Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!!! It's my Dad's birthday, actually on the 29th in the States but today, here in Japan. I'm pretty sure he turns 86. Love ya Dad!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

just a regular day

Well, today I thought it would be kind of fun to go to the base using the toll roads. I thought, hey, I'll save time and get there faster, and overcome my fear of the tolls. Well, it was kind of fun and I did overcome my fear of the tolls, because I learned that the nice Japanese fellows working there will smile politely and let you make a U-turn if you go the wrong way and end up in Yokohama by mistake, instead of Yokosuka. They will even take care of you if for some mysterious reason you can't explain, end up on the Honcho-Yamanaka road without a ticket. :) Being my first time without Jose of course, it took alot longer and cost a bit more to get to the base.
My new neighbors are wonderful. They have heard Jose is gone and are taking care to include me in all of their fun adventures. Yesterday they went to a fabric store in Kamakura and got some knit material to make t-shirts which they drew out a pattern for, for each gal. I was invited but I was not home to pick out the material. This did not stop me from hanging around all afternoon, and even getting my sewing maching fixed by the neighbor's friend.
Today we were sitting outside letting their kids run around, and letting our dog get carried like a baby by three adorable little girls who fought over him and refused to put him down. After a morning where I paid no attention to him, he was in heaven. One of the parents announced that they were doing a communal dinner and I was welcome to join in. I brought black beans and some asparagus. There was salmon, hamburger, lentils, chicken, rice, and salad. Wow! The kids picked at different foods while they ran around and played, and of course dropped enough that Cricket could not have been happier.
Tonight I took Nate to the main base for book club and left Big Boy home all by himself. He loves that.
Jose if you are reading this, I hope you are safe and loving the life on the ship. I miss you!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

a hole in our family, feeling sorry post

Warning, this is my feeling sorry for myself post, and believe me I know it could be alot worse!!We said goodbye to Jose yesterday, and now there is a hole in our family. The boys do not talk about it much, but its there. I walked around doing all of the mom things like picking up socks and folding laundry and making dinner, feeling like there is a hole in my chest. I can't believe how much I miss him already. If I think about it too much, I'll cry, so I don't think about it too much. I have been running a tight ship on day one: no sass, dinner at the table, bath time 8:30, bed time 9 pm sharp, backpacks ready to go, out at 6:35 am.
Like lost souls, we went to the NEX and picked up some new movies: Juno, Cloverleaf (Mom will watch) The Water Horse Legend of the Deep. We picked up a flat of flowers on the base and when we came home, we had a cute 18 month old and some other younguns help by ripping up the flowers and dumping them into shallow randomly placed holes. That is the way a spring garden should be, designed by neighbor kids! :)
I sent Jose an email in case he might get it, but I didn't say anything like hi honey, I'm scared to be here alone with the kids, I can't read or write here, I can't speak the language, I don't know how the navy works, I need you to fix my wireless internet, I cried in the kitchen when the kids were watching cartoons...
Ok, enough of that!!!!

the place where old anchors go to die

Aw, such adventures for a ten and twelve year old boy: hiking trails, ponds and streams, and an old graveyard of rusty old chains, bouys and anchors. As if that wasn't cool enough, there are warning signs in English and Japanese to beware of rusty old explosives you may encounter!

frankie and daddy

The brave explorers!

mysterious water creatures of Ikego Hills

Nate put aside his nintendo DS to watch bugs skating across the surface of the stream, poke some fresh water mullusks with a stick, and find some turtles.

Ikego cabin

Frankie and Jose are sitting in front of a little cabin in Ikego. It was cloudy and a bit rainy, so we had the whole place including 8 miles of hiking trails, pretty much to ourselves. It was our last day with Jose before his adventure of a lifetime, so we wanted to make the most of it. We were a little sad but still enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Friday, April 25, 2008

we've got mail!

