Thursday, January 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday...

Today's TBT takes us back to January 7, 2010. The boys and I made chocolate covered bananas together! A fun way to spend some quality time with one another. The little packet just came from the grocery store for a couple hundred yen. It was a lot of fun!

Peace sign of course! : ) Put the camera away real quick and.... let's dig in kids! : )
The last 2 DVDs came yesterday. These were ordered gee, in October? November? I think end of October. I knew I had to wait until they were released and that was fine, it saves shipping if I can order a bunch together, even if they're not released yet. I'll watch both this weekend, I can't wait. But, I want to wait until it's the weekend and I can stay up late and relax and not have to wake up early, like I do during the weekday. So, it will be tough to wait until Friday/tomorrow and Saturday evening but worth it. I better go and buy some movie snacks today. And pop some popcorn tomorrow afternoon. I'll watch one Friday and 1 Saturday. Straight Outta Compton and Sinister 2. Yay. : ) Anyway.... not really part of the TBT but...didn't feel like making a whole other post just for these 2 pics and little blurbs. Sorry about that. : )

The Dove Moisture+Oil came yesterday via Amazon.jp. Took less then 24 hours to get to my door. Wrapped really well and saved me about 500 yen versus buying locally. I ordered the evening before... around 7pm and the next day in the morning it was at my house. Like truly super fast shipping and it was free shipping too. : )  Anyway just finished cleaning out my shower and bath area. And now the treadmill is calling my name. I watch beauty videos via YouTube while walking on my treadmill, lol...hey whatever works, right lol. Stay warm and stay safe ya'll. : )  Oh dinner tonight? Karaage (Japanese style fried chicken), veggies and some rice and a side salad. I'll chop the chicken and marinate it as soon as I am done with the treadmill.  I did start my period this morning (sorry TMI) and I am feeling yuck...total yuck. But I know if I don't get at least the bare minimum done early, it'll drive me crazy. As soon as I get the chicken prepped, I'll rest and call it a day though....well until I go and pick up the boys after school and then start cooking supper. Noah today gets out at 3pm and Bran today gets out at 3:45pm. Bran has another big test next week and is back to studying his ever lovin' brains out, poor kid! Man he studies too hard! Too much! Japanese JHS never lets up. : (  Anyway, I better go. Later. : ) 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bits and pieces...

Hey ya'll. Noah gets out of school early today according to the school schedule, he gets out at 2:15pm today.  And I have to run to the cheap meat store and the regular grocery store, so I have definite places to motor to, before he gets out of school. So, if I am going to post today, I better do it quick! Super quick. : ) I just had 10 minutes yesterday to type that little blurb about the Broncos before I hit Inzai/Chiba New Town yesterday and went to Costco, Joyful Honda, Cainz, etc. But today I have a tad more time... but honestly not much. So what's up? How are things? Things here are great! Umm, last week...all last week and the week before, I had been thinking about moving the living room furniture around. And so last week in the evening after everyone was home, right after supper, but before showers, everyone helped me move/pick up the furniture and get things moved around. TV had to be set up, the computer spot didn't really move. But heavy things like the couch, my treadmill, the TV and TV stand etc had to be moved. This was a quick pic from that evening last week. 
The day after the furniture had been moved, I cleaned the living room. Just basic regular stuff, like dusting, cleaning the windows, again just regular stuff that gets done weekly anyway. Hi little silver mini minivan, Noboru's vehicle. : ) It's AWD/4WD, so perfect in snow, but while other parts of Japan have been in a winter wonderland, we haven't had a single flake in our town yet. Hahaha. : ) 

My dad's laptop has been slowly dying since July. But this past week, he called me and said, it was *really* for surely dying this time. It was now taking ions to let him check emails. Ions for his Skype to get up and running. He flat out told me..."Gina my computers nearly brain dead" We had talked about it over Thanksgiving and I told my dad, whenever he feels he needs a new one, since he's not very comfortable picking out a computer himself or ordering online. Which is understandable. I just said, that when the time comes, I would be happy to order him one. So when he called he said..."it's time to order it", so I went to Amazon.com and as you can see this is the #1 best seller for all laptops. It's a 15.6 inch screen, which is what he has now. And I felt for the price, plus considering the high reviews, I felt this was a good one for my dad. So, it's been ordered and should be there any day now. Noboru meanwhile...will be flying there as soon as possible, to set up my dad's new lap top for him and install Skype and stuff for my dad. Awww. : ) So we're making sure he's well taken care of. : ) So hopefully it gets there fast (I did pick expedited shipping) and Noboru can get everything set up for my dad. What else is up lately...

Noah needed new school socks. Which are just regular socks. : ) Pasceos has cheap prices for socks and stuff. The Adidas pair was 780yen and the other pair 580 yen for a 4 pack of socks.

