Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Computer.....March,2008...*R*I*P*

Monday morning started out not so good for me. I woke up and stumbled to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee to help jump start my day...while that magic potion was brewing, I stumbled back to the computer to check about some stuff for my class.
I hit the switch to turn it on....the motor came on...even gave me a bit of a *beep* to let me know that it was on....and then....nothing....nada...zip...ppffflllltttttttt.

Shock!!! Dismay!!! "But....what about my e-mail?? MY BLOG???"
Quick....to the kitchen...must have caffeine to help make it through this dire situation!!

The K-man has a good friend....who I will lovingly call the "computer guru"...so I waited patiently (tap tap tap) for a good time and called to see if he could come and save....resurrect, if you wish....my lifeline to the "the real world".
"I can come tomorrow night."........."But....that's tomorrow!!! That's at least 36 hours away!!! What will I do?!?!?!"

I survived Monday night...actually went to bed before midnight...which is not a bad thing!!!
Tonight...after bribing serving my guru spaghetti....he was back in my office/room, doing what he does best. I checked back there earlier and, swear to God, it looked like someone doing "computer surgery" in the middle of my room (the K-Man was his assistant). Parts and pieces and whatnot was all around.
The verdict: The new hardware is too fast and too new for the components of my computer. He'll be back tomorrow!! *sigh*

So...dear friends....I am typing this on my husband's computer and it is making me crazy (he has a Japanese keyboard and I keep hitting the key that switches the English to Japanese!!aaarrrggghhhhhhh!!)......I will respond to comments and check e-mail messages hopefully tomorrow night!!

I'm wondering if I can go to a temple or shrine and pray to a "computer God"?!?! Will check that out.....

Have a good day....and I will be back in a bit!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"A rose is a rose is a rose"....maybe....NOT

....especially when it comes to beaches and margaritas!!!
"But...Debbie...what the heck are you going on about?", you may (or may not) be asking yourself.
Well.....I read an English newspaper almost every day (sometimes it just goes into a pile and I forget about it) and in the "Sports" section they usually have a "quote of the day"...usually something really stupid thought provoking and deep that some athlete has said.

I think it was Thursday's paper where I found this....a quote by Newly crowned World Cup skiing champion Lindsey Vonn, who married ex-skier Thomas Vonn in September, on combining their long-awaited honeymoon with a trip to Jamaica for a friend's wedding in May. And here is what she said:
"A beach is a beach, I guess. Margaritas are the same everywhere."

Now.....I am not,by any stretch of the imagination, any kind of connoisseur of beaches or margaritas, but...... I have been to enough of the first and drank more than my fair share of the other to say to this young and obviously inexperienced young lady (she was born in 1984....need I say more?!?!) that....really....she has sooOOOooo much more to learn about the basics of just life, in general.

A beach is not just sand and salty sea water on the edge of a big body of land......

Depending on where in the world you are....the sand on which you stand may be different than somewhere else. For example...the sand in South Padre (Texas) is more of a brownish, rough sand....while the sand on the beaches of St. Thomas is....well...heaven. The beaches in the Dominican are nice, as are the ones in So. California...but each one is just a bit different than the other. Plus...the water. Oh...the glorious water.....Caribbean water is that beautiful clear, sparkling blue....Gulf of Mexico is a bit....browner. Guam, Saipan and of course Hawaii (*sigh*) all offer different kinds of beautiful sand and sea.

Now....on to my frozen concoction of choice....the margarita.

Saying that "Margaritas are the same everywhere" is like announcing to the world that, well...you haven't really been anywhere. (IMHO)

THE best frozen margs were from a place in Greeley, Colorado ("Gre-ality") called Eddie's Bar and Grill. They had frozen margaritas, on tap, for $1. They were delicious. Sadly, this place closed not long after I graduated from University....so many hours were spent there, I think we had a memorial.* On my trips back to the U.S., the first place I try to go (after Target, of course) is to Chili's, where the margaritas (along with my BFF Dena) will warmly welcome me back to my home country.

I can honestly say that for every really good, lick your lips cause they're salty and it's so niiiiice margarita I have knocked back sipped upon, I have also had a bad one.

Here in Japan....don't even think about ordering a margarita, because, in my experience, they don't know how to make them (along with many other drinks that are basics in any American bar). You'd be better off just ordering a shot of tequila because that would taste better. IF you go to a Hard Rock Cafe or any other of the "foreign" style places, then, you can get a good one, other than that....no...no...huh-uh....no thank you.

As some of you may have figured out, when I go home to the States we spend many an afternoon/evening on my mom's patio....and many times, the blender will be going at warp speed.

