Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reindeer Man and Reindeer Hello Kitty wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas Cake for 2008!

Happy Merry Christmas!

It's hard to believe that Christmas is already here. Most everyone back in the States is just now getting to their Christmas Eve, but here in Japan we are well into Christmas Day. Zach had to work the 24-hour shift over Christmas Eve, so I took the bus to the base last night and had dinner with him. When he got home this morning, we opened our presents and ate some breakfast, and now he is fast asleep. We plan to have a quiet day at home together. I hope to make rommegrot for dinner tonight, an incredibly rich Norwegian porridge-type dish made of cream and milk, with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. Mmmmm---yum!

Yesterday I got a call from my friend Carlina, inviting me to visit the school that she teaches English at. I forgot to bring my camera and was kind of bummed about that, but it was still very interesting to get a chance to see what a Japanese school is like. Most schools here are plain, concrete structures. If there weren't an attached schoolyard with yelling children playing sports, you might not know that it was a school. Classes were already dismissed for the holidays at Carlina's school, but the teachers were still there. I had to take my shoes off when I entered the building and put slippers on! While I was there, I met the principal, the vice principal, and a few of the other teachers she works with. Everyone I met was so nice. The major difference I noticed from American schools is that the classrooms belong to the kids. Carlina explained that the teachers go to the the classrooms, and when they aren't in a classroom, they share their desk or work space in one giant room with all the other teachers. This means that they have very little storage space, and their desks are loaded down with all their classroom materials and computers.

As you can see in my pictures, Reindeer Man has a new Reindeer Hello Kitty friend that Santa brought. And after my school trip yesterday, I went to Ebina and made my way through the crowds to buy our Japanese Christmas Cake for 2008. I'm not sure what is inside, but it sure looks good!

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Kat and Darren in Harajuku

Christmas toilet paper?! Holy crap!

Okay, I feel like I'm about 10 years old for pointing this out. Is that really Santa on a yule log between Mr. Bear and Mr. Pig?!

Hello! It's a very stormy day. I'm looking outside at crazy rain, and the tree next to our house keeps slapping against the window.

So things are pretty quiet around here. Kat and Darren headed back to Seattle on Wednesday. We really enjoyed having them here. Before they left, we took a trip on Sunday afternoon to Harajuku in search of the famous kids dressed up in crazy outfits. Unfortunately we only saw a handful. We figured that there must be a gathering place, and we assumed that we would find it once we got there, but Harajuku is big and we struck out. We did find a great toy store called Kiddy Land and spent a lot of time there. They had a whole floor devoted to Hello Kitty and Sanrio, so I was quite happy.

Now I'm getting ready to decorate for Christmas. Yay! I finished cleaning up the house this morning, and I hope to set up the tree tonight or tomorrow with Zach's help. Reindeer Man will soon be hanging out in our living room again.

We also have a new product in the house---Christmas toilet paper! I saw it at a store in Yamato and had to have it. Zach expressed some dismay when he came home and saw it sitting on the counter, but I told him that it was unique. Plus, it's cuteness with a purpose!

Okay, have a good day, and stay warm.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Zach and I ate at the Mellow Mushroom restaurant (yes, that's really the name!) in Asheville, North Carolina

Our North Carolina family

Our Washington family. My grandma turned 90 while I was visiting!

Girly at-home spa day with Book Club to celebrate Holly's engagement! Kat couldn't make it, but she was there in spirit.

Here I am with Carol outside of Dairy Queen in Appomattox, Virginia. Long live Dairy Queen!

Makiko and I stood under one of the large quilts at the Yokohama Quilt Show

Etsko, Seiko, Migiwa, me, and Makiko at the quilt show

I took Kat and Darren to see the great big buddha in Kamakura.

Darren wanted to take a hike while we in Kamakura, and he talked me and Kat into joining him. We attempted this one but the trail got increasingly difficult and large, scary spiders kept getting in our way, so we decided to head back down.

Darren and Kat in Yokohama

View from the Landmark Tower in Yokohama. The tower is 69 stories and has the fastest elevator in the world. It took us 40 seconds to get to the top.

Halloween Tofu Man!

Check out the cool bats!

HOWDY!! Okay, I thought I better say a huge hello since it's been a while. I hope I haven't lost everybody because of my considerable absence. So, I'm back home in Japan in case you were wondering. I had a wonderful trip back home to the States. We spent about two weeks in North Carolina, and then Zach went back to Japan while I stayed in Washington for two more weeks to visit my family and friends. I tried hard to meet up with as many folks as I could, but unfortunately there were a few of you I missed because time just disappeared. You'll just have to get on a plane and come over here and visit me, okay? :-)

After I got home, I started to get back into my routine and proceeded to get sick. That put me out for a few days, but I'm much better now and having a fun time with our friends Kat and Darren who arrived last week for a visit. They stayed with us for a few days and we went to Kamakura and Yokohama. Now they are on their own in Tokyo and plan to visit a few other cities before they come back to our place for Thanksgiving. It's great having them here and seeing them experience all the cool Japanese stuff for the first time. Darren seems to be quite enthralled with the vending machines over here and keeps trying new drinks. He had a bad encounter with the "aloe and white grape juice" beverage, which had chunks (I'm not kidding!) of aloe in it. He has a rating system now, with the aloe drink understandably on the bottom of his list.