Yahoo! Jose is leaving this weekend so I am a bit down, but what a great fun suprize we just got in the mail, from my lil sis Heather! We are both Jane Austen fans, and she has just sent a sopy of a movie she accidentally ordered doubles of, and there is a copy of another Jane Austen which I accidentally ordered doubles of coming from this side of the planet. Nate got a birthday card also, which always makes him happy, especially when there is a gift card inside. He has not learned yet, the tact of discretely waiting to see if there is money or something else inside of a card. Happy Day!

Heather's naughty lip gloss

Here is a close up of the lip gloss that Heather sent me. What a hoot!


Aw, poor Cricket, minding his own business, watching Puffy Ami Yumi and licking his own butt, when he gets scooped up by a crazy lady and lathered up with this shampoo, then made to sit it it for 5 whole minutes! The red eyes are not just a trick of the light but the evil demon Pekingese who takes over when he gets submerged in soapy water :) Since we moved to our new house, Cricket has had some major itching and scratching of himself day and night, and according to the vet does not have fleas of mites but rather some kind of allergic reaction to his new environment. It could be seasonal (join the club!) or it could be something recently sprayed on the lawn by the base housing. He has little yellow pills for five days which unfortunately do not make him tired like the vet promised. He also has a allergy shampoo which I will use on him twice a week until his itching goes away. None of this has slowed down his diva attitude or how he manages his human servants. High maintenence Peke!!!

petey petey

Petey Petey Bo Beety Banana Fana For Feety Fee Fi Mo EATY, Petey!

Here is a sort of hummus recipie for little nephew Petey to try and see if he likes it. Lil Peter Henry cannot have any peanuts at all, not even a smidge. He could have this yummy stuff as a spread on sandwich, or as a dip. He is the coolest kid at school, just as my other nephew is the coolest kid as his day care.

Here goes:

1 can of chickpeas or great white northern beans or whatever white beans you have

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste) for those who can eat otherwise skip!!! Petey probably not have it, but I put this in just for other people

juice of one lemon

1 or two garlic cloves

a splash of olive oil

a hint of hot sauce, just a hint

salt to taste

Put all in the blender, add a whiff of salt and eat it all in one sitting.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

some mysterious iced tea

Jose came home with this bottle of myterious iced tea, made with several kinds of roasted seeds. I'm not sure which ones, but I can tell you that is has the delicious, ice cold, refreshing flavor of fresh roasted beetles. ;)

brush your teeth already

For the life of me, i don't understand why my kids are so against brushing their teeth. You would think that at 10 and 12, this would be something automatic they would just do every morning and every night before bed, without me reminding them four hundred times, then physically looking at their teeth right before bed. Possibly this is a ritual they have come to depend on, in order to feel their evening is complete. Maybe my nagging and yelling is, to the Gomez boys, what quiet music and a lavender bubble bath is to the rest of us. Nate had an orthodontist appointment which confirmed that his teeth are settling in just great after having braces for six months. They both have a checkup later this spring. I will be posting this picture in the bathroom, for inspiration.

Chef Clement

This week we had another cooking class on the base with Chef Clement. Clement is this amazingly talented chef, with 24 years of professional experience, whose wife is in the Navy and like me, is an unemployed Navy spouse with two boys the same age as ours. Instead of moping around the house, eating chips and watching Oprah (hey, don't knock it!), Clement has been cooking for scouts and other events and fundraisers, teaching classes at the community center and making friends all over the base with his awesome offerings. His sourdough garlic bread is to die for. This week he made the plate you see here: Chicken Tarragon in a Sherry Cream Sauce, and on the side, Couscous with Roasted Veggies. As if that wasn't enough to see on a plate, he chopped rose petals and added an edible pansy to decorate the plate.

The fun of the class is that we get to take home the recipe, and when the cooking is done, we feast. The chicken was great although the recipe is a bit complicated and does include heavy cream. I made the couscous in my typical shortcut busy mom fashion: stir a bunch of veggies into some olive oil and add instant couscous mix.

