mall and back again, we also like I said walked around this grand part of the mall all levels for a good hour on top of that too. We then headed to the car and headed home via Chiba New Town.  About 2 and a half hours later after lunch, we had dinner.....

We went to the Ohsho in Chiba New Town/Inzai for supper. Noah had ramen and karaage.

We all had plenty to eat. It was a lovely 24 hours. It was just a nice little get away. We didn't even get away very far. Hahaha. : ) Still in Chiba. did us all, a world of good. : ) 

Snow on Tuesday, in Chiba New Town. Did it melt away? Nope, as you can see, it is still here. And still there yesterday, as I went to Costco yesterday. And like I said, snow is expected to hit us tomorrow all over again. @.@ Holy goodness! : ) 

Snow still here on the way home....though we were making 1 last pit stop to Narita in hopes to find Branden his shoes in 26cm. 

Snow level is pretty high. Again not Hokkaido type high, but totally high levels for here. 

Now we were in Narita, this is a rice field right near the Aeon mall in Narita. 
The fish pen, both Branden and Noah each got a fish pen like this. 

Sometimes, it seems we have lady luck on our side, which is sorta nice considering it took us ages to track down Branden's shoes anyway. You will not believe this but...the same exact shoes we were looking for, were on sale for 2980 yen. Under $30 US. @.@ And the reason was, they just happened to be the last pair..the other shoes had actual reasons/notes jotted and written on the tag that said defective or something...these were fine and the reason was blank so, we tracked down and kindly asked the person working at Sports Authority and they said these were the last pair so that's why they were marked down! At Aeon Makuhari, they were nearly 6000 yen! $60US. @.@ And yes size 26cm. Last pair, so marked down? We'll take em'! And we did check these shoes out... with a fine tooth comb so to speak and they are perfect. 

Nice color with room to grow.

Adidas on the toe. Just really nice and the price was awesome. 

Also, Branden got a sweatshirt from Uniqlo, from the men's department. Very cute. :  ) Anyway that was our over night trip in a nut shell. : )