Thursday, November 26, 2009

i love me some thanksgivin'

It's been such a long time since I last posted. My blog is having an identity crisis. My new job has keep wonderful, but its sometimes occupying my mind on my off time and keeping me awake at night. The old heartburn flares up, and an occasional set of lovely hives on my neck when I get upset about someone's social injustice. My new job is meaningful, stimulating, challenging - everything I wished for when we were living a nice peaceful life in Japan. So, be careful what you wish for!

Basically, I work at a small hospital on a certain small island with a major base on it, which I'll call Shmarp. They are into a certain model of care which involves basically the same building with some minor coats of paint, but added details of some alternative therapies like massage, acupuncture and aromatherapy for the patients. It is very common for a troubled patient to get a bit of lavender lotion or a few soaked cotton balls in the corner of his room. Volunteers bake cookies on each unit, once a week, and the smell wafts through the rooms. It is the spirit of the care. People seem kind, and caring, and dedicated.

I come from experience with several other systems, several trends (google the Disney Model gag and the Eden Alternative Model they tried at a certain hospital for about five minutes, made us all sit through corporate babble and show signs of total buy-in, then abandoned the plan after five minutes). I've been through several sets of layoffs and phases of low census, and I've cultivated a careful, respectfully cynical attitude toward the hospital corporation in general. I will not be impressed by any package of 403 B and pet insurance I can purchase at some discount, or cheaper movie tickets. Yep, I've seen everyone's cafeterias and they are all just ok. Corporate casual and small tasteful stud earrings. Blaaaaah! But yet, I find myself really liking it there.

But it does interfere with my knitting time, and time with my doggies. Oh, yeah, and those kids.

For Thanksgiving we are joining another family that were our very dear neighbors in Ikego, then moved to San Diego several months before us and now are living a couple of miles away. Then, another family jumped into the plans and now it is going to be even more fun. Matthew and Yuri are doing the turkey and a pumpkin cheesecake. I have some cranberry sauce in the fridge that I made last night and a sweet potato casserole guaranteed to clog your last artery. My Gott, the butter. Today I'm going to whip up some stuffing from a mix and doctor it up with celery, onion and some toasted nuts. Then, whip up some potatoes with butter and salt and lots of half and half. Oh, and some fresh green beans. I think someone is bring a salad that no one will eat.

Oh, lord. Does anyone out there in cyberspace have any experience with people in San Diego being in general obsessed with their looks, what kind of house the live in, what neighborhood they live in, and stuff stuff stuff?? Man.

Some people are obsessed with how they look. People here are inundated with images and ads for plastic surgery. There are certain hot neighborhoods that no one can really afford, yet everyone must live in anyway. Shampoo costs more than the whole outfit - no - ensemble - I found at the thrift shop. Maybe it is an American thing and what this is is culture shock. I'd really like to move to an isolated rural area and raise sheep and sell the wool, possible in Minnesota. I'd drive a rusty old truck and really let myself go. I'd let the gray come it where it wants and just go ahead and sag where they will. We'd raise our own veggies and make our own clothes.

Things to be very very thankful for:

*the family, friends, pups, the gorgeous weather, the mountains, trees

fresh water!

*the way the cranberries look when they are sparkling with water after being rinsed

*Jose and the boys

*the way the Rug Doctor filled up with very dark water from the carpet last weekend, and now we can enjoy the new sense of clean

*the smell of beeswax candles

*they way Miss Peach sheds in little soft tufts, you can tug at one and it comes out in one piece. She lets me do it. Is is weird that I enjoy this?

*the look and feel of a certain silk-wool worsted velvety grape hand dyed yarn from Uruguay feels whilst making a little pressie for my sister in law. Pure heaven!

*the way that being forced by our stupid Homeowners Association to hire someone to work on our front yard has enabled us to meet a very nice family business. And adorable old Dad, who speaks mostly Spanish, wished me a happy Thanks-holiday

*the boys and I having persisted in the idea that one doesn't need to match their socks on a weekend day, which has simplified our lives tremendously
Well, I'm going to go surf the net now. Cause that's how I roll.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

everyday life over here...

It's been awhile since I last posted. I had been feeling so tired, so worn out, even though I wasn't depressed at all and in fact liking like here in San Diego and the prospect of a new job even. the boys were doing great, the weather is great here all the time. So why so droopy and craving the naps?

Well I didn't ponder too much on it, but then happened on an appointment for a physical and found out my iron was pretty low. Not tragically, but enough that I started on an iron supplement and you know, that pale looking, shadow under my eyes thing I haven't thought too much about this summer is pretty much going away also, and my energy is coming back. So, cool beans!! Female trouble, don't you know. Otherwise known by doctors as "God's Curse."

But enough about that, no one wants to know about that stuff, for gosh sakes!!

