Saturday, January 30, 2010


We went to Morioka last weekend on a base-organized trip and had a lot of fun. Morioka is about two hours from Misawa and there is a Handi-Works Square there that is a kind of artists' co-op. There is a large central store, exhibition hall, and classroom and then there are smaller workshops around the central area. Each shop features a traditional Japanese craft or food and has space not only for the making of the wares but for the teaching of the craft. Annelise and I went on this trip with Kim, Vanessa, and Vanessa's two boys. A is 7 and E is 4 (?). We went into the main classroom and were taught how to weave bamboo pen holders. The wooden bases had already been cut and drilled and the upright bamboo pieces had been secured to the base, plus a few rounds of weaving had been done. We were shown how to weave our bamboo in and how to start new pieces when the others ran out and were instructed to weave until our pen holder was 10cm tall. Then the ladies showed us how to weave in the ends of the upright pieces to finish off the top. My pen holder doesn't go straight up, I was pulling too tightly and it narrows a little at the top, but it's really cool. Thank goodness for Kim, Annelise got fussy halfway through the project so I played with her while Kim wove and then we switched off.

After we finished with our pen holders, we were free to explore the shops and of course buy souvenirs. We watched sembei being made, they're traditional rice crackers with a variety of flavorings. I bought some honey-peanut sembei and also liked the cheese-flavored ones. (who'd have guessed that I liked the cheese ones, right?) The best part was being able to buy fresh sembei that were still warm, they were very very delicious.

We went into a toy workshop where I bought a rolling toy for Annelise. It's a rat because she was born in the year of the rat. I also bought myself a necklace from the ceramic workshop with a beautifully painted ceramic fragment pendant. After we explored the workshops, we went back to the central area and I bought a kokeshi, of course! Vanessa bought a couple of Mutsu apples, those are my favorite. They are huge and expensive, but she got a good price at the market. Mutsu apples are a little tart and just between American green and red apples in the texture department. I don't like red apples in the US, they're too mealy for me, but I love basically all Japanese apples. Actually, writing about the apples was making me hungry so I took a small break to slice up a Fuji.

After we left the Handi-Works Square, the bus took us to the mall so we could grab lunch and do some more shopping. We ate at Pepper Lunch, it was my first time to try that restaurant, and the food was delicious! In the truly Japanese way of doing things, you put your money in a vending machine and choose what you want to order, then hand the tickets that the vending machine spits out to the lady at the counter. I followed Vanessa's lead and got a dish of beef, rice, corn, green onions, and of course pepper. The rice and corn are already cooked, but they load all of your food (including raw meat) onto a very hot cast-iron dish and then you can cook your meat as much or as little as you want. I didn't realize just how hot the food was until I fed Annelise some of the rice and she screamed and spit it out. Best Mommy Ever! She forgave me when I gave her a fruit twist and then went on to eat plenty of rice and LOTS of corn. I've gotten ok with chopsticks, but I still can't eat corn with them and had to resort to the spoon provided. Well, I can pick up the corn one by one, but I didn't want to deal with that.

We walked around and shopped a bit, I didn't buy anything but I oohed and ahhed over the adorable matching rain boots/jacket/umbrella sets in every color of the rainbow that they had in the kids' store. Have I mentioned lately that I love Japan?? Just before it was time to get back on the bus, we stopped by Mr. Donut to get dessert for the road. I love Mr. Donut and it's a good thing that we don't have one in Misawa because it's addictive.

In all, we had a lot of fun in Morioka and I'd like to go back with John, one day when he's not working his tail off!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Things to Buy

I have a list of things I need to buy while we're in the States and I figured if I put it online, I'd be less likely to forget something...

Printer toner- Brother TN-330 or TN-360
Whole wheat pasta- shells, macaroni, etc
Pepto bismol tablets that you don't have to chew
Slippers for Annelise
Elmo DVDs, especially the three-pack that we're wearing out
BOOKS! J.D Robb's new one, The Holy Bullet, crappy romance novels, anything that catches my eye
Easter dress for Annelise
Quiet tape
Grill cover

I'll add to the list as I come up with more stuff...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Random update

It didn't snow much in November and December here in Misawa. I had heard that measurable snowfalls started in November so I warned my parents to pack boots and such, which they didn't need at all. Well, they needed the coats, it was chilly. We got some snow right before Christmas, just enough to be pretty, not enough to be hazardous. And then 2010 arrived and brought with it all of the snow we hadn't received yet this year. We've had over 18 inches of snow in the last week. That's a crazy amount of snow for someone from Texas! There has been a lot of shovelling and a little bit of hibernating because I don't want to take Annelise out in the cold and drive on icky roads.