4 new pair of underwear for Noah. 

The french sport brand we liked a lot...meanwhile the other pair/pack we were more so...meh on that 2 pack... but they were best of the slim selection.

Bran could not be left out either. : ) So 3 new underwear for B and a pack of JHS socks for him too. School socks for both the boys. And those are jean looking undies, Edwin jean looking undies, but soft. Hahaha. 

Saturday, last Saturday snow was expected for our town, but of course it didn't snow. : ) All Saturday, Bran and I studied. And in the afternoon Noah and I baked some cornbread. That is some melted butter on top. It was an absolutely freezing cold day here outside...but lucky for us with central heating and floor heating, it was toasty warm inside our house, but man...all weekend in fact... it was bone chilling cold outside. : ) But not a dot of snow for us. 

Branden needed to bring his inside shoes home on Friday, because he had the Eiken written test in Narita on Sunday. And that high school has no inside shoes to offer. His inside shoes he rarely brings home. So, I rarely get a chance to see how they look like. Meaning are they in good condition, these shoes? Bad condition? They looked trashed, big time! Like on their last legs, those shoes! So, a quick trip to the uniform shop in town and a new pair of inside shoes for Branden. Inside shoes for elementary kids in Japan, like Noah's inside school shoes are just like 200 yen to 500 yen a pair ($2-5US), near our area of Japan. So cheap. JHS inside shoes on the other hand are 3,000 yen, about $30 US, give or take a dollar depending on the exchange rate. However, I don't want my kid looking like Raggedy Ann or Raggedy Andy either! I told him, if anything starts looking bad...please bring it home and we'll replace it right away. Geeze Louise. : )  So done and done. : ) 

Our bottle...pump bottle has been the Biore body wash pump forever. However we have been using the refills of the Dove Shea and vanilla since...December or November? I forget. Doesn't matter really which month but we'll just say...for a while. : ) I was at the store yesterday. At Besia/Cainz in Inzai yesterday. And I saw this on sale and I said to myself..since we switched for sures this time. I'm gonna switch the bottle too. It's on sale, what the heck. So done and done. Ohhh, I also ordered the Dove Moisture oil shampoo and conditioner on Amazon.jp. It's 750 yen each bottle at the stores around here... but only 500 yen at Amazon and they also had a set for both bottles for 715yen or something but they're sold out, that set, so I didn't get the 2 for 715yen deal for both. But the bright side is...at least I bought the shampoo and conditioner cheaper via Amazon.jp for 500 yen each. And the free shipping was great too. : )  

