Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lost in Translation

    One of my favorite parts of living in Japan is coming across all of the funny ways english has been butchered in translation, or the way english is put together, but just isn't quite right. Tonight we went out to dinner with some good friends and afterward we enjoyed strolling though one of the local shopping centers called the Friesta. Along the way we found a a set of 3 earrings, (never 4, because that is bad luck) two of which were miniature cigarette packs labeled "Morlbo". The third earring was a very small sign that said, "No Smorking!" They were so small that I couldn't take a picture of them with my cell phone, but lucky for you, I was able to take a photo of a few other funny labels, which I will post below!!
      After our stroll through the Friesta, we walked through Nakamura, or what the Americans call the Elephant store, because of the big red elephant on the sign. It's just a Japanese grocery store, but I love them, because I always find fun things whenever I go in..

                    Now everybody needs a Crunky Nude Ball every now and then, don't you think?!?

                            Now I don't know how people can deal with just having Meltykiss Whips,
                                            when they can have Meltykiss Whips More!!

Josh discovered this gum on a trip to Yokosuka last month. It's very tasty and the flavor lasts a long time. Since he took the whole container with him to work, I decided I would by some for our house. Once out of the store I opened it up to get a piece of gum and I found this...

Taking this little green thing out of the container I thought, "Oh, how nice! I got a mini sticky note pad in my gum!" Josh giggled at me and explained that each piece of paper is ment to be used to place your gum in, before you dispose of it in the proper facilities. Who'd have thunk?!?!
On the way back to the car, we came across a vending machine. Now, this is not uncommon, as you will see vending machines along the highway, up on top of mountains and on every single street corner all over the city. I've seen vending machines that dispense, sodas, teas, hot and cold coffees, and a Ramen vending machine at the Costco in Fukuoka. Tonight we saw a vending machine that dispensed corn and bean chowder.

Last but not least, for your entertainment, some funny printing on a menu at Coco Curry...

                                  I think what they mean to say is that you will enjoy this...

                     So, if we were going to take this literally, this potato is very pleased with itself!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Learning to MAKE sushi!

So I got an itch to learn how to make my own sushi.. I thought it would be fun to make one night for dinner or for  lunch on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Our friends Danny and Shira invited us over a few weeks ago for sushi and Danny taught me how to use the roller and how to spread the rice without ripping the nori paper. We had a great time making different kinds and of course, eating it!
  This week I went on a mission to find my own sushi roller, rice paddle and some cute little square dishes to put the soy sauce and wasabi in, along with some cute little rectangle plates to use as serving dishes. I really like the rustic hand made pottery that is found everywhere around here and am SURE I will be brining home a ton of it when we leave here in 3 years!
 This morning while Josh and I were sipping our coffee on the couch and the girls were still sleeping, I got the idea that we should make sushi for dinner! Josh had to go into work for a bit and Elliot had a birthday party to attend in the afternoon, so that left me some time to get some sushi supplies together. Josh had taken Hannah to work with him and on the way home they stopped by a local Japanese grocery store to pick up some things I couldn't get at the commissary, like wasabi, fresh fish and sushi rice. Who knew there was such a thing as rice used just for sushi! I spent at least a half hour searching the internet on how to make the perfect sushi rice. I watched a few video's and off I went testing out a method to "make the perfect sushi rice." Turns out the guy was right! It was the perfect sushi rice! Just sticky enough to stay together, but tender enough to fall apart in your mouth! Anyway.... Hannah and Josh had to ask the clerks at the store where to find a few things and then they arrived back home just in time to start "rolling!" We also decided to fry up some tempura  shrimp and asparagus to munch on before the sushi was ready.
   At the last minute, we invited our friends Tim and Michelle over to test out my experiments and Tim decided to make some Octopus Balls. I know, Octopus Balls sound gross, but they weren't actual Octopus Balls, but rather sort of a pancake consistency batter cooked in a neat little round frying pan thing and then you drop in a little piece of octopus and then let them cook until firm... They were quite tasty!!  Here's a photo of the Octopus Ball cooker and what the Octopus Balls looked like when Tim was all done cooking them..

