Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sayonara 2011! Hello 2012!

It's almost 2012 here...only about 4 hours to go! 

After Christmas, I spent 2 days cleaning the apartment. It's a tradition in Japan to clean before the new year. In Canada we call it "spring cleaning" and of course, do it in the spring. But we did it after Christmas since I was having a small party at my apartment. It was a good excuse to really clean the place....and now all the dust bunnies are gone!

So, Thursday afternoon 3 of my students came over for a late lunch (or early dinner).  It was a pot luck and it was yummy!  They brought cheese fondue, lasagna, pasta, "annin tofu" (creamy almond gelatin dessert), "karage" (fried nuggets) and I made garlic cheese bread, 3 kinds of party pinwheels (tortillas with cream cheese and other items rolled and cut) and a mix between a fajita  and a pizza (pizza style fajita?) and for dessert I made a kind of apple pie tortilla with caramel sauce and ice cream. Everything was so good!  They stayed and talked for about 5 hours. 

 But...sometime during the party my throat started to feel funny. The next day I was supposed to go out with my friend- I felt bad but I cancelled as I didn't know if I was getting sick. Sure enough...I don't know if I have a cold or a sinus infection but I'm sick. Thankfully I'm on holidays so I don't have to miss any work but it isn't any fun.

I think my body was trying to tell me to stop running around like a chicken with no head and since I didn't listen...bam! Sick! So....I have to slow down. In fact I haven't done much of anything except watch Columbo on TV. They are having 3 days of Columbo on the mystery channel-thankfully I love Columbo!

2011. Can't say I'm not happy to see this year end. It wasn't a good year for Japan or for me (4 deaths). I do think, to see the silver lining, that I have learned to appreciate life a bit more and that the "ordinary" is actually extraordinary. The simple things we do everyday are actually amazing. Life can change so quickly so we all need to see that there is beauty in the "ordinary" moments of our lives.

Well....I wish all of you a very Happy New Year!!

Sayonara 2011!  Hello 2012! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Ugh! I meant to blog before this...but like many (probably most) people December has been super busy!

Of course we have been busy with out businesses but I have also had 4 Christmas parties at my school-3 class parties (for the little ones) and then 1 big party for elementary school students.  I took some pictures....

First we have pictures from the big party.

We played a "guess how many candies are in the jars" game so the kids wrote down their numbers.

Then the older kids had a game where they had to write down words they could make using letters from this statement "Merry Christmas and happy new year."

Then they decorated cookies!

Then on 3 different days I had 3 class parties. I took pictures from this class party-my youngest students. They are so cute! And their moms came to  help and to play. They decorated pencil cases.

Yesterday, the 24th, we went to my in-laws for yakiniku (grilled meat) . There was a ton of food...lots of onions, cabbage, carrots, green peppers, enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, different cuts of pork and beef and some seasoned chicken. We grilled it at the table and it was sooooo good!!

Today we went to Kristin's house for turkey!!  There were 3 couples and 5 kids. I met Kristin's friend Christine and  her husband and 2 children and I met Kristin's 3 kids and  her husband. It was sooooo much fun and the food was so delicious!  There was turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, a green bean casserole, sweet potato pie, dinner rolls, a crab and cream cheese dish, cheese and crackers, pumpkin pie, was fabulous!  We listened to Christmas music, sat around the table and got to know one another.  The kids were sooooo cute! They sometimes mixed their English and Japanese....did I mention how cute they are?!!   Well....Tommy loved my husband and since my husband is so tall, Tommy climbed on his back because he wanted to fly high in the I took some pictures.

 I have to say it was the best Christmas I have had in Japan!  I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My poor tree, new zabuton and I made a new friend!

I haven't blogged lately because I have been busy!  We've been busy with our shops which is great but we are a bit tired and therefore every time I sat down to blog, I just didn't have the energy. 

So...the title of the blog post starts with "my poor tree" and I have to say I'm still not happy about what happened. So about 2 weeks ago my husband emailed our landlord and asked them to please come and remove the dead bushes as they had started to fall down and my assistant who weeds our "garden", aka patch of dirt, wasn't sure what to do with them. It wasn't her responsibility or ours as they were put in by the original owners of the building.  They had been dead for at least 9 years but this year they started falling down so we wanted them gone. We never heard from our landlord but last Monday, while I was in the living room I could hear voices outside below. There were a group of 5 older people wearing hard hats and I was happy as I figured they were here to pull up the dead bushes. But...that is not all they did. They butchered one of our small trees, cut off one of our trees, cut off the neighbours tree and then really pruned our big tree. I actually went outside and told them not to cut it all off and apparently, they kept telling the older guy who was up in our tree not to cut too much off as she (IE me) didn't want too much cut.  It used to be that all I could see out of the side window in our living room was the tree rather than the neighboring apartment buildings which is how I like it. Now, I can see the damn buildings!  I just keep reminding myself that the tree will grow.  I really wish I had some more before pictures to show you but here are a few of both before and after.

