Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TBR Reading Challenge

My sweet friend Kristina is the reading guru- and a reading challenge fanatic.  I haven't joined in because in the past two years I have been waay too busy.  But now I have more time to devote to reading and want to join in on the fun!  So I picked the TBR challenge.  Technically, the books do not have to actually be sitting on my shelf looking forlorn as they wait and wait and wait for me to FINALLY pick them up to read.  But since I DO have many books that I have had way too long and need to be read- I am going to stick to those books.  That way I don't buy any new books since damned Kindle makes it too easy it is very convenient to download a new book instead of grabbing a book off my shelf.

Here are my books I have picked for the TBR (TO BE READ) Challenge:

1. Birds of a Feather- Jacqueline Winspear
2.In The Company of a Courtesan- Sarah Dunant
3. Between the Bridge and The River- Craig Ferguson
4.Songs Without Words- Ann Packer
5.The Dogs of Babel- Carolyn Parkhurst
6. Sushi for Beginners- Marian Keyes
7. The Bolyen Inheritance- Philippa Gregory
8.Bright Sunny Morning- James Frey
9. Snow Falling on Cedars- David Guterson
10. Accidents in the Home- Tessa Hadley
11. The Turtle Warrior- Mary Relindes Elis
12. Girl in Hyacinth Blue- Susan Vreeland

Alternate list:
1. Miss American Pie- Margaret Sartor
2.In The Country of Men- Hisham Matar
3. The Lincoln Lawyer- Michael Connelly
4.The Story of Edgar Sawtell- David Wroblewski
5. Testimony- Anita Shreve
6. Anybody Out There?- Marian Keyes
7. A Wedding in December- Anita Shreve
8. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest- Stieg Larson (No I don't own this one yet as it isn't for sale just yet- but I WILL own it as soon as it is!)
9. Bridge of Sighs- Richard Russo
10. The Sister- Poppy Adams
11. The Other- David Guterson
12. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe- Fannie Flag

I am totally pumped now- too bad I have to wait until the first...  3 more days!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas '09

We had our first Christmas in Japan!  I have to say- I had the MOST fun shopping this year.  I found THE neatest stuff!  There was no worry about buying them something they already had as long as I stuck to the Japanese stuff.  I shopped at a holiday bazaar- filled with Japanese vendors.  They even had the most beautiful furniture.  I am starting my Christmas account now- got to buy some of that stuff next year.
I found Kokeshi dolls.  They are these beautiful dolls handcarved out of wood.  I have heard that the more popluar the artist- the more expensive they can be.  I found birthday dolls for my mom and aunt and an old man for my uncle.  I also sent them to my mother in law and sisters in law.  Here are the pictures of the first ones mentioned- I never took pictures of the others I bought.  The first two are birthday dolls- the pictures don't do them justice- they are gorgeous.

For the in-laws- I also bought all my neices and nephews their own chopsticks and sent lots of candy and goodies.  I heard my father in law even tried the dried anchovies- he chased it down with a beer of course!
 The bottom right are my favorite coffee candies- they are kind of hard and chewy- and delicious.  Pringles are big here- and come in all sorts of flavors.  The bag that says Merry Christmas actually has cotton candy in it- I had no idea when I bought the bag since I can't read sticks yet.
Dried anchovies and "beer snacks". yumm  (No I haven't been brave enough to try to the dried anchovies, not yet...)
The bag to the right holds rice crakers- they are sooo good!!  The ones I buy have a little bit of frosting on them- so they are salty and sweet- kind of like kettle corn.

The last picture shows the tissue packs.  You can find these everywhere.  A lot of restaurants and bathrooms don't supply napkins, tissues and/or toilet paper.  So people usually carry their own packs of tissues and also handkerchiefs.  They come in handy during the hot and humid summer too!  Also, the businesses like to advertise their prodcuts on packs of tissues (and fans in the summer).  So you will be sure to receive a few free packs when you're out and about in the city.  They hang out by the train stations and busy street corners.  I always grab them when they are being handed out.

This year for Christmas we went to Tokyo Disneyland.  We didn't go on Christmas day, but on the Tuesday before.  (Apparently Tuesday is the slowest day- it turned out to be true.)  Hubby was upset that morning when we left because we didn't get up early enough.  He was worried that we would not have enough time in the park.  It turned out we had plenty of time.

Tokyo Disney is a replica of the Dsineyland in Anaheim- just smaller and watered down.  It was not the same of course but still fun!  Actually- I was a little disappointed it was not more different- i would have liked to see Japanese inspired rides- not just the replcas of the rides from the States.  But- it was different hearing the characters speak Japanese!  Our first ride was Star Tours- the kids laughed at the little robots carrying on in Japanese.