Picked these up at Joyful Honda yesterday...I have been quite disappointed in the selection of stuff at Joyful Honda in Inzai lately. They had no Dove Moisture +Oxygen or oil shampoos at all. And they didn't have the Dove shea butter body wash either. A lot of the products they didn't have...that I was looking for. Hmm. Still like Joyful Honda... but they don't always have the newest items. recently released type products. This picture is, 2 air fresheners for our restroom, the scent is soap and it's light and we have one always in the downstairs toilet and one in the upstairs toilet. Biore hand soap, you can refill it 4 times. Dish soap. And kitchen cleaner, this is in an 800ml bottle and it goes into a spray bottle and I use the spray bottle. Anyway...it is always interesting to see what other products us mom's are using, I think. : )
Sunday, 9:30am was the check in time. 10am was the starting time for the test. We were there at 8am. We were second in line. And a ton of people were after us. This school has no parking lot. So you must find your own parking. And since Narita City is way more city-ish then our teeny tiny town of 5000 people. Finding parking is hard. Granted not like..Tokyo hard. But hard still. So getting there early is best. You must have an ID with a face on it. Since my son is only 14 and obviously has no drivers license or state ID like we'd have in the US (state ID). We take his USA passport. You must also have the little post card type thing they mailed to your house and have glued a tiny picture onto that. We did all that. For the 9:30am check in. There were kids taking the Eiken level 4, pre2 and pre1. This test was 2 hours. I said a few posts back...that it was a 3 hour test, I was wrong and I'm sorry. I'm human and it was 2 hours not 3 hours. It's quiet in the school. Everyone has an Eiken study book they bought at Tsutaya or something. : ) A bookstore. So you can see, where it says Eiken 4. The mom and daughter in front of us had a booklet that said pre2. : ) And the 2 people behind us had books that said pre1, same as Bran. Everyone brought their own inside shoes. And at precisely 9:30am check in started. Bran handed him his passport and little postcard sized paper with his pic on it. He stamped the postcard. After checking in.... the semi grouchy ladies at the end of the hall. Told everyone if you're taking the pre2 stand here!!! If you're taking the pre1 stand here!!! If you're taking the 4 stand here!!!" And then they later shouted to everyone stand in sets of 3's. @_@ Maybe they don't care for the Eiken folks testing at their school or I don't know what. But you can just sorta sense the whole vibe. I saw how they talked to everyone. They were nice to me. But, I did sorta not care for how they talked to everyone as a whole. They're the ones who don't want....any of the Eiken people to use their inside shoes. Fair enough. None of us go to that school. But eh. We were the first to stand in the Eiken pre1 line. An extremely nervous girl was next to Branden. And I do mean...an *extremely* nervous high school girl. Like taking huge deep breaths type nervous. And the 3rd person lined up in Branden's row was an older lady, mid 50's. She was taking the test too. Many adults were in line taking the pre1. This surprised me! I thought...you go lady! Good luck! Rock that test! So there were 3 people per line all near each other. I'd say 98-99% of everyone was 100% Japanese. I did see one...Indian looking high school boy (just trying to give you a visual) get in the line of the Eiken 4 though. He was very thin but tall, wearing a high school uniform. And I did see a white papa with a hafu child. A son. About 6th grade maybe. : ) He didn't dress like an American papa would. So, maybe he was British or something. : ) He saw me later and smiled at me and I smiled at him.  
Branden did say though, that he went to the restroom before the test started while he was in the line, he left his shoe bag there to save his spot, smart kid! : ) Anyway while in the bathroom, some western kid. I asked him hafu kid? He said nope a totally western one. Was in the bathroom and he had walked leaving something behind. Branden called to him.."hey you left this here" he went back and got it. And he said...thank you! and the kid was happy and said what's your name and he said my name is Branden. He said, where are you from? Branden apparently told him, My mom's American and my dad's Japanese, I'm hafu but I was born in Hawaii and I live here in Japan. The boy was like, I'm Irish! Branden said he ended up going in line with Branden and they chatted for the entire time until they went upstairs to take their tests. So very cool Bran met a nice kid to talk to. We did leave after making sure Bran was signed in and in the right lane/line. We walked to McDonald's near the Narita train station. Because sitting in the holding area/waiting area for 2 long hours. Meh. Oh we did go to the closer McD before arriving near the eiken testing spot and Bran ate a sausage McMuffin along the way in the car. And he did have a donut and milk at home before we left. So Bran ate, but we didn't. And Noboru had never went to the Eiken test before, like we did last year. After he saw how difficult it was....about the parking situation. he said...yeah we can't leave and risk not having a parking space. So that's why we walked to McD's. Sunday about 9:40am.
It was literally -1C, like 31 degrees F. It was a very cold walk. And the wind just cuts right through your clothes. Your cheeks are like frozen solid. We ordered our food and went upstairs. 

I had the pancakes and a hot coffee. Noah had a sausage Mcmuffin with egg, sides you have a choice now... so he picked chicken nuggets instead of has browns. Noboru sat next to Noah and my bag sat next to me. : ) And Noboru's coat sat next to me too. : )

This says you are a parent of someone taking the Eiken. Clearly Noah's not a parent, lol. But he's a brother. We all had to wear these, nobody is allowed in the building without a registered family member tetsing. The sticky power on the Eiken stickers like on Noah's coat in this pic... is not so great. So Noah and I just left ours on during our walk to breakfast and at breakfast. Noah's fell off last year so we already knew. Noboru took his off and it never stuck back onto his coat again. Hahaha. : )  We walked back to the high school. And went into the waiting room. It's a classroom and they have an old gas heater set up for us parents. Oh...the people at the Eiken said. "today 100 people will be taking the Eiken pre1." So lots of people today... so go into rows of 3. That's why I remember they said 100 people were taking the pre1. Hahaha. The test ended at 12 sharp. Bran knows to go to the waiting area after.... and he went in and gave us all a smile and we left. He was a real chatter box afterwards. He said how he met that nice English speaking kid. While everything was still fresh in his mind...I asked him...what was the email? He said it was a lady emailing saying she was thinking about having her son take a cooking class and what were his thoughts on that? Hahaha. Okay, I said. And he said one of the big paragraphs was about Bonnie and Clyde. As we were exiting the building. The next set of kids were in line to check in for their test. Eiken 5 and Eiken something else, I forget and Eiken 1. The actual Eiken 1. It said that only 24 people were taking the Eiken 1 that day. Wow only 24 is quite a low number. As we were leaving the building Branden and Noah whispered quickly... that kid up ahead is from our town. Bran said fastly... he's a 7th grader Noah chimed in...a very short 7th grader... Branden said I know right (to be fair he was like a 5th grader type tall so he was very short, didn't look like a JHS kid at all). I had zero idea who that kid or mom was. But they made eye contact with us. I didn't *really* know them... type know them. So, I didn't wanna wave and be all too smiley, ykwim. But I did give her eye contact and gave ...like an itty bitty head nod type a thing. More like a...I acknowledge you and I am not totally blowing you off... type of a nod. Not a...we're best friends in the whole universe type greeting because duh...we're not. But...an acknowledgement, at least. And she did the same as we passed. That way...at least she knows I'm not a jerk... who blew her off. Thank god the kids mentioned them... otherwise I would have walked right passed. When people wear face masks or scarves covering half their faces...and you barely know them... to begin with. I mean...geeze. But yeah..I am glad I at very least...I basically gave a conservative Japanese version of a...hey or howdy. Just a tiny head nod at least. We went to ramen afterwards. Our favorite ramen shop. I was really in the mood for ramen and we seldom have it and Bran mentioned wanting to eat some on Friday. So, since he just finished the Eiken, we asked him what he'd like for lunch...and he said ramen. I was relaly thinking ramen too We all wanted ramen for lunch that day. : ) So anyways...long story short., The Eiken pre 1 is over. When will we find out how he did? 2-3 weeks. as soon as I know...I'll let you all know. 