My new job pretty much rocks so far, but I know we are in the honeymoon phase of working. It feels so good to be back at something and feeling like I can make a difference and getting paid for it. The hours could not be better: part time, 9-2, four days a week. I can drive Frankie home from school and be back by the time Nate gets off the bus. They are hoping I get the CA license but hired me anyway. The pay would be what I was getting last time I worked, plus 3 years of cost of living. Sooo awesome. And, every morning I drive clutching my coffee and cruising over the long rollercoaster known as the Coronado bridge. Or whatever.

Knitting projects on the needles:

The Boneyard Shawl (free on ravelry, cool pattern, practical and warm)
The Sparkle Shawl (making with SWTC yarn, yin and yang the sequined yarn)
The Malvie Wrap (a Berrocco pattern, cannot say too much about this one...hee hee)

There are many many seeds of projects and balls of beautiful yarns that are just holding a spot in the closet. Lately I have been obsessed with shawls and wraps. I have decided that they are not just for old ladies anymore, at all. they are great for the beach when the sun goes down and it gets cooler, or something to throw on when walking the pups.

Must make:

The Little Colonnade (ravelry)
Ishbel (Isolda Teague)
the garter stitch cardi (on ravelry, a pattern on sale from $5 to $2.99

So that is my domestic life over here. Knitting, working, kids, dogs. And oh, yeah, that guy that goes in the fridge and eats stuff. Thank you so much Tara, Emily and the other Oakleaf girls for turning me on to knitting!! :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Frankie update

I have told and told Frankie not to put Miss Peach in a headlock.
Frankie is doing great lately, grandma. He loves school, and has a whole scoop of new friends over there which is a great relief to me knowing he has adjusted to another move and a new school. Half way between school and our house is a Krispy Kreme, which has his donuts and my fabulous iced coffee. Nuff said. He is actually getting straight A's so far in school. Cool Beans!!
He spends most of his time camped out in the living room where he has made a nest of controllers, papers, books, more papers, wrappers and have drained glasses and plastic bottles, and balled up dirtly socks. Yes, this is in the common living area.
Since I am the maid, I usually pick up all of that myself. I find it very rewarding to clean up after the boy. Grrrr....
Frankie has announced to the family that he is going by Francisco now at school, but we can call him Frank still if we want. But I like to call him Mama's little Frankie-Bear. It is nice to still have options.

lil Tater

Here is little Tater wrestling with the Akita girl. They are like two puppies together. First, a pillow fight which includes one of the (smaller one) couch pillows that I made with my friend Yuri for our sofa. (You might notice that Cricket has the good sense to take his toy and hide under the coffee table) These is one of our little pillows that have already seen some hard times. We had the good sense to chose a machine washable cotton with batik-print dirt color for two of them, and a dark reddish-brown print for the other one, both envelope backs. Anyway, the dogs and boys really like these pillows. Grrr....
Nate has recently announced the household that he is expecting to commence puberty at any moment, being about eleven and a half. He has found a small red bump on his stomach and showed me, Jose, and my friend Yuri, what he declares to be his first pimple. He asked my if I would buy him some Axe deodorant spray, please, the next time I go to the store. He is getting some armpit odor, you see, since he is a big teenage boy now. Hee hee....not....but he wants to be :) I do wish he wouldn't grow up so fast!

just cleaning up around here

Life around here has involved alot of cleaning up, including our furry friends. On more than a few occasions we have woken up to a fury of tiny red ants. One morning on going down to the kitchen, all Jose would say is "That. Is. Impressive." After promising me that if I just went to bed, he would take care of the dishes, then forgetting said dishes, we woke up to the mayhem.
Jose then, wanting to be on time for work, sprayed ant spray everywhere and left the carnage. It was fabulous. I vacuumed everything rather than wiping it in order to leave as much of the deadly stuff still sprayed around. There were ants all over the kitchen, in a trail around each window, leading across the stove, in a ring around the ceiling, into rivers down the walls, and around the living room pictures. Wow! Next time I would be tempted to call some pest control.
I washed the dishes, as usual, vacuumed the walls, floors, counters, etc, and then went to WalMart, or as we call it, Walm-Apart, to get some plastic bins for the food in the cupboards that I hadn't tossed away.
Apparently ants are a huge problem for people around here. They are desperately looking for water, trying to survive. Almost makes a person feel sorry for them. If only we could come to an arrangement. I'd gladly leave a bowl of water out if they would agree to stay out of the house.
Anyway after this excitement, I took Cricket to the groomers we found, who love Pekingese dogs and between the owners, have 6!! Here is Cricket, with a red scarf, with two other Pekes, including Dulce, his evil twin.
In the meantime Natsumi gets an old fashioned bath with a hose in the backyard.