Last summer, I found at Wal-Mart a "Margarita in a Tub".....it was great....just open the mix, add the tequila, stir it up and toss it in the freezer for a few hours and *VOILA*.....a frozen margarita that was pretty tasty. The "Sweet Potato Queens" also have their own "Fat Mama's Knock You Naked Margarita Mix" that is pretty garsh darn good....a bit dangerous, but good. But...but..but...over in Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett has his own mix that....and I will swear by this...is probably one of the best.

So.....where do you go for the best beach? The best Margarita? Do YOU think they are all the same? As I am always looking for both....I'd be interested in hearing your opinions!!!

And...since we are on the subject of beaches.....here is a picture taken on a Japanese beach...of my oldest when he was about 4 or 5.....to me, this is one of the best pictures....Ahhhh...to be running nekkid as a jay bird(on an isolated beach) with not a care in the world....now THAT would be nice.

Happy Easter, everyone!! I hope the day will be / is / was a good one for you!!!

**Will post pictures of our Easter tree tomorrow....the K-Man took the camera and is doing something with it...something with videos and whatnot. I usually have no idea as to what he is doing and tonight is no exception!!! :-D

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The end of a pretty short week....

I really wanted to post something last night, but...when I sat down here at the computer, I was so totally knackered that I just lost myself in YouTube for a couple of hours a little bit and then.....went to bed. See how I am!! Tonight, I was messaging a good friend of mine and she said that I was "walking the sanity line" with my 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night...to which I replied that I might "tiptoe...even prance and sometimes skip...but never do I walk" on that line!!!

So....yesterday...here is what I put up with saw every time I went into the entrance way of our house:

It was like a "litter" of kids sitting on the steps. And...were they talking? Laughing? Telling stupid jokes? NO! Among the 6 kids were 4 Nintendo DSs and 1 GameBoy!!! Not a word was spoken...and all I could hear was the "bleep" and "brrrrnk" and sometimes "brooiiinnng" coming from those damn games!!! I FINALLY said it was time for a "computer kyukei" (break) and made them all go outside. Feeling quite powerful in my Momminess, I watched them all trudge out into the beautiful, yet slightly windy day. Expecting to see them in the park playing, imagine my surprise and wonder when I saw them.....on the steps going up to the park.... playing those games!!!!! AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!

Sadly...we also said good-bye last night to a very good friend. "Frog" had to be put into the trash as he was leaking sand all over the freaking house!!!

Our good friend Lila, ("Aunt Lila" to many children who love and adore her!!), sent Frog and Lizard one year for Christmas. They were a "paint it yourself" kind of present and Issei loved them both and kept them on his desk. That is, until Koji realized that Frog and Lizard could really, really fly if you threw them hard enough. Ergo...the leaking of sand from too many times being lobbed into the air and then landing not-so-gently in other parts of the house.

We will miss Frog....he was great to have around. But...I must be honest when I say that I really won't miss him too much flying through the air and landing on my head....or hitting me in the back...he was cute and colorful...but, damn, he was hard!!!

An Easter Egg update.

Here are the eggs...as they were drying. We tried to paint them, but...for some reason the paint was just kind of sliiiiiding off....was thinking it would take too long to dry, so we wiped what we had done off....and got out the magic markers. They worked just great!! So now...we wait...until tomorrow when I can get to the flower shop and pick up a couple of branches of maybe cherry blossoms or some other kind of blossoms to use for our Easter Tree. (Will post pictures hopefully tomorrow of the finished "display"!)

Today is Good Friday....and I'm surprised that my mother hasn't sent me a "Today is really your birthday so have a good one" kind of message...wonder what's up with that?!?!?

No...no...no...today is not my actual birthday, but 40-*cough*snort*ahem* years ago my birthday and Good Friday just so happened to be the same day....and so, I get to celebrate two birthdays (oh, lucky me!!)!!! Probably my Mom is the only one who remembers, but that's okay...that's a special "thing" that we have every year!!! (Unless she forgot this year, and then, well...gosh...Linda, you have about 15 minutes to send a message and then I'm going to bed!!!)

Have a wonderful Good Friday/Debbie's Other Birthday!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just me...messing with the blog...again...

After I kicked gently pushed Koji off the seat in front of the computer, I could have a little bit of "me time" for myself.
Found the Pyzam site, did some looking, checked out "layout designs" and...voila!! Flamingos!!
Not sure if I like it or not....had to do some "reworking" of the layout...hmmm....not sure....any thoughts? opinions? words of wisdom on this windy Thursday (and when I say "windy", I do mean windy as in "Holy Hell Dorothy, where did Toto fly off to?" kind of windy).
Today is a holiday here in Japan..."Shunbun no hi"...."Vernal Equinox"...yes, we will celebrate pretty much anything over here!!!!!

Have a great one and hold on to your hats!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Not officially invited, but will jump on the memoir-meme-wagon anyway!

