Monday, September 07, 2015

September bits & pieces...

This is going to be a semi medium in length to long-ish "jack of all trades", bits & pieces, hodge podge type a post, if you know what I mean. Basically, what our family has been up to. The last full week that the boys were on summer break. We really didn't have any major plans. So I thought it was a perfect time, to do some deeper cleaning and/ or decluttering of the house. So, I said 2 hours each day, for 5 days, we will kick butt and pick an area of the house and give it a major over haul basically. So that's what we did. Right after I made the boys breakfast and I ate my yogurt and had my morning coffee. We got crack-a lackin' on the kitchen this day. We first took everything out of the food pantry. Put everything on the kitchen table and we checked for expiration dates. Anything expired got tossed. And then we wiped off each shelf with a hot soapy and sudsy wash rag, dried each shelf. and put things back into the pantry. 

I think we have 6 or 8 shelves in the pantry total. I'd have to check to be sure. But here's 3. All coffee creamers in 1 area, followed by those chocolate milk straw things, a few packs of hot cocoa/Swiss Miss. Pasta mixes and noodles soup mixes, then we have Japanese Cook-Do's, Beef stew roux, Cream stew Curry roux, yeast for pizza, a few misc things. Next shelf is basically baking stuff, easier for me to find and cookies or chocolate. Next shelf is grains, dressings and chili powder and gravy mix etc. 

Three brownie boxes, 3 yellow cake mixes and 4 chocolate frostings. Huge Costco size of Nutella. American chocolate, like Reese's peanut butter cups, etc. 

Dressing, croutons, huge gravy mix, chili bean mix, soup packets (geeze louise we have a whole lotta soup packets) My favorite garlic bread spread, wow that rhymes. : )

A pinch from another shelf, we have popcorn oil on the left and 2 more dressings here, we have a huge Cost u less size of vinaigrette and another Thousand Island dressing. Clearly we will not be running out of salad dressing anytime soon. @_@ Hahaha. : ) But again, when you get that, chance to stock up, you do. : ) So the whole pantry was cleaned out, nothing expired. And we moved onto the fridge. 

New and fresh Bologna for school lunches for Bran and Noah, in the fridge of course. And we again just looked for anything old or expired. We wiped down the inside fridge shelves. I bleached the green counters because they just need to be cleaned. Rinsed them down, twice afterwards. Vacuumed the blinds in the kitchen. Dustiest blinds ever! Yikes! : ) 
Noah, vacuuming the kitchen floor like a boss! : ) Again I have mentioned it on my blog like a billion times, since they were itty bitty toddlers. But, I always had the kids help out with, chores around the house. Whether they were 3 years old and fixed the shoes in the entry way. Or helping fold towels, or ball up some socks while I did the more difficult laundry folding and hanging (now they help with it all, if asked). But yes kids do like helping. And I will go and buy them a 60 yen ice cream from the grocery store in town afterwards as a treat for helping. Or take them to Mc D's at the end of our cleaning week as a treat, that type a thing. And now that they're bigger, they totally help me. It's no big deal for them to help clean the house. And it's their house too and they should know how to clean, because #1 it's a life skill, and #2 someday when they're off in college, they will have to clean up after themselves. And by that time...it'll be second nature for them. 
This day Noah vacuumed the entire downstairs. Plus helped with the pantry and fridge.He moves the shoes all to one side, then moves them to the opposite side. Then afterwards he nicely puts the shoes down, in a nice order.  Noah is such a sweetheart, he vacuumed under the couches, the downstairs toilet room, he vacuumed  too. And then Bran took over. 

Branden vacuumed each and every stair and then the hallway upstairs. I meanwhile lightly tidied up the living room and swooshed the downstairs toilet. And we called it a day. And the kids had the rest of the day to themselves. : ) We finished around 9:30am, so we really had most of the day free. And I did take the boys for an ice cream after lunch. : ) This day, I took them to Mini Stop for the German chocolate soft cream. We 3 each, picked one. : ) Another day we hit the living room hard! And another day, we hit the sink area upstairs superly hard too. We cleaned a bunch for those 5 days. : )  And the last 2 days, we didn't do any cleaning at all. We just relaxed. 
Branden also thought it would be a nice thing to do and mow the lawn, because he knew his dad mentioned the lawn needing to be mowed and so he took it upon himself and did it while Noboru was at work. : )  You know what...I did something right, they're good kids! Real good kids. : ) And look at one of the chili plants. They're big huh. : ) 