Friday, August 21, 2009

the after and before of the old teabox

Sooo. I picked up this teabox at a second hand shop in Kamakura, for about 1000 yen, or about $10. It was in good shape although there was glued on peeling paper all over the outside, and a bit dusty. The inside is lined with tin. I had this eyesore out in the living room holding bits of material for my various craft projects, and its roughly the size of a good lamp table also.
After living with this fellow as is for several months and moving him to San Diego, I decided it was time to have a little fun with it.
One thing that has been nice about being back home is that I can finally read labels when we go to the hardware store. So, I picked up some sandpaper, a scraper, some primer, some water-based paint and a water-based stain, and finally a nice matte finish spray on water-based finish for over the whole mess.
Cricket helped. Ha.
Whilst the boys were at school, I tried to peel off some of the paper. Too much elbow grease. After a while, I tried sanding it. Too much elbow grease. Finally, I tried spraying a bit of warm soapy water on it and then it scraped off easily and cleanly. Since the wood was unfinished underneath, I tried not to use too much water. Luckily as always, it was sunny, breezy and very dry in the backyard so this helped, and there was blessedly no warpage!
After stripping off the paper and drying it totally, the next day I sanded it just a bit and put on a coat of primer. By the end of that day, a coat of paint. That evening, I brushed stain over that and tried to be a bit artful about how I applied it, so it looked kind of grainy. Ha.
Anyway, that took a couple of days outside in the warm and sunny patio. After that, I used spray adhesive to position 4 cut up and trimmed grass placemats from Target, that I had cut up to fit around the thing, and quickly realized that a few staples were called for as well.
Taa daa.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

casa de Gomez

So, this is our house in San Diego. It is a pretty nice house with a big master bedroom and 3 other teensy tinsy little bedrooms. At the end of the block is this walking path, which is watered by the fabulous "reclaimed" water (wash hands after contact). I was relieved to hear that we are not wasting the city's precious freshwater supply on keeping a facade of greenery in the middle of the desert.
Can you believe that we are expected, by the various housing associations that beplague us, to have sprinkler system which uses our water, to keep a ridiculous green carpet in front of the house, while at the same time we are importing much of our drinking water from the Colorado River, since there isn't enough to supply the city?!?
There, I've had my soapbox. And it was a run-on sentence too.
Another thing. I have gotten a call about a part time social work position at a certain hospital, on a certain beautiful island which I love, doing exactly the kind of work I have loved in the past. The hours would be flexible and so I could be home for my boys after school most of the time. I am soooo excited for this interview and keeping my fingers crossed about it.
In the meantime, starting the Spanish class at night next week.
The boys are doing great - they both say that they like their new schools, and they both seem to be making new friends already. Yay!

fabulous dark and moody path

Doesn't this path look moody and mysterious? There is some undeveloped land near our house, which the dogs love to walk around on - and it has great views of the mountains. While the sun is setting, they start thinking it is going to be walk time, and I start thinking this too. It is quiet, peaceful, and much cooler. There are also some most interesting holes all over as we get up to the top of the hill - they are deep, and about as wide as a fist. We are all wondering who is living in such arrangements, especially Miss Peach.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

These ole boots...

In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to the signs that read " sprinkler systems use reclaimed water, wash hands after contact..." I have really enjoyed some long sweaty walks with my Akita girl and Cricket, without a care in the world until the last couple of days.
We walked barefoot and barepawed through lush green grass, scrambled up dirt paths unto a beautiful patch of undeveloped land overlooking the housing developments, the mountains, and awe-inspiring sunsets. I've walked through thrift shops and flea markets and the sandy beach, the neighborhood pool, and my own backyard, wearing my trusty flip flops.
To make a long story short, I have an infected spot of a couple of sorts in one of my feet, leaving it very sore and icky in ways I will not describe here, but rest assured Jose has seen much worse. So I will be swilling a couple of potions for a bit and staying off the trails. Sigh. Hopefully not for long.
But I'm going to need a little bell, to ring in case I need the boys to fetch me something.... :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

has anyone seen my Pekie??

Cricket went missing this afternoon and was gone several hours before he finally followed a nice man on a walk with his own little dog, right to our block. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway since this is my blog, I panicked and went from door to door search and calling for him with his picture. I sent a email with his picture to all the California animal shelters, using I updated the contacts on his microchip.
First we searched the palms and brush in the backyard in case he had gotten caught, screamed himself to sleep and was still there snoring loudly. But no. We searched to nooks of the house and yard where he may have chewed on the wrong cord. Thankfully, no. I looked under the sink where I hid the ant "discouragement." No.
I fretted about who might be cooking up a batch of Peke soup for dinner, with bean sprouts and fresh ginger. I add the two ingredients in my mind since he is, after all, a Chinese breed originally bred to entertain the young girls of the palace. Starting with the wolf, over two thousand years ago. Frankie went in his room and laid down on his bed.
We drove around and called for him and even took Miss Peach for her help. Help, ha. Hell, I was afraid maybe she finally ate him!
Anyway, the man who brought him back didn't stay to witness the tearful reunion. He had things to do.

male bonding road trip

Jose and Nate have decided to take a little male bonding road trip back to MN to see his folks, get his motorcycles license, and take in some cross-country scenery. Frankie and I, who have been lost in Tokyo and Yokohama, in the car with Jose and have been to Nikko and back with him (seems like just yesterday...) have elected to stay in our new home. Well, staying in our home isn't quite accurate...
Nevertheless, Jose and Nate stayed overnight at the Luxor and took in a Criss Angel show. They were, for some reason, given front row seats instead of their cheap seats, and were very excited and happy.
I miss the two of them so much, can't wait till they get home this weekend!