    After lots of rolling and mashing rice on nori paper, here are the finished products!
Hannah likes the cucumber roll with avocado, so this one was for her.

This one is tuna and avacado.

Michelle and I were having fun staging a culinary photo. This one shows the tempura shrimp and asparagus.

The coloring didn't come out as nice on this plate, but this is crab and cucumber, salmon with avocado and some other fish that I don't know, but didn't like that much..

Here's the great spread!  Tim and Michelle even brought over some Golden Saki and Chuhai! 
All in all my first sushi making experience was a great one and I'm looking forward to making it again. Watch out friends back home, when I get there you'll all be eating sushi with me!!  For those of you who just won't give sushi a try, like my sweet Elliot Rose,  I will be nice and make you some of these....

Peanut butter and Jelly Sushi Rolls! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum

After a few very busy months of helping repair ships stationed here in Sasebo, Josh was able to take a few days off at the end of September to do some fun things with the family. The girls and I had been a few places without him  and enjoyed visiting those places, but it was time to get Josh in on the fun. After he scheduled his leave, I asked him where he'd like to go. Immediately he said he wanted to go to Nagasaki and see the Atomic Bomb Museum and the Peace Park. Luckily for us, Travel and Tours had a trip to Nagasaki the week he had leave. I have to say that I was very happy to have a tour guide and a bus that drove me to the places I needed to go and that I didn't have to try and navigate my way around Nagasaki. The bus tour was a great experience and we will do it again for sure..
 Now on to the topic of this post...
   Our first stop was the Nagasaki Peace Park. I wasn't sure what to expect, since I didn't ever pay attention to my history teacher in high school, which is undoubtedly where I should have learned all about this.  Anyway.. off I go rambling again..

This statue was donated to the city of Nagasaki as an appeal for world peace and a prayer that something like the atomic bombing would never happen again. The elevated right hand points to the threat of nuclear war, while the out stretched hand symbolizes tranquility and world peace..The folded right leg symbolizes quiet meditation and the left leg is ready for action in assisting humanity.
This was such a magnificent sculpture and the entire park as so quiet and tranquil. The day was nice, warm and the wind was calm. I was pleased that I got to snap this reflection of the statue in the water below..

This next photo was taken by Elliot. Both girls were very interested in all of these paper cranes and wanted to know what they were for and why they were on both sides of the statue. 

We later learned, that these tiny cranes made from origami paper, are believed to bring good luck to whom ever folds 1,000 cranes.  Many children who were dying from the atomic bombing, folded cranes in hopes that if they folded 1,000, they would have healing before death.  The girls thought that was really sad and Elliot just couldn't get over the idea of children dying.

Further on down through the park, we found the Fountain of Peace...

 It gave me chills when I read that it was created so that there would be no more thirst for  those who died begging for water. Of course I don't believe those people are still feeling thirst or pain, but it was chilling to think about. The water sprays up in the shape of angel wings, to symbolize the people who died and are now angels.
Josh got this great view all the way through the park back to the statue..

After the Peace Park, we walked toward the Atomic Bomb Museum. On our walk to the museum, we came upon the "ground zero" of sorts. This monument marked the exact spot that the atomic bomb made  impact. It was absolutely amazing to me, that I was standing in the very spot that this bomb came crashing down, destroyed an entire city and killed so many people.

The close up view of the memorial. People have left water bottles to cure the thirst of the people who were begging for water before they died and offering of flowers sympolizing peace. The black box under the flowers and water symbolized a coffin for everyone who died.

This blew me away too. I understand that this atomic bomb was large and impacted a huge city in a horrible way, but when I see that the ground level was where the blue and white arrow is and realize that after the bomb exploded the ground level is down where that river is, it's a very powerful photo.