In many towns and cities across Japan right now. You can buy tickets to purchase things. This is a way to increase "buying local" For example, if you live in Inzai (where my nearest Costco is) if you are a resident of Inzai, and you can show proof with a drivers licence etc. You can go to your appointed place and give them say ichiman yen (around $100 US) and they'll give you 11,000 yen for every 10,000 yen you give them. They will give you... Inzai tickets (they're long and rectangular in shape, like a check type shape) and you can use them at Costco in Inzai only, Besia in Inzai, but all places in Inzai. There is a banner outside of all places accepting the tickets. I do not live in Inzai, but I have seen the Inzai banners outside establishments accepting them and even a sign inside Costco says, we will accept Inzai tickets here. Also many of Noboru's coworkers live in Inzai. And it's good for residents, because they can get an extra 1000 yen if they live in Inzai, around $10US. Inzai residents don't get too much extra, but still $10 bucks extra, is still $10 bucks extra. Inzai has a lot of people. Now Narita, has a little less people than Inzai and they are giving 12,000 yen, for every 10,000 yen you give them. And again you will get coupons, not coupons, it's not a discount it's a flat out ticket worth 1000 yen each ticket. And you must show residency for Narita again by either a drivers license or whatever. And then there is my town. My town is super teeny tiny and only 5,000 residents in the town we live in. Which we love living in such a rural place. But get this, for every 10,000 yen we give them (think for every $100US) we give them, they give us back in tickets 13,000 yen so (about $130 US) that's basically a free $30 US. But again our tickets have the name of our town stamped on them, our town mascot is on them too. Hahaha. And you must use them in our town only. Because again...they want to increase the whole buying local. They really want my town residents, to buy and spend their money in our town. And to sort of...inspire us towns people to do so...they came up with this ticket idea. And how much extra can you get... depends on how big a town or city, you live in. Last week of July, we bought 50,000 yen worth of our town tickets. Our family ended up with a free or extra 15,000 yen that we did not pay for. Out of those 5 sets we bought, 1 of those sets was for me. I will use 10,000 yen at our local grocery store. And Noboru has meanwhile tucked his 12,000 yen, he got for free, meaning he did not pay for, away in an envelop and that will be paying for our floor heating all winter long. So we will be getting super hot floor heating, our floors downstairs are heated and feel like a pancake griddle in winter and now our floor heating....will be compliments of our town. It will totally cover the 200 liter tank, it takes to fill up our floor heaters. As for the rest of the tickets. Noboru will use them, But yep, super smart to jump on the tickets. Our town tickets are now sold out. And this pic, I had earned a spare 3,000 yen. I ran out of my liquid dark brown eyeliner, Noboru was going to buy me another one and then I mentioned I have that extra 3,000 yen on my tickets and he said you should go for it and use those. And he was with me and so, I was trying to get my total to be 3,000 yen or over. And since I use sunscreen daily I bought a spare Anessa smaller size one and a body spray. This spray is in my bag right now and it smells really really good and was only 480 yen. So, yep, these 3 things were not purchased by Noboru or myself, these 3 things were courtesy of our town. : ) Yep, yep nice to know our floor heating is, already paid for, no problem and already ear marked, courtesy of our town. Oh and Noboru's coworkers in Inzai also bought tickets. But Noboru's 1 coworker who lives in Narita bought, $2,000 or $2,500 US worth of tickets and with the extra 2,000 ($20)  of each set, they paid a year of swimming school for their son! Can you imagine they paid a whole year of their sons swimming, courtesy of Narita city and the buying local tickets were accepted at their kids swim school, the tickets are accepted just about everywhere, they're even accepted at Mini Stop and 7-11. Basically his swimming will be paid for, from now until August 2016 by Narita city. Again...that type of stuff is just plain smart. Same with our floor heating. And even on a smaller scale, when I chipped in 10,000 yen of my grocery budget to buy my own pack of tickets....so that the eyeliner doesn't have to come out of any body's pocket. Just...every little bit helps. If you're living in Japan, does your town or city offer, the "buy local tickets" Have you bought any? Many cities around our town are all sold out now. Even Noboru wanted to go and buy a few extra sets, but he called and our town has sold out of all the tickets too. Oh well. At least we have a free 200 liters of floor heating. That's actually really awesome savings, if you think about it. : ) Anyways...
A few random lunch pics from last week. Fried bologna and cheese sandwich. Skillet fried bologna, so yum. : )

Noah took a half a sandwich and some mac & cheese and Bran took 1 full sandwich in the green container and a half sandwich and mac & cheese. They also took sliced apples this day and a thermos with iced tea. 