Life in the States

Well, we are enjoying being back in the good ole U S of A. I love having things in English. However, we are having a bit of reverse culture shock over here, for example:

Why is everything centered around shopping at big stores that take up ungodly amounts of land, when another version of the same shops are a mile away? I mean, each little neighborhood is custom built around a little mall, like a Walt Disney planned neighborhood over here! The houses look the same, they are quite large and with small yards. So many were just bought to sell or rent.
These are not the family homes we saw in Japan, with the landlady who lives next door and built another house on her land to rent out. Everyone has a large master bedroom with a bathroom in it, and certain kinds of floors and counter tops. Everyone has HHA approved shrubs in the front yard, surrounded by a thick ring of sod. Why don't we have more open land? What has happened to the mom and pop stores?? It's a bit sad.
Why is everyone so loud when they talk? Why are they so rude and inconsiderate of eachother? I get struck by how strangers are not kind to eachother, they assume the worst and will mutter terrible things to people they don't know.
Why do people not smile at eachother, and they look tense and angry all the time when they are out in public. In front of their freshly watered sod washing suds into the street, they are relaxed and cheerful...
Ok, I have mostly noticed this phenomenon in parking lots and crowded shops. Ok, I have been learning to drive on the right side of the road again. People are in a hurry to get to a spot in a store or lot, and they will utter the most unspeakable things to eachother!
Why do people play music really loud, outside in the driveway, while they are washing their large gas-guzzling vehicles?
Why do people, who live in the desert basically, have plants that will not grow there normally and then have to waste good water in their underground sprinkler systems that the Home Owner's Association says we have to have, instead of putting desert-loving plants out?
Why is it so hard to get the short one into his neighborhood school, why is there a wait list for even the local kids, and why don't they hire more teachers? Why can't all schools everywhere be better? Why do the safer neighborhoods get good schools and the kids in the high crime areas get stuck? How are they suppossed to get a chance in life?
Why do people all over the world pay $3 for a cup of coffee, which costs Starbucks 50 cents to make? Which includes this writer.
On the plus side:
Whoa, the dessert here is huge!!! Whoo hoo! And the portions are huge, and cheap! Yay!!
San Diego is a cool and interesting melting pot. So many people and languages. One day Frankie, Yuri and I went to a Chinese supermarket, one day a mixed Asian market. Lemongrass, fish sauce, sweet rice, lime leaves, curry paste, live frogs!
One day we had Vietnamese for lunch, then authentic Mexican, then Greek, then Indian for dinner. We shopped in the Indian neighborhood and picked up spices I've never seen except on a recipe. From there some Toor Daal, cardamom, tamarind paste, frozen garlic naan for Frankie.
From the farmer's market, we got homemade Mexican pork and pepper tamales, hummus and pita bread, watermelon juice, and puppy treat samples.
Target is overwhelming, and so is Barnes and Noble. But in a good way.
We can see the lights of Mexico from my friend Yuri's house. Amazing!
There are no mosquitoes here, and I have not seen a centipede yet. But we do have a red ant issue in the kitchen. Whatever, I don't go in there anyway!
I worked on knitting a shawl on the beach in Coronado while Frankie jumped in the waves the with Ashely. The beach on the base is amazing...
I informed Jose that when we moved here, I would need a car with GPS, so that I would never be intimidated to drive here the way I was in Japan. Sure, I drove, but not with the spirit of freedom that I have now. GPS rocks, and all Navy wives should have one for when they move to a new area. In my humble opinion.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

last days in Japan

Over the last month, our family has been anxious and excited to return to the States, but now feeling very sentimental about leaving beautiful Japan.
My camera, unfortunately, is out of commission: someone in this house who shall remain nameless, a female, packed the charger out with the rest of the express shipment....
But here is what we have been up to, for the record:

Jose has been on leave, and up with the sun every morning, in a hurry to get on a train to Tokyo, which he has been exploring on foot.

I had a goodbye lunch at the Japanese buffet in the New Yokosuka Hotel, with the gals from the thrift shop: all you can eat of everything you can imagine...

Jose had a goodbye party at a Thai place in Yokosuka, hosted by his Japanese interns at the hospital, including all you can possible stuff yourself of delicious Thai food, complete with armploads of flowers and one fabulous model ship, the Mikasa, the parts of which will not be lying around my living room later in San Diego...

We had a wonderful dinner at Appu Ghar, the Indian place overlooking the beach in Kamakura, with Emily and Josh - complete with takeout naan and mutton curry for the chaps, and of course brilliant conversation...

One last field trip in which I chaperoned the short one, took a ferry across Tokyo bay, a walk through an old fishing town, a gondola ride up a mountain, a picnic, and more brilliant conversation with fifth grade boys...

