Thursday, December 31, 2015

Throwback Thursday. New Year's cards we've sent to family and good friends from the past couple years...

Today is the last throwback Thursday for 2015! Everybody ready to ring in the new year? : ) I know we sure are! Anyway, in the United States, we usually send Christmas cards. Ever since I was very little, I remember my family sending out a ton of Christmas cards every year and us receiving a stack of them every single year too. Here in Japan, it's all about the New Years cards! I usually share a picture of our newest New Years card on my blog every January 1st. To wish you all a very Happy New Year with the card! And I will do the same tomorrow, with our newest card! So while I can't share our newest 2016 card just yet...not until tomorrow, because I want all who will receive them in the mail...who also read my blog... to be surprised by the new one. But, I can share our New Year's cards from years past! This was the New year's card which we sent out for the year 2013! I really love to make our New Year's cards every year. I have made them at a few different online companies for years. I now have a favorite company that I have been ordering from for the past 2 years. Before that, I floated between a few companies. They are made by a company who specializes in stuff like this, but they are also made by me...meaning, I hand select each picture that goes into our card. I pick out which picture gets placed where... on our cards. I pick out the wording. So while they are professionally made and look amazing and professionally done, they are also hand selected pictures, placed and set by me. And when I like the card and am sure..then I place my order. I usually order my cards mid to end of November! That way they are in my house by December 1st. The year 2012, was a significant year for Noah, because he started the first grade. And in Japan being a "pika pika ichinensei" is a...rite of passage, and with getting his randoseru (Japanese backpack) and everything... so that picture we knew had to be placed on our family's card for that year, letting everyone of our nearest and dearest know...Noah entered the first grade. I also showed just the boys taking part in some water gun play in our backyard. The boys with Disney popcorn buckets about to go to catch the train with us to go and grab some supper at Kua 'Aina and then head back to Disney. Noah's first time experience trick or treating for real..in Guam USA. And a pic from that same Halloween Guam trip, of the boys at the Hilton on the balcony. And the pic of the boys at the Ala Moana mall holding their coconut ice cream when we took Noah to Hawaii in March for his yochien/kindy graduation trip. So I do try my best... to capture each year...in a round up... picture collage as best as I can. And I think this pretty much wrapped up that year perfectly! : )   So these were the cards we sent out... for 2013!
These were the New Year's cards we sent out for the year 2014! A wonderful 6 picture collage of our summer trip to Hawaii that year. And the bottom 3 pics shared the Fall time...trip, we took when we went back to my home state and visited Denver, Colorado that year! So again, it wrapped up that year really perfectly too. I did blue out...our last name. Again very professionally made, but also still hand selected and made by me. Like they say a picture is worth a thousand words. And I find people really like receiving our cards. And we really like sending them out... to our family and close personal friends. : )
These we sent out last year! Again professionally made yes... but hand selected and each picture chosen by me, sorry I said that 3 times this post...but a true fact and what makes our cards really so cool... is because they have such personality...our cards. Noboru is glad I don't mind handling the New Year's cards. Last year I switched from making them at an American company to a Japanese company online. I switched because when I made them from an American online company, I had to pay international shipping. With these cards pictured here, these I made from the Japanese company and I didn't have to pay international shipping and they ship your cards in about 2-3 days, so you receive them super fast. Also, once I did order them from Australia this was like 5-6 years ago and they were the worst cards ever and I only say that.... because about 5 of our cards were super streaky over my kids faces.. which totally ruined the pictures...blurry pictures. And considering each card is about 150-200 yen per card...to have not been able to use 5-6 of the cards, was outrageous. So I have ordered from 1 American company loved it...never had 1 single runny blurry streaky picture problem... but the shipping to Japan ridiculous. The one from Australia was slightly cheaper then the American shipping... but given about 5-6 postcards were ruined, would never recommend them at all, because their quality was so iffy and sketchy. Their website had a jp at the end. And the Japanese company I am using now and used last year...the cards right in this pic. Cheap domestic shipping, have never had a runny or blurry ruined card and the making of the cards to shipping to my door step... is 2-3 days from order. Also you can buy them with postage already on your card, that's how I prefer and you can even input everyone's address on their site and they'll print them out for you. All easy peasy and done. Saves the headache. : ) And they even come with those lottery numbers on them. And in Japan, Japanese people look forward to winning something with the lucky lottery numbers... stamped on each card. So, I get ours with a postage stamp on there, address on there and lottery numbers on there. In Japan they say if you can't get your cards to the post office by December 25th... they will not make it to be delivered by January 1st. In Japan the mail places save all cards and deliver them in 1 fell swoop on January 1st. So, if you want yours to make it the same day as everyone else's... make sure by Christmas...they get to the post office. Just something to keep in mind for next year. : )  