Today, as I was sitting in traffic (which was moving waaaaay to slow for this race driver wannabe!), I started thinking about a particular meme that is floating out in the blogging world and it goes something like this:
You are to, in 6 words only, sum up your life.
Okaaaaayyyy...so....in between taking pictures with my keitai ("cell phone")of
my shoes that I bought last year and that I absolutely loooooove!!
Yes, I know...they are sooo last year and...eh. I don't care.
The weather was beautiful (until about 4:30!) and I didn't have to wear sox, so I felt so "springy" in these shoes.

I also took a picture of my very cool SPQ-esque sunglasses
(which I actually own a pair of, but...a "diamond" came out and, well...that just looks cheap!!):-D
And I also did a little eye-candy dreaming.....

Then....I came up with these....

*One girl, two cultures....margaritas, anyone?

*Blogging friends nourish my questionable sanity.

*From birth on, always going somewhere.

*Can I go to Starbucks now?

*Multi-tasking, working, married, yet single mom.
(Don't ask...just a small vent for the afternoon!!!)

*A Benz is a sweeeeeeeeet ride.

*Computer glitch causes upheaval in life.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Putting on the green...because you can

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!!! So....I spent a good part of my classes talking about this lurvely event (holiday? festival? reason to drink and get crazy?) today. If anything, this proves that foreigners (us!) are just a bit crazier than what we like to believe!!! Green rivers?!?!? Green beer?!?! Parades and leprechauns?!?! I love it!!!

So...I'm now more homesick than what I have been in a very long time!!! If I were in the States, I'd probably be drinking one (or three) of the these...

And I would be wearing, any one of these t-shirts:

And this one is one of my favorites.....
May the luck o' the Irish be with you all!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday....And what a loverly day it was

Before I get going on this, I want to send a quick message to my family in Atlanta and to anyone else who lives in that area....My dad sent a message to say that they were fine and that my sister and her husband were also okay. The worst of the storms did not get to them and only dropped some pretty good sized hail on them, but otherwise, they were unscathed. I hope that, if any of you are in the Atlanta area, that you, too, are okay and safe.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered damages.
It's late now....the boys have long since gone to bed...well, Issei is in his own bed, but Koji has already camped out for the night in my futon...*sigh*....which makes for an interesting sleep for me. I usually wake up a few times in the night with a foot in my face or his legs smooshed up under my back when he is in our room....amazing how he always manages to stay in just my futon....never rolls over into the K-man's.

Anyway...the weather today was absolutely beautiful....it was about 16 or 17 degrees....that's Celsius, NOT Fahrenheit, so....what...(I'm crap at this and I can't find my conversion chart)...I'm guessing....mid to high 50's (or so!). Got up and around this morning....did some laundry. No...that's not completely right....I did ALL the laundry!!! What a great feeling!! If I ever say that it "looks like a washing machine threw up in our yard".....this is what I mean.....

The picture is a bit blurry, but.....this is what our "laundry area" out in the back of our house looked like for most of the day!!! There was no room to hang anything else!!! The only downside to that was when I had to bring it all in and fold it. That took awhile, but it's done and I'm a happy camper!!! (And I was wondering where that pink shirt was....it was "hiding" at the bottom of the laundry basket!!!!)

Since Easter is coming soon, the boys and I started on our Easter decorations that we do every year. I decided that this year, since I have an aversion to boiled eggs and even the smell makes me want to hurl turn my head away,we would not be boiling eggs, we would be "blowing" them!! So...we had quiche last night and scrambled eggs this morning for breakfast....and colored the shells this afternoon!!!

A couple of years ago, my mom sent an egg dye kit...and every few months or so, I run across the package and think to myself that I should put it with the rest of the Easter stuff. So...today....of course...could NOT find it, so had to resort to boiled water (which I am okay with!!), vinegar, and food coloring. Here is how we started.....

The boys turning the eggs with chopsticks to keep the colors even....

(Note to self: next time clean clutter off kitchen counter before taking picture for blog!!)

...and here are the (almost) finished products. They are drying tonight and tomorrow we will decorate them and get them ready for hanging on our Easter Tree!!!

After doing the eggs, we went out into the yard and contemplated doing something with the "herb garden"...which consists of rosemary, lemon grass, some oregano, some 'other' stuff....and some tulips that have mysteriously come up.....hmmmm....wonder where those came from!?!?!

And yes, those are flamingos watching over the "foreign" tulips....(Of course, I have flamingos in my yard!! Did you honestly think I woudn't?!?! )

After deciding to just let the herb garden "do its own thing"...Koji climbed a tree....