One afternoon at the 7 or 8 building craft place in Kamata, complete with the most awesome Korean food (bee been ba ???) for lunch, with Jose, carrying home on the train one bag of yarn I don't need, yet do need...

One trip with the kids and Jose to the Enoshima aquarium, to see the unearthly beautiful Jellyfish Hall, dip our hands in a pool and have them nibbled by "doctor fish", a walk and shopping around Enoshima Island...

Taking off the shoes I wore to Enoshima Island and without remorse, throwing them in a bag to donate to the thrift shop, then reaching for a band aid...

one trip to Koppabashi street in Tokyo with hubby, to drool over shelves of pretend food, purchase one life size fake cappuccino with heart-shaped foam which makes me smile every time I see it...

finding a Japanese company, Nittsu Transport, who will bring out Pekingese to the States during the warm month of June, via Japan Air, for the small sum of about $1500 USD, or should I say our Pekinge$e dog...

one magical night with our dear Japanese friend, who served us sukiyaki at her house, which a groaning tableful of fresh vegetables, meat, whole grain rice, homemade pickles, two kinds of soup, smoked salmon and pickled garlic eggplant and huge breaded prawn and homemade garlic mayo appetizer, followed by custard, ice cream, homemade plum shochu...
then when the sun went down, a hike in the warm breezy evening up the mountain, across creeks, up the winding woods, to a place where the fireflies were blinking...

and one more week to say goodbye to this amazing place, to prepare to return to our country, where mom can read a map, ask for directions, start on a diet, and the new shoes will fit...

Monday, May 18, 2009

and don't ever, ever forget the sweet rice with mango

Unforgettable. I didn't want to look like a pig, but I could have easily eaten several bowls of this dessert. Sue makes it for her children. I suppose at this stage I'm to old to be adopted....

Sweet Rice with Mango

sweet rice
coconut milk
coconut cream

Soak the short grain rice for at least 3 hours, then cook.

In a medium pan, add one can of coconut milk and one can of coconut cream, one cup of sugar and 1 tsp salt. Cook just shy of boiling, while stirring.

Pour out and save 1/2 of the liquid.

When the rice is cooked, add it to the remaining liquid and cover, give several minutes to absorb the liquid.

With the saved liquid, simmer on low, stirring, to make a sauce.

When the rice has soaked up all of the liquid, scoop a generous mound in a bowl. top with cut up fresh mango chunks and pour sauce on top.

Sue's better better Thom Yum Soup

And her soup is better than the restaurants' around here. Yahoo! It's like food for your soul!

one 26 oz container of chicken stock
Thai soup flavor cubes
white onion, green onion, tomato
2 packs mushrooms, any kind
lemongrass, fish sauce, hot chili peppers, and Thai chili paste
half and half
one lemon

Put the chicken stock in a pot. Add two cups of water and 3 Thai Thom Yum Soup flavor cubes

Chop and add white onion. Boil a couple of minutes.

Chop tomato and green onion and add this.

Add a couple of chopped stalks of lemongrass. Sue adds 1 Tbsp MSG but I would rather skip this since it tend to give me a mild dull headache.

Clean and chop mushrooms and add to the soup.

Add the shrimp.

Crush 3 red Thai chili peppers with the side of a knife, chop coarsely and add.

Add the juice of one lemon.

Add about 1/2 cup half and half.

Add a good splash of fish sauce to taste.

Garnish with cilantro.

Sue's Pad Thai

Sue's Pad Thai - when Sue is ready to cook, drop whatever you have planned for the day and head over, its gonna be good!!!

You'll need:

vegetable oil
pad thai noodles soaked at least 1/2 hour
white and coconut sugars
tamarind paste and Thai beef powder
red shallots, 4
garlic cloves, 4
fish sauce
chicken and shrimp
3 eggs
bean sprouts and chives
peanuts and cilantro, for garnish

Saute the shallots and garlic in a generous dollop of oil.

Put in the noodles and stir fry until soft, adding water as needed to soften, by the 1/2 c increments.

Spoon in the coconut sugar, 2 Tbsp or so, then the white sugar, 1 cup, then 2-5 Tbsp of tamarind, and some pork powder. Add 3 to 5 Tbsp fish sauce and continue stirring.

Now push the noodles to the side, add a bit more oil, and cook the chicken pieces. Add shrimp and cook.

Make a few holes in the noodles and crack and egg into each hole, stirring with a chopstick to break up and mix.

Add one container of fresh bean sprouts and a handful of chopped fresh chives.

