Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Aunt Jemima in the house

We love pancakes, that is, we, with the exception of Gabrielle. She loves waffles, but hates pancakes. What kind of sense does that make? Anyway, our grocery store on base has finally started carrying Biquick Shake n' Pour pancake mix. Not new, I know, but it's new for us. You just add water to the jug, shake and pour! The pancakes aren't as light and fluffy as when I make them from scratch, but for a quick and easy, hot b'fast, they're awesome!
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I love adding p'nut butter to the batter, like my mom used to do, but I'm the only one who likes them that way, so I only add it to the last cup of batter.
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Ethan enjoying the end result.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quick Xmas Summary

Just some Xmas pix:

Our house (we're on the right, with the darkened porch. we decorated with our next door neighbors, the other two units in our bldg are empty)
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Our tree on Xmas eve
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Gabi's loot from Santa
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Meg's Santa pile
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E's stash

(the gray car ramp in the back is from last year)

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Just woke up

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Gabi and the now named "Susie Maria"
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Meg on her new Japanese bike
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Fen opening his prezzie from Momo (grandma)

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Hell on wheels......

.......well, not quite, but he's on his way! Ethan is finally riding his bike! He got this Diego trike exactly a year ago, for Christmas, but couldn't manage the pedals until just last week. He legs are still a little short, so he struggles a bit, but he knows how to do it, and in another month or so he'll be blazing down the sidewalk.

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This was actually 2 weeks ago, but I'm having some issues with video editing

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We have a huge parking lot in front of our house, there are 16 spaces meant to be shared by 8 families, but we're down to only 3 families in our court, so there is plenty of room for bike riding and rowdy games of basketball. The building just behind the building we share the lot with is completely empty, so that parking lot makes for a great soccer field several afternoons a week.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bat Boy

Ethan got a Batman car for Xmas, from his Aunt Rob; you shake it and when you put it down Batman says "Turbo engaged!" as the car races across the floor. After playing with it for a while Ethan brought it to me and said "Mom, where's the turtle?" What? "The turtle! My car says "Turtle in a cage!"

When E was born I bought a calendar and everyday I'd write something about him, just a little thought or a note about his developement. I kept it up for about 7 months, and I'm so glad I did, but sad that I let it fall by the wayside after that. I've decided to start again for 2009; hardly a day goes by that he doesn't do or say something that makes me laugh, and I don't want to forget any of it. I've noticed with some of my memories of the girls as babies and toddlers have started to kind of melt together, leaving me unsure of which one actually did or said something I'm remembering. Was it Gabi or Megan whose head was so big that I had to cut one of her shirts to get it off of her? Was it Megan or Gabi ate my mistle toe one Christmas? And I know there are plenty of things about all 3 kids that I've completely forgotten.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That's what I get.....

.....for starting my Christmas shopping last January!

I bought all kinds of crap earlier in the year, hid it, and of course, forgot about it!!! Today, as we do every year right before Xmas, we went through everybody's closets and dressers, getting rid of all the stuff we don't wear, read or play with anymore, to make room for all the new stuff we'll get for Xmas (no, we don't actually replace it all on Xmas, but the kids haven't quite caught on to that yet, so it's a good excuse to get rid of a lot of junk!).

While going through the closet in my room and the spare room I found 6 gifts I had completely forgotten about, which made me rack my brain to figure out if there was anything else I was forgetting. There was, two more presents tucked in the trunk of Otis' car. I think that's everything. At least I hope it is!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! To all our family and friends, we love you and miss you and we'll be thinking about all of you Christmas day.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A-L-O-N-E

Here I am, all fluffed up in my cozy, comfy, and most importantly, EMPTY bed, ALL ALONE, at the New Sanno hotel! At last!



I had a really nice day, nothing spectacular, but I spent it my way, doing what I wanted to do, when and how I wanted to do it. Then again, it was pretty spectacular!



Post and pics coming soon!





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Saturday, December 20, 2008

The silver lining....

Here's the up-side of the Christmas parties I was whining about a few weeks ago (between the me and the kids, we ended up attending 13 parties!!!):
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Clockwise from the top: A beautiful umbrella stand, a set of 2 Mikasa candle holders, a huge box of yummy senbei crackers, a set of 2 tea cups, an adorable snowman full of white chocolate hot cocoa mix, a set of 5 square dessert plates, a huge assortment of gift tags (I only put 1/2 in the photo), an egg baby in a basket, a set of 2 gorgeous champagne flutes, a laquered wood candy dish, a pretty scroll, a great wall calendar, and in the center, a Mikasa Christmas platter.

