Tuesday, December 29, 2009

how debbie spent the last hour (or so) of this evening.....

Tonight, after having a family dinner with Grandma downtown at a really old restaurant ("It must be a 100 years old!!" said Issei.), we came home minus one (Koji is staying the night with Grandma). It's amazing the difference it makes in a house with just one child absent.

Quieter. Yeah....muuuuuuch quieter.

So while Issei and the K-man were watching yet another mind-numbing silly movie...I'm not even sure which one it was tonight, but it had to have been on the lines of Airplane and Hot Shots, of which we've seen both more than a few times over the past few weeks....I came back here to my room hoping to get some more cleaning done on my room.

The second box I dove into was filled with old pictures.

Big mistake. Big. Huge.

So....cleaning the room? meh. I can do that tomorrow.

Tonight..... I put together this.....I have to admit that it was fun going through the photos and watching the changes in the boys....while the K-man and I don't really change too much over the years, the boys? Yeah. They are a different story.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Christmas Pasts/Present
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If it's steak, it must be Christmas

It is a custom here in Japan, twice a year, for many people to give 'thank you' gifts to co-workers, bosses, teachers, friends and relatives. In the summer, ochugen, is given sometime in July and in winter, oseibo, is usually delivered from the beginning to about the third week of December.

Departments stores and convenience stores offer a wide variety of things to be delivered....or you can order from special catalogues. One will spend anywhere from 3,000 yen (about $30) to 20,000 yen ($200) for these gifts. A boss will get the high-end one where a teacher may receive a 3,000 or 5,000 yen box. It's all about gratitude....the more it costs, the more gracious you seem. (Personally, I sometimes view this as very expensive goma suri....sesame grinding, or...ass kissing apple polishing to you and me! But...as I tell my students, goma suri is never refused!! :-D)

What comes in one of these boxes? (you may be asking?) Well....pretty much anything is the answer to that question. Different kinds of soy sauce, pasta and sauces, fruit juices, dish washing soaps, boxes of laundry soap, cooking oil...are some to name a few.

And what did we get here, at Kamp Kuroiwa? (again with the questions!)

Well....the first one to arrive was a box of ham.
The sandwiches and omelets we made were quite delicious!!

We also got a couple of boxes of beer. (From some very gracious students that know what I like!!! I do so love goma suri!!!)

One of the boxes was just beer, 2 different sizes of cans while the other box was not only beer, but also fruit juice for the boys....the "family set" like the picture on the bottom right. Sorry...no pictures of ours, as the box was soon emptied, didn't think about taking a picture until it was too late!!

A few years ago, I was teaching a group of girls that were in Junior High. Every year, they would give me the 'thank you' gifts to show their gratitude. I appreciate the thought that goes behind this idea, but...this with this particular group of students...I had to laugh. For three years running, they gave me the same gift for the summer gift.....soap. Not just any kind of soap, but....decorative soaps...a whole bunch of them in a BIG box....more soaps than one person could use in a year's time...and I got three of them, ya'll!! I ended up dividing them up and giving them to some older students of mine...they loved them. Of course, when I told them that the class of Junior High girls I taught was stopping, one of the ladies said, "Oh....no more soap!!". We all laughed about that!!!

For the past 6 years, one of my favorite classes has given me oseibo that all of us look forward to...nay.....wait for, patiently. While many classes will give me a little something extra in the month of December, this class gives us something that is "really juicy and delicious", as Issei says.
Four of them...one for each of us.

We cook them on the grill in the middle of our table....

....and it's a great evening for all of us!!!
It's a meal that we all enjoy....really enjoy!!!

In talking about these gifts to my students, I tell them that, in America, we sometimes do something similar...neighbors and friends will make things to give to each other during the holiday season. I think that this is one of the things I miss most about the holidays....peanut brittle, caramel popcorn, different kinds of chocolates and other yummilicious goodies..
So...what about you? What do YOU do, to show your gratitude to those around you?
If you share with me, then I can tell my students and show them that we all do things to show the people around us that appreciate them and care for them.
That part of this...is not a cultural thing, it's more a warm and caring human thing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

...and when I said I would tell you more on Saturday, I really meant, "See you Monday."