This is what I brought back form Costco yesterday. Pancakes for breakfast this morning. Minestrone soup, 12 cans of that. A rotisserie chicken for last nights dinner. Finely milled black pepper. Laundry soap and tortillas. We had rotisserie type fajitas or soft tacos last night. Type a meal. We had it with salsa, sour cream, grated cheese pictured here. Spanish rice. It was very filling last night. And quick and easy. Anyway, I have to run... to do some shopping before Noah gets out at 2:15pm today. 

Edited to add: I didn't post this earlier this morning as planned. I instead kept is as a draft and ran to the store. I am home now. And since I will be leaving to the plaza at 1:45pm to get Noah, I better just real quick...post this now. I picked up so much meat. 2 small lean beef loins for beef stew. Nice medium/thick sliced pork for ginger pork for tonight and for their lunch tomorrow for school. Tons of chicken breast (karaage happening and tandoori chicken happening too). Curry seasoned chicken, cheese and herb seasoned chicken already with spices on it. And some sliced beef for yakiniku for their lunch box for lunch Friday. Tonight we'll have ginger pork. And I'm thinking tomorrow a nice hearty beef stew. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Denver Broncos going to the Super Bowl! AFC championship game just finished...

Just finished watching the AFC championship game just now. It's Monday morning here in Japan, and the kids are at school with a packed lunch. But today's game was a major one. Because it would decide which team the AFC would be sending to the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots, a very good team for what it's worth. Or my beloved Denver Broncos. We were ahead for most of the game but the last 5 minutes, it was such a close game and the last 15 seconds of the game lasted a good 5 minutes. Many "times out" etc. But in the end, Denver won! I am elated, excited beyond belief. I love football. I grew up going to Bronco games my whole life. So yep, congratulations Denver Broncos.

Who will we be playing at the Super Bowl? We don't know yet. We'll find out soon as soon as their game is over and done with. : ) Awesome job Peyton Manning!!! So proud to be a Denver girl! Proud of you Denver!

Anyway...on my way to the store right now. Just wanted to catch up with you all here. Will we actually win the Super Bowl? Gee, I don't know...hope so. : )

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday...

We moved to Japan when Bran was almost 1 year old from Hawaii. However, since age 1. Every so often. 2-3 times a year thanks to the flight benefits. I would bring Branden and myself to go and stay at my dad's house in Denver, Colorado, for about a good 4 weeks at a time. I had timed... this particular visit so that we would spend Branden's 3rd birthday in Denver and also be able to do some trick or treating in Denver too. And Noboru didn't mind. He knew, me getting adjusted living in Japan was sometimes difficult and since Bran wasn't in yochien yet, it was a great chance to go. Branden's first favorite character, who he loved so dearly was Thomas the Tank Engine. Anyway, what good luck that during our visit to Colorado, there were commercials and in the newspaper that said.... the actual Thomas real moving train, that carried passengers and everything happened to be in Golden Colorado at the train museum (there's like 5 or so of these in the world, so hopefully easy for kids to see one). As soon as we knew about it, we made a plan to take BrannyB there to see Thomas with his very own eyes! His little toddler mind was *most* definitely blown! Poof! : )  He kept saying..."grandpa look...Thomas!" Oh he was over the moon! The whole set up/design of the Thomas stuff was so cool! They had a whole bunch of different areas with train sets all moving. All the kids there... were super into it. We spent a good 2 and a half hours-3 hours walking from Thomas play area to train exhibit, they even had a woman reading a Thomas book aloud... and all the kids were totally in awe. She was a very good story teller. Even my dad and I were at full attention as she flipped each and every page and we're adults... all other adults enjoyed that too. hahaha. It was a fun and wonderful day. Before we left, we bought Branden a boxed DVD set of the Thomas movies. A Thomas shirt. The most amazing wooden Thomas whistle that he still keeps as a keepsake to this very day.... and a Thomas toothbrush. : ) Now days our Bran's a teenager... but yep, I remember back on that time fondly. The day we 3 met Thomas the Tank Engine. : )  
Noah's throwback shows... what a true card this kid is! : ) When he was younger and if he wasn't feeling into taking a picture at the time, when my camera came out of my bag/purse. Keep in mind I constantly took pictures of my kids because I adore them so...but yes sometimes it wore on even the most patient baby we knew...this kid right here. : ) He would close his eyes right away. Maybe in his little kid reasoning, he thought you believed he fell asleep? And therefore could not take his picture, anymore? Hahaha. But yep, he would do this often, when he saw my camera being taken out for the 100th time of the day. He'd immediately close his eyes and try to fake you out... that he was zonked out. So this was his..."I'm sleeping mama, so you shouldn't take my picture" face. @_@ Hahaha. Oh and btw...Noah where are your eyebrows kid?! He had the blondest eyebrows as a baby and toddler. Like...nonexistent invisible eyebrows. Like...we should buy him some eyebrow mascara and color them in. : ) Hahaha. : ) 