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Totally awesome gifts! They were all very thoughtful and I loved each and every one!




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Although I loved every single gift, really, really loved them all, if I absolutely HAD to pick a favorite, I think it would be the umbrella stand. It's something I never would have thought of for myself, and definitely wouldn't have ever bought for myself, but I LOVE it!
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MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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Friday, December 19, 2008

No, that's NOT Mickey

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He wasn't quite as big as he looks in this photo, but he was big enough to totally freak me out and send me screaming out the front door in complete panic! At first I thought it was a rat, but on closer inspection (thanks to Ethan's encouragement "Kawaiiiiii! Look Mommy, he's so cute!") we found out that it was a mouse. Not as bad as a rat, but still not something I want living on my backporch, sharing Fen's food.
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I called the base entomology shop and they promptly came out, caught Mr. Mousey in a net and took him.........I don't know where, I didn't want to know.
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The fearless mousers

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jingle Beos

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Cutie-patootie Christmas Boy

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Pimp Juice Throw Down

Ethan has added some pretty impressive moves to his library of super cool dance moves....
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Get a life!

I'm a little ashamed to say that it's not unusual for me to spend several hours a day (not all at once, though) reading other people's blogs. My list, which started out with 3 blogs, has now blossomed to over 40 blogs that I follow regularly, an additional 5 - 6 that I read occasionally and I can't count how many others that I check out just once or twice because I'm following a particular event.
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Of course everyone doesn't blog every single day, so sometimes I'm on and off a blog in a few seconds if there's not a new post, but, if I'm away from my computer for several days, I can spend 4 or 5 hours catching up on posts! But this is one of my few vices. I don't smoke or drink, no endless crocheting, knitting, or cross-stitching. I dont' play games, gamble or shop online, I don't do Facebook or MySpace or IMing. Just reading blogs. A lot of blogs. I should probably do a feeder, I'm sure it would save time........maybe one of these days I'll get around to it.
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Here's a parital list of the blogs I check every day (most of them are other foreigners living in Japan):
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My Electronic Memory
Matt, Liz and Madeline
Dooce
Sushi Zume Tokyo
Cherry Blossom Adventures
Blue Lotus
Blantant Random Silliness
An American Girl in Japan
Gaijin Wife
Kern's Japan Blog
Yokomatsu Family Blog
Sakura Flavored
Shinshu Life
The Japan Years
The Bowmans in Okinawa
Aviva Photography
Okinawa Hai!
Cafe Yamashita
Our Life is an Open Blog
Salt and Sesame
The Local Dialect
My Life as a Gaijin
The Monster Flower
Life of an American Mommy Living in Japan
Illahee's Blog
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Chumby damn it!

I've never been very technology savvy. I didn't get a computer until 1995, kept dial-up service until 2005. I didn't have a cell phone until 1999, and the one I have now is the cheapest one available. I don't know anything about HDTV or Blu-ray, couldn't care less about flat screens. I easily stay a solid 5 years behind the latest and greatest must-have electronics. And that's in America! It puts me around 6 - 7 years behind in Japan.
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Something has finally come along that I really want, and it's still really new, it's only been out in the U.S. for about since about February, just released in Japan in October and the only other country it's available in is Australia, a lot of people I've talked to haven't even heard of it! Could I finally be on the cutting edge?

Meet the newest desire of my heart:
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Chumby

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From the Chumby web site: "Chumby takes your favorite parts of the Internet and delivers them to you in a friendly, always-on, always-fresh format. It's a window into your Internet life that lives outside your desktop, so content like weather, news, celebrity gossip, podcasts, music, and more has a place to play away from your world of documents and spreadsheets. Just plug in your Chumby, connect to your wireless network, and use your computer to create a lineup of favorites from 1,000 widgets in 30 different categories, with new ones arriving all the time. Then let your Chumby do its thing—streaming everything you like, from sports scores to stock tips, from video clips to interactive games, from photos to trivia"

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It's so cute and fun! Kind of like a soft, chubby iTouch.

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Please Santa, I've been a really good girl this year!