I usually will have the boy's write a simple hand written message to all of their friends. It's just a common thing to do for these cards. Just something simple, personal and handwritten. Noah will just say something like.."thanks for being such a great friend this year, let's play together this year too" Or Bran will say..."let's study hard this year, just like last year"...just something...simple...1 easy phrase. Nothing like rocket science. To my own personal friends...like my movie friends, I'll usually just say..."hey let's see some new great movies this coming year" or "thanks for being such a great friend, let's go have some lunch real soon" Again...nothing...major. But that personal little... 1 sentence line, is just something usually done here. The kids usually write the same message to all their friends. I write different messages depending who it is. Anyway, have a happy and safe New Year's eve everyone! See you next year/tomorrow! : )  

What's our plan tonight? We will be having baked chicken parmesan on top of a bed of pasta. Some homemade peanut butter and Reese's peanut butter cup ice cream and chips for snacking later on... while enjoying the Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy channel, it's our tradition here at our house. We are also making some homemade from scratch cinnamon rolls... the dough tonight and we'll bake them for breakfast tomorrow morning. Homemade from scratch pizza January 1st dinner. January 2nd, a big ol' pot of Texas style chili beans. And January 3rd, we will be meeting, like I said in my last post my BIL, SIL, MIL and my 2 nieces and my 1 year old nephew, plus our family of four and we'll be meeting up at a restaurant in Narita, we already have a reservation for that since our party is going to be rather large. Meaning lots of folks. Anyway have a happy New Year and happy holidays everyone! : ) 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The great big end of the year clean up in Japan! Pre-New Year's clean up! New Year's oosoji! Getting ready for the New Year. Some end of the year shopping at Uniqlo, Sports Depo, Old Navy and Costco...

December 26th, the day right after Christmas. Branden and I immediately started in on the huge end of the year clean up in his room. I blog about this every single year and have since my blog first started in 2005. In Japan, Japanese people like to ring in the new year in a fresh clean house. Starting the new year with a fresh clean slate, I have said this for years. And it's true. I personally *love* this Japanese custom! I love having a huge end of the year clean up, of the entire house. Granted my house is pretty clean and organized to begin with year round. However it is not perfectly clean 100% every single day. Because well...real life happens here. And with 2 kids, it happens. : ) In any case, perfect chance to get a huge deep cleaning done! Keep in mind, we also do the American version at our house too...meaning, we have a great big spring cleaning, every spring. And I like to do a great big cleaning over haul too, when the Fall comes creeping in and summers rolling out. : ) So 3 huge times of cleaning a year...mixed in with the weekly regular stuff. Sorta keeps things from ever getting too bad! : ) December 26th, we both lifted and moved Branden's mattress. Holy smokes! Not many things usually shock me...but holy crap! There were misc socks...used up rolled up kleenex, he blows his nose wilds every single morning...now I know he threw a great deal under his bed! @_@ It was quite scary under there! I last cleaned under there this Fall. Shocking... what it looked like since then. However...had him throw out all tissues in the trash pronto! Grab all misc socks and put them into the dirty clothes basket! He vacuumed all the edging. And I came in with the green vacuum and I vacuumed and vacuumed my little heart out. We had music playing in there, via my phone and music streaming. Windows open. I vacuumed the blinds. I saw A-chan's papa cleaning all the windows in their house. the mom was kicking butt in their kitchen. Their windows were open too. I saw she saw a glimpse of us in Bran's room. I then saw, boy next doors mom cleaning her house, again she saw us too. All of Japan cleans at the same time. And it must be done on or by December 30th. You should not be cleaning on the 31st. It usually *has* to be done on the 30th. So we just worked our butts off on December 26th. And we actually finished Bran's room. Man it was a lot of work. 
Wiped and dusted his Ikea bed!