I said, "bye bye camera" and guess what he did...Noah miraculously opened his eyeballs! And I quickly snapped this picture. : ) And I do apologize for fibbing to you Noah! However the bright side is...he did open his eyes, right? Hahaha.

And then he got distracted by miscellaneous people walking by. : ) Awww, what 2 fantastic memories remembered thanks to today's TBT. The day when Branden met Thomas the Tank Engine in the flesh, so to speak! And when Noah was at the age where he'd "fake" sleep when I'd pull my camera out! Hahaha. What good times. : ) Good memories. : ) 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bits and pieces. Dove's new oxygen and oil shampoos. Baking gingerbread. Making rice krispy treats. Some major Eiken pre1 studying going on at our house, go Branden go!

For us in Japan, Dove recently released some cool new shampoos and conditoners. I checked the American Dove website to see if we had these in America and we do, but the American versions of the bottles are not nearly as cute as the bottles we get here in Japan. Probably same product inside, but the bottles for us in Japan....are so cool looking. There are 2 kinds. In Japan this one is called Moisture +Oxygen. In America this version is called simply "Oxygen moisture shampoo" and the bottles in the US just look like... normal regular shampoo bottles. Where as here in Japan, the bottles are like half white and the bottom part clear-ish blue and the bottom design of the bottle is sorta jig jaggedy...meaning the white and where the clear part of the bottle merge. You can see the bottles in this picture and sorta get what I mean, I hope. The actual design of the bottle is what kept attracting me to these shampoos. Every time I'd go to the store all December...I kept thinking...I want to buy those. They look so neat. : ) The pouches on the left are for refills.

This bottle is of the second and final shampoo in this new line. It is called as you can see, Moisture +Oil. The pouch does indeed say new. It is a relatively new product. And again, the half white bottle/ half clear but you can see the yellow of the shampoo just like on the Oxygen shampoo up above...where you can see a slight blue-ish color. Again...every week when I'd run to the store...this very attractive bottle would catch my eye. I... as you know...I change shampoos often. Since July, I have been using a Japanese shampoo and conditioner called...Ja Laime. It smells fantastic. No complaints but...I'm getting bored. And this bottle keeps snaking my eye...every time I go to the store. Oh...in America this is called long name get ready, lol...."Pure Care Dry Oil shampoo." I much prefer the Japanese name...simply just Moisture+Oil. According to the US website this shampoo is said to..."deliver gentle cleansing and leaves hair sublimely silky with delicate oils that don't weigh hair down"  for the shampoo up above it is said to...be a gentle shampoo that gives your hair bounce. And for us in Japan...the tester...you can smell the shampoos scent in Japanese stores...it said both the oxygen one and oil one... have the exact same scent. Just an FYI...same scent no matter which shampoo. : )  So obviously...the oil shampoo is for dry, damaged, coarse, color treated, chemically treated type of hair. And the oxygen one is for more....quote unquote "normal" hair. 
I thought I should have picked the oil one. Why? Because #1, my hair is color treated. #2, my hair is chemically straightened. #3, I flat iron my hair about twice a week. #4, every time I shampoo, I blow dry. While my hair looks soft and silky...thanks to my hair dresser. I know...my hair takes a beating. If any one's hair could use a little extra "something something"...it would be mine. So, yeah I was definitely thinking...get the white and yellow oil one. Noboru happened to be with me at the store that day. And just the word...oil. Sent his mind on overload. He made that wincing face. "honey ummm it has...oil...are you sure you want a shampoo with oil?" It sounds very...heavy and...ugh ugh oily"....@_@ Love my husband. But...perhaps shouldn't buy a new shampoo with my dearest husband in tow. He suggested...get the oxygen one. Oxygen sounds much better then oil, he said matter of factly. : ) ....@_@...yes but my hair might need the oil. And the bottle doesn't say...heavy...says won't weigh hair down. Yes, I could have... just vetoed him and been done with it. But...I have to also take his opinion into account too...same as he takes mine too. And frankly he really doesn't care THAT much which shampoo I ultimately pick. However...I saw these 5 day trial packs for like 100 yen each. And I said...I will buy one of each and then decide after having tried them. That was last week. I used each shampoo twice. Because other people in my family wanted to try too. Hahaha. My verdict. They do both smell exactly the same as one another. They do foam up into a very dense lather...same as the body wash does. And they both made my hair feel fantastic. I think maybe in summer...I would probably prefer the lighter blue one...the oxygen one. But, I think for now...for winter. I think the oil one is perfect. If you have fine thin, normal or oily hair, you'd definitely want the oxygen one right away. If you have curly, coarse, color treated, chemically treated (perm or straightened)...you use a flat iron or curling iron on a regular basis. That type a stuff...you might want the oil one. Fwiw...there is almost no difference between the two. However the oil one... makes my hair just a tad softer. Does the oil one give me a greasy feel? Absolutely not. It feels clean. Fresh... not oily at all. Just feels a tad softer...my hair. But the oxygen one is good too. And I'll probably use the oxygen one in summer. But yeah...I am glad I tried both. And at least now I can make an educated... decision on which one I like. After trying both. : ) Next time I am at the store, I will be picking up the oil ones in the full sizes. : ) 