....then we took a rest on the sidewalk and looked at the sky. Koji thought we needed a picture of the two of us...laying down on the sidewalk!!!
Then it was back into the house to put a pizza together....I had made the crust dough earlier and cut up toppings and the boys put it together..... They worked....and Mom had a beer!
Koji the pizza man.....
The pizza was delicious.....the beer was "just what the doctor ordered"...and it was a great ending to this very loverly day, indeed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A fashion trend....just waiting...to happen...

or.....maybe...he's just a little weirdo.
You decide.
Koji, being the independent little cuss that he is, has decided that wrist bands do not belong on the wrist...they look much more kakuii ("cool") on his ankles....and he wears them all the time..taking them off only, when he takes a bath.

I asked Issei why he thought Koji did that.....
"Who knows? He's kind of funny."


Photo taken this morning on the sofa as he was pretending to sleep...he's got some really good "pretend snores", too. I was not fooled one bit totally shocked when he pulled back the quilt and said "Yahhh!" :-D What a great way to start the day!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Where was I and how did I get here?

Do you ever find yourself, surfing the Internet...cruising through the sites and all of a sudden...you find yourself on a site that has you wondering, "How did I get here?"
Or...on YouTube...same kind of idea...go looking for a video of your favorite TV show and before you know it, they're asking you to "verify your birth date".

As an English Language Consultant English conversation teacher, I have found myself in a variety of situations and wondered just the same, "How did I get here?"

If you don't mind, I'd like to share two of those situations with you...and then you can have a better idea as to what my life is like, pretty much on a daily basis.

#1) On Wednesday, I have one of my most favorite classes. It is a group that started as a class at a community center and after the scheduled classes were finished, they decided to continue as their own class....that was 4 years ago. Of the original students, I think that there are, maybe, 15 still in the class. They will tell you that they don't think they have improved, but I can guarantee that their listening skills, vocabulary and their confidence have improved a lot!!! And then....I have things like this happen.....

We are reviewing different skills...and for the last couple of classes we have been going over giving directions to places. From the very beginning, when we practice conversations, more often than not, I have given them A/B practice sheets....."A" will have information that "B" doesn't, so "B" must ask "A" to get the information and then they switch and "A" will ask "B" for his/her missing information.

We do this particular kind of activity a lot....really, we do.
So....on Wednesday....after they had been practicing on their own....I gave them a map and told them that they were ALL "A".....I would be "B". "Now....take a few minutes and with your partner, look over the map....the places...the roads."
After a few minutes of them doing that....I said that I would then give them directions to some places....places that I had on my map, but they did not.

Okay...."Number 1.....JAL (Japan Air Lines) office....okay....go up this street...", I began.
"Wait...Debbie...we don't have JAL on our maps." says one pair in the front of the class.
I stop and quickly explain to the two that I would now tell them where it was....I had it on my map. Okay...let's try again..."Okay, listen carefully...so, the JAL office...go up this....". And...again...mumblings were heard " But...but..I can't find the JAL office" from two or three more groups. ....
At this point....I just stopped. I sat down on the desk and started laughing. I couldn't even continue through this...I had tears in my eyes and my stomach was starting to hurt.
Finally....after me explaining it yet again...even in Japanese...and those who got it the first time checking to make sure everyone got it...really got it....we could continue.
The really funny thing is....the next time we do this kind of activity...yep, more than likely it'll be the same thing...but, I will just say to them, "This is just like the map we did...remember?" If anything, they will remember how damn funny it was and why......yeah...and monkeys will fly out my butt, too!!! :-D

#2) On Thursday evenings, I have a class of ladies that is basically a free talk/discussion class. Our topics range from movies to fashion, from arts & crafts to politics. Like many classes such as this, sometimes the topics move very quickly...and tonight was no exception....here is a run-down of 20 minutes of tonight's class:

*What do you think about NY Governor's press conference?
*Why was his wife standing with him? Wasn't she angry? How could she stay with him?
*How much did he pay the hooker? Are you sure? How much for one night?!?!
*"Debbie you and I could do that and make a lot of money." (WHAT?!?!)
*Peaks of sexual drives of men vs. women
*Do many Japanese men take Viagra? How much is Viagra? (about $33 a pill here!)
*Is there a pill that women can take? (the word "horny" was brought up)
*Japanese men usually take Viagra for "erectile dysfunction", not for fun.
*Discussion on the reason why the correct pronunciation of the word "election" is very important (remember the R and L sound the same here in Japan!!). Makes the question "So...how's the election going?" have a completely different meaning...and will make foreigners laugh.......really, really, hard. (teehee)

When people ask me what it is that I do here....sometimes it's really hard to explain. Sure, I can say, "I'm an English teacher." But, really.....that is only a fraction of what I do.....
Maybe I should put on my business card that I am an

"English Language Consultant and Cultural Advisor"
(and part-time stand-up comedienne)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What to do on a late night when all is quiet...