So....the party on Friday night. Yeah, I know....it's Monday (or Sunday still for many of you)...what can I say? Saturday, I had a class and in the late afternoon, the 'zombie feeling' that would continue until Sunday night began. I think that all the time, effort and energy I spent in getting ready for this party, while still teaching classes and doing the mommy/wife thing, finally caught up with me. Now, it's Monday and with a couple cups of java in my system, I'm thinking that I might be on the road to rejuvenation....or at least, let's hope.

The party....a story in pictures with minimal explanation....

The K-man and the boys went with me to help put the finishing touches on everything....the room was absolutely gorgeous and Koji had the camera...which is why many pictures look like this.....

...and are from this angle....

Issei....waiting for instructions.....really wish he was already at the hot spring bath they were going to next....
Wasn't the room beautiful?? It was the same room as last year, but the remodeling the hotel did was incredible!! Very elegant!!

Each person got a goody-bag (with homemade peanut butter-chocolate brownie, some chocolates and a few candy-cane white chocolate kisses!).....

...and one of these at their place setting.

*I had to explain to many that a) yes, they were angels b) yes, they were little dolls and c) yes, I made one for everyone and d) no, they are not pins or anything else...but you can stick them on your sweater, if you want.*
The buffet table....

Miwa (in pink), "But, Debbie...you need to get in the picture."
So....I did.

Some of the ladies from my YWCA class that I have had for about 10 years!!

There was entertainment.....
first a duet....a song of a young couple, in love expecting a baby...we were cracking up at her "pregnant tummy"....they sung using Nagasaki dialect and it was really good!!

There was a skit by a group of 'crazy' ladies....when it came time for the person to eat some noodles, I almost cried I was laughing so hard!!!
And there was some dancing.....I invited the ladies from my dance group, even though they are not my students, but because they are very special to me and two of them came and volunteered to dance with me. My students were very happy!!

One of my favorite songs is "White Sandy Beach" by IZ and I found a dance that went with the song to do. The words are not so difficult and the hand actions made it even easier to understand.
We had a very exciting Bingo game with some incredible prizes...about 20 items....from a bottle of wine to a handmade holiday wreath....to a handmade leather bag....pins...placemats...and a scarf that my mom made and sent. All other prizes were donated from students!
(Sorry...no pictures...I was too busy being the "prize girl" that I forgot to take any!)
One of the ladies from my hula group won the scarf and was soooo happy to get it. The fact that MY MOM had knitted it, made it even more special....the color was perfect,too.

One person from each table was given a Trader Joe's eco-shopping bag (Thank you, Cheri!!! **mwah**)....as I always carry mine and some people have been to California and have seen them, those were very popular items!!!
Funny thing, though...last year, I put a special paper under one person's place setting at each table and that person got the door prize. This year, I put stickers on the bottoms of the goody-bags, but....there were so many people who I saw, checking underneath the table before they sat down!!! THAT....made me laugh!!! :-D
The party was a success. Many commented as they were leaving that they looked forward to the party for a few weeks and asked about next year.
Next year???
But......I'm not going to think about that now.....
I have to think about making a Christmas present shopping list.
Yeah. I know. Last minute shopping, anyone??

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh...there IS a flamingo Friday. Just not right now...tomorrow..yeah...tomorrow is good...

Thanks to this....and all the preparation that lead up to this very successful event....

this...was me for the last hour and a half.....
and so...for the the first time in an incredibly long time....I'm going to pass on a Friday post...and we're going to have to make it a Saturday one.

There were flamingos.
Did you see them??
(Suz.....you rawk!!!)

My party was successful....and after great food, lots and lots of good beer, some dancing and tons of fun with 42 students....I'm finished for the day.
No really.
Stick a fork in me....I'm done.
I can hear the fat lady singing as I type.
See you tomorrow.

Good night, my loves....good night.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

okay...okay...i'll re-post and explain..but only one at a time....

*The first of 3 days (maybe) of re-posting the information that was sucked into the black hole of nothingness by Blogger.*

The picture: (oops! this one is new! imagine that!!) :-)
Issei, second from the right...getting ready to run, baby!
...and the original picture....

The story:
On Friday, Issei's class had their mini-mini-marathon. While Koji and the rest of the first and second graders ran 600 meters, the fifth and sixth graders ran 1,600 meters.
Issei was not too happy about this on Friday morning when he woke up.