Below is a replica of the atomic bomb..

       Once we entered the museum we saw some very interesting and very sad things. We saw pictures of severely injured people and burned children. I tried to sheild Elliot from this area, as I thought she was a little too young to see those images. However, she asked me if she could see them, so I took her back and looked at them with her. After she looked at a few photos and I read her the captions, she whispered to me and said, " Mommy, this is so mean! Why would people hurt people like this?" So I explained in 6 year old terms what had happend with Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. I don't know she she fully understands it still, but she has an idea. 

The picture above is a story told by a young girl who's sister was trapped under a fallen house and her mother's heroic attempt to save her. It brought tears to my eyes to think of how scared they must have been and how awful it was to lose so many people they loved.

    These next three pictures were taken on top of Mt. Inasa, which overlooks Nagasaki City. The view was amazingly beautiul and also very humbling. When I look at how expansive this city is and realize that everything inside of the moutain I was standing on and the mountains on the other side of the city were completely decimated, I am floored.  I am astounded at the massive power one bomb twice the height of my husband had, the devistation it created and the loss of life it caused.

I may have ignored my history teacher when I was in highschool, but I can't ignore history now. I hope one day when our girls are older and start learning about Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, that they look back on this trip and can share their feelings, experiences in Japan and photos we've taken with their classmates. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hasami Scarecrow Festival

I debated and debated joining the Officers Spouses Club, as I don't like being exclusive and I don't care wether or not someone's husband is enlisted or and officer. As long as we get along, I like you and you like me, we're good. However, I do like meeting people and I really wanted to explore Sasebo and the surrounding areas and I knew that OSC has outings every month and that I would enjoy my time spent doing things with the group. So, finally I decided I would join and I'm really glad I did!! Our first trip was to Hasami, a very small country town, known for it's pottery and also it's scarecrow festival every year. Josh came along with me, as he took some time off of work last week and hasn't been exploring much since arriving here in June. 
   Hasami was so beautiful! Tons of mountains, rice fields and beautiful japanese style homes. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from our trip there.

A tribute to the Japanese women's soccer team on their win. She is hunched over because after years of working in the rice fields,  many people's spines are permanently bent this way.
                                Tribute to the men who responded to the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear plant.
                                                   Josh and we think Moammar Kadafi.

Working in the garden.
This house was so beautiful. It was built in the middle of rice fields. Such a peaceful view of the mountains and rice fields blowing in the fall breeze. Unbelievably beautiful!
We are pretty sure this is supposed to be President Obama.
A field worker using a make shift squatty potty. This one had us all laughing. While we were taking pictures of this a few Japanese women join us and started being silly with the "pee". A good time was had by all enjoying this kakashi (scarecrow).
The edge of a rice paddy. They are so beautiful blowing in the breeze. I took so many pictures of rice paddy's it's not funny, but I'll only post a few!


These red flowers are planted along the edges of the rice fields. When the flower blooms, that means it's about time to harvest the rice. These flowers were blooming!

A view down the road. I love how all of the rice paddy's are "stacked" all the way up the hill. 
  After we were done enjoying the Kakashi's and the unbelievable scenery, we drove down the road to a beautiful little restaurant that has been lovingly named Hasami Pizza, although I'm fairly certain that is not the actual name of this restaurant. The owners were very sweet and generous. This woman made all of us tea, a few cups at a time, with her tea pot. Isn't she beautiful?!?
(Photo courtesy of Michelle Brownlee)

Her husband made us many, many pizzas in an old pottery kiln. The pizzas weren't like american pizza, but rather like a burrito shell, with fresh veggies straight from their garden and some mozzarella cheese on top. Everything tasted wonderful and they were so great with us all. Smiling and laughing with us. It still amazes me how grateful they were to have us there. The Japanese are so opposite most people in America. Always thanking me for coming to their restaurant or shopping at their store. The other day a gardner in our neighborhood thanked me for saying hello to her. Strange to be thanked for just being nice to someone who works so hard to keep my neighborhood nice and neat. I should be thanking her, not the other way around. 