Here is the recipe:

Chicken Tarragon in a Sherry Cream Sauce from Chef Clement

1/2 cup flour
10 oz boneless skinless chicken breast pounded nicely
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp shallots
1 tsp tarragon
4 quartered mushrooms, large
3 oz dry sherry
6 oz chicken broth
2 dashes Tabasco
2 dashes worcestershire
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 dashes lemon juice
3 artichoke hearts
3 oz heavy cream
2Tbsp scallions, sliced
2 Tbsp tomato, diced
salt to taste

Dredge the chicken in flour, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken to pan and gently sear for two minutes. Turn chicken over and add garlic, shallots, tarragon and mushrooms, to side of pan. Add the sherry and reduce for a minute. Add chicken broth, Tabasco, mustard, lemon juice and artichoke hearts. Reduce liquid by half. Turn chicken over and add cream. Reduce until sauce is thick. Remove from heat. Fold in tomatoes and scallions, and adjust seasoning with salt as needed.

Now I made this on my own the next day, with a few changes. First, I used more tomato and mushrooms and artichoke hearts, because I am not one to put three mushrooms and 1/2 of a tomato in saran wrap back in the fridge, along with a few artichoke hearts. Also, I didn't have heavy cream so used milk and a bit of corn starch. And, since the Ikego base mini-mart didn't have dry cooking sherry but instead had every other kind of alcohol (which makes up roughly 1/3 of the entire stock of the store) I used some cheapish red wine instead. Oh, and of course, I had to remove one plain cooked piece of chicken from the pan and save it on a plate for Prince Pickybelle. Still good! Still lots of work also. And, tastes great the next morning for breakfast.

This is what separates Chef Clement from regular folks like me and other busy moms who look at cooking as a chore and like to make dinner in 30 mins or less: he loves to cook and take the time with it, to make things taste amazing. And he's not opposed to adding copious amounts of olive oil or heavy cream to get the job done properly, or spending the whole day in the kitchen to make a homemade soup stock, starting from the bones.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

George Clooney, Just Because...

Well, I am adding a pic of George Clooney, just because I can. What a handsome guy. As he gets older, he only gets better!

Happy Birthday Jack!

Aww...Jack Nicholson turns 71 years old today! Who couldn't love Jack?! When I was growing up we watched The Shining over and over. 71 years old and still drinking, smoking and chasing after young girls. In fact, I think at this point in my life I am a bit old for his taste. That reminds me to rent that movie with Diane Keaton...Its time for a Jack Nicholson film festival!

Mommy's First Speeding Ticket in Japan

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I got one of these! To be fair, I was in a tunnel speeding along with all of the Japanese motorists who can be just as rude as Minnesotans to people who happen to be driving safely and slowly within the limit. Anyway, I had a "Y" plate on my car which clearly marks me as a foreigner. But more importantly, I was at the end of a long line of speeders, right in front of a handsome young police officer. Doh! Well, he didn't speak English and I don't speak Japanese, aside from a couple of classes which I promptly forgot the content of. You can see the 22, which is how much faster I was going, in Kilometers per hour. And you can see the 15,000.0 which is how much I had to pay in Yen, about $150. Ouch!!
The final spank, was that they sent a letter to Jose's command reporting my breach, to be sent to him. Jose has been told that he is responsible for my and the childrens' behavior, as we are sofa-sponsored dependents of him. I'm still waiting to be properly punished! ;))) Poor poor Jose!

Tater's Birthday

Well, lil Taters turned ten last week. I can hardly believe how fast the baby is growing up. To Nate, ten is a big milestone because apparently at ten years of age, a young fellow is allowed by the powers that be on the base, the be left unattended in various situations including going to the playground and the library by himself. He has his military ID and keeps it with his bus pass and his lunch tickets. He has actually lost all three many times. Now they are in a special holder which is bungeed to his backpack.
Anyway, Nate, Frank and several buddies had a fun afternoon of bowling, pizza and (ugh!) a great looking brightly frosted birthday cake from the commissary on the base. They had a blast, and actually Jose and I bowled three games together. We aren't normally very competitive, but I did enjoy mopping the floor with him, two games out of three.
Part of the fun of his birthday was getting stuff in the mail - birthday fun money from Cookie Grandma and a very special email from the Dinosaur which he will use on (my biggest hobby and vice). Even Frankie who was forced to come with us, enjoyed the day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Frankie the bamboo king!

bamboo shoots and leaves!