Friday morning, I baked the kids and Noboru some gingerbread.

I had to have a slice in the day, because my gingerbread would not fit onto the plate. Hahaha. Honest. : ) 

This 98 yen bottle of spray bleach for kitchens is my favorite. I go through 2 of these a month. I love it. I use one in my 2 toilets and for the sink upstairs. And 1 in my kitchen. It's cheap, it's store brand and I love the smell of bleach and knowing my house is disinfected. I always try to get the house ready and finished Friday afternoons so by the time everyone comes home, the house is all ready for the weekend.: )

OMG, you guys! So, I was at my one and only grocery store in our town. Yes, our town only has 1 grocery store. Hahaha. Anyways, so like on Wednesday, I first saw this bag of rice crackers. Senbei. The picture totally attracted me. Extra virgin olive oil. The package said, extra virgin oil and salt flavor. I resisted buying them. While I was buying last minute stuff Friday a few days afterwards....after I had the house cleaned and the gingerbread baked. I went to the store. And I said...I will buy 1 bag of these and if we like them fantastic...and if we don't, no big deal. They were only 150 yen or 160 yen. So the kids get home. They switch into their comfy clothes. And after dinner and dessert...and after showers. While watching TV...I went to the pantry and whipped these out. These are so good you guys. These are the best tasting rice crackers I have ever had in my life. I'm not really big on Japanese food at all. I have extremely western taste buds. But these rice crackers in particular...amazing! So good. 

This is upside down on purpose...it says...olive oil....salt.. rice crackers. These are so good. Noboru even said...these are GOOD. So much so.. that Sunday when Noboru ran to the store...he came home with 2 extra bags of these olive oil rice crackers. And he said...I bought the last 2 bags of them. So...just wanted to info share. If you live in Japan and you should see them...you might really like these. These are so good. I hope my store restocks these as soon as possible. or else, I will have to track them down at one of my other stores, I cruise to. : ) Definitely worth trying out a package. In fact....I am going to go to the kitchen right now and get 1 of these senbei right now, so I can munch while finishing my post. : ) Brb...

Saturday, Noah and I made rice krispy treats. Branden meanwhile has been studying his ever lovin' brains out for the Eiken pre1

From 8am to 4pm, Bran and I studied for the eiken. We did stop for lunch. And he did get a few breaks here and there. But...while we did that. Noah and I did make rice krispy treats (have to spend time with both kids very important). And Noboru meanwhile ran to Costco early Saturday morning. The rotisserie chicken was for dinner Saturday night and the tortillas were for Sunday nights supper. Beans and pork green chili. Note, they changed brands of tortillas at Costco Inzai. Did they change brands at all Costco's in Japan? My thoughts on the new torillas? They're delicious. Light fluffy and the flavor is spot on! See the silver covering the plates? Noboru brought the boys 1 slice of pepperoni pizza each... for Saturdays lunch and he brought me a slice of combo pizza. And he brought himself back a beef bowl. And Bran and I took a break from the eiken. We had lunch and then got right back to studying for the eiken. We have been studying for this pretty hardcore all last week. And all this past weekend. His test...the written part is SOON. 