Before eating, sprinkle on some roasted salted peanuts and some chopped cilantro.

tea party

After the lesson, the three mothers laid out a wonderful tea party, leaving me feeling quite honored and special. Here are three of the fancy cakes we had. Like most traditional desserts, it was not overly sweet, and was indeed filled with the insidious bean paste. But actually, I have grown to love mochi and the bean paste over the last few years. The little cakes were precious. Mine (not shown) was purple and had tiny petal flecks in it, and a shaped purple flower and leaf on the top. With the girls, we sat and enjoyed:
matcha cakes
pocky candy on a plate!
a bowl of assorted rice crackers
a new type of strawberry pocky
kit kats!
a bowl of chips!
bowls of fresh, frothy green tea that tasted fresh and like spring and all green things
generous glasses of iced coffee
my muffins
The girls ran around, played, compared their new felt pins and barrettes, twirled around, and sang a cute version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star repeatedly.
And at the end, I got paid! Can you believe I get paid to do this?!

one last private lesson

Ok, last private lesson! They didn't have to twist my arm! Here are the three little cuties, modelling the felt pins and barrettes we made as a craft for class. In all fairness, it was a bit educational since the whole thing was done in English....
I made some samples as well but of course gave them away to the girls.
Today we sang songs, did a finger play, read two stories about mice, and touched on some prepositions, did some review. Then the felt, which was my favorite.
I made apple muffins, but then the mothers had a wonderful tea for us afterward. I will miss these girls!

musings while deconstructing a thrift shop scarf

Well, its been a busy last couple of weeks and I know I haven't been blogging as much lately. I've been:

volunteering at the thrift shop with my buddies, and having a volunteer appreciation lunch where I was given a cool gift card for Chilis (!)

learning how to knit with Emily, Patty and Tara

hiking on the trails with Miss Peach

teaching English

making felt flower pins for three tiny Japanese girls

having tea with the girls and their mothers

being woken up at night by a Pekingese, who has a hematoma in his ear which has been drained by the base vet X4 and is slowly healing, from being dragged by said ear, by Miss Peach

driving said Peke to and from vet

having lunch at a Thai place in Zushi with Patty

having lunch at the Nepalese place in Yokosuka with Emily and my boys

having lunch in Yokohama with my husband, at a mall which we window shopped for hours and all I bought was bakery treats for the boys...

investigating arrangements to get my snub nosed fellow on a plane to the States in late June

looking at the ocean, just looking out into it...

listening to Eckhart Tolle on CD in the car

smelling some heavy spring tree smells and the scent of flowers from my neighbor's garden

catching up on gossip regarding all of the neighbors, from one Ms. Busybody

eating sushi and more sushi in Zushi!

feeling energized and happy after receiving some on-line career counselling through military one source, and after taking tests and writing back and forth, finding that my best fit for future career is what I have been doing all along, which is social work...with a fresh population and on my own, in private practice, using creativity and making my own schedule, my own day, my own interventions...using art, crafts, dogs, nature as therapy, whatever fits the person and situation...

talking with Jose over lunch, during long walks, late at night, about anything and everything, and enjoying time with my best friend

missing my Mom and sisters, and the rest of my family....and friends too

Monday, May 11, 2009

Felty Fun, or if After 10 Tries You Don't Succeed

My friend Emily came over the other night and it was really nice to have her. Jose was working late as usual so it was nice to have plans with another adult! We knit, watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (very good movie, made my eyes water a bit), went out for Indian food with the Bear, and generally had a nice time. The next day, slowpoke here finished her bowl, which ended up looking like a hat, and tried my first stab at felting. The inside of the washer was all felted up nicely, I noticed, but it took many tries of running in the hot washer before it would felt up. Notice that it seems maybe possibly not totally felted, but after 10 tries, I decided enough was enough. We will just have to enjoy our fuzzy bowl the way it is. It is about 7 inches in diameter or so.

Club Apple Mother's Day Theme

Here are me and my little cuties, on our last day of Club Apple. Yep, its my shortyshort new haircut.
It was bittersweet having this teaching come to an end: I always enjoy the children, but get wiped out with the process of planning the lesson, from scratch, trying to accommodate all of my learners and keeping them interested. Also, culturally relevant, educational, crafty and fun for all 10-25 of them.
At the end of class they had a gift for me, these beautiful flowers and a picture board of some pictures taken of me and the children through the last year, signed by the parents and with sweet notes that made my eyes water.
On this day we did:
Song: Hello, Hello
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (I pretend I forget the words...then loud...then low)
Story: Are You My Mother
Song: If You're Happy and You Know it
Follow Directions (Play guitar, play drums, go fishing, wash hands motions...)
Story: We're Making Breakfast For Mother (What a weird idea?!?!?!)
flashcards and review
Coloring Worksheets with child's and mother's name and drawing a picture of both (These were very cute)
Craft: Making paper flowers. This was a big hit (see below)!
Fingerplays: Where is Thumpkin
Five Fat Peas
Stickers and Snacks

For fun, I brought both puppy and kitty stickers and let each child chose which kind they wanted.
I baked a vanilla cake with store bought chocolate frosting.

Last Club Apple Class - continued

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cool Beans!

