Wednesday, February 25, 2009

leaving Japan...

Now that we are getting ready to leave Japan in a few short months - Jose got his orders and we will be in San Diego sometime in June - I have been reminiscing about all of the things I have loved in Japan, and all of the things I'm going to miss.

First, the landscape here is so beautiful, with the mountains and forests and little creeks everywhere, not to mention the beaches.

The people are sooo kind, gracious and considerate, even on the road.

Customer service here is beyond anything I've experienced anywhere...

the food is delicious - even types of food we do not have much of back home in MN, like Thai and Indian, have become my frequent treats

Navy spouses, Oakleaf, a group of supportive friends...

having time to learn new crafts from my friends here

teaching English, something that if I could do over, I would have done more of, with more age groups

lingering after classes and having tea/coffee with the mothers of the students

having the time and freedom to just hop on a train and go anywhere...

having the beautiful hiking trails here, and being able to feel the serenity of the forest

the huge and highly entertaining mammoth crows here, I love them :)

getting our Japanese akita girl, and having her fit so perfectly into our family

I am going to miss her kindly older Japanese vet from Hayama :)

I am going to miss the kind gray-haired woman from the yarn shop

I am going to miss my preschool age English students and their mothers

....our book club

...the thrift shop

...the thai place in Zushi and the young man who brings cilantro for our soup

...the beautful windy hilly toll road from Ikego to Yokosuka

...getting packed in the train at rush hour like sardines :)

...having people nod and let me go first on the road even though they have the right of way, just to be nice

...the awesome variety of delicious mushrooms here that are always fresh and abundant...mmmmm rich nutty yumminess....

...the nutty game shows

...the 100 yen stores

...the Shonan Villiage flea market on Sundays

...Frankie's wonderful culinary club and robotics club, he has enjoyed so much and they have helped bring him out of his shell and build his confidence and make more friends...

...the pottery teacher at the Yokosuka base who only speaks a smidge of English but who is very kind and gentle fellow who hums as he works

...sushi! especially 100 yen sushi!

...the beach in Hayama where all the blue and white pottery pieces wash up

...the old guys who wave you out of the parking ramps, past construction sights and take your money at the toll booths


And so many more things, but this morning I am headed to Kamakura with some Oakleaf ladies for some lunch and shopping...

Monday, February 23, 2009

stuff I made on a rainy Monday

Monday was chilly and rainy all day.
The boys hopped off to school with their new lunch tickets and Nate with his grudgingly combed hair. Frankie had gotten himself up at 5 am for some reason and was dressed, ready and having toast when I woke up. After threatening Nate a bit, he also got himself up and dressed, even though he was suffering from various somatic complaints and if I cared at all as a mother, I would have let him sleep in and miss school. Since I was mean and callous, he was sent off and left a quiet peace with me, my coffee, two snoring pups, and the sound of rain.
So I dug out some pieces of material I got from the thrift shop. One was a pair of grey wool Benneton pants with an ink stain featured prominently on the back pocket. This I turned into the plastic bag holder shown above and a pillow.
For the plastic bag holder, I also used a piece of white felt trimmed with craft scallopy scissors and a little hedgehog fellow from the 100 yen store.
For the house pillow, I had lots of old Amy Butler scraps that honestly, I am getting a bit tired of looking at. I embroidered the words, No place like home, but it is hard to see in this picture. It was really modelled after a pillow on that I wanted but couldn't justify buying.
Then there was a pair of green velvet capri pants that were cute, but with some places where the velvet had scraped bare, and made me look like a moldy Swedish meatball. So I patchworked up some more scraps and made another pillow cover. Actually that was my first attempt at the envelope back and it is a bit loose and lumpy. Ah, well, the kids really do not mind when they throw it around and sit on it.

Orders...Uh, waiter..waiter...waiter!!!

Ahhh, this week Jose will get his next orders.

Like a man, he had emailed the detailer asking what his situation was going to be this summer, when orders coming out. After I had wondered about it for a month or two.

What I want to know is, when are we going to move???

Anyway, like a man, he waited a week and then emailed that they would be out sometime this week. Argh,
So, sometime this summer we will go to San Diego, but I'm not sure when.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Toshiba Science Museum

Monday was President's Day and both the boys and Jose were off, so we decided to go to a little science museum that we saw in the paper. We took a train (actually two) and a bus to the place in Kawasaki. It was a very nice place, with lots of personalized attention from a tour guide who spoke English. It was a treat for us, because she actually unlocked some exhibits for us and turned on the brightest light bulb in the world: talk about feeling like you are at the beach looking up into a hot sun. there were some fun old things including a very old mechanical wind up doll that would bring you your cup of tea and then return to its spot. There was a spot for broadcasting the weather and you could choose from many different backgrounds. There was a spot where your avatar (?) would mimic your movements as you cast fireballs at some kind of monster.
It was a nice change of pace to get the kids out of the house and having some family fun (we're going to have some fun as a family, dangnabit, and you'll all freakin like it...)
Afterward we ate a late lunch at an Indian place in the mall near the Kawasaki train station. the mall had a 100 yen store, so we had to pick up a back of treasures there.
All in all, a good President's Day.

Gomez boys hold hands - stop the presses!

Rare footage - the boys holding hands! They had some giggles at the static generator.

and of course, Cricket...

This little boys is spoiled rotten. He sits in my lap every time, I mean every single time, I sit down to knit. He has been pretty good, but then one night got really excited about the mohair yarn I had and proceeded to snarl at it and then ran off biting it. I had to clean it a bit and let it dry. Oops. He is almost three year old.

Mama's baby girl!