I have been sharing what's inside of the books my kids have been working on for years, and will always continue to do so. This is interesting for those of you in the US for example or outside of Japan. Because many of you hear the words..."Bran is taking the Eiken pre1" but I am sure you are wondering..."what does the level pre 1 looks like." And for those of you in Japan who have kids who haven't yet taken this...here is a glimpse or heads up. : ) And things like this. The start level is Eiken level 5? I think it's 5. That's for like beginning English learners. Very basic. Each test in Japan costs like $50 US to take. So they're not free tests. They do add up cost wise. Branden started with the Eiken level 2. Only because knowing his English skill and considering the $50 cost for each test...it's sorta absurd to have him take the level 5 for $50 bucks if it's just gonna be an easy pass. Same for the level 4 and 3 and pre 2. Considering $50 bucks each test. We just saved the $200 bucks and had him start at level 2. Level 2 was an easy pass for him. And that's where we stand. Level pre 1 is $80 or $90 bucks. Again...expensive. Not free. So we paid that outrageous free this December. However...there are benefits for taking it. Huge benefits for taking and passing it. If you go to high school here in Japan. There are so many different parts to the Eiken pre 1. You must know a huge amount of vocabulary. A *huge* amount. You must also listen to a CD and listen to native English and answer the questions...this part is easy... because my kids hear me jibber jabber super fast... all day long going blah blah blah. So the listening is no problem. If you look at this picture, check question #5. If you're child is living in America...going to school in America...clearly they'd know right away, the answer to #5 would be intrinsic. But for a child...who has never gone to school outside of Japan. To actually know...the answer is intrinsic....it's sorta badass! Sorrynotsorry for saying that...but it is. Really if you think about it. If I were to take an estimate of all the vocab words...maybe 500 to 1000 vocab words. And for my kid...I don't want him to just answer the question. I will actually call out Branden...and ask him flat out..."what does intrinsic mean?" And I will ask him even the other words next to it...what does this mean? Can you explain it to me? Why do I do that? Because I want to make sure...he can think for himself. And that he REALLY knows each meaning. Not just knows the right answer. But...does my child know the actual meaning of each of these words. Yes he does. So yeah...we have gone hardcore this whole past 8-9 days. And we will be studying for it... all this last final week too. 

Question 6 here...Branden answered correctly... forfeit. But I asked him...what does procure mean? He said..."umm to get or to buy" I said...okay acceptable answer. What does apprehend mean? He said..."ummm... to like capture...or to place under arrest" I said...okay acceptable answer and you clearly watch too much Law and Order! Hahaha. : )  Question 8....implementation. Again...if you live in Japan and your kid can answer that. And tell you what it means in his or her own words. Amazing! My kid can answer that too. And can you also explain what implementation means in your own words, I asked. By gosh...he knows. How do I know? Because I have asked him what implementation means every single day, these past 8-9 days. hahaha. So this is the vocab part. 

Another part of the Eiken pre1. Read this email. And you reply. They want to see how well you can write...freestyle. All on your own. Your reply should be around 100 words in length. Each email is worth 14 points. There are 7 practice emails in the Eiken pre1 book. And every morning this weekend, I had Branden write 2 of the replies to the emails on a sheet of paper. The Eiken pre1 tests is 3 hours long on actual test day. However the test will be enormous. So, I set the timer for 30 minutes and said... you should time yourself to write each email within 15 minutes. Meaning each email should take no longer then 15 minutes. Also, I assume most people taking the Eiken pre1... will be writing this email reply in print. While in American it's pretty standard to write in cursive all the time in JHS, it isn't as common here. However, I want Branden to show his examiner or person checking his test.... he has that skill as well. I have been having Branden write his email reply in cursive. And every evening he writes the other 2 emails. And so we have been going again and again...about 4 email practices each day. 

You need to be able to read this email and reply to it. Your child must be able to write this reply... without the help of mom or dad or anybody else. Answer the questions in the email. Spelling should be on point. Penmanship should be on point. Branden has written this reply so many times by now. He can do this in his sleep. I do think the repetition of him practicing these daily. Helps. He has gotten really fast at replying. His cursive is fast and pretty. Penmanship is clean. Spelling is on point. Is he answering all their questions? Yes he is! He has been coming in around 7 minutes per email reply and that's not bad. So, I think he is definitely ready for his Eiken test this coming weekend. 

Another email. Again...Branden feels so comfortable and confident (not overly confident or cocky... but definitely relaxed)....he knows that there will be some emails coming up on the test. And he is prepared. Better to be overly prepared, then under prepared.

Another part of the Eiken pre1 is called by me...the...huge boring enormous paragraph with lots of scientific jargon. And answer the questions afterwards. is this not the most gigantic paragraph ever? Spans 2 pages. @_@  At this point your English comprehension *has* to be hella high. To even understand this gigantic boring paragraph of doom! There will be many of these on the Eiken pre1. Because there are so many of these in the practice book. The multiple choices of 1,2,3,4 all sound so so similar to one another. Not obvious like in the Eiken 2 test. You really had to have read the article and clearly understood it. To get the correct answer. 