I ordered this linoprint from etsy. I made two pots of coffee today. I put my bickering, snarling dogs in their respective crates, swept and mopped floors. I did a load of laundry and the dishes and baked some cookies. I got a (quite short) haircut. I rented The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from the Ikego minimart. My friend Emily is coming over and we are planning to get started on some felted , knitted wool bowls, maybe watch a movie, maybe dish some dirt on our husbands.
It is drizzling rain outside but inside, it smells like chocolate chips and peaceful, snoring dogs.
Cool beans!

Monday, May 4, 2009

last ones....

more real Zushi City

Real Life Zushi City

I'm not the best photographer in the world, but I tried to capture some images from real life Zushi. Not the romanticized version of Japan I had in my mind when we first arrived here, but the real time version that I first saw outside the windows of the bus flashing through Yokota: the rusting, molding, steaming, sweeping the dried cherry blossoms out of the road, green-tea-out-of-plastic-bottle-swilling, cigarette smoking hulk of an island that has been my home for the last three years.
I'll miss the compact, wiry young workers having their noodles out of styrofoam cups inside of their tiny rusting trucks.
I'll miss the fiercely intelligent crows that tear apart the garbage bags and spread the contents everywhere (I know I have mentioned this before).
I'll miss the bows and the "dozo's" and the subtle social cues that I as a gaijin, sometimes miss.
I'll miss ordering ??? in a restaurant, not knowing how to read Katakana, and being surprised by the dish I am served.
Buying a skein of ??? yarn in Zushi city from a woman who also runs a dry cleaner's, finding out later that it is the most exotic eastern acrylic.
I'll miss the vending machines on every corner.
I'll miss the sight of a molting Shiba taking his elderly woman for a walk, carrying her ecobag and sensible shoes, her white roots peeking through the thinning black of her hair, and tufts of his fur blowing in her windy wake.
Young men with pretty groomed and styled hair, carrying man purses on the train.
And the site of the delivery motorbikes darting through traffic, with the rusting, swing contraption swinging from a hook on the back end, clamped tightly over bowls of rice and miso soup.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tater has a Birthday!

Well, we had another birthday party for the Potato, and it seems like he just had one. Or, possible that is just because he has been thinking about it for about a year now. He had everything that he wanted - almost all of his buddies from Sullivan's Elementary, no girls allowed except Mom, his ice cream cake with chocolate cake and frosting and vanilla chocolate chip ice cream, the base bowling alley,and lots of presents. Daddy wasn't here for this birthday (still in San Diego) but it was still a fun day.
I just can't believe he is 11 years old already. Well, yes, he is very 11 years old actually...
As a bonus, while chatting with his friend Mason's Mom, I found a loving home for our Beta fish. And of course his tank and food. The boys and I have now found homes and delivered all of our fish: the beta and the five Zushi matsuri fish which the kids won (much to my shock and dismay). I just couldn't face the thought of flushing them all!

Easy Arroz con Gandules

So this week at the thrift shop one of the gals, Brunnie, made the best batch of a Puerto Rican dish called Arroz con Gandules, or Rice with Pigeon Peas. It was absolutely to die for!! When we asked her about the recipe, she replied that she made it the old Puerto Rican way: she read it off the back of a can of Goya Brand Pigeon Peas from the commissary. I have it simmering on the stove at the moment and it smells delicious, so here it is (minus the olives in the pic):

2 slices of bacon
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 15-oz can pigeon peas, undrained
1 packet Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote
1/2 c tomato sauce (or, spaghetti sauce)
3 cups water
2 cups rice

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon, onions and peppers, cook 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add remaining ingredients except rice. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice and cover. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Serves 8.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

English Club Apple - Picnic Theme

This weekend for the English class I decided on a picnic theme - teaching about picnics and picnic words. the format of the class went like this:
Sing: Hello, hello
I'm a little teapot
Lesson: picnics and picnic foods
I showed crayon drawings of foods and was impressed with how some of the children were already familiar with some of the words, like "sandwich" "spoon" and "fork"
We did a little review where I tried to encourage each child to speak aloud, by giving them each a try with the cards, and asking them to "Please pass...." and saying "thank you" and having them say "you're welcome". They are very comfortable with basic niceties like thank you and you welcome, and I was hoping this would be a little confidence booster. Most of the kidlets are quite shy at speaking out loud until we loosen them up! Then we reversed it and I had them ask me to pass things.
Game: What did bear take?
I had my little puppet bear (from by the way) steal something from the picnic scene and the children guess what it was that he took. For the most part, they were right on. :)
Songs: Two picnic songs I borrowed from a website called "Pete's Yakaberry".
The Picnic Basket (sung to the Mulberry Bush)
Here we go round the picnic basket
" " " "
" " " "
So early in the morning
Ants at the Picnic (sung to Skip to My Lou)
Ants at the picnic, what'll I do?
" " " "
" " " "
Guess I'll eat very quickly
Craft: had them color picnic foods on their own paper plate. I loved this part of it, just seeing what they would out on the plates. Lots of strawberries, grapes, bananas! Onigiri! (Mom always makes rice balls wrapped in seaweed and stuffs them with goodies for a picnic!). Adorable!! then I collected the plates just for kicks and went over each one with the English words of what they had drawn. It started out as a bit of review and time filler, but I noticed one very shy young boy who had refused to speak earlier, really brightened up when I showed his work. They liked having their art shown and discussed.
Story: Picnic, by Emily Arnold McCully. It was a very cute book. It was what they had at the base library.
Snack: I bought some cut up oranges, grapes and chips and we had a picnic on the floor. Usually Mio like to have them line up and get their snacks in an orderly manner, but I thought we'd get some speaking practice out of asking for each snack and saying please and thank you. This was cute.
Stickers! the ever loving stickers. This time ladybug stickers. It was what they had at the NEX. I think if I ever forgot the stickers we would have an international incident.
Anyway, I wrote in some detail this last class because I guess I'm feeling a little sentimental about getting ready to leave Japan and the class. This time we had a new teacher, Sarah, who is actually quite experienced in teaching and is going to take over after I, sniff sniff, leave.
After class I went home, had lunch with the boys, loafed out in the backyard with the dogs, popped open a Chu-hi (sho-chu and grapefuit, sold in cans at 7-11), and refused to act perky for several hours.