It's a quiet Wednesday night here....the boys have crapped out...Issei, in his bed (where he should be) and Koji is curled up on the sofa, remote control in his hand (like the "little man" he is) and snoring like a 'big dog'! The K-man is in his "man cave" with his headphones on and playing guitar with George (Harrison) or Phil (Collins) or Neil (Young), I'm sure. And here I am....in my regular place of an evening, in front of the computer!! (But about to call it a night......)

Tonight, Issei made a comment about wanting to "escape from homework"....he's had a bit of trouble with that particular aspect of school and I, too, would like to escape from the push and pull that has been going on in his adventure in, what I like to call, "Homework Hell".

Escape is a great word.
Escape....(v)....to get free of : break away from
Here are a few of the ways we, here in the Kuroiwa House, like to "escape":

Issei and Koji....

Nintendo DS, Game Boy, Bionicles, Cars and "King of the Beetles" trading cards and headphones for listening to music.

The K-man......

His extensive collection of CDs (yes, those are ABC dividers like those you see in a store!!) and concert DVDs and of course....to make his own music.....these.....

And these would be some of mine...Hula , my MP3 and a good Nora Roberts book

Right now, even as I type, I am downloading my new CD of Lifehouse onto my MP3 player....as I feel my own need to escape coming upon me.

And since we are on this idea.....here's another form of the word I like: escapism...(n) habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine

If I'm going to do that seriously I need to include this man....as he makes escapism oh so much more fun!!

Photo "borrowed" from Perez H.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Reason #34,907 why I love my Mom.

Not even an hour after I hit "publish post" on my last post, the mailman came and delivered a package from my Mom. Seventeen years ago, this package would have the county newspaper ('cause, you know, I can't miss a week!!), the Sunday funny papers, the crossword puzzle from the Sunday paper, columns from Dave Barry, and Lewis Grizzard (before he passed away), some magazines, and videos...lots and lots of videos!!

Before DVDs and before I could afford cable TV here, there was very little to watch, IN ENGLISH, on television. Mom, bless her heart, faithfully recorded shows like Friends, Allie McMeal, Seinfield, Frazier, ER, Becker, Coupling, Ray Romano, Who's Line is It Anyway, Drew Carey Show....just to name a few. She even, though she really hated it with a passion didn't like it, would record The West Wing....because I wanted it. I was not the only one who would watch these videos.....they would be passed along from gaijin (foreigner) to gaijin....all needing a "little bit of home"!!!

So....back to today's package.....I brought in the package from outside...sat at the table and carefully opened it up....and what to my wondering eyes should appear.....but...Last month's Reader's Digest, November's MORE, last weeks funnies.....and....and......

..... do you see them?....in the zip-lock bag......12 Mint Chocolate Cookies...from....yeah...you got it.....the Girl Scouts!!!
(12....which means....the K-man, Issei and Koji each get.....2!!!) :-D (No....I shared....equally....we all.....me, grudgingly gave up....got three.

(There were delicious, by the way....Issei said, "They make my mouth cold." All agreed that they were "yummy"....Mommy, didn't say much...she was "having a moment". I would say more, but, my mom reads this and well...some things are best left unsaid. Just think of something that, when you eat it, it makes your mouth and taste buds go..."mwaaaahhhaaaahahahahaha". There ya go.) :-D

Now....also in that package....was THIS..... Helllllllllllloooooooo?!?!??!?!


Thinking that my mom was playing a horrible, horrible, joke (not that there's ANYTHING at all wrong with the AARP....I'm just about 20-25 years TOO DAMN YOUNG TO BE INTERESTED IN THAT MAGAZINE!!!)...I was getting a bit hurt/pissed/aaarrrrggggghhhhhh!!!

Then....this note fell out.....

Does she know me or what?!?! :-D

And yes...we do love Jack Nicholson!!!

Thanks Mom!!! I picked up an old obi (kimono belt) the other day and it had "your name" on it!!!

Love you!!

The one where Debbie made you an offer you were really tempted with....

....and you decided to help out a friend!!! :-D

(This post would be so much more effective if only Blogger would let me down load some pictures, but....as I have tried 4 times and it has not let me 4 times, then...work with me here...use your imagination when needed...okay?!?! Okay....Thanks! )

Today started out to be such lovely day...getting up at the regular time (not the "butt crack of dawn" as some would say, but still, kind of early!!). I got the coffee maker going and then, opening the door to get the newspapers, I paused a moment and said a quiet "thank you" to the One Above, as the cold and raininess of yesterday had been replaced with sunshine, not a cloud in sight and just a beautiful morning.

I got "son #1" up and off to school.....and then....

You know, sometimes I think that God really does have a sense of humor. Maybe my giddiness of just being alive is too much and there needs to be a test. I hate that. Case in point: "son#2" woke up with a slight fever and a tummy ache. Okaaaayyy.
Tell Dad he's on "duty" for the morning...call afternoon classes and cancel...call daycare...."koji's not coming in....yes...we'll take care...thank you."