Frankie had fun harvesting bamboo shoots with our Japanese neighbors. Every spring, they havest the new young shoots and eat, give away, and sell them. They are great grilled. It was so kind of them to ask the boys if they wanted to go do this, especially while Jose and I were packing and moving stuff. Nate did not want to go, especially after we saw the tarantula sized fellow coming out of the forest and many more of his friends are there, I'm sure. Frank loves it though. The forest they have is carefully cultivated so that the bamboo don't grow too closely and choke eachother out. Instead, it is beautiful and has walking paths through it. Each spring, there are many new shoots coming up that can be removed and eaten, with virtually no impact on the forest. Bamboo is the ultimate renewable resource! Here is Frankie also, with a new shoot. It looks like a hairy big old thing, but with a bit of cutting and shaving and teriyaki sauce, can be grilled and eaten or tossed into soup.

Goodbye Hayama House!

Well, last weekend we moved into the Ikego townhouse and said goodbye to our house in Hayama. We have been without internet for a bit and that is why I have neglected my blog here. Here is a picture of our house from the back, then the views from the main road going by our neighborhood. Our house is right behind the big white building which is an elementary school, Kamiyayaguchi Shogakko. You can see the mountains and if you look carefully, you can see the trees in their spring blooms. Japan really is beautiful in the spring.
The move itself was a bit traumatic. We have gotten spoiled by having the Navy move us to Japan, but this time was a self move. We found a great company based out of Yokohama, to move a truck load of furniture, but then the rest of the house including one meeellion boxes, we moved ourselves. Who knew we had so much junk.
Later, I came back to spend one eight hour day just cleaning the house we left behind. Who knew we were so crusty, dusty and just plain filthy?!? On Tuesday I had a miserable but funny (now) experience with what they call "the inspection." The Japanese landlady, her adult son who speaks English, the rental agent, and myself standing by in humilitation, inspected the move-out condition of the house and made the decision on how much of our damage deposit would be deducted for damages etc. It was a pleasure to watch as they opened drawers, peered in the oven, ran their fingers over ledges, etc. I had to roll my eye a bit as the landlady clucked over the grime inside of an upstairs window that I had forgotten. Of all the time I spent in the kitchen, the drawers that lay open had a horrifying amount of crumbs and fur in it, three twisty ties and a lego piece. Obviously, there were a few things I missed. The agent kept sighing to himself. "No time to clean, eh?" "Oh, no time to clean.....oh, she is so busy....oh, so busy...."
Who knew leaving the windows open in the rain would cause the paper shoji screen who curl and yellow? Who knew two boy with swords could poke so many holes, a few unmentioned even to their mother. (Upon further investigation, wouldn't you know, NOBODY did it?!? NOBODY does alot of stuff at our house....)
Anyway, my failure as a housewife has been laid out and gotten out in the open. I can not tell you how crushed I am that my cleaning skills have been so disparaged. I can only await my last paycheck and to be sent home on the next plane. :)
But on to our new house, and when that gets too dirty, I suppose we'll have to move again!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Your Daily David Beckham

Because I love all of my two or three loyal readers. You're welcome.

Good bye cherry blossoms!

Well, this is my last cherry blossom pic of the year. It was beautiful while it lasted, but some rain and chilly winds have taken the petals away, and now they are in drifts at the curb and on windshields. Bye bye.

When you send a 9 year old to pack up his room!