Another big giant boring as heck paragraph of doom. Hahaha. Oh and for what it's worth. At one of the high schools we are considering for Branden. According to the information packet they sent us. 30 kids in the English program have passed the Eiken level 2. 60 have passed the pre2. And 90 have past the Eiken 3. The level of hardness between the Eiken 2 and pre1 is huge. And while many squeaked by passing the Eiken 2. Many won't pass the Eiken pre1. It's just that hard. It's honestly no joke.The difference between the 2 and pre1 is huge. Oh and according to the information packet the high school sent us to our house. There is not 1 kid...who has passed the the Eiken pre1 at that specific high school. Branden would be the first. So...passing the Eiken pre1...is a big deal for those of us in Japan. High schools *especially* the kids in the English program...would be much more desirable if they had that Eiken pre1 pass certificate. 

Noboru checked online yesterday. Noboru is really into studying and researching about the 2 high schools we have narrowed it down to. We first had 3. We just narrowed it down to the top 2 high schools. Anyway...he has welcome packets for both high schools. Packets of information. Noboru has been reading tons on JHS Parents of JHS and high school info boards in Japanese... reading threads and whatnot. For example today in Kanto is...getting into private high school testing day. Not the date for public schools, they test for public schools on a later date. but if you are trying to get into a private school today and in Kanto...today is your test if you are in the 9th grade right now and live in Kanto. Noboru is getting really informed. And don't laugh but information is power....parents who know versus the ones who don't. If you are in Japan be informed. Read blogs..get even the tiniest idea of what you might be in for... in the future. And Noboru's also studying Eiken stuff. And what he found yesterday was most people taking the Eiken pre1 are...high school or university students. The least common taking the test this weekend will be JHS kids. So Brannny McB will be youngest this weekend most likely. We will be going with him for safety. The test is 3 hours long and granted they won't let you leave early...even if you finished early. So, we will take him...check him in and when he goes to take the test we will go and sit in some coffee shop. And then about 30 minutes before the test lets out... we will go back and wait. Also the info facts Noboru read online yesterday said....that out of everybody taking the Eiken pre 1...did you know only 15% will actually pass it? And how many people actually pass the Eiken 1? Only 10% who take it will pass. So yep, while many are squeaking by with passing the Eiken 2...many will stop there and go no further. And for the Eiken pre1 only 20% of those taking it are from JHS. Anyway if you live in Japan, and your child is a 5th grader or 6th grader...my only advice would be...maybe read blogs about JHS here. Get info. Will your child do club/bukatsu? Have you decided?  Just be informed. Our JHS made it sound like parents and kids had *no* choice or option..to not do club. We knew when Bran was a 6th grader we wouldn't have him do club and we stuck to our guns about it. Bottom line... we are the parents! Yes the school should be respected but contrary to their belief...they are not the ultimate deciders...we are. We do have a say. They're our kids... for crying out loud! And whatever you decide... stick to your guns. Don't be bullied by the system here. Elementary school life in Japan... is all about fun and learning. And it's just a lot of fun in general. JHS in Japan is fun sometimes too. It's not all bad or doom and gloom. But a lot of JHS is about tests. And those tests and how well you do on them matters...if you get into high school or not? Or if your education ends with JHS. In Japan, high school is not required, like JHS is here. High school here is optional and therefore you must takes tests to get into high school here. And there are only a certain # of kids... each school can take/accept. So JHS...kids do have lots of stress about...how well they did on tests. We don't have this system in America. Everyone can go to high school in the US. And we didn't have to take tests and have to claw our way to get into high school. Like here. So again...just food for thought. And something to think about. But one thing that is rarely spoken here is. We as parents do have a say. One day I'll tell you how shocked they were when we said...we choose no club. Their utter shock..."ehhh no club?" And I'm not anti club. It's just clubs that run year round...go on Christmas day...no summer break really. To me clubs should be fun. Here they're just to the extreme. At least for us... the ones in our town, are to the super extreme. Anyway enough talk on that...for now...: )

Noah needed some new pencils, so I picked these up on Friday and the matching eraser.

Name stickers and a piece of tape cover each name sticker. : )

How's the weather? It apparently snowed in Tokyo last night. Not here in our town though. Rained like gangbusters all night long though. It's raining even now. But no snow for us yet. : ) Tonight's dinner? Chicken cutlet, salad, rice and veggie. : ) Noah gets out of school at 3:45pm and Bran gets out at 3pm. : ) Tonight after supper, Bran and I will be studying for the Eiken for about 2 hours. And then call it a wrap and relax for the rest of the night.  Have a great day and night everyone. Stay warm. : )