On my way to my morning class, as I was lamenting the way the day was going....and the fact that a raging case of PMS is on the horizon (like THAT can be ignored!!)...sitting at a stoplight.....a thought....no...an idea like none other that I have had lately came upon me.....

I know a way to get some Girl Scout Cookies.

I'm going to call this my "desperate times call for desperate measures" or "you send me what I NEED scratch my back, I'll send you what you can't get a Pier One scratch yours" kind of idea.

Here's the plan....and really, it's a win-win kind of deal....you...please, send me a box of Girl Scout Cookies (DoSiDos, Thin Mints, Peanut Butter, or those lemon ones)...and I, upon receipt of that box will send to you a package of a variety of Japanese things (for as close to the same value as the cookies as I can get!!).....that will probably include:

*scraps of kimono material* *Japanese paper* *fun and tasty kind of snacks...that are good and will make you laugh*

*paper dolls* *fun shaped erasers* *origami paper* *special (small) requests (maybe something you've heard about/seen and want*

(Here is where that "imagination" thing comes into play...I had a picture to put here...just imagine all that on the tatami....very nice....cute dolls).

So...if anyone would like to help out a "friend" and get a little "culture in a box"...here's your chance. And I'm not looking for a hundred boxes of cookies...just a few....to satisfy this intense craving I have and to share some "American culture" with some of my students!!!

And to make this real official-like.....picture me....bowing verrrrrry deep in your direction.

Now...if you want to do this "exchange" with me, please send me an e-mail at willkuro@ngs1.cncm.ne.jp and let me know and I can get my address to you.

If you want to pass....no problemos mi amigas....it's just an idea...and...by George, it just might work!!!

Ya'll have a good day!!! Mine is turning out to be much more promising than it looked like it was going to be!!!


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Some Saturday Silliness

There are a few Japanese movies that I really like. I'm a fan of older ones like Tampopo and The Funeral. I also like some of the newer ones like Shall We Dance (which I liked much better than the Richard Gere/J.Lo remake), Hula Girls (a great movie based on a true story!!) and Letters From Iwo Jima...which I saw in Japanese with no subtitles...a great test of my language ability but I understood enough and I think that having to read the subtitles would have really taken away from the movie.

But of all the Japanese movies I have seen, there is one (IMHO) that stands out as a really funny movie and is so true to the way things are in the high schools here. The movie is called Water Boys. It is about a group of high school boys who don't really belong to any club (gasp) and are basically a bunch of misfits. In preparation for the annual Bunka Sai ("Culture Festival"), they form a group of synchronized swimmers to perform at the festival. The movie is all about how they trained, the problems they had and the people who helped them along the way.

This movie was released a few years ago and is still very popular. In fact, a National competition, supported by a comedic group, is held every year in Tokyo and the finals are broadcast on TV.

The first time I saw this, I remember just laughing out loud!! I was a teacher at a public school for 5 years, and I can honestly say that everything in this movie, I pretty much witnessed similar situations and more. The yearly Bunka Sai is a chance for students to cut loose....so to speak. I always looked forward to the festival every year as I knew, for sure, that I would be entertained!!

Here is a clip from the movie....it's the last performance for the boys and the whole school and some girls from another school are all there watching. And yes...there is a group of okama, or "men dressed as women" in the crowd...they had a pretty big part in the movie!! Watch it if you have the time...it'll make you smile!! (or at least I hope it does!!!) If anything, you'll get a giggle over the swimsuits!!!

Have a great weekend!! :-D

Friday, March 07, 2008

Yes....It's that time of week again...and...Debbie's being lazy so.....

It's Friday....Thank Gawd!! Not that it has been extra busy or super long or anything, I'm just at the end of my "energy rope" and there ain't no room to tie a knot and hang on....do believe it will be a weekend to refresh myself.

So...because this is a great way to get a post done, I give you...this week's feastaroo!

If you could be any current celebrity for one whole week, who would you want to be?
Oh...this one is so easy....I'd be Sarah Silverman...'cause she's doing "you know what" with Matt Damon!!!!!!! :-D ("on the bed, by the door, .......")

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest), how much do you enjoy talking on the phone?
If it's on a Sunday and I have a "Central Perk"-sized cup of coffee....AND I'm talking to friends either here or especially those from home....then..... a 10!!

Name a charitable organization to which you have donated (or would like to).
I always buy things (at least twice a year) from UNICEF, money from the purchases is part donation.....and....I buy certain products from the good people at Indigo Wild, 25% of Betsy Body sales goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

And....I also donate directly to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Main Course
What is a food you like so much you could eat it every single day for a month?
Everyday?? hmmmmm.....then quesadillas...'cause I love them and I can have them a variety of ways!