and one for Jeanne

This one is for my little sister Jeanne. The colors look quite faded in this picture, and it is really a blend of deep and brighter purples, with some sparkly gold flecks sprinkled in. The yarn was soft and reminded me of her. It is bit long so she can wrap it around her neck and have some fun with it. It is a simple knit-purl-knit over and over until you have made a million freaky little knots of yarn - one of my very first projects :). I guess we can call this one "The Amethyst Stripe."

Cherry Blossom Scarf

Here is the Cherry Blossom Scarf that I finished for my Mom. First, I knitted a frothy mohair confection that turned out a most unattractive pinkish grey and was also scratchy on the neck. I pulled it apart and saved the yarn to make something else with, then packed it out already. Then, I found a thin pink yarn that, translated from the Japanese, was part acrylic, part "hair". I hope this will be softer and wear more nicely. The stitch is actually a beginner lace pattern, called the "feather and fan" stitch.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

spring has sprung, the grass has riz...

Finding this website, has added another dimension of brightness to our morning coffee here at the Casa de Gomez. You can click on, and read what Henry David Thoreau wrote on that date, in his journal.
That and this brilliant Japanese spring has left us feeling a bit sentimental over here. When the sun comes up, we can hear new songbirds calling and when it goes down, we hear the tiny new crickets at our feet. The cherry blossoms have graced us with their pale show and already blown into drifts along trails and roads and sidewalks.
Yep, I found my first centipede in the bathroom at an inopportune moment, and I'm still not sure what became of him but I think he is in the closet waiting for me.
Our mole friend has left his calling card of fresh tunnels in the yard but I think he has retreated to the forest, so we've sprinkled grass seed once again.
It's t-shirt weather over here, and we've been out enjoying it.
Have a happy spring everyone!

lots of class

I just taught private English lesson for three girls aged 4, 5, and 6. I tend to like the private lessons because I can splurge on better materials for the girls, than I can for a class of 26. This time we worked on what I am going to call "The Book of Me": a book the girls are working on about themselves, there names in English, birthdays, families, favorite foods, toys, friends, addresses and phone numbers. The covers will be construction paper and the ever loving yarn strung through the punched holes.

One of the craft blogs I like to read recommended the book "Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book" and it finally came in the mail from amazon, used, for 11 cents. And $3 shipping and handling. Anyway, making little pictures from the thumbprints was the highlight of the class. Practicing writing English letters most decidedly was not the highlight. I live and learn.

Next, I need to plan another large class/party/free for all for the big group of about 20 to 30 or so little tikes. The theme will depend on what books are available to check out at the base library. Ha!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I have to confess, I'm not a very good housekeeper. For that, I blame my mother. My Mom, who is not only my mother but also my dear friend, not only had six children but works as an emergency room nurse. She rarely had time to do the sort of things people do around the house when they "clean". Sure, she had days off where she cleaned, and we had chores and we all tried, when forced by our parents, to pick up and keep things neat. But it was always a losing, continuous battle.

My dear husband lives in the world of daydreams and lofty thoughts. He could stumble over a pile of clutter that I left at the foot of the stairs for someone to bring up, and live peacefully with it. He has a high tolerance for obstacles blocking his path to the computer or his model Japanese castle. He doesn't notice crumbs on the counter when he goes to make his green tea, or that the cups are all dirty except the one he finds, or perhaps that it takes the grimy bathroom sink five minutes to drain when he shaves or washes his hands. He happily drives a car with empty plastic bottles piled high in the passenger side: they don't obstruct his view of the road, after all.

And yes, I husband is working here in Japan and I am not. So what is my excuse for not embracing this role and fulfilling it properly? I'm just not good at it. Housework just doesn't occur to me.

I blame Mom....but wait a minute, shouldn't I blame Dad too?!?