Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finding some "alternative sunshine" when that real stuff can't be found...

I hate to go on and on about how much it has rained since Thursday, but really....enough is enough!!!
Sadly, the weather forecast for us is still more rain...through Saturday.  Some parts of Nagasaki have "heavy rain" forecasted for tomorrow.  It's humid. It's sticky. It's smelly (due to the fact that our laundry juuuuust doesn't get dry. ew.).  It's cool until you move and then, voila--your sweaty.
I hate this time of year.
I really do.

I guess I need to work on this negative-blechy feeling so..I'm working on finding "my happy/sunny place", I'm looking for bits and pieces of "sunshine"...things that make my heart smile to help me through until the rain stops.

Take for example, what happened yesterday.
I don't usually teach kids' classes and focus mainly on adult language instruction.
With kids, one never knows if they are in your class because they truly want to be there or....their mom wants them to be there.  I worked in a language school for a couple of years and that was long enough of having to put up those kids whose moms forced them into my classroom.
A special version of "hell".

On Mondays, I teach a family of kids that I absolutely love.  There are 5 kids in the family (4 girls, 1 boy) and they lived in the States for a little over a year.  They came back a couple of years ago and their parents didn't want them to lose the English ability they gained...and here is where I come in.  Our classes range from wild games of Monopoly, Uno or this crazy game called Gorillas... to Apple to Apples and Pictionary...all in English, of course.  We also do writing, grammar and vocabulary exercises.  I don't mind this class at all becasue the kids truly love English (and they like me, it's a win-win).

This week, when I got to their house and went up to the room we use for class, the boy (who is 10) had a package on the table, a really cute smile on his face and said, "This is something you are going to love." 
He unwrapped the package and handed this to me:
A really cool flamingo coffee cup, that the mom said he saw in the store and told her,
"I need to get this for Debbie."
I smiled the rest of the night and most of today  about this.
It's a great cup.
I love it.
Today.....I found yet more "sunshine".
On Tuesdays, I have class with a group of ladies that I have so much fun with.
Their ages range from 23 to 72....there are a few housewives, a librarian (she was also my student when she was in high school!), a geisha (uh-huh...that's right!!), the youngest works in a cookie shop (we love it when she brings us cookies!) and there is a lady who is in charge of a student international exchange program.
We are an eclectic group, but...we are a great group.

As today was the fifth Tuesday in June (most classes only have 4 lessons a month), we decided to have lunch instead of class.  We have been studying 'restaurant English' for the past few weeks, so we went to a place where the manager (again...someone who was my student in high school) is studying English, too.  We actually go to use some of the things we had studied.  One lady brought her papers....'cheat sheets', if you will.  We all got a laugh out of that!!
Here is the manager....and since the place serves mainly bagel sandwiches, I will call him--Bagel Boy:
**Yes, that is the kitchen he was working out of and no, there wasn't much more!!**

You may not think that a bagel is a big thing, but for those of us who love them and really have a hard time finding them, this was a great treat.  The Bagel Boy had quite a few sandwiches on his menu and I had a really hard time choosing.  The tandoori chicken one and the salmon, cream cheese and onion one were both popular with the ladies.
I, on the other hand, had the BBQ pork sandwich.
It was delicious!!!
The seven of us (two couldn't make it) sat in there for almost 2 hours and laughed and talked and had a really great time.
Thank you, ladies....I'm lucky to have such good friends....and to be able to share the great time and wonderful food together really did brighten my day!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday....and look! It's raining....STILL!!! that title was a bit deceiving.  It has not rained continuously for 4 days.  No.  But, it has been dreary, humid, cloudy, sometimes breezy, sticky, drizzly AND rainy for 4 days.  4.  Days.  Those of you who are planning a trip to this part of the world, FYI-- this is the time of year to avoid in Japan.  The 'rainy season'.  (Those of you who used to live here, go ahead, shake your head, shudder and say "oh...I remember that and thank you Baby Jesus that I don't live in it anymore".) 