While Issei will play sports.....he can pretty much take or leave them...usually leaving them for drawing pictures or playing on his Nintendo DS or playing a game that is popular here (again, for about the 3rd time in 15 years!) that resembles very fancy metal tops that you fight each other with...Bei Blades. (I'll post on them later.....strange phenom among young boys here in Japan.)

Anyway....so, on Friday morning, I put on my 'cheerleader mom' outfit and started trying to get him ready for the run....
"You can do it, Issei."
"Do the best that you can...gambatte!!"
"Run, Issei, run!!!"

Years later, when he is accepting some manga-writing award or Pulitzer Prize, I'll retell this story and add that this was one of those days I will never forget. I will remember the intense feeling of pride that I got from that young man....I might even get choked up.

Oh, no....he didn't win. He really didn't even come close. He was more in that group that was bringing up the rear. But....he. never. gave. up.
While a couple of other boys slowed down to a walking pace, Issei kept going....and every time he passed by the group of moms that had taken the afternoon off to witness this annual event, he smiled. He smiled really big. He even gave me a bit of a finger-wave one time as he was passing by. But, he kept on jogging....slow and steady...

By the time he got to the last lap, the fifth graders and sixth grade girls who had finished running their races earlier and the sixth grade boys who were done were all cheering for the 4 or 5 boys left running....it was so refreshing to see those kids shouting encouraging words as the boys went by. (One mom and I were laughing because we both had the theme music to Chariots of Fire in our heads!!)

The last 100 meters....something happened. Something wonderful.
Something that made everyone watching the race just a little surprised.
Coming around the corner, Issei reached deep down and found a burst of energy that makes me smile even today, when I think about it.
He came around that last corner just kickin' it!
Honestly....I have never seen that boy run so fast in all his 11 1/2 years!!
It was amazing.
Oh. And the smile on his face as he crossed the finish line?
Even the mom standing next to me had tears in her eyes.

I do believe that this is the way that Issei is going to be....slow and steady...not really making very much of a commotion...and then....he's going to surprise the crap out of everyone.
Nah. I won't be surprised.
I will have been waiting for it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

...and then someone came in and erased almost EVERYTHING I WROTE!!!

An apology...for something I know absolutely nothing about:
Dear Friends,
It seems that someone at Blogger (or somewhere bigger....with waaay more power!!) didn't think that what I wrote was good enough to stay on my blog.
I painstakingly wrote out wonderful explanations of each of the pictures I posted on Flamingo Friday....one that would have seriously made you cry, or at least get one of those lumps in your throat....and a couple that would have made you chuckle...even LOL, perhaps.
I previewed the post a few times, like I always do to make sure it was ready to be released.
After hitting the "publish post" key, I went to the blog to double check that everything was where it supposed to be and that spacing was appropriate....so I know it was all there on Friday night (okay...Saturday morning....very very very early on Saturday morning!).
Oh....how witty and charming I was!!
The humor and emotion just flowed from my fingertips to the keys of my computer.
Now, I'm wondering if I can reproduce all that I wrote......
Well....OF COURSE I can....but it will be later....after more coffee---much more coffee...maybe between classes today I can get it typed out.
Has anyone else had this happen???
Oh....and....to my Mom.....
I guess your computer is NOT on the fritz and you don't have to go in and refresh anything.
(Again....with the sighs!!)
I seriously hope this is not a sign of how the rest of my week is going to be.
THAT would totally piss me off!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A flamingo picture that really shouldn't surprise you...and some other stuff...

Lack of Holiday Spirit update: slowly getting better....we may be about to come out of it...the next 48 hours will be crucial to getting us back on the Christmas track.

I decided that 'slow and steady' was going to be my motto with decorating for the holidays. Pulling all the boxes crammed full of 18+ years of decorations and what-not was NOT the thing I needed to do. It caused too much pressure....like all those boxes were just sitting there in the corner of my living room, taunting me

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday's Meanderings

This Christmas holiday decorating thing is going to be a loooong process, me thinks.
Last night, I did manage to get the boxes from out of the top of the closet....and now they are just sitting on the floor, next to the closet. Waiting. Waiting for me to actually do something with them.
I'm happy to say that I succeeded in getting the tree put together and the branches spread out to look, you know, real.
This morning, Koji told me that he thought the "tree would look prettier with some lights on it".

