Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Oosoji (getting ready for the new year massive clean-up) Family time at home. Movie night. Tons of good eats and more...

This is basically going to be a bits and pieces post. What we have been doing since Branden and Noah went on Winter break. If you have been reading this blog for a long time, then you will know I usually try to avoid going to Costco during the holidays, if at all possible I try my best and avoid it. Such as avoiding Costco Japan during Spring break. And over Golden Week. And during Winter break. Granted...can't avoid it during summer break. Obviously...but other shorter breaks...I usually try to buy enough a day or two before the break starts. Case in point... to these 2 next pics. I think I went the Thursday... before the kids went on Christmas break. I figured. Since it was 1 day before Winter break, I would be smart to get it done then. Wrong! : ) Hahaha. I was there at 10am. And there were like a bazillion people already there. Yochien age kids must have been on Winter holidays beforehand??? @_@ OMG it was such a packed Costco. Noboru was with me that day. And I just asked him to stay with the cart and I'd do all the running around the store and he could just chill. It was like a sea of sardines. And to top it off. I was so discombobulated because I had not expected it to be *that* busy that day. I didn't even take a cart pic. We were out of the store in like 25 minutes. I bought pasta sauce. My usual was not there. @_@ So I picked up Classico. I picked up cheese and these danish for the kids and husband for Friday's breakfast, last day of school breakfast. And a pack of Dr. Peppers. So cheese, maple pecan danish and a case of Dr. Pep's.  

30 cans of Dr. Pepper.

For what it's worth...I also did my weekly shopping *this* week too (December 29th). With both my kids. I was in Inzai (where Costco is) and I avoided Costco this week like the plague. Love Costco but not on holidays or breaks. I'll visit Costco after January 8th... after all of Japan's husbands are at work and all of Japan's kids are all at school. 
All December I worked on my deep cleaning. As you know, Japan likes to start the new year with a clean house. Clean slate. So, all houses in my neighborhood work on their house all December. And really give it the hardest cleaning the final week of December. I was done with my deep house cleaning Thursday December 28th. Friday my family of 4 and I went and did the final last bit of food shopping before the new year. We bought 7 days worth on Friday December 29th. Anyway, the first week of December, I went through my food pantry. Checked dates on stuff and rearranged it all. Yet again. 

Baking stuff on one shelf. Grains (rice and beans) on another shelf along with spices.

Side dish shelf. Stove top. Noodles and rice dishes. Croutons and chili oil for Italian. And pot roast seasoning too.

Morning drink shelf along with hot cereals, peanut butter and syrups. Breakfast things basically. 
Scrubbed down my microwave slash convection oven. I never use the oven feature since, I have a regular normal American oven. But the microwave we use all the time. It got a total scrub down.This was week 2. During December. I also scrubbed down the fridge shelves. And mopped the kitchen floor that week too.

Scrubbed the little unit my microwave sits on. This shelf area got deeply cleaned.

Hand dried it but also let it sit in the sun. While inside the house.

Everything squeaky clean. Peanut butter cereal and pancake mix. Also each week in December. I did Noah's room another day and Branden's room another day. Our room another day. The living room the kids helped me with. The year end cleaning for our house... is a group family effort. 
Branden has baked 2 batches of brownies so far. This one without nuts. 

Noah baked a yellow cake and frosted it. 
This Friday after doing the weekly grocery shopping. Noboru took all of us out to lunch at the Ohsho. Our favorite Chinese restaurant. And then for supper, I asked for any requests, while at the grocery store while in Inzai still. And Noboru said he'd love a pepperoni sandwich. So, I made everyone pepperoni sandwiches, Friday night. The baguettes come from a bakery. I made a batch of fries. It was a simple but delicious dinner this Friday December 29th.
Still December 29th. After we ate our pepperoni sandwiches and fries. And after showers. We all watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We went to the TV guide channel and everyone picked a movie and everyone agreed on this. Yes, we've all seen this a million times, but it's so good and perfect. The 4 of us loved this, this past Friday.

Augustus Gloop just fell in the chocolate river and went up the pipe. And so the Oompa Loompas were about to sing their song! Their songs are so catchy!!! Seriously, they are.

With our New Years cards sent out before Christmas. And our New Years cleaning done. all that's left is...our chill time. Our family time. Relax time. Movie watching time. 
I ran out of my Biore face foam and went and bought another one, so this is a repurchase. I have been using Biore for normal skin since August. So for about 4 month's now. I love this face wash. I love the way this smells #1. I love that the foam is so thick and intense, even if you use a little amount. While they do sell Biore in America, it's seems in the US Biore is primarily targeted for pimply faced teenagers. But as you can see by the pic of the woman on this package. She's what, late 30's early 40's? Biore is marketed for women of all ages, here in Japan the land of where Biore comes from in the first place. Thanks to Kao. They do sell a Biore for acne, but they also sell one for people with dry skin and many different types of skin in between. And this regular one is for adults if you can see the woman on the package. It cleans without over stripping my face and like I said... I *love* the way this smells. And it costs only about 300-350 yen. That's just $3 bucks for us Americans. And considering most face washes in the US are what, $5-8 bucks a tube or bottle. The prices in Japan for good face washes are just way better priced. Depending on where you pick up your tube. I also have been using Biore body wash for about 12 years straight, while living in Japan. As for face washes. I have bought Korean wash washes before many times and I do like them a lot... but they're hard to get in Japan. And the one I was using started to give me a slight greasy residue after a while... so I stopped using that. I also have loved Basis Face wash and have used that since high school? The smell is so good for me. And I prefer tubes and that comes in a tube. The only thing I dislike is it is hard to find in Japan and in the US. Also, it doesn't foam up too much. Very little foam. So I still like Basis. But in August I started looking for a product in Japan. Easier for me to find locally. And I tried a few different brands of face wash. And out of them all, this smells the best to me. This Biore one smells tons better then all the ones I tried and makes such a huge amount of whipped foam, I love how much this foams up. And it doesn't strip my skin.  