By the time we were done. His under bed area was as spic and span clean and you could imagine. Not 1 dust in sight! Perfectly clean under there! Keyboard, Dr. Dre Beats headphone box. And his Tamiya car. 

Two Bey stadiums. 

Windows were wiped and windex-ed! 

I'm kidding you not, his bedroom floor by the time we were done...was vacuumed about 5 times!

Not even a tiny dot of dust behind his toy and game storage. And his boxes were very messy...very unorganized. Never fear...I can tackle this right along with you! And I did!

We wiped and cleaned each plastic box. And dried each plastic box.

And yet more vacuuming of Bran's room.

Presto change-o and done! Organized. The 3DS cards all together. The Wii games all together. Now...everything makes sense. 

Just organizing his stuff...

Deodorants a plenty in there.... and body sprays and some Calvin Klein Escape. His Body Shop comb. And spare pair of glasses. And his Minecraft torch in case of...a Minecraft emergency? @_@ Hahaha. And letters and whatnot in his ziplock, all together. Everything organized...everything tidy. After that. I vacuumed my bedroom, vacuumed my bedroom blinds. Dusted my 2 night stands on both sides of the bed. I vacuumed the laundry room upstairs too. Washed the upstairs sink. And called it a day on December 26th. Good thing we had leftover ham because I was pooped. 
December 27th. We are now cleaning Noah's room. And goodness are we high up. And goodness is that quite the drop... to where the rice fields are. We are elevated on a rocky type hill area. Where our housing community is located. Just like B's room. We started with the windows. I vacuumed said windows and blinds. Windex-ed Noah's bedroom windows. 

Like a champ, Noah vacuumed all his bedroom carpet edging. And I vacuumed his bedroom really nicely about 5 times too. And I should say. If I cleaned their rooms all by myself. I feel my sons would never really appreciate or understand how hard it is to clean it. Not learn to appreciate how hard it took to clean the room and probably wouldn't want to keep it clean. And I just don't want my kids to turn out like that. So since they were little. I had them help me clean their rooms. They learned how hard it was to clean it...how much work went into cleaning it...and believe me...rooms stay cleaner...and longer... when they have to clean half of it! I know we all parent differently and stuff. But my boys know how to clean, and they should! For the regular weekly cleaning of their rooms, they are in charge of cleaning their bedrooms by themselves. But, I do go in there and vacuum and dust a couple times a week, but the weekly mess stuff... of their rooms, they are in charge of cleaning/organizing it all by themselves. It's just the 3 great big huge times a year, is when I will go in there and see how they've been doing and sometimes more often too... if it looks like something is... really needing attention, but usually they're pretty good with their own rooms for the most part. : )

And Noah's toy boxes are now spic and span and cleaned and organized. 

Washing the only 2 curtains we have in the house. And all Bran's JHS dress shirts and Bran's shirt he wore on Christmas. 

The 2 handmade Esty aprons, I had washed those on the quick wash, even though they were brand new, still feel a bit more comfortable washing them first. In Japan, kids cook a lot at school. Noah cooks all the time at school and so does Bran. The schools in our town do a whole lot of Home EC. Which is so good for kids! : )
We went to Uniqlo to get a pair of pajamas for Noah. Our house has central heating and floor heating, so our house is toasty warm, every room in the house. Central heating for Japan is rare where as in the US it's normal/standard. Why did I mention it? Because trying to buy pajamas that are not super thick fleece. In Japan is so hard. Because most houses don't have central. So their kids need the super thick PJs. Our kids don't. So, we checked Uniqlo. And they had mostly thick fleece PJs. But we did find some thin Star Wars PJs. So we picked a pair for Noah. 

They had adorable BB8. However they looked really plain. The bottoms were just plain blue, no cool print for the pants or anything. 

The Darth ones were so freaking cool! The top said...Come to The Darkside. With a picture of Darth Vader. And the bottoms had many fun prints on them, Darth's mask. The ships and everything. Very cool! So we picked the Darkside PJs for Noah. Just way cuter and the printed bottoms... were much better then the plain blue bottoms on the BB8 pair. 