Really? Ya think? :-D

On Saturday afternoon, we went to a park to take pictures for our Christmas cards/New Year post-cards....yes, the K-man is getting all creative again and this year? He did good. But...he made me swear that I wouldn't share with you the finished product until later....sorry.

I will, instead, post one that I personally think is really funny...Issei and Koji got a little creative themselves....and we all got a good laugh out of it!!!


Though I'm not a huge fan of the cold here in Nagasaki, I am a fan of the seasonal foods and fruits and all-around goodies that one can find here.

One of my favorites is the Fuji apple....an apple that is originally from Japan, but exported all over the world. Have you ever had one?

They are truly yummilicious!!!

They are sweet...and crisp....and pretty gosh darn big, too (about the size of a baseball!!).

The best thing about a Fuji is the ribbon of "honey" that runs near the core. Oh, it's not really honey, but....it is THE sweetest part of the apple. There are different varieties of the Fuji...whichever you get, I guarantee that~~if you're an apple lover~~you will not be disappointed with any of them.

If you ever get the chance, I recommend that you give this apple a try....mmmmmm!!


So.....what do you get when you have some.....

greenery for your head, neck, wrist and ankle....plus

a really puffy brown shirt and a nut-bead necklace.....

put that with.....

....a grass skirt (that is really made

of plastic but, it's just easier that way)....

and under that skirt, you had some big-ass

bloomers....green bloomers that were

big enough for at least one more person.....

Take all that and times it by 10.....10 ladies that is......

.....add some pinning and making sure that all was where it was supposed to be....in a little teeny tiny room (shared with some crabby ladies from a chorus group!!).....

....take a few 'up close and personal' shots.....

...and you have a group of ladies who very closely resemble wood nymphs (that made us all giggle!).

Every year, community centers all over Japan, about this time of year, have their annual bunka sai
(Culture Festival). While the art, sewing, cooking, quilting and other such types of classes exhibit their yearly projects, the other classes that can perform, usually do. This year, there were 3 or 4 chorus groups, Tai Chi, jazz dance, "healthy" dance (still not exactly sure what they do in that class!!), ballroom dancing, folk dance, and yes....hula.
This was the 6th bunka sai for me and even though we work very hard for this performance (usually only one or two dances...this year just one!), it really is a lot of fun.

We did a really good job....or that is what we think anyway...and that is what matters!! And, our sensei and some other senseis that came to watch all praised our performance.
That....felt wonderful!!!

I'm excited that 4 ladies are coming to my party on the 18th....I invited this group of ladies because they are special to me and I wanted to include them in the fun. They have asked if we are going to dance at the party......To be honest, I had thought about asking them, but didn't want them to feel obligated to do so....but they want to, so we will do the same dance...again....for my students.
I had originally planned on doing a dance, so the group dance will just be an extra bonus!!
You all have a great week....keep that Christmas spirit coming...I do appreciate it!!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Desperately seeking spirit.....of the holiday kind

Oh, wait.
There might be some of the 'visible' kind...up there....

will the Christmas decoration karma that I usually have return soon???
I hope it does....I don't really want to have to explain why Santa didn't come this year!!
Tomorrow....yeah....sounds good.....
I will try to muster up some Christmas spirit.....tomorrow.
If you have any extra....could you send some my way, please!?
Inspiration also welcome!!

Friday, December 04, 2009

the one where debbie posted a picture ala a bad 'find Waldo' then went to bed...with the promise she'll write something witty and charming tomorrow

(Peanut butter brownies attempting to look somewhat Christmas-y and some not-so-hidden flamingos.....)

.....really....she will...tomorrow....witty and charming coming at ya...I promise....oh, yes....manana....ashita....in 24 hours...
Good night, my lovelies.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A few Words on Wednesday.....

You know it's getting close to Christmas when.......

the Colonel at KFC gets all gussied up in his winter duds!!!

*Photograph taken at the stop light..I might possibly have been slightly in motion at the time the photo was taken.

He's been doing it for many, many years....and I don't think he's

going to be stopping anytime soon!!

The Colonel? Yeah...he's a pretty popular "man" over here!!

*The Kuroiwa's first Christmas card....