This day, they took Chef Boyardee, ravioli. That's some parmesan sprinkled on top. They also took a half a slice of garlic bread with that delicious garlic bread spread. : ) And some sliced apple as well. I bought 2 apples last week. : ) 

These short fat thermoses are perfect for ravioli or soups. And these stay as hot, as the second you poured your stuff. Growing up in America, I don't recall my thermos ever kept my soups hot enough. But, I majorly tested this out, when we first got these. And I tested them at home and filled it with some hot water and I filled it at 7am and checked at noon and that water was as boiling hot at 12 noon as it was at 7am. Go figure. Call it Japanese technology or what. But these are amazing! I wish I had something this good when I was growing up! And these were free gifts from Nissen. So, we didn't even buy/purchase these. But they're awesome. What I do, is I fill up the kids thermos here with hot water from the hot water pot. And heat up the inside of this short thermos. Meanwhile I heat the ravioli on the stove. In the 5 minutes it takes to heat the ravioli up, the inside of this thermos is as hot as burning lava. I then dump the water out and fill with the ravioli. This thermos keeps things hot anyways. But by me, preheating the metal inside the thermos with boiling hot water from the hot water pot, it is steaming by the time the boys have lunch at 12 noon. And I feel really good about knowing the boys get a very nice hot lunch. A very filling lunch. : )
Another harvest from our plants outside. 

A small basket full of jalapeno and the bigger bowl had green chili in it, with a few jalapeno mixed in too. 

I roasted them and put a damp paper towel on them and then peeled them, and put another bag full in the freezer. I will be getting a new harvest this week too. : ) 

2 new Fall school books for Noah. Everyone in the 4th grade received these 2 new books.

Last week, I did go to the hair salon, I got my hair cut and colored. I am glad it's done. And I'll be all ready for undokai. After the salon, I swung home and Noboru was ready and waiting. We had a lunch date. We went to Coco Ichiban curry. We shared the 100 yen bowl of fries, while we were waiting for our curry. I had the pork vegetable curry. 

Friday, while the boys were at school, Noboru and I went to Costco Inzai/Chiba New Town. Here's what's our Costco Chiba New Town, is looking like right now. I am friends with an *amazing* lady who lives in Japan and she's unfortunately not been to a Costco in Japan yet. She's American and she's been to the Costco in America. But I think last week, was it last week? Anyway, she was talking about Costco and of course... I'm always talking about Costco and so then I was mentioning, how similar the Costco's in Japan and the ones in America are. So, this will probably make her smile these pics. She's amazing with the best personality in the whole world, and I am sure she will love these pics,  I am sure... she might be even thinking..."holy moly, the Costco's in Japan and America are pretty darned similar." Anyway, I hope she gets a kick out of these pics. : ) Also this is for any of you too...who haven't been to Costco in Japan yet and are curious what's there. : )  Halloween costumes galore! Most of them are for toddlers but they also had  Spiderman and Batman adult costumes too. : ) Can you see a giant spider above the girls costumes.

Prices. 


I have a Fall wreath already, but I am really tempted to get this Fall wreath!


Considering the exchange rate, dollars to yen and it's pretty much about the same price. Also there's already Christmas stuff out as well. 

These are new. Costco Japan now has a few more new cheeses to choose from.

The price was right up my alley and so I put one in my cart Friday morning. 

Two types of cheese, Mexican style cheese. And mozzarella cheese. A rotisserie chicken, ham for lunches for the boys and hamburger buns that went right in the freezer and mouth wash. 

A quick lunch for the both of us, Noboru picked a hot dog, I picked a slice of cheese pizza. 

We split the mango soft serve. This was so good. A little too pricey though, to buy all the time though. It would have been half the price, if we would have picked it with no mango. But, eh a nice treat. 

I also hit Joyful Honda in Inzai too, Friday. Wheat bread and the parmesan cheese was super cheap and a big size of body wash. 

Fries.

This Saturday that has just passed we cleaned Noah's bedroom for an hour. Good grief these blinds were dusty! But now they're not. : ) 

Vacuuming the window sil and realizing, holy smokes... the farmer was plowing the rice fields. 
See, he's in the back fields, in his rice farmer truck cutter thingy. Oh yes, I am so technical. LOL.