I liked the fact that there were better food choices- Hubby said it wasn't important to him but I appreciated tehre being more places and more choices for food.  We ate at the Blue Bayou- the restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean restuarant.  We hardly had to wait even.  I had a delicious gratin with salmon, scallops and snow crab.  Sister had the cutest Mickey plate.

She couldn't wait to dig into her flan before we could get a picture.

I think Hubby enjoyed the giant smoked turkey legs that were sold in the little stands (they were the most popular too.)  We kept smelling curry- turned it out it was the popcorn.  All the kids had these little buckets they were eating popcorn out of- they even had little crarrying straps to put around their neck.  Of course we had to pay $20 for our very own.    They had different flavored popcorn at different spost through out the park.  We tried the curry and the "salty".  We missed out on the soy sauce flavor though.

Front entrance to the park.
The "receptionist" area in the  Monsters Inc ride.  It was pretty cute- just  not worth the long wait.

One observation I made was that the Japanese seemed to be more interested in the "kiddy" rides like the Monster's Inc ride the kids are waiting at in the picture above.  I think us American prefer the thrill rides.  By the way- we waited almost 2 hours at that Monsters Inc ride- it lasted maybe 3 minutes- not worth it at all!  Brother told me it was a "rip off."

All in all we had a great time and it was an experience we couldn't have anywhere else.  I admit I would have rather gone to see something with historical significance- but you can't win them every time huh?  The drive over was about 2.5 hours and the way back took us 1 hour 15 minutes.  Driving at 10 am is a big difference from dricing at 11pm.  Though I must say it reminded me of LA at night- still plenty of traffic on the road in Yokohama that time of night. 

Christmas eve we arranged for a special visit from Santa.  Brother was so surprised!!  I need to upload the pictures still- sorry.  He is actually smiling- I love it.  Later on that night he asked if we were leaving cookies out for the "real" Santa.  Dohh!  Hubby just laughed when I shot him a "look".

We had a good Christmas this year- in spite of being so far away from our families.  It is ironic- I never wanted to go to the in-laws at Christmas time- I didn't find it enjoyable and wanted to make our own traditions.  Now I just long to be near family.  Maybe I am getting older?  (I KNOW I am getting older- but maybe that is why I long to be near family now?)  I had hoped to have people over for Christmas dinner- but I couldn't rustle anyone up.  I admit I was saddened by this- but I got over it quickly.  We were originally thinking of going to Australia for Christmas next year.  But I told Hubby I want to see his family next year instead.  The funny part is that when he called his mom to wish her Merry Christmas- she told him she wants to get away for Christmas next year. He didn't know how to tell her we wanted to go to her house...

I hope all my bloggy friends had a wonderful Christmas!!! (or if you celebrate something else- I hope that was wonderful too!)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Hour Friday

My good friend Stacey from Willowjak Boys introduced me Otin's Happy Hour Friday.  Every Friday I look forward to a good laugh as he write about "how" happy he is- (my favorite this week is how he is "happier than Charlie Brown with a mouth full of Peppermint Patty").  He cracks me up!!
  My Friday comes earlier than his, but I thought I would join anyway...

I am happy that it is Friday and I so not have to get up early in the morning.

I am happy I do not have to cook dinner and Hubby is bringing home pizza on the way home from work.

I am happy that Brother is making more friends besides the initial annoying  talkative kid he befriended when school first started.  (Yes I am happy I can be a bitch and still feel good about myself.)

I am happy that Sister made a 2010 calendar for me in school.  It is the best present so far this Christmas!

I am happy that my baking gets better every year.

I am happy that the mini-mart is well stocked with liquor.

I am happy that it feels like winter outside.

I am happy that I finally was brave enough to chop my hair off.

I am happy that I am not stressing about driving in the snow as I was this time last year.

I am happy I survived the "big move" this year.

But most of all:


I am happy we can still buy real Christmas trees here- even if they are of the Charlie Brown variety.  (See my young sailor in the corner?  LOVE that picture!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Like the Griswolds on Crack

In one of my previous posts I meant to make fun of my neighbors.  Yes I do have an evil streak in me.  But my neighbors are weird so its ok. ;)

The day after Thanksgiving my neighbors on both sides of our unit (we live in a 4-plex) busted out their Christmas decor.  Hey, I have been known to do that as well- I have no problem as long as they wait until AFTER Thanksgiving.  Its all good.

Two weeks later and they are still putting out decorations.  The funny part is- both of them are white guys married to Japanese ladies.  I think maybe they are trying to impress/please/educate them?  I don't know?  These two guys are weird though- I have to say that.  They are friendly enough- until I try to make coversation beyond the casual "hi, how are you?"