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Worn out in time-out

Ethan's time-out spot is on the stairs. He doesn't spend a lot of time there because he's a pretty good boy and doesn't get in trouble very often. But when he does get sentenced, his stubborn streak rears its ugly head and he refuses to leave time-out when I tell him he can get up. He'll leave time-out when he is ready, and not one minute sooner! More often than not, this is the end result:
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Oh yeah, you really taught be a lesson buddy-boy! I'll definitely think twice before putting YOU in time-out again...............what a goofball!
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Mommy needs a time out!

Seriously. This wonderful family of mine is very quickly sucking every last drop of Christmas cheer from my spirit. The kids, the husband, the dog, all of them!!! The nearly constant bickering, whining, complaining and crying that is going on inside this house, among the other four inhabitants, is driving me INSANE!!! I'm not sure what the problem is, but even the dog has been unusually naughty the last few days! And Otis just started two weeks, yes, I said TWO WEEKS of vacation. Lord, give me strength.

Today I spent a nice afternoon out Christmas shopping, treated myself to a very rare Starbuck's yummy and I was feeling so happy and excited about the things I had found, knowing how much they would all love what I had bought. I walk in the house and within 10 minutes I'm ready to flush every single present straight down the crapper!

While making dinner (which inevitably someone will complain about, no one will thank me for and the clean-up that will only be accomplished after threats of an early bedtime and loss of computer priveleges) I decided that I need a major break! One big, fat TIME-OUT from my family. So plans are now in the works for a night away in Tokyo, just me, myself and I. I'm planning to stay at the New Sanno if I can get a room, if not I think I'll stay in Akasaka, I've really been wanting to check out that area and this seems like a great time to do it, since no one in my family has any interest in it at all, and dragging them to do any sightseeing is pure torture for all involved.

Now that I've got something exciting to look forward, a little light at the end tunnel, maybe I can make it through the week without any felony murder charges.

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Holiday pix

Last weekend I took the kids to Showa Park to take pictures for our Christmas cards, I think they turned out pretty good. It is so hard to get a decent picture of Ethan, we quickly ran out of good light, the park was closing early because they do a Winter Illumination starting from 5:00p and I had bribed Ethan with some time on the playground, so out of the 63 pictures I was able to take, only about 5 came out decent. But that's certainly better than none, so I'm not complaining! Next time, Otis is definitely coming with us to be the photographer's assitant!
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kawaguchi-ko

Last November we took a bus tour to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji, the trip included at stop at Shiraito Falls and Lake Kawaguchi. We had a great time, but as with all Japanese tours, we had a limited amount of time to spend at each location, the tour WILL stay on schedule, the bus WILL depart at the exact minute it's supposed to, whether you're ready to go or not.
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Kawaguchiko is one of the beautiful lakes surrouding Mt. Fuji, in what's known as the Fuji Five Lakes area. Most of the amazing pictures you've seen of Mt. Fuji reflecting in a lake were probably taken at Kawaguchiko. There's a cute little town, Kawaguchi, on the shores of the lake. The tour bus stopped there for lunch and we really loved it, but of course, we had no time to explore, just scarfed down a bowl of yummy ramen, grabbed a few souveneirs, and piled back on the bus.
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Pictures from last year's trip:

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> Getting close to Fuji-san
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Shiraito Falls (Meg wasn't here yet)
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G at the ramen shop


This year, the kids were out of school for Veteran's Day (Nov. 11) and for a change Otis wasn't on call. For the last year, since he's the newest person in the OR, he's had call nearly every holiday; when on call you have a 15 min response time, meaning O has to be at the hospital within 15 min if he's paged, so he can't leave the base when his on call. That means every time the kids have had the day off, we couldn't go anywhere. Anyhoo, Veteran's Day...........
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We headed to Kawaguchiko, driving ourselves this time, so we could spend the whole day there. We made good time on the drive up, only about 1.5 hrs. It was a little cold and overcast, but not too bad, just fine for exploring.
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There's a ropeway, or cable car, that you can take up Mt. Tenjo, to get beautiful views of the lake, Fuji-san and the surrounding area.