This is our "garden" and now we have a blank slate to perhaps do something with. We would like to have some kind of wood deck or patio area for BBQs and what not, but in order to do that we need to build a fence or something in order to have some privacy. No one in our area has BBQs or spends any real time outside so I can only imagine people checking us out as they smell delicious food cooking and hear English being spoken. Also, on the other side of the "fence" (the short white metal fence) kids play there in the summer so definitely don't want to see them or have them watching us. We will figure something out.

Another bit of news which might seem like nothing but we just ordered these "zabuton" and I'm so excited! "Zabuton" are floor cushions. We live a very Japanese life as in we don't have a dining room table so we do everything on the floor in the tatami room/living room. I'm having some high school students over for a little party later this month and I was looking at our sad sorry excuse for zabuton and decided the party was a good excuse to buy some new ones. And really, ours are at least 6 years old and look it! They can't be washed and all the puffiness is gone. So, we went online and found these amazing zabuton. You get 5 in the set, free shipping and all for just under 4000 yen (about $55). The covers are hand dyed and 100% cotton and in "wafu" colors (wafu means "Japanese style").  We decided to get one in each color as I think it will make the room look lovely!

Other exciting news is that I made a new friend! Yes, I know that sounds if I don't have any but the truth is for us long term foreigners who don't live in a huge city, it can be hard to make friends...especially friends who plan to stay more than a year or so.  How we connected is also so ....funny for lack of a better word.  About a year ago or so, Connie from made a comment on my blog. She is an American married to a Japanese man and at that time she was living in Saipan but was planning to move to Japan. I read her blog and posted some comments.  She then moved to Japan but I wasn't sure where. While reading one particular blog post, I realized that she must live close to me because she mentioned the shrine in my city.  So, I emailed her and it turns that while she isn't in my city, she isn't far from it. She asked me if I knew Kristin who does live in my city. I didn't!  So, Connie told Kristin about me and Kristin and I got to emailing and finally we connected last Thursday and went out to lunch. I can't believe that she has been in Munakata for so long (I believe at least 8 years) and we have never run into each other! But we do have very different lives as she has 3 children so her schedule must be closer to a typical Japanese schedule whereas my  husband and I area almost opposite to most Japanese people's schedules. Anyway, we had lunch and then she drove us to the mall and we did a wee bit of shopping and then, as there isn't a Starbucks or nice coffee shop in town, we went to Mr. Donuts to chat some more.  I tell ya, old men stopped and starred at us! I mean, 2 foreign women in the same space....must be a convention!  Anyway, we hit it off and I have to say I'm thrilled to have a foreign friend who lives in my city! Oh and Kristin's blog is here.

So that is my news! For those who celebrate Christmas I hope you are enjoying all the preparations!! Have some eggnog for me!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My crazy neighbour and her stinky, rotting daikon!

For the past 2 weeks or so, as I go down the stairs of our apartment building, I'm greeted by a foul smell.  My crazy neighbour (she is really crazy when she drinks...which is everyday) LOVES to make Japanese pickles. A lot of people like to make pickles but I think she is either obsessed and out of control or she sells them.....or perhaps both. She is constantly making pickles...she even uses the little house in the parking lot as a pickle making room.

But now she is preparing the daikon (Japanese radish) outside ....basically they smell like they are rotting and as it is unusually warm these days so  the smell is horrible!

Basically she is trying to make "takuan" ...pickled daikon.

When I first came to Japan, I basically couldn't eat any of the pickles...they take some getting used to. Now, I actually really like takuan (call me crazy but they are really good with pork chops!) but really...does she have to make them in the parking lot? 

If you are interested in more information about takuan and how to make here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We went to the shrine on top of the train station/shopping mall!

This year, the newly renovated Hakata train station opened. In case you didn't know, Hakata station is the largest train station on Kyushu island.  It was always a busy place but now it is just crazy! 

Anyway, we went today to meet a friend whom I hadn't seen in 10 years!  It was great fun catching up and meeting his daughter and seeing his parents again. We had wonderful curry, chatted and laughed a lot. When they left, my husband and I decided to check out the station a bit more and I wanted to see the shrine that is on top of the building. So, first we tried to take an elevator...yeah...that was impossible. If you  have never been to Japan, let me tell you something....we had closets in our house that were bigger than some of the elevators in this country! You would think that in the department stores within the island's busiest train station that they would have made the elevators bigger ...nope!  So, we found an escalator and slowly made our way up to the 10th floor. Then we had to find the next escalator to the roof. Finally!  The roof has a little play area for kids including a little train that goes around. There is an area for dogs. From the highest point you can see the city and of course, there is the shrine along with little shops selling hot food and kids toys etc.  So here are the pictures!

Today was super cloudy and I didn't get a good picture of the outside of the building. So, this first picture is from the JR station's site.

My husband (with the yellow bag).

You should wash your hands before going to the shrine.

There is a great (but cloudy) view of the city.

Back in the mall-on the 9th and 10th floors are many restaurants and the decor is beautiful.

My husband really wanted to try a Krisy Kreme donut but that line is insane! Next time....maybe.

Then  he saw this and said "this is my dream" sadly there was no place to sit.

All in all we had a good time. Sadly, it was as hot and humid as JUNE!!!!  After we got home, it cooled right down! 


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