I was feeling the pressure- seeing how we didn't have any lights up outside or anything.  Well I guess I waited too long because one neighbor decided to extend his lights over MY door.  Huh?  Has he been gone from the states too long and forgot that it is a faux pas to decorate your neighbor's house without asking?  He already took up our little strip of grass between our front doors with his lights.  Maybe he thought that since we didn't complain about that he would go ahead and put lights over our door as well?  Geez!  If I could reach it, I would put our lights over HIS.  What could he say? Nothing!

My house is on the left- see the blue lights?  Those are the neighbor's on the right. The candy canes and green and red rope lights are his also.

I am not mad really, maybe a little miffed.  It is kind of like when someone flagrantly takes something out of your yard or cuts in line in front you.  I do like to point out the lights to my friends when they come by- it is funny then.

See how much I love my readers? (all 8 of them)- I went out to take a picture in my pajamas and slippers- my sock monkey slippers.  I have matching pj pants for them too- but they were in the wash...

I really wish I had said something when the first lights went up on our side of our grass.  It would have been something like- "Oh we don't celebrate Christmas, its against our religion."  The look on his face would have been worth it!  But really- what IF we didn't celebrate Christmas?   I would be MAD then!

The neighbor on the other side has kept to his own yard with his MANY decorations.  Of course he has the corner unit with the beautiful Japanese Maple tree.  (I covet that tree.  It has been shedding its little bitty multi-colored maples leaves on the sidewalk- it is quite beautiful.)

The imposing neighbors are moving- next year we will be the 'senior' residents.  Maybe I will take over the yard next time?  Of course not- I would never dream of being an ass like that.  I would rather bitch and gripe behind their backs.  That just how I roll...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Did You Know? (Random Facts about me that you may or may not care about!)

As you know- its "all about me"- so read on...

Did You Know?...

That Rosie Greer taught me how to make a hook shot when I was at basketball practice in the 10th grade? (and I had no idea who he was until my coach told me afterwards.)

That I really sucked at basketball?  I could make 3 pointers no problem- only not during the actual game.  I just couldn't dribble and run at the same time.

That I once met Mario Lopez from Saved by The Bell?  Yeah- I wasn't that impressed either...

Maybe is he was dressed like this I would have been more impressed...

That I can't rollerskate? (see the comment about basketball)

That Tony Lama gave my mother a pair of cowboy boots when she was 9 months pregnant with me?  I have those boots now.

That my first kiss was with Johhny Martinez in the 2nd grade?  I thought he was cute because he looked like John Travolta (as much as a 7 year old can look like John Travolta anyway.)

Johnny had the headband thing going too.

That I don't like plain Lay's potato chips- because they smell like farts to me?

That I like to dunk my PB&J sandwiches in chicken noodle soup?

That I once threw a heavy pair of scissors at the girl who lived across the street from me when I was 9 years old?  Lucky for me (and her) I had bad aim.

That I was robbed at gunpoint when I was working for Petco 15 years ago?  They never caught that bastard.

That I married my hubby a little over six months after meeting him for the first time?

That this month we celebrated our 14th anniversary?

That growing up in San Diego- I swore I would never date a sailor?  And then I married one!

That my junior high school was (is) next door to the San Diego Zoo?  We really enjoyed the smell of camel dung when we did our Friday run.

That my first words were in Spanish- because I had a Mexican nanny?  I then forgot it all after she left.

That I speak Spanish now?

That I have lived in 7 states and 2 countries?

That I have two tattoos?

That my favorite foods are sushi and ceviche?

I prefer my sushi served on a plate- personally...

That I think it is really gross to eat sushi off someone's naked body?  Whipped cream and chocolate maybe- but not RAW fish!  I was grossed out when Samantha did that in the Sex and the City movie too...

That I can't think of anything else to say?

Well- not really- but...

Hey!  Thanks for reading!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nothing to say... (yeah right!)

I started to post the other day and then scrapped it- it seemed like I had a good idea- but then it just sounded like a bunch of rubbish.  I tend to babble- but this was bad babbling.

So I am in a better mood these days.  After getting over the unanticipated shock over my grandmother's anticipated passing- I feel more at peace.  I realized that her being in hospice was always in the back of my mind- and I felt guilty that I wasn't there for my mom.  It is kind of like I have been holding my breath this whole time.