We went to so many stores, December 29th. We went to Old Navy at Aeon mall in Inzai. We went to Sports Depo. And the final store was Costco. Info share... they now have America's fave...Kraft Mac and cheese. Here is a price and everything. It works out to about a buck a box. It's sorta high but...I am willing to pay the price. We love this. : ) Haven't bought it yet, but did want to info share it, at least. 
Costco Makuhari, years ago... when we used to go there as our main Costco. They had and sold turkeys year round. And then when we got our own Costco, in Inzai. The first year they too, sold turkeys year round. However...last year, they shipped them away...took them out of the Costco Inzai. How did I know? I saw the turkeys last year...in October-December. And kept thinking about them. But decided at the beginning of February 2015 to buy a small turkey for a small turkey dinner and mostly just for sammys. However...imagine my shock that they were gone. We asked the customer service lady and she was nice, but matter of factly just said..."we won't carry them after Christmas anymore but we'll restock next October." @_@ Remembering that. I made sure to buy the smallest turkey they had, last night. It's like a 10 pounder. But it is now sitting nice and quiet in my freezer, thank goodness for huge freezer space. And in February 2016, I will bake this little baby. : ) What else did we buy yesterday? December 29th? Mozzarella cheese, pasta sauce, a case of Dr. Pepper and a rotisserie chicken. We also had pizza for dinner last night at Costco, the kids and I last night had pizza, just said that, Noboru had a hot dog and clam chowder. December 31st we will be having baked chicken parmesan. Japanese have soba for New Years eve ...the noodles are said to give them a long and prosperous year and life. And so that sounds good...minus the soba part. So we have pasta...same long noodle. : ) Just Italian. Jan 1st dinner... I will be making homemade from scratch pizza and Jan 2nd, I am making chili concarne (Texas style chili beans) Tonight we are having....the rotisserie chicken wraps, in tortilla with melted mozzarella cheese and white rice. And a side salad. January 3rd, we are meeting my BIL, SIL, MIL, and 2 nieces and 1 nephew. We are all going to a restaurant in Narita City.

Everybody picked 2 packs of chips for New Year's eve. Noah picked the green bag (cheese flavor) and the Calbee potato chips. Bran picked the Doritos and the spicy potato chips and Noboru picked both taco chips but 2 different brands and I picked plain salt flavor tortilla chips. I have that amazing and cheap salsa from Besia. We will be also making some peanut butter icecream with Reese's peanut butter cups chopped in.  

This morning, I did the final touches of the cleaning. I vacuumed the upstairs again, Bran's room Noah's room, my bedroom and the hall upstairs, the laundry room, etc. Vacuumed downstairs. Changed the placemats to the regular ones. Wiped down the table real good.

Opened the new New Year's wreath we have to hang on our door every year. You should burn your old one (best) you can dispose of them easily at certain shrines where they burn them all or throw it out at least.... keeping them for another year or reusing it.... is bad luck. So we buy a new one each year. When you hang this on your door, it signals to your neighbors...I am done with my house cleaning. My house is now New Year's ready! That is the message this hanging on your house signifies. I hung ours...after my neighbor heard me...vacuuming the upstairs and downstairs. And saw me spray down some shoes outside with anti water...protective spray. And after I windex-ed the big patio windows downstairs. And they had seen me cleaning beforehand for days and I them. So they definitely knew...our house was totally ready, when I hung this on our front door! : )

Just 2 things each for the boys, bought yesterday. 

A classic navy blue pair of Asics sneakers for Noah, very preppy. 

Noah's PJs. Very cool and since the movie is so popular right now, very in style too! : )

A men's size 10. A Japanese men's 28cm. Good grief my son got big! : )  And he's not even finished growing yet! : )

A classic old school pair of Nike for BrannyB in navy blue. These were regular price 8500 yen. But on sale for like 6000 yen. These are quite popular right now. 

And this pair has a pretty purplish blue Nike part at the back, which just takes it up... just a notch from being boring. 

They will each have nice new shoes to wear to Disney, when we go there soon. 