Before I got sick, I did go to the Yokohama Quilt Show with Seiko, Makiko, and a few of their friends. What a fun group of friends! They all had children in the same kindergarten together, and even though their kids are much older now, the moms still get together. It reminded me a lot of my Book Club buddies back home (I miss you, ladies!). Many of you know that I worked several years at a quilt book publisher, and as a result I have a huge appreciation for the art of quilting. I was in awe of the quilts at this Japanese show. And to my Martingale friends, several of our titles were at the show. That was pretty cool to see! While I was at the show, I had a really strange encounter with this Japanese woman who wanted to take my picture with her friend in front of a quilt. The weird thing was that it was my camera she wanted to use. I laughed so hard afterward with Makiko and Etsko, trying to figure out what happened and why, but we never came to any good conclusion. Now I have this photo with this Japanese woman I don't know. Isn't that odd?
You'll also see in this post that, um, yes, there is a new addition to the Tofu family. This is a Halloween version that just could NOT be passed by. I hope that all of you enjoy him as much as I do. Christmas is just around the corner, and soon Reindeer Man will be taken out of his box to bring us joy and cheer. And no, there isn't a Turkey one. I already checked. :-)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hey---I know it's been a while. I wanted to post a little note that I'll be away in October for a visit to the States. I will be back, though, with more Japanese fun stuff to share!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Down the street from Hello Kitty's house!

Sarah, Ali (with Kaitlyn), and me in front of Sanrio Puroland

Entrance to boat ride

Main hall

Start of boat ride

Restroom sign

Our new car. Well, okay, my new car.

Alenya taking a Kitty nap

I was very jealous of Alenya's dessert.

Yes, Zach drank from a cup with Sanrio characters on it.

Hello Kitty water

Hello Kitty's house!

Bricks on her house

Her front entrance

Hello Kitty's living room

Family portraits

Wood stove


More shopping!

Time to say good night

Howdy! Hey, guess where I went on Saturday?! Hello Kitty's home----Sanrio Puroland! We finally made it there after talking about it for a while now. We went with friends from Zach's office and had a great time. Ali and Kevin brought their two girls, Alenya and Kaitlyn, and Sarah and Darrel joined us as well. The guys were great sports about the whole thing, and Zach and Kevin did a lot of the planning. The girls just enjoyed the day and soaked in the Land of Hello Kitty to their hearts' content. The biggest attractions at this theme park are the theatrical shows, but since we don't know very much Japanese and the lines were long, we chose to check out some of the other sights. One of my favorite highlights was the boat ride around the park, which was similar to Disney's It's a Small World ride, but with Sanrio characters. Unfortunately my photos on that ride didn't turn out so well, but I got photos of lots of other things.

Of course a visit to this marvelous place was not complete without a stop at Hello Kitty's house and a personal visit with her. And the shopping was incredible! Anything and everything you can think of has been Hello Kittyfied. I was pretty good, but I couldn't resist getting a red Hello Kitty watch that I saw in the display case. (Some who know me also know that I have a thing about watches. It's okay guys, really.)

So, all in all, it was a great Saturday and one I will never forget. And Zach probably won't forget it either. Thank you, dear husband!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I realized today that I let my one-year anniversary in Japan go by without any kind of "yippee" on my blog, so "Yippee!" Can you believe it's been a year? A year full of fun adventures, lots of crazy and cool Japanese stuff, new friends, and a new husband! We still have another year to go here in Japan, and I can't wait to see what other neat things are around the corner. And I look forward to sharing them with you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zach in his new Slanket. I told him he looks like a jedi.

Zach being goofy on his birthday

Happy Birthday, Zach! Today is Zach's 35th birthday, and I wanted to post some birthday wishes to my husband. He opened his gifts a little while ago, and one of them is a blanket with sleeves, called a Slanket. I snapped a few photos of him modeling the thing; I think he looks like a jedi. Hee, hee. If you have a gamer in your life, you might want to consider getting them one of these. They have a website: The idea is that you can stay warm and still have your hands free to work and play on your computer. Geeky, no? It's still too warm to actually use the thing, but come winter, it will be nice. Of course, this also means that I'll never get him off the computer, but that's another story. Happy Birthday, Zach-san. :-)

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Fields of rice near our house

This has to be the creepiest scarecrow of them all.

She doesn't look like she feels very good, does she?

The Audrey Hepburn of scarecrows.

"The fields are alive with the sound of Ellen's screams."

No, Kid Scarecrow, you can't come over to play.

"Hey, throw the ball over here."
"I'm too cool to look at you."

Birds, birds everywhere.

Hello! I came across some things that had to be photographed, and I'm wondering if they will creep you out as much as they creep me out. Zach and I like to go for walks in the evenings along the paths in the rice fields near our house. We've been watching the rice grow for a few months now, and recently grains started to appear on the stalks. Lots of happy and hungry birds are swarming the fields in search of food, and the farmers have erected their very special Japanese scarecrows. Up until this year, scarecrows never actually scared me. I mean, wasn't the scarecow in the Wizard of Oz one of the nicest characters ever? But now I've seen the Japanese version of a scarecrow, and there is something super-creepy about them. Maybe it's their faces. Maybe it's their eyes. Their hair? I don't know. All I do know is that even though the farmers have done a great job making their scarecrows realistic and creepy to humans, the birds don't care a bit. But does that really surprise you?