Red flowers in bloom near the shed.

Saturday, I also baked 2 loaves of banana bread. Reason, the store was selling 2 old bunches of giraffe bananas (it's what my kids and I call the spotty older bananas) 2 bags for 100 yen. While everyone turned their noses up at these old bananas, I thought, what a great deal and yum, I can make banana bread for cheap! : ) 

Mashed bananas.

Okay, we will get 2 good loaves out of you. : )

Okay, the kids attacked the first loaf Saturday afternoon. And when Noboru got home he further attacked the banana bread. Noboru loves banana bread. So, I am sorry I could not get a picture of 2 loaves. But, you get the idea. It disappeared completely by Sunday at 3pm. : ) 

Saturday's dinner. I reheated the rotisserie chicken, in the oven and then I sliced up all the white meat and put it on one plate and sliced up the dark meat and put it on another plate. The kids prefer white meat, and so do I. But Noboru prefers dark meat and so I make his special just for him. : ) 

Saturday, I tell ya what, not only did I clean Noah's room for 1 hour and Noah helped all the way. I baked 2 loaves of banana bread. Reheated the chicken and sliced it up. You'll find out what I made very soon. : ) And also boiled beans and refried them and made a pan of spanish rice too. I tell ya, Saturday, I was a busy little bee. : ) Sunday, I lazed around most of the day but I did make supper so, I did enjoy Sunday. : ) But...back to Saturday....

Do you know what taquitos are? Taquitos are corn tortillas skillet fried with something inside, like chicken or beef. And flautas are the exact same thing, except with flour tortillas. I like using rotisserie chicken because a rotisserie chicken, has so much delicious flavor and is so good all on it's own. Some people just boil chicken, but that just sounds a little unappetizing to me. I really love making mine with a rotisserie chicken, plus it's way easier this way too. About to wrap up this one, with all white meat and use 2 toothpicks to keep it shut, while frying. : ) 

And 3 cheers for Costco Japan carrying Mexican style cheese now. I make Mexican food about 3 times a month, it must be because I am from Denver, because they had so many good restaurants and I got used to eating good Mexican food. This was Noah's serving Saturday evening. A side of rice and beans and 1 taquito with sour cream and lettuce and cheese and I left his other one without any toppings because I know, he likes to dunk it in the beans. : ) 

These are so super easy to make. Corn tortillas can be bought easily at Kaldi, here in Japan. Kaldi sells import food. The rotisserie chicken came from Costco Japan, the toothpicks came from Daiso.  

I buy my beans when in Hawaii or Guam but beans can be bought on Amazon.jp. Sour cream can be purchased at a regular Japanese grocery store. My store in my town, doesn't carry sour cream, but every other store around me, does carry it. The lettuce, I just bought a bag of lettuce for 89 yen and chopped it a bit finer/smaller. I really do love baking and cooking though. I realize not everyone enjoys cooking. But, I really find it relaxing. And it's rewarding to me, seeing how much my family enjoys our dinners every night here at home.  I love when my boys come home from school and start sniffing for smells from the kitchen, as soon as they're taking off their shoes in the entry way, and start asking..."what's for dinner?" 

Close up of that gorgeous taquito covered with sour cream and lettuce and cheese and the rice and beans in the background. Noboru ate 4 taquitos and so did Bran. I had only 2. And Noah surprised me that he could polish off 2, plus his rice and beans. The next day/yesterday, Sunday I made spicy fried chicken sandwiches with fries (which is why I bought the fries for 240 yen at Joyful Honda.  Which is why I bought the hamburger buns at Costco. And today, Monday the boys took spicy chicken sandwiches to school, with fries and fresh cut pineapple for their fruit. I fried them up some fresh sandwiches this morning. Their lunches looked on point, this morning and smelled so good. : )  Anyway, that's about it from me. What have we been doing here? Not too much. Just keeping the house in order. The boys started school. Packing their lunches, Monday through Friday, which I do not mind at all. Making supper every night. The boys are both getting ready for undokai/sports day. Bran's is this Saturday Sept 12th and Noah's is Sept 19th. I watched the season finale of Scream and it ended really good. It should be raining all this week, but should be dry and sunny this Saturday, for Bran's undokai. Tonight for dinner, I'm making Japanese, I'm making niku jaga. Anyway that's about all for now. It's raining like crazy here right now and has been all morning. : )