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Heading down
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We ate lunch at the same great, little mom n' pop ramen restaurant, it's just a little hole in the wall above a souveneir shop, but it has huge picture windows with an awesome view of the lake, and the food is delicious, even the kids like it!
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O sluprping down his ramen last year. (He had a bum paw, he'd sliced it open, down to the bone, with a surgical scalpel)
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We had a great day, taking our time exploring the shops and town.

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Unfortunately, this was the clearest view we got all day, but it was still so amazing!

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My beautiful girl

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The eskimos

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The drive home went just as well. We stopped at the Dangozaka Rest Area, the mother of all rest stops. This place is seriously huge, with a full food court, bakery and tons of other food, drinks, snacks and souveneirs. They set up stalls outside selling food and vegetables, and often there are bands performing out there as well. And there's a real, sit down restaurant, kind of an upscale place, sounds weird, I know, but there was a line, so it must be good.

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I don't know why I didn't take any other pictures:

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> This is the bathroom map! With a choice of Western or Japanese toilets, orange means occupied, green for open, and the request that you "Please stand in line in case of congestion".

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Merry Christmas? Ba hum bug!

WARNING: L-o-n-g post full of lots of bitching and whining!
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I was really doing well this year with my Christmas lists, I planned so well and began preparing so far in advance that all my shopping and mailing was done 3 days before Thanksgiving! This is a monumentous feat for me. And this is the FIRST Christmas that I have ever created a gift-buying budget and really STUCK TO IT, I actually came in about $9 under!!! Woo hoo! Go me! I was really feeling proud of myself and had big plans of being able to relax and enjoy the holidays for the first time in a LONG time.
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And now I'm finding out that I'll be crapping out almost $300 in Xmas party expenses between all my English class and culture group parties!!!!!! Merry freakin' Christmas!!!!
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I knew there'd be parties, and had planned to give out small goodie bags to all my students; even at only $3 a piece that'd be close to $70, and I knew I'd have to drop $40 on gifts for my first culture group, fine, that's the price I have pay in return for a year of fun and culture in Japan. But in the last few days I've found out that this is only the tip of the iceberg!
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I learned today that one of my classes (the biggest, w/ 12 students) always receives gifts valued around $6/ea., double what I had planned, and while my students would NEVER just assume or expect anything at all, how can I not do it when that's what's been done by every teacher every year for 30 years? Then my second culture group is another $40; when I was the only member of the group I was just going to make them a bunch of homemade yummies and felt fine with that, I knew the Japanese ladies would understand and would never expect me to buy so many gifts on my own, but now that 3 other people have joined, it's "expected" (by the other American members and leaders, never the Japanese) that we'll buy gifts. The Japanese ladies won't blink at spending $40 a piece on gifts for us, how can I balk at spending $20 on them? (Because there are only 4 of us, we have to buy 2 gifts each)
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Now, back to my first culture group, at the begining of the culture year we planned the events we wanted to do, one month the Americans host an activity, the next month its the Japanese side's turn, the hosting group pays for the activity. December happens to be our month and the Japanese ladies wanted to come on base for the Seafood Buffet. Okay, it's $20 per person, that'd be $40 bucks a piece, expensive, but do-able, and they do so much for us, you feel like a complete jerk when you don't give back just as much.........fast forward to this week and we are down from 8 American members to only 3, which means 3 of us footing the bill for $160 worth of Seafood Buffet, that's about $53 each, plus the $20 for our own meal. Again, nearly double what I had planned.
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Crap, this is adding up fast!
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Then Otis decides to tell me, THE DAY BEFORE THE POST OFFICE MAILING DEADLINE, and AFTER I had finished all my Xmas shopping and mailed all my packages, that we need to buy presents for a couple of extra family members. Great. And when I'm I supposed to accomplish this? I have absolutely no time left in this week to go shopping! That means not shopping until Friday afternoon, which means going to the post office on Saturday and standing in line for HOURS, with all the other last-minute-morons, waiting to mail my packages. And the packages aren't guaranteed to arrive by Christmas! Damn it! I planned months in advance to avoid being in that group this year!!!!!!! Thanks. No, really, thanks a lot. Butthead.
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Okay, I'm done whining, time to put on my big girl panties and get on with making this Christmas the merriest ever!
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I am seriously grateful that my biggest problem this year is that I have so many wonderful people in my life to buy gifts for and celebrate with. And while I'm disappointed that all my planning went straight into the crapper, I'm glad to know that I am capable of making the plans and sticking to them, and still feeling pretty proud that the things that were in my controlled were handled on time and under budget. And I am beyond joy-filled that we have the means for me to do all this additional stuff. My list of blessings is long and I really do appreciate just how incredibly lucky I am.
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I hope everyone has wonderful holiday season!
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(Revenge is sweet. Muwahahahaha!)