Keep in mind that the majority of us do not have clothes dryers or the desire to fight the crowds for dryers at the laundromats, so our laundry is hung outside...except during the rainy season when we hang wet clothes all over the house, hoping they get dry before they start to get smelly.  The only saving grace to this is that, no matter where you go, there will always be someone (or many someones) who have clothes that smell the same.  Seriously....the makers of that stuff you spray on your clothes to make them smell better (rhymes with LaSneeze), were oh so smart to introduce their products here. name it....they get moldy and yucky here!!!  

So yeah...thinking that Japan would be a great vacation?  Avoid the end of June....until the end of September.  No...the rainy season doesn't last that long.  The rainy season is just Mother Nature's cruel intro to the next season that makes me want to move---summer.  ~~shudder~~  If you live in South Texas, Georgia and the surrounding areas, you know what I'm talking about.  Nasty weather.  And no central air condtioning.  (I'll rant talk more about that in a few weeks.)

Anyway....the rain today tested the Kuroiwa family.  Issei, when there was a bit of a break, jumped on his bike and was not seen again until about 5:00.  He made it back just as it was starting to pour....again.  The
K-Man, Koji and I, in need of some time out of the house, decided to enjoy a little retail therapy.
For the occasion, I wore one of my favorite shirts.  For some reason, wearing this shirt just makes me feel a little lighter in spirit!!  (I think it's the guys and the fish...yeah...that's it!)
As we are suffering from some financial "discomfort" these days, our retail therapy took place here... the 100 yen store.
Look at how nice and shiny it is.

(Obviously, we got there ahead of the crowds, because when we left, about 45 minutes later,
it was packed!!)
We did some looking around...picked up about $15 worth of stuff we needed
We even got a giggle or two.  Or, I got a giggle then explained it to the K-Man, who also chuckled...after  bit of 'thinking time'.

The "scum absorbent sheets" and "scum skimmers" are used when you are cooking stews and such and well, that scummy stuff gets on the top.  I told the K-Man that, yeah, we probably have something similar in the States, but, I'm sure that the name would be much.....prettier.
The "slime picker" doohickeys are to keep the yucky stuff out of the sinks.  We don't have disposal systems, just little buckets that catch the gunk (we also have very cool net bags to put inside those buckets so you don't have any really nasty messes on your hands!!!)

"Slime pickers".  I think I had  something like those when I was single.
haHA haHA haHA
(Sorry...the stickiness is making me delirious!)

After also doing some grocery shopping, we needed a snack so we picked up some taiyaki.
These are fish-shaped, pancake-like sweets that are filled with sweet bean paste or cream (which really is more like the vanilla pudding I make!).

These were kind of crunchy on the outside, which we all agreed were really good.

Yummy snack and with Koji in the backseat humming the theme to Jaws, well, the moment
was just pretty perfect.

Good Lord...can this family NOT take a normal picture?!?! (^-^)
It's late...I'm sweaty and in need of another shower, I think and I'm trying to stay positive, so will come up with something good from all the rain.
Thinking..... one.
Not only is this the rainy season, but it is also hydrangea season.
The hydrangea, by the way, is the official flower of Nagasaki City.
In the back corner of our yard, we have three pretty big hydrangea bushes (trees?).
In the almost-eight years that we have lived here, the hydrangea flowers have slightly changed
 colors every year.
Oh...nothing drastic, just a faint darkening...the light pink have become much darker and the lilac colored ones have turned almost purple.
In the rain, they tend to be even more beautiful and in my opinion, a vase full of hydrangea in your house, truly adds a little bit of life.

Friday, June 25, 2010

If I had the money, THIS would be the Picasso I would buy...

.....but I would totally settle for one of THESE...

And just in case you haven't had something make you shake your head and say "WTH?" today,
here are three posters of Winston tobacco's new campaign--supposedly aimed at making smoking attractive to the younger generation-- that seem to be everywhere.
What do YOU think?

Happy Friday, everyone.
I hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

if i have mentally "fallen and can't get up" there a special number i can call for help?