And Bran got this preppy zip up sweatshirt from Old Navy yesterday too. Like a jean blue color and white. It was 50% off, so only 1800 yen. About $17 US. His sweatshirts are now a size men's large. Holy goodness he's getting big. Like the Hulk, hahaha. 


That's all really. Just 2 things each. 1 pair of sneakers and 1 pair of cool Star Wars PJs for Noah-chan. And 1 sweatshirt and a pair of sneakers for B. 

I also got a new pair of no name.. short booties. I had a longer length pair of actual Ugg brand. But, I had been wanting a shorter length pair. And these were only 1000 yen and I really don't care if they're name brand or not. So super cheap, cute and for just zipping around. Perfect for me. I may even wear these to Disney. I'm still thinking about it though. 

This morning, I sprayed down Bran's new pair of Nikes. The suede-y parts. Noah's shoes have no suede-y parts at all. And my boots also got a thorough spray down. 

And Noah's pair of Asics, he got in August, got scrubbed like a maniac by me this morning. I scrubbed the living daylights out of these... with a shoe brush and school shoe cleaner, I pre cleaned by hand... but ran Noah's through the washer with detergent to finish them off, boy oh boy, are they clean now, the white sole areas came out very white. They came out sparkling. These shoes are now inside, in our genkan/entry way. 
And at 11:45am today, I took down the Christmas wreath, packed it nicely away and I brought out the New Year's wreath. Signalling... we are indeed done on the specific day we are supposed to be done cleaning! So this means...our house...is ready to ring in the new year! And we are! We are all done with cleaning. Just relaxing and resting these next couple days. Eating good food, staying cozy warm. Ready to ring in 2016, the year of the monkey! : ) 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015...

Merry Christmas everyone! I certainly hope you all had a very lovely holiday with family and good food! As for us here, we had ourselves a very lovely Christmas here at home with our family. Christmas morning, I woke up first. I turned the hot water pot on downstairs, so we could have some coffee for Noboru and I or some Swiss Miss hot cocoa for the kids. I went upstairs, brushed my teeth and washed my face and came downstairs waiting for the family to wake up. Being that it was Christmas everyone woke up quicker then usual. : ) We all sat near the Christmas tree and Branden opened one and then Noah opened one and then Branden opened one and so on, Noboru and I opened ours last. I took many pictures from that morning. Some very funny ones, I might add. : ) While everyone was enjoying their gifts in the living room, I went into the kitchen and got started in on breakfast. I made up a whole pack of crispy American bacon. Eggs any way you want, over easy, omelet or scrambled. And we had toast. Christmas day was spent relaxing and enjoying our quiet family time here at home. And of course they were enjoying their presents. 

After lunch, Noboru peeled a huge amount of potatoes and while he peeled, I sliced every potato he peeled. We talked and joked while doing the potatoes. Then I made the homemade roux from scratch. And put the potatoes in the oven around 2pm. They take an hour and a half to bake. So early preparation is key. After 30 minutes of the potatoes baking alone, I put the ham, I had just glazed in the oven, while the potatoes were baking already. 

25 minutes before the ham and potatoes were ready, I also whacked the cornbread into the oven with the potatoes and ham. Thank goodness for a big/normal sized American oven.

Nothing smells better than hot buttered freshly baked cornbread. : )

In our comfy clothes, we were ready to enjoy our Christmas dinner! Noboru chit chatting with Bran.

Noboru chit chatting with Noah.: )

We had, hot fresh buttered cornbread, black olives, gratin potatoes, a honey baked ham, green beans hiding behind the potatoes in this picture. And a big fresh mixed salad.

Cheese and garlic croutons and salad dressing. And another plate of hot buttered cornbread at the back. 

Ready to eat ya'll? I know, I sure am! : )

My Christmas dinner plate from 2015!

And my Christmas dinner plate 2015 with the food setting on, on my camera. lol. : )

Christmas cake, our first, I usually bake pies. : ) 

From our favorite shop in Nagano. 

This was so good!

And just one of our many leftover ham sandwiches. Honey ham and swiss cheese, lettuce and Miracle Whip. We ate the last of our ham Sunday night. : ) Anyway, just wanted to say, I sure hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, from our family to yours! Happy holidays! : )