 (Photo courtesy of Colleen Rettig)
He also was kind enough to let me get back behind the pizza making station, so  could get a photo of him putting a pizza into the kiln. 

   All in all this was a GREAT day! I got to spend it with some lovely ladies and my fantastic husband. We saw some beautiful sights, ate some great food and had a lot of laughs on the way home with our good friend Michelle!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things I miss and love about America and Japan

Well, I know that I didn't blog last week, but that's only because there wasn't really anything interesting to blog about. I'm sure that nobody wanted to read about the trouble I was having with my oldest trying to get the hang of 4th grade and how frustrated I was with her for being lazy. I had decided that I would wait and blog twice this week and next, because we are doing some really neat stuff this week and I knew I'd have a lot to write about. That will be coming soon, but I recently have been thinking about all the things that I miss about the States and things I love about Japan, so I thought I'd share them with you.

1. I miss Target! I miss the walking around the store, looking at all the cute dishes and clothing. Ok, yes and buying some of them too!

2. I miss fabric stores. I miss walking into a store and being able to browse the selection and pick just what I want for the project I'm working on.

3. I miss fresh vegetables! The commissary selection is not good and what they do have goes bad very quickly. The Japanese just grow different things here and I miss the things that are "normal" for me.

4. I also miss fresh chicken breast and ground turkey. Everything here is frozen and there's only 1 kind of ground turkey and it's not very good.

5. I miss my friends and family. I do have some great friends here, but there's nothing like long time friends and your family!

6. I miss my dogs!! I wish I could have them with me. I miss having them greet me at the door and knowing they are laying by my bedside at night.

7. I miss having my own house. I'm not loving the apartment idea. I do like that there are kids everywhere and always someone to play with, but I don't like how small my living space is. It's do-able but not something I want to do forever.

8. I miss having a deli and bakery! I miss not being able to walk up to the deli and get my favorite cracked pepper turkey and american  cheese. I'm no longer able to make my Mother's famous mac and cheese! :O(

What I love about Japan-

1. I love how happy everyone is. Today as I was driving through the toll booth, the toll worker hung his head outside the window to greet me with a smile. When I got to the window he said hello took my money, smiled and said good bye. Toll booth workers in the states rarely even look at you, nevermind hang their head out the window to greet you as you approach.

2. I love how safe it is here. I can let my kids play outside or walk to school with other friends without fear someone will bother them.  I couldn't do that in the states.

3. I love their lack of drive thru's. I know that may sound funny, but because there are none, I never feel the need to just " drive thru and get a coke or fries."

4. I love how beautiful it is here. The mountains and water are just amazing. I can't even explain how pretty it is.

5. I love how patient people are here. If someone is sitting at a green light, nobody starts blaring their horn at you. They just sit patiently and wait for you to notice it's green. Maybe by the time I leave, my California road rage will be gone?

6. I love their customer service. It's never a bother to help you. People will run to you to see what you need. In the states the associates are annoyed when you ask them to help you with something. Like how dare I ask them to do their job.

7. I love the 100 yen stores. Think Dollar Tree, but upscale. There are so many cool things to find at a 100 yen store and each store carries different things.

8. I love that we walk to and from school every day and that we can walk to the pool, commissary, mini mart, movie theater and to any friends house on base.

9. I love how wonderful our military community is here. The people I have met have been amazing wonderful people. You aren't on your own here, you've got a bunch of people to help you out when you need it.

Ok, so that's all I've got for now. I'm sure there are more things I miss and love, but that's all I can think of right now. All in all, we are happy and enjoying Japan. Nobody ever said that living overseas would be just like living in the States. If it was, then it wouldn't be as exciting to move here, now would it?!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Busy Week!!