*Totall acts of randomness on a late Thursday night as Debbie decides if she is going to set her alarm for 3:30 in the freaking morning to watch Japan play Denmark in the World Cup.*

Yes, a tie is of utmost know...when you're a professional...
answering the phone..dispatching people here and there.
The movie du jour at the Kuroiwa house this week...
King Kong vs Godzilla.
It's a classic...or so the three men in this house will tell you.

You know how people hang things from their rear view mirrors in their cars?  Maybe you do.  Me? I have a very cute flip flop air freshener hanging from mine.

So, the other day, I was on the city bus, going to a class when I happened to glance at the bus driver...or more specifically, at the gearshift next to the bus driver. There are probably rules against drivers hanging things from the mirrors, so they do the "next best thing":
(I bet his wife/girlfriend worked really hard on that!!)

In the "Yes, children sometimes do channel comic strip characters" category:
I give you my contribution.
The weather has become very warm and muggy and according to the resident 7-year-old in our house, "perfect for catching bugs".  We have no less than 6 bug boxes of various sizes in the entrance way of our house, all home to bugs and critters and even one crab.
The other night before dinner, Koji went on a bug-catching expedition.  He came back with a couple that were pretty good (and no, 'pretty good' does NOT mean "MMm..they were delicious"!!), but...he also came back with a tummy, left arm and upper thigh affected by the evil poisonous hairs of a not-very-nice caterpillar.  He even had some incredibly itchy bumps in his belly button.
He was not a happy camper.  After a visit to the doctor the next morning and meds to help with the itchiness (and the redness and puffiness and uncomfortableness), he started to feel a little better.
(This picture was taken on the second day of meds...looking waaaay better than what it had!!)

A couple of days later, I noticed that in the newspaper, Calvin had caught the chicken pox and there was this picture:
I showed Koji the picture and (hand in the air, swear to you!) he said, "Cool."
I've always joked that I thought that Koji was Calvin, but now?
Speaking of channeling comic strip characters.....
I think that my inner-Debbie is trying to come out.  Don't worry because, if she does? I'll take pictures and definitely blog about it!!

Just because this makes me laugh whenever I see it:

And with that?
I'm done. 
Having decided that I probably will not set the alarm to wake up before the butt-crack of dawn to watch the Japanese soccer team, I'm just going to bed.

Good night, all...or good morning (depending which part of the globe you are),
Do have a lovely one, okay?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

it's quickly a week goes by

Hey...there you are! You came back.  I'm so glad you're here.  I just wish I had more for you.  This week has been one of "those weeks".  You know the kind....the one where you really wished that you had handled things a little better or done things a bit differently.  Oh, it wasn't bad, mind was just a whole lot of "meh".

I'm going to blame most of this on the rain.
The 'rainy season' has officially started and already I can tell you that it isn't going to be pretty.  Take this morning, for example.  The breeze coming through the open windows was quite cool...but I could tell by the way my hair was NOT behaving the way it was supposed to, that it was going to be a sticky, cool day.
Cool, until you actually move and then....hello yuckiness.
Oh...and then it started to rain...and then drizzle...and then it rained again.  This continued for most of the day and since I am now in Saturday here, it's not looking very good for this day either.

So in honor of the 'rainy season', here is the umbrella I would like to carry:

But, actually....THIS is the one I would buy in a heartbeat if I could find it:

Seriously....I'm tall enough that very few people would actually be able to see what was on it and it would be like walking in the rain with my very own secret!
To be honest, most Japanese people don't truly get what that gesture means.  They've seen it in movies and they know it's bad, but....yeah, they don't really know.  On the other hand, MY students all know and could appreciate the humor.
Think of the reactions a busload of foreigners would have if they saw me, walking down the street with that umbrella!!  I'm smiling just thinking about it!!!

Happy Friday everyone...I wish you sunny skies
 and low humidity today.
But...if you live in a hot and humid place,
I wish you really great air conditioning!!

I'll  be back soon, I'm sure I'll have some
random thoughts and meanderings from the past week...
no...I'm positive I do...I wrote a lot of them down in my 'handy, dandy notebook".
I just have to find the notebook.
(It's a shame I don't have a 'side-table drawer', 'cause you know that's where it would be!)
Do come again, okay? okay.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It may be time to turn the fans on.....