Aw, Mama's pretty little girl! About 8 months old now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

another good yarn

Again I am bowled over by the kind helpfulness of a Japanese person. Yesterday when Jose was off of work, he decided that he still needed to have some sort of case presentation/lunch with the interns. We spent the morning together and then I walked up Blue Street in Yokosuka while he stayed with the interns.
On the left side of Blue Street, headed toward Yokosuka Chuo train station, is a great store called "Sakuma" which has knitting supplies, cross stitch, embroidery, felting and quilting supplies also. While I was looking at the gorgeous Noro Silk Garden yarn, thinking about the scarf I have lying on the kitchen table still in the form of balls of yarn, an older woman approached me and asked if I needed any help.
She said that if there was anything special I wanted to make, the samples hanging around the store has patterns available. I spent a good half hour wandering around the store and then asked her if she could suggest a good project for a beginner.
She chose a fluffy mohair scarf and helped me chose the right yarn and needles, then went to find the pattern which she would give me.
Well, of course all of her patterns were in Japanese and I really didn't understand how to read the charts either.
She said that she would teach me the pattern - then proceed to sit down with me and knit with me until I memorized how to do it: knit, purl, knit, purl, until it is a good long scarf.
She was very patient and did not appear to be in any hurry.
Of course, I thanked her profusely and promised to be back soon, wearing the project and looking for more yarn and the next project.
Now, if only I can figure out how to get the yarn back on the needle correctly, I could get back on track with the loops that just flopped off the needle.
Ah, well.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

to protect your ipod from flying guava paste

Jose is working a twelve hour shift today and the boys and I are puttering around the house. There are two loaves of wheat bread rising on the counter and here is one of my latest projects - the ipod dock cover. The front and back are made from a piece of Amy Butler fabric from my friend Yuri, the sides are some linen that I cut out from a pair of old men's pants I found at the thrift shop. You can see I perched the dock on top of a tea box, and the cover is a little big and hangs a bit over the sides. But I imagine that it'll shrink after its been washed and dried a bit. This is in the corner of the kitchen.
The thrift shop is a fun place, with a good group of volunteers. Last year at this time, I could hear Tagalog back and forth in the halls. Right now with this mix of gals, it is equally noisy Spanish I hear. I can understand a bit - mostly it is teasing each other in a fun way, treating each other like sisters and making sure everyone has lots of things to snack on, all day long. Last time, someone brought in an entire pizza to snack on and cooked it in a tiny donated toaster oven. There were some crunchy coconut lard nuggets someone brought from Guam that tasted like a donut. There were cut up chunks of Guava paste someone had mailed from home. I had to eat some, or else risk hurting some feelings and stirring some drama across generations and continents! Ay ay ay, it was the least I could do.

First (finished) kntting project

Knitting is very tricky to learn, in my opinion. I was the only one in the knitting group who so far did not seem to absorb or retain anything of each lesson. I was the slow and special one. I considered asking if anyone minded if I just came and did some cross stitch - just for socialize and work on a craft with the gals.
This week, however, my neighbor took pity on me and sat patiently by my side until things finally sunk in. This lumpy bumpy holey fabulous dishcloth is the result. Its not perfect, but I'm ecstatic - I am learning. Yay!

Since this one I have made two more almost done cloths. The neighbor who I lovingly refer to as Miss Busybody, since she always has the dirtiest dirt on everyone, and loves to dish it out to everyone else, happened to have a husband gone on TAD this month and was looking for a project. And I made a great teaching project, thankfully.
We noshed on cheese and crackers and I carefully spun neutral tales of domestic satisfaction, studious and respectful children, attentive and romantic spouse, dogs just imperfect enough and house just messy enough to be interesting.
She gave me a cone of cotton yarn that she didn't plan to use. It is cream colored, with some green and red. The color is called "Victorian Christmas". For these purposes, this author has renamed it "Strawberries and Cream Fern." I am sure Jose will be washing dishes with this all year round. Ha!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

dreaming of Thom Yum soup

It has been ages since I posted last. Little Elf was running with my camera and yup, it fell on the floor and doesn't work anymore. I have taken a few pics with my older son's great little camera, which I bought for him when he announced he was joining the photography club and that he needed one really really bad. His life would be over and he would be the laughingstock of the club, unless he had his own digital camera. Well, the club lasted two weeks and now it is mostly my new camera, except that I have to find out where Frankie put all of the attachments.

I have a neighbor whose husband is going to be in Korea for a while. We have been spending more time together and found an awesome Thai place in Zushi that has very reasonable lunches. She got a chicken basil dish (flavorful but not too spicy) and I got a pork stir fry. With that, we ordered a spicy soup which had shrimp floating in it and took the edge off of our winter blahs! I told Jose that I would like to find the cook and kiss him on the lips once. He didn't think that was as funny as Patty found it that day at lunch.

It would seem that the cook is an older Thai man who really does not come out of the kitchen but we can hear his gruff voice calling to the waiter once in a while. The waiter was a young fellow with bleached tips of spiky hair, who appeared to speak Japanese and Thai, and a few words of English, and offered us a small bowl of fresh cilantro for our soup. He remembered people's orders and did not write anything down, and when it came time to pay, he had it all in his head, for both customers in line.

Anyway, the soup was to die for. I dreamed last night, that I was eating the soup at our kitchen table.

Jose and I went back this weekend. The kids refused to come with us so we had a nice lunch together without them.

The place is on the corner, at the end of the "Zushi Ginza" street, at the end of the street where the King's Store and the sushi takeout place and the 100 yen store and bakery are. It is across from another 100 yen store.

Oh, we will be back. We certainly will.