Wow!! This last week has been busy! The girls started school again this past week and so far they really seem to like it! Hannah started 4th grade and Elliot started 1st. Both girls LOVE their teachers and have made some friends already. It's really nice that all of their friends live here on base with us, so it's easy to have play dates and such. Here are the girls all dressed up and ready for their first day.

Another big thing that happened last week, is that Josh got promoted from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander! His ceremony was September 1st and we enjoyed it very much. We started out with lunch with the rest of the wardroom and then proceeded to the conference room for the ceremony. We had our great friends the Bieszke's come show their support and also had the Chaplain and his wife come to say a prayer for Josh as he takes this next step. Friday evening we celebrated by going out for sushi!! Here are a few pictures of the ceremony.

Josh taking the oath to defend our country

Me pinning on his oak leaf
   We had a busy Labor day weekend as well. Friday night was spent out with the Bieszke's eating sushi, Saturday we played cards and ate appetizers with the Brownlee family and Sunday night we had over the Soria's, a new couple in town . We cooked out and played more cards!! Monday night we had an impromptu luau with the Stone family, who is from Hawaii. We grilled out on the habachi under the gazeebo, while some friends played the ukulele and sang some hawaiian songs. The girls and their friend, Trystan, got dressed up in hawaiian dresses and danced for us too! It was a great weekend and I'm happy we've made some new friends! 
  This week promises to be as busy as last week. Today I went to a conversational Japanese class in hopes to learn enough Japanese to speak to people out in town.  This is what I learned today. "Watashi wa Abbey desu." My name is Abbey. I also learned, "O-namae wa?" What is your name? This one cracks me up cause it's so long for three words... "Watashi wa anata wo aishite imasu." This means, "I love you."  I also learned that when you are meeting someone you should also be formal in addressing them. So, if I were to meet your mother for the first time  and her name was Judy, I would call her Judy sama, or Judy san. Sama is the utmost respectful, so maybe if I met the presidents wife, or a leader in the goverment and San is for greeting people older than you or your superior at work. They  are sort of like Mr or Mrs. For girls under 12, you would use chan after their first name. So, Elliot would be Elliot chan, which means, "little" Elliot. For boys under 12 you use kun. So Joshua Kun (little Joshua) and then Joshua Chan after he turns 12, until he reachs 18. There are A LOT of rules to follow in the Japanese language! 
   I'm also volunteering at Thrifty Treasures, which is a thrift store on Main Base. I will be sorting the donations and putting them out on racks and such. I went last week and had a blast working with the other volunteers. It's actually kinda fun to see what people have donated.. The funniest thing we found last week was a fleece Elmo vest! It was an adult sized fleece vest with a very large picture of Elmo on the back that said, "Me love Elmo." Yikes!! It's all good though, as all the money we make goes to scholarships for military families and for kids going off to college.
 So, that's it.. First week of school, promotion, great weekend, Japanese classes and volunteer work!! We're busy and we're loving Japan!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

Last Monday we were blessed to receive the ever so long awaited phone call, letting us know that our household goods (or HHG's if you can understand military language) had arrived in Sasebo. I cannot even begin to explain how excited I was to know our things would be delivered the following day! I've never been so appreciative of my personal belongings as I am now, after living without them for 2 months.
    So, the following day my good friend Kristen came and picked up the girls, while Josh and I directed movers as to where to up things. I've never had movers be so careful with  my things and work so hard to get it all into my house without any damage. They started at 9 and thought they were done around 1, until we realized that the hardware for the girls beds were no where to be found. Thus began the digging through and emptying of as many boxes as we could, to find the bag with parts in it. We finally found them in the bottom of one of Elliot's boxes of toys and they set up the beds. Here's a before and after photo of each room. There are still a few things that need to be hung on the walls and boxes that need to be moved to storage, but for having our things less than a week, it's not too bad!! 

The Kitchen

The Living Room

Dining Room

Hannah's Bedroom

Elliot's Room

Josh and my bedroom

So that's it! This is our home in Japan. I hope you enjoyed the photo tour!!