Have you or anyone in your family had the flu this year?

No we haven't. (Knock on wood!!!) But allergies are starting to kick our butts!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

(Not so) Wordless Wednesday

If you were to ask anyone not living in Japan about Japanese food, I'm sure that sushi, rice, raw fish, and more sushi would probably be what they think "we" eat all the time.

What people don't know, is that Japan is home to some of the most delicious breads. No...I'm not talking about the wheats, ryes, and pumpernickels....I'm talking about breads with yummy stuff baked into them, like chunks of cheese with ham and onions, or (hand in the air, swear to God!) about 1/4 a block of cream cheese with a sourdough-like bread around it....or...seriously....I could go on and on and on....
Talk to anyone who has lived in Japan for any amount of time and just the mention of bread with chocolate baked in it will bring a look of total "haaaaaaa" on their face!!

Now...ask any Japanese person what their favorite bread is and many of them will say "meron pan".....that would be melon bread to you and me. The word pan is bread...as it is in Portuguese (a lot of Japanese words are borrowed!), and melon, not because it tastes like melon, but because it looks like a melon.
And so...I give you.....MELON PAN.........

So...what is melon pan? (you may or may not be asking yourselves!)
Well...simply put....it is a sweet bread baked with a thin layer of cookie dough wrapped around it and scored so it resembles a melon. More simply put....it's heaven. And if you happen to get one right out of the oven....then...it's "Oh my God, delicious!"
You can buy them anywhere...convenience stores, big bakeries, small bakeries, but our favorite place to buy them is from the "traveling bakery"....it's a van with an oven inside and wherever they go, they make "fresh bread". There are no words to describe the smell around that van....just close your eyes and imagine. Usually, if you see one of these vans, there will be a line of people...waiting...because, the wait is worth it.
(Plus...I hate waiting in lines, but if some warm melon pan is what I get at the end of the line, then color my butt standing there with the rest of the people!!)

Doesn't that look just yummy? So soft and sweet on the inside with a crunchy topping!! (I know there is one more left in the kitchen and I am about to talk myself into heating it up!! mmmmm...a late night snack.....)

So....speaking of bread....I thought I would share with you a few pictures of some breads that my friend made for her daughter's birthday.....

Don't they look delicious?!?! Now...look at the next picture.....

Yes...that's my hand holding the breads!!!

My friend, Tomoko's daughter was turning 3 and she was getting a kitchen set for her birthday. She loves to play "house" and Tomoko decided to make her some bread to go in the kitchen!!!

She used papier mache'.....and painted every single one!!! Click on the picture above again and look at the detail...especially on the cinnamon rolls (with raisins!!!) and the raspberry tarts!!! Amazing!!!

The time and effort it took to make those just amazes me. I don't think I would have been able to hang in there to the end. But...then again...

If you could have seen the look on 3-year-old Aiko's face as she was playing with all the fun stuff in her kitchen...set up in the big kitchen so she was right beside Mommy... yeah....I probably could have done it, too.

(But mine would NOT have turned out as perfect little replicas...mine would have been.....interesting looking, I'm sure!!)

Monday, March 03, 2008

March 3...."Hina Matsuri"...A day to celebrate GIRLS!!!

Today, all over Japan, families with little girls are having a special celebration. The "Hina Matsuri", or doll festival is a time for families to pray for the good health and happiness of their daughters. The dolls represent traditional Japanese values, such as calmness and dignity and are meant to set an example for the young girls to follow.

A lot of money is spent on traditional dolls used only for this celebration. Some families will spend a buttload large amount of money on special doll displays. The displays are set out, sometimes as early as the middle of February, but have to be taken down on the first weekend after Hina Matsuri to insure the daughter gets married at the "right age". (Don't ask me what the "right age" is...no one could really give me a concrete answer!)
Some of the displays are very simple...and some are very elaborate. If you are really interested, you can go to the Wikipedia explanation of the festival...they have more pictures and go into detail about the dolls.

My good friend, Masami, and her family set up their display for her daughter, Kanon. Here is what her display looks like:

A lot of the things in the display, other than the dolls, are more dolls, kimonos and the accessories to go with, and I'm sure there are some sweets hidden in there somewhere!!! Masami's daughter is her mother's only granddaughter so they went all out this year. Kanon is still young, only a year and a half, but these dolls will be displayed every year....when she marries, more than likely and following tradition, she will take the dolls to her new house and use them for her daughter.

Okay......I don't have daughters and actually, I don't really know what all is involved...this is just all I have been told. In May, during the Boys Day Festival...now..that's when our stuff comes out of storage!!! Over the years, we have acquired many things and have even purchased a few things....I'll post about that when the time comes.