I am still trying to get into the holiday groove here- which is a task if you live in Japan.  Here they buy a Christmas Cake on the 25th on the way home from work for their family.  Strange that they don't have the day off- but why would they?  The groceries store in town has flyers in the front entrance showing all of the cute cakes they make.  Like I said- they are "cute"- but to me not very Christmas-y.  I told hubby after chowing down on some marzipanstollen I bought at the commissary yesterday- I would like to spend a Christmas in Germany some day.  I would probably eat my way through the country and then have to buy two seats for myself on the plane ride home.  The Germans make the best Christmas food- in my opinion.  Hubby actually lived in Germany as a teenager- so he agrees.  Last year for my Christmas present he took me to a bed and breakfast in Leavenworth (Washington- not the prison.)  Leavenworth is this adorable little Bavarian town nestled in the Cascade Mountains.  That was the best Christmas present ever.
The Serenity Suite at the All Seasons River Inn

The All Seasons River Inn is located on Icicle Road- which is aptly named.  In January the whole town is one giant icicle.  Good thing we had 4-wheel drive and good thing I didn't have to drive.  Hubby parked our giant Dodge truck in the tiny parking lot- or should I say he "slid" the truck into the parking lot- literally.

I loved that place- I dream about it all of the time.  When I need to go to my "happy place"- I think of our room in that B&B.  Everyday they leave you a delicious homemade goodie in your room on antique glassware.  They are always cooking and baking so the place smells like heaven.  They served the best breakfast too!  We spent our time there enjoying the ice festival, eating shnitzel, and drinking german beer.  Oh, we also checked out the wine tasting galleries.  We bought one of the bottles from Three Sisters Winery and found some lovely cheese to to go with.  Like I said- I LOVE Leavenworth.  If we get to move back to Washington some day- I am going to make that an annual ritual for our anniversary.

I guess I am thinking about Leavenworth because of the holiday feel and the "coziness" of the place.  If I could go anywhere right now- that would be the place.  For now I will just have to get out a bottle of wine and some cheese and close my eyes and pretend I am there.

I was going to write something about my wacky neighbors- but I think I will save that for my next post- something to look forward to (at least for me.)

Until then...


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Something Happy and Something Sad...

So today and actually the past couple of weeks have been filled with highs and lows. Hubby coming home is at the top of the list of good things, that is for sure! Brother swam in his 2nd swim meet and today and he beat his times by 10 and 12 seconds. He made 3rd, 2nd and then 1st places on the heats he swam. I was so proud!! Last time he didn't so so well so I worried how it would go today. Honestly, the last meet he didn't even get upset about coming in last- he just enjoyed himself. That makes me so happy. I had to keep from crying today when he won first place, that was just an awesome moment in time. He didn't even know he came in first.  He walked up to me aftewards and asked, what place did I get?  The look on his face when I told him he was first was just priceless.  I AM SO PROUD!

So today after getting home from the awesome swim meet- I found out via email that Grandma has finally passed away:

Hi Nan,

Mother is gone. About 20 minutes ago. She went peacefully, Aunt and Uncle and I were there with her. We are ok. Please don't be too upset. She had a long and good life.

I love you. MOM

I knew it was coming just talked to my mom yesterday and she told me the end was very near. I know that my grandma is happily reunited with her family once more and I should be glad about that- and I am. But I didn't expect to feel such a hole in my heart as I do now. I haven't told the kids yet because I don't think I can without crying and I don't want to scare them or upset them. I did that to Brother when my dad died and I don't want to do it again.  I still remember how huge his eyes were when I told him his grandpa died and I was sobbing and crying.  He was so worried about me, and he was only 5 years old, poor little guy.
So I am going to "cowgirl up" so to speak.  I will focus on the good memories of my sweet grandma and remember all that she has taught me.  When I look at my thumbs I will be reminded that she is a part of me.  If you don't know what I mean by that- read my post from a couple of weeks ago.  I will keep her memory alive and tell my children and someday grandchildren about the best grandma a person could have.

Rest in Peace Grandma. 
 You are truly missed, the world will not be the same without you.

 Thankgiving 1991.  Grandma posing with her feast she had prepared for us...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dropping the Ball

I had a rhythm going, I was in the groove.  Then my Hubby comes home and my world is in total upheaval!  So I have an "excuse" for not having posted anything for over a week?  Homecomings are wonderful, they are happy and joyous.  Even our dog Brownie was in 7th Heaven when her "daddy" came home.

                                                        Our chocolate Lab- Brownie

In fact- I think she was the happiest member of the house to see him home.  It was like the best day of her life- she was so happy.

So life is crazy and happy and stressful all at the same time.  I would rather have my honey home of course- so it is all worth it!  I am especially happy that he is home for the holidays- that is the best news of all.
Now my challenge is to get back into my groove and keep up my blogging.  I will do it! 

This is my third attempt to post something since my last post, by the way. 

Until next time...

Yours Truly