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thanksgiving week - Part 1

We spent 4 days in Tokyo Thanksgiving week, we went so many places in that small space of time, I'm going to break the posts up by location.
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We arrived at the New Sanno on Sunday afternoon and jumped on the subway, headed Meiji-jingu Gaien, I read about it on Blue Lotus and put it at the top of our list; it's a huge park where you'll find Icho Namiki - Gingko Avenue, a street is lined 146 gingko trees that are spectacular in the Fall. We were about a week or so early for their peak color, but it was still very beautiful.
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Heading down Icho Namiki, there is a festival in the park from Nov. 16 - Dec. 14, so it was extra crowded.
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Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, a museum and cultural center
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Escalator fun.

The subway system in Tokyo is amazing, a huge maze of tracks stacked on top of each other, at one point we were 7 stories underground!

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Mitake Valley

At the end of October (yes, I'm that far behind!) my Wednesday class took a field trip to the Tama River in Mitake Valley. It was beautiful Fall day, we had lunch and hiked along the river.
I knew we were "going to a park" for lunch, but I mistakenly assumed we'd be picnicing at the big park right behind the school. Nope. The place we went in the valley was an hour away, because I thought we'd just be walking behind the school, I only had on a pair of mules, so, so, so NOT appropriate for hiking. I also only brought my purse, again, not appropriate for a TWO HOUR hike along a rocky riverbank. But, it was a great day and we had a really good time.
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We had lunch at a cute little restaurant with a beautiful view of the river. It was called Imotoya, Little Sister, a bit further down stream on the opposite bank was the Ani (Big Brother) restaurant.
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Several swinging bridges crossed back and forth across the river, giving us great views down through the valley.
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Looking back at the bridge.
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The old guy painting this beautiful picture was 94 years old!
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An old temple, the smaller hut at the bottom of the hill is the bell you ring to let the gods know you have arrived.

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Yuasa-san and Shigeko-san goofing around with the bell. I think we may have been a tad-bit disrepectful, I was surprised that they acted so goofy. They were standing up inside the bell and trying to gong each other, making silly noises, laughing and shouting. Not entirely out-of -character for any of them, but I was surprised that they weren't a bit more reverent at a temple.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Sweating bullets, nearly puked - Updated

Wow. Yesterday was the Xmas party for the culture group I chair. I just took over the chairman position at the end of October and had to put the party for our 86 Japanese and American members together from scratch, in less than 6 weeks.
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These are the two groups (out of the 5 that make up the YOSC Culture Club) that I lead. Group B has 8 Japanese members and 4 Americans, Group D has 7 JP members and 3 Americans.
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> This was my first experience organizing an event bigger than my daughter's 13th birthday party, so I was a wreck, but I had a lot of great help and the party was a big success! And......I gave a speech in Japanese!!!!!! It was horrible. I probably told my audience that their feet smelled like corn chips and that their mothers were fat, when I thought I was saying "Thank you all for coming, have a Merry Christmas." But, everyone laughed when they were supposed to, and I got an enthusiastic round of applause and cheers of "Great job!". Although with a Japanese audience, that's probably not saying a whole lot, even if I had insulted their moms, they still would have clapped politely! And none of the Americans had any clue what I was saying.

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The party program

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This is Pacific Trends, our entertainment at the party. They are so great, and they're free, compliments of the U.S. Air Force! They're an ensemble from the USAF Band of the Pacific - Asia. Not only did they perform for free, they also gave us 60 copies of one of the CDs they've recorded to give our guests as gifts. So, so awesome.


Anyway, I'm so glad its over. Our next big group party is a New Year's party hosted by the Japanese side. The only thing I have to do for that one is get a count of how many American members will eat sushi!
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Thursday, December 4, 2008

One quick minute to spare

I'm so far behind, blah, blah, blah, I know you've heard it all before! I have so much to post about that everytime I sit down at the computer I get completely overwhelmed and don't know where to start, I'll get it together soon, I promise!
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In the mean time, here are a few teasers:

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