So...today, when I picked up Koji from the daycare...he brought out something that his class made to celebrate the day. All the kids, using paper cups and a variety of paper and whatnot, made their own little Hina doll displays. He is very proud of it. So, we have it displayed on the TV.

Something tells me that Koji (and the rest of the boys!) don't really take this particular festival very seriously. (Ya think?!?!)

Issei asked why we had it on the TV because it looked a little scary!! Koji was not hurt by this observation.....he just smiled.

(Mom sits quietly at the kitchen table, shaking her head and wishing she had picked up some wine....you know....for the festival!!!)

Holy Moly, Batman...I missed a day and the guilt is immense!!

I really can't believe I did that!!! Yesterday, we spent the day out as a "family outing" kind of day and by the time we got home, got dinner, baths and ready for bed.....I was knackered!! Was all snug as a bug in a rug in my futon when I realized I had forgotten to post anything!!! Oh well...will do something quickly this morning before I have to get "little one" up and ready to go!!!

Oh...and by the way...in case you haven't noticed....the "Februarie Blogging Challenge" picture is gone...or not really gone, just moved down a bit!!!. We are done. Finished. It's over. (sniff sniff) And now, my friends, you are reading an "Award Winning Blog".....no.no.no...I didn't WIN the challenge, BUT, I did get the 2nd prize. I had 31 posts for the month of February....some little high school chickee (Hi, Taylor!!!) posted every day and got the big prize!! Okay..Okay...so I'll take the second prize...which is some chocolate...which I am already waiting patiently (tap tap tap tap) for!! Thanks again, to Gina for doing this!! It was such a fun thing to do!!!

Okay....so I had the K-man take a good picture of our ume tree (that I posted about on Saturday). It really is a cool tree. If you click on the picture you can get a better view....check out the trunk. Issei says that if you look at really carefully.....it looks like a dragon!!! Very cool!!

Yesterday...we took the boys to a Ninja-themed village. If you ask Koji, he wants to be a ninja and gosh, why not just feed into that, huh? This place is actually quite old...the K-man said he went a looooooooonnnnggg time ago with his parents when he was in high school!! There were lots of old buildings...ninja-type things to do...which Koji just loved!!! And so many picture opportunities!!! I'll post more later but...here is one of my favorites:

Now this...is the way it should be!!!

This was taken in the rest area on the way to the ninja village. At this particular point, we were almost at the same latitude as Charleston and Baghdad (there was a sign that said so!!!) It was a beautiful day!!! We have so many pictures that have been taken at this exact place....the view is spectacular!!

And finally....one of my favorite pictures of the day....as we were inching along in traffic, I noticed this building. I have no idea as to what kind of business it is....but what a great name!!! They're just telling you like it is!!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Just a hint of the coming spring....

I absolutely love this time of year in Japan. We are still in winter and for sure, it will get really cold again, at least one more time. But, until then....it's beautiful. There is a chill in the air that can almost be ignored....until about 5:00 in the late afternoon, but even then, it's not too bad.

If you are prone to allergies, then, maybe, it's not such a good time as we are surrounded, literally, by the most beautiful of flowering plants and trees. We rent our house and were incredibly lucky to get one with not one, but two small gardens and a backyard. Usually, homes here have a very small garden area, if any at all. We live in an area that is considered "country" to the people of Nagasaki....most of the houses around us have gardens and they are kept immaculate. (Not ours though...we lean toward the "jungle" look many times!!!)

In our garden....in the back yard, our "mokuren" (magnolia tree) has just started the blossoming process. We also have "natsu mikans" (summer tangerines that are a little larger than regular tangerines and much MUCH tarter to the taste), that are almost ready to be picked back there and the orange color is so vivid against the green of the trees. We have a couple more flowering trees, but they won't "do their thing" for a while yet....one tree has THE most beautiful smelling blossoms, so sweet with a hint of orange and something else...sorry, but it's too hard to describe.

In the front garden, our camellia tree's flowers are almost finished....the flowers falling apart and laying all around under the tree, in my herb garden. The dark pinkness looking like a blanket around my rosemary, lemon grass, and oregano.

But....my favorite of all things in our garden, sits surrounded by a variety of green trees....the color of the blossoms gives the whole garden a bit of a whimsical feel about it. It is an "ume" (plum) tree, but it is a special kind of ume tree....a "sudare ume", or hanging shade plum tree. The tree itself has weeping willow qualities, but with the most beautiful, delicate, pink flowers....hanging like a beaded curtain in our garden.

This picture was taken with my cell phone...I'll try to get a better one tomorrow, but...it's still good, I think. You can see the color of the flowers....aren't they just beautiful!?!

I hope that spring is in the air, wherever you are. Enjoy the colors around you...today, even doing the laundry wasn't so bad because I could walk amongst the "springness" as I took the clothes out to be hung outside in the cool, dry air.