Mother Nature has decided to kick up the warmth and humidity a was pretty toasty and sweaty.  Aaaah....the lead in to (dumdumduuuuuummmm) The Rainy Season.
My students said today that it will start on Tuesday.
Oh, it's supposed to rain a bit this weekend (a lot actually) but
"The Rainy Season will begin....on Tuesday."
They have spoken.


It's late.  I'm tired. I just finished a
Gilmore Girls/NCIS/Cold Case surfing-back-and-forth frenzy.
I hate it when three really good shows are all on at the same time.

Good night, all.
Have a fantastic Friday!!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

It it's pasta, it must be Monday...

....or Wednesday or maybe even possibly Saturday.

I haven't really posted very many recipes here on my little 'ole blog.
It's not that I don't think I'm a good cook, in fact, I think I'm a pretty good one.  It's more because, many times, I have either not followed a recipe and have completely lucked out with a particular dish or I have used a recipe but it was mainly as a guideline...mere suggestions as to what needs to be done.

Growing up, I watched my grandmothers cooking....very rarely did I see either one of them measure anything (with the appropriate utensils, that is) or even actually use a recipe.
Through them, I learned to cook by taste...and
"well....what does it look like?"
(That last question was from my Grandma Hutches on one Christmas when I called her with a pie crust SOS.)

I have collected quite a few cookbooks over the years, but I seem to use only a handful of what is in my cabinet.  The others, it seems, are decoration and great reading material.
Because of my schedule, it is sometimes difficult to get home in time to really put much effort into my family's dinner.  I try, but sometimes....I thank the stars above that my Japanese husband has  been forced to accept learned that
"with a salad and a bowl of soup, BLTs are good for dinner, too" .

Though rice is a main part of the Japanese diet and I love the Japanese rice, I really don't like eating it everyday.  Here at Kamp Kuroiwa, we have a good mixture of Japanese foods and....something else.
Pasta is a great something else and we tend to have it quite often.

One of my favorite pasta cookbooks is a TimeLife one full of really great many different sauces and all the ones I have tried are good (and I have tried many of them!!).
The one I fixed tonight is one of our favorites....and I thought that if anyone out there needed a new dish to try, you might just add this to your list.

Pasta Alla Genovese

(Note:   I looked for other recipes by this name and all of them used a pesto sauce....not this one, my friends....not sure what is up with that, but...I am  not going to argue with the TimeLife people!
Also....the real recipe will be typed in black...changes and what-not will be in red!
Oh! and don't forget...start with a pure heart.  If the pasta doesn't turn out, then...well, I did my part! (^-^) )

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, cut into large dice  *onions are small here, so I usually use 3 or 4...dice, slice, whatever* 
1 carrot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced  *tonight I went a little crazy and used 2*
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips  *I've tried other bells, but the red works the best for us*
2 tsp. orange zest  *have never used this in this particular recipe....never....ever*
1 Tbsp. flour   *I never measure so...thereabouts*
1/2 pound beef top round, trimmed and cut into 2x1/4 inch strips  *pork works well, too, if you don't have the beef...I buy thin sliced for shabu shabu and this works great...really, meat cut anyway you like is okay*
1/3 cup dry sherry  *red wine...white wine...sake, I've used all three (at different times, of course)*
3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth, defatted  *I use a bouillon cube (whatever flavor I happen to have) and 1 cup of water
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary  *I probably use waaaay more...I have a lot to use in my garden!!*
1/2 tsp. salt  *or thereabouts*
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper  *ditto the salt...the K-Man always adds more*
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley  *Again...never use this at all.*
12 ounces wide egg noodles  *penne, spaghetti, even macaroni works*
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.  *oh no...that's not near enough for us!!*