Aww, little Taters! Just for kicks, I gave him a few boxes and told him to pack up his room. A few hours later, and some of his legos were packed lovingly in one of the boxes. In another, all of his socks, underwear and t-shirts. He won't be needing any clean socks and underwear until we move, after all! Notice how the morning sun graces his legos and the top of his bed covers. Quiet, serene, perfect time for a nap!

little boys

Every week Frankie has been tutoring little cutie Connor in his first grade math. I think this is a good match because Frank, at twelve and a half, is still part little boy and gives Connor the reward or playing with him and giving treats for an hour well spent on his work. Sadly, Connor is going to PCS sometime in the next month. We'll miss him and his family.
In these pictures, Connor's little brother joins us for a romp around the party room - a big open room that looks pretty indestructible for kids. We kick a soccer ball, play floor hockey, and eat some chocolate cake that the Songs made and decorated with sprinkles and giant chocolate bunnies left over from Easter.
I think this experience has been good for Frank, and I've certainly seen a new side to him watching him with the boys. I think he'll be a great babysitterin the next year or two.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Only in Japan

There is not much to say about this matsuri, it speaks for itself! Not Safe For Work.
Click below!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Out of the Mouth of Husbands

Bless his heart, my precious husband! I love him dearly, but there are times when I wonder if he is living on the same planet as me. I am sure there are times everyone feels that way about their spouse, but Jose is a special kind of dreamer! Here are my favorite quotes:

"Well, I don't know, honey, I don't really think we need a whole moving truck to move...when I moved out of my parents house into the dorm, I just took a couple of loads in the car and it was fine."

"Well, honey, I don't know...I guess I haven't cleaned the refigerator before...I mean, I don't know, I just figured it just naturally cleans itself out over time..."

"Honey, what are you getting so stressed out about?"

I am sure there will many more special quotes from him over time. These are just my most recent favorites. :)

Only in Japan

Yep, its the doggie belly warmer. It is basically a tube that only covers the belly of your pup. No more fussing with getting front legs into the arm holes. Only in Japan!

First things first!

Nate is having some pizza, mentally preparing himself for his new house, new neighborhood, new room, and new school bus. But first things first! That's my boy!

our new house!

Yaaahoo! We got a townhouse in Ikego, on the base, and we are moving next week. It is happening so fast and my head is spinning. Note the BIG AMERICAN washer and drier, the dishwasher in the kitchen, wow, so happy about all of this. Notice the white white white. The inside of the house looks to be pretty much indestructible, even for me, the kids and a crazy little dog. the downside is that the Navy gives ten days notice, so we give ten days to our landlady and neighbor. That seems a bit sudden, but it is clearly laid out in our lease. Also, it only gives us ten days to pack our lives up and move them over. Of course the housing office, has said that we must move ourselves, the Navy will not move us. Why? Oh, th epolicy clearly states that blah blah blah....anyway it does clearly state that I have ten days to pack up an get out before the navy cuts off our housing allowance and we pay rent on our house here. So it makes good sense to get going!
First, after having coffee and surfing the net a while, doing a bit of shopping on the base, Nate and I went to the commissary to see if they had any leftover boxes. Yes, a nice, handsome young Japanese man did happen to have a million boxes, all neatly folded, all Fritos boxes. I made a brilliant comment like, "Gee, that's alot of Fritos". He said "Yes, Americans like their Fritos. Have to have....sell lots of Fritos...have to have..."
Bless his wee heart. And was there ever a truer statement?

Cut the cake!

Aww, so cute!! Captain Krentz lets the children of the returning IA's cut the Welcome Back cakek with his fancy Navy sword! Look at their cute little faces! They were delighted with the whole sword thing. I wanted to lick the frosting of, but everyone thought I was joking. They were laughing. Or was it the nervous twitter you get when you're reacting to a crazy person. It was darn good frosting. Captain Krentz is a really nice man, even if he is Jose's boss, I really like him alot. He and his wife Kathy, who has become a dear friend in the last year, have raised 7 kids together. A good Catholic family! They had an Easter egg hunt for all of the hospital kids and hid eggs all over the yard. Kathy helped us get into our townhouse on the base and has offered so much advice and encouragement over the last year. Once, she even pulled me out of the way of an oncoming car when I was chattering away and a Japanese car almost ran me over. Seriously, I am going to miss them both when they move this summer.