Annelise has 8 teeth now and she's growing like a weed. Well, she's taller anyway; she hasn't gained much weight lately even though she eats three meals a day, plus snacks, plus still nursing whenever she wants. Annelise rarely stops moving, she'll sit still for a little while if Elmo's on but moves even in her sleep. She also talks almost nonstop, she has entire conversations with people on the phone and Skype and sometimes with herself. I'm working on teaching her more words and a couple of new signs but it's hard to not try to keep her as my sweet little baby. She has this little grin that melts my heart, it's a cross between sweetness and looking for trouble and it makes me want to hug her close. Today she was super snuggly, which I cherished because she so often would rather run around and play. Annelise is also showing more of an interest in books. It's amazing that my child didn't have much love for books for such a long time, but now she brings them to me to read and it makes me so happy!

Well, I guess that's enough of an update to keep my sisters happy for now. We're getting ready for our trip to TX/IN, so I'm staying busy and will probably not post again for a while.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Christmas in Japan

I have been informed by my sister that I was supposed to make a Christmas post, so here goes. You'll have to wait a while for the pictures to be posted on Shutterfly though, we have a lot going on right now!

On Christmas Eve, we went to the children's Mass and then drove over to Derick and Lisa's house (there blog is listed under Los Gees on the right side of this page) and had lots of fun. Annelise was afraid of their dog Kona at first, it's been a while since we were at their house and Kona is a big dog, she's used to being around much smaller dogs. She got used to Kona by the end of the night, thank goodness. We had fun hanging out with our friends and meeting some of Lisa and Derick's friends, and the best part was playing Guitar Hero!! It was Derick's Christmas gift from Lisa and he got to open it early so we could all play. I don't know most of the songs on there, my childhood was filled with George Strait and this game is full of classic rock. I did sing along to Willie Nelson's 'On the Road Again', though, no one else really knew that one. John had lots of fun playing the drums and Annelise was our groupie, she stood in the center of the room and danced her little heart out.

The next morning we got up bright and early to open gifts. Our parents went a little overboard on the gift-buying this year so we spread out Annelise's gifts throughout the day. Santa brought her a wagon, a chair, some clothes, books, and a couple of other small toys. Annelise also received lots of adorable clothes from our families, some really cool toys, and her favorite gifts, a spoon and some socks. Why did we bother buying toys for her?

John received a Kindle from me this year, he's starting his Master's soon and since we're overseas it will make things much easier to be able to just download most of the books instead of having to wait for them to arrive in the mail. In general, our mail service is great, but there are always exceptions and those exceptions are always the things you actually NEED instead of stuff you just WANT. He also got a few new shirts and some other stuff, but he was most excited about the Kindle and plugged it in right away. He received several Amazon gift cards and I think has already spent them all on Kindle books!

I got some amazing gifts this year, Annelise gave me a gift certificate for TWO massages, I really needed them! John bought me some sewing accesories, like a tote full of thread and supplies and a case for the machine that I bought with my birthday money. He also bought me a hand-blown vase that was made not far from here, it's something I'll treasure for a long time. I also love the gift I received from John's brother. He actually bought me a very nice gift, but the part I was most excited about was a bar of soap that he got from his room in the Plaza Hotel in NYC. We were chatting when he was there a few months ago and Danny went on and on about how great the soap smelled so I told him to swipe me a bar. It turns out that it is Bulgari soap, and you Janet Evanovich readers know why I'm so excited! One of the main characters in her books is the mysterious, very handsome, very sexy bounty hunter named Ranger and he uses Bulgari Green shower gel and now I have soap that smells like him! I think I'm going to put it in my dresser so all of my clothes smell extra yummy.

On Christmas Day we were able to talk to our families and Annelise showed off her toys for the grandparents on Skype, but she really was most excited about the spoon and socks. We went to lunch at the dining hall on base with several people from John's office. The base leadership serves lunch and the dining hall is open to everyone instead of just the people who live in the dorms and we had fun helping one of the airmen win a bunch of gift cards.

Later that day we went over to Yazmin and Dave's house for even more fun. I made a brisket and yummy rolls and we enjoyed taking time to just relax and hang out with friends. We even played Guitar Hero again and I'm learning the words to more songs. We also had not-good margaritas and then I had a yummy amaretto sour and a delicious mudslide. I think they realized that I'm a better singer when I've had a few drinks in me...

Overall, we had a wonderful Christmas. We missed our families and this was the first year that we didn't celebrate any part of the holiday with any of our families, but our friends helped fill in that gap. We had a 'slightly white' Christmas where there was a little snow on the ground but the streets were clear. So our first Christmas in Japan was a success and we're looking forward to next year!