1. Over medium heat in a large skillet, heat the oil and then add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to color, about 5 minutes.  Stir in 1/3 cut of water and cook until the onion is golden brown and very tender, about 10 minutes. *Do NOT scrimp on the time with the onions...the more caramelized, the better.*  Stir in the carrot, bell pepper, and zest, cook until veggies are tender, about 4 minutes.
2.  On a plate, spread the flour.  Dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. *I just throw the flour and meat into a large plastic bag and shake...then shake off the excess.  No problem.* Add beef to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the sherry and cook until almost all liquid has evaporated.  Stir in broth, rosemary, salt, and black pepper and cook until beef is tender and sauce is slightly thickened...about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the parsley. *UGH. We don't.(^-^)*
3.  Meanwhile, cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender.  Drain well.  Put noodles into large bowl and add beef mixture...toss to combine.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.  *We always usually add more cheese ourselves.*   

And....there you have it.  Add a tossed salad and some warm bread (we dip our bread in olive oil and some Crazy Salt!) and you have pretty good that ALL the men in my house love!!

How much time does this take?  Well, the recipe says "Serves 4, Working time: 25 minutes, Total time: 45".  Tonight, I got home about 6:50 and by 7:35 we were sitting down to eat.  That's making some good time, if you ask me.  (I even had a beer while I was cooking! Mad multi-tasker, that I am!)

(We ran out of cheese before I could take a picture..sorry about that...what was I thinking?!?!)

Have a good one, everyone.
Try something new this week....if not this, then something else, it...take a chance...
you never know what you will find!!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

it's nice to know the 'tween in our house can play more cards than the "surly card"....

....and we will be oh so very happy when he loses that damn surly card.

We are living with a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde of emotional angst.  It's quite amazing to observe, minute, he will be smiling, laughing, messing around with Koji or me outside, but he takes one step inside the house and something almost evil-like takes over.  The rest of us are trying to keep our senses of humors about us, is trying.
That is why, when we have moments of sunshine--moments of fun and laughter, we really do appreciate them...and try to keep them in our short term memory so we can bring them out whenever we need them.

I'm the first person to wake up in the mornings.  The other day, as with most days, I don't really focus on anything until I can smell the coffee brewing.  I usually stand and watch...and listen...and smell the wonderful aroma coming from that wondrous machine.  I wait.  I usually think about the day's schedule, what I have to do...or I think about events of the previous night.  That particular previous night had not been a pretty one.  I was tired....the K-Man was tired...even Koji was not feeling his usual genki-happy self.  Issei was the icing on the cake, coming in from club later than he normally does and was just pissed off personified.

The night did not go well.  A good night's sleep had helped me to feel a little better about the whole evening.  I was mentally preparing for the new day and trying not to dwell on the one before.
As I waited for the coffee to finish doing its thing, I turned around and saw this....on the table, at Issei's place:

When he woke up, I asked Issei about the flamingos. 
He told me, "I got up to go to the toilet and couldn't get back to sleep, so I did it for you.
It's SuMingo."
I just said, "Thank you for that. I love it." and finished getting breakfast on the table.
As he was eating, I walked around behind him, kissed him on the top of the head and ruffled up his hair.
He ducked his head and smiled.
That was enough to carry me through a few more Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde moments that will probably come.

I have to learn to be more patient with him, for I know that within this  Issei....
(who looks very nice in his summer uniform!) this little boy....
...and he'll soon be loving his Mom and everyone else again..of this I am sure. 
I just have to be more patient and pull those 'good moments' from my short term memory more often.
 If you have a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in your life, may today be a good day...for you all.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A mini-lesson for my students.... a tornado....

And, this.... is a whirlwind...or a "dust devil", as they are sometimes called:

I think I can be pretty safe in saying that this....

...did NOT go through your child's/grandchild's sports festival last weekend.
I'm might be wrong here...but....I'm probably not.

By the way....those tornado pictures? On Tuesday, my homeland (Southeast Colorado) made the news....Oh not just the local or state or national news, thank you very much....Oh yeah...this tornado, which made itself known mere miles from my hometown...was on the Japanese news!!
That was pretty weird.
Just in case you missed it, this lovely Mother Nature's temper tantrum also made the Today show.

*And yes, all my family and friends were safe, thank you for asking!! (^-^)/*
Southeast Colorado has a lot of open space....that tornado wasn't very close to anything.
Thank the Good Lord for that.

I wish you all a safe and happy Thursday!