Lunch for Returning IA's

Yesterday we, the Oakleaf spouses, gave a lunch for the returning IA's (individual augmentees) and their families. This was the pretty cake we had at the lunch - it actually tasted great which I must say was a suprize, and the frosting was good too. Total we had maybe 40 people, including several kids. Chef Clement did the cooking, which was a treat for all of us. He is a really nice guy whose wife is in the Navy. Like the rest of us, he is here without a job and finding volunteer things to do. But he also teaches cooking classes at the community center. I have taken a class in making truffles, brownies (to DIE for!!), treats, pot roast and roasted veggies, chicken soup and chicken tortilla soup, and I missed the bread and rolls class, sadly. Anyway, for this deal he made an awesome meaty, sausage and pepperoni lasagna, salad and homemade sourdough garlic bread. the portions can only be described as gargantuan an everyone was cheerful and appreciative.
Nancy made this punch with sherbert, raspberries and ginger ale. We teased her that it was a lovely punch, and she was just a lovely gal, and this would reflect well on her husband's carreer. We snorted and guffawed a bit when Mimi said that back in the day, a woman's behavior was reflected on her husband's review. What is that? Wow, must be 1954. Sometimes, actually, when I need Jose's signature allowing me to drive our car and sign the kids up for school, I think I'm stuck in a time warp. Jose has lovingly given me full unlimited POA with no expiration. Oh...ha...haahhh....but I digress....

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Lawn and Errand Boy Wanted

Interviews for my new lawn and errand boy starting soon! Jose and I found out that he will be going IA, otherwise known as Individual Augmentee, at the end of the month. He will be going a board a ship and working as part of Project Hope, for the Navy. This will take place all around the Carribean and South America. He will basically be gone until early December or so, hopefully with a little reunion time in the middle. I am so proud of him, and I know he'll be great at it. He also speaks Spanish which can only help. I'm going to miss him very much. He has always been my calmer and more sensible half. I am not ready to be a single mom! Yikes! We have been married 14 years and never been apart since he went to training school for the Navy. But I know that many other military wives have been through this over and over, so I'm not alone. Aw, heck, I don't care about them, this is me!
Ok, I'm done complaining for now, I have to put on a brave face for the boys, and show them that Moms can run the show, and have adventures and travels in Japan too, not just Dads. First step is our trip to Hiroshima, just me and the boys, at the end of May. After that, we will fly to MN for a month. Whoo woo! We can't wait!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

more cherry blossoms

There are still cherry blossoms everywhere! We have had a few chilly days, in the upper 40's and rainy until today, that have apparently made the blossoms last longer on the trees. When the wind blows, petals will begin falling off of the trees. Since the trees are everywhere, my windshield had petals on it by the time I get home. Note the unique Japanese style tree trimming - just cut off the branch where you want it to stop. you will see a hilarious tall tree "stub" in front of our house.

Tilapia with Red Butter Sauce

Here is a fish dish which I tried last night after finding the recipe in the commissary. It is really fast and good, although I found the sauce to be a bit thick and have cut the flour down to 1Tbsp. Yum.

Tilapia with Red Butter Sauce

4Tilapia fillets
1 small box of frozen Green Giant spinach
3Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 minced red pepper
1/2 minced onion
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 c chicken stock

First, season the fish with salt and pepper and cook with a bit of olive oil spray.

Drain the spinach, add 1 Tbsp butter and saute the onions for 3 mins then add the garlic and cook another 3 mins then add the spinach. Lay this spinach in the bottom of your platter. Make popeye sounds.

For the red butter sauce, melt the remaining butter and then add the bell pepper. Saute for 4 mins then add the flour and cook for 2 mins. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and cook 3-5 mins.

Top the spinach with the cooked fish and add a good spoon of the red butter sauce.

Yell for the kids and threaten them if they do not at least try the fish.