Yep Biore is made by Kao.
I am currently on a makeup remover kick. You know how in Japan, we double cleanse. I love to double cleanse too. This is a cleansing balm, but in tube form. It's fairly new and see how it says HOT? It warms up slightly... when you massage your makeup off. It says it is unscented. But it has a slight scent of oranges because of an ingredient. It is a balm type texture. Think along the lines of Banila Co's, Clean It Zero (this is very good but it smells like freakin' Hawaiian Punch and is very over powering scent-wise for me)... Clinique Take the Day off, it's okay, the price is outrageous though and considering so many other brands make the same thing now days. This one by Bifesta is like those other 2... I just mentioned except it's in a tube's like a Vaseline type texture but this rinses clean without any greasy residue at all. It does not foam. It just takes your makeup off. I like this. I have used it twice so far. Do I think this is a holy grail for me? No. Would I repurchase it again? Yes. But I would also try another brand too? I do love that this is drugstore and you can buy this for around 700 yen. However Japan has so many makeup removers at the drugstore. Cleansing oils, balms and gels. I will try a few more out... before I decide. Biore face wash in the "moisture" formula which is the one for normal skin... is a definite holy grail. But as far as a makeup remover...I still haven't fallen for one yet. 

This is super nice though. And again...I have just tried it twice....I will finish my tube. And my opinion may change. I'll let you know. But it does take off every dot of my makeup. And it does smell nice. The price point is super good too. One thing I semi dislike is... it is a little hard to squeeze the balm out of the tube. Perhaps because it is so thick. Again I could be just nitpicky. It is good though, it warms up. It removes makeup. It leaves zero greasy residue. And the price is hella on point. : ) 

Exfoliants. In America we have manual exfoliators like Apricot Scrubs. In Japan we use chemical exfoliators. There are so many. Some are scented, some are unscented. This one is super cheap and was #1 in Japan in 2015. This company has been around for ages. 

My thoughts? I like it. I also like the scent. And I'm pretty picky about scents. Granted it's not amazing and lovely like my Biore face wash. But the scent isn't bad at all. If I am not being lazy I will use an exfoliant. But honestly a lot of times, I am lazy and I won't. I wash my face every morning with my Biore face foam/wash and every night, I double cleanse if I wear makeup that day (with either a makeup wipe, miccellar water, cleansing oil or balm and finish up with my Biore face wash/foam.) If I don't wear makeup, I'll just use my Biore face wash at night without double cleaning obviously. : ) And I use face lotion daily. And sunscreen on my face, when I go out. But usually that's it. I have had so many exfoliators in the past half used...and not because they were no good...but because I simply didn't use them regularly enough. I hope I can use this one up. The price on this was about 400 yen. 

Japan is starting to get extremely cold now, weather-wise. And I picked up a new lip balm. This is supposed to be very moisturizing. And it is. Same type of lip balm texture as the Nivea ones, except it smells of delicious yuzu.

The scent is yuzu. I love yuzu. I like to drink yuzu in drinks and eat yuzu in dried snack form. 

My hands are getting super dry now that the weather has gotten so cold. This is a repurchase. I fell in love with this scent last year. Smells like shampoo. Be careful if you buy this... and you don't read Japanese...because there are 3 different varieties. The one in the pink polka dot tube smells like baby powder. I have no desire to smell like baby butt. So don't buy the one in the pink polka dot tube. And the blue one smells like soap bubbles. I have not smelled that yet... but I'm sorta meh on the thought. This one in the pink tube with lace printed on the tube... smells like shampoo and this one smells so freaking fantastically great. Best scent ever for a hand cream. And it's only 500 yen a tube. 

So in a nut shell...I basically have been enjoying my Japanese local drug store lately. : )
Almost night during Winter break. The kids and I... we all made a dish. Noah made the side dish. Buttered noodles. 

Branden baked brownies with nuts this time. And useful tip. For years. I used a metal knife to cut up my brownies. And they always cut horribly bad. Like chunked up. I let them sit. I checked online and the tip from some cooking site. The Cooking channel. Martha Stewart. I don't remember. Was it the Pioneer Woman? Anyway...wherever I read it. They suggested use a plastic knife and never to use a metal knife. Let the brownies cool though all the way first. I half believed it. But I tried it and OMG it works like a charm every time. Why plastic over metal knife? I don't know. I'm no scientist. But it works. I have since mentioned this tidbit on my blog twice so far. And wanted to mention it again. I made pork chops. We had a store bought mixed salad. To even out our dinner. I love that the kids are on Winter break. We have been baking. Cooking together. Watching movies together at home. I read today that it snowed a bit in Tokyo? Just a dusting for a short amount of time. Hasn't snowed in my town. But, as far as the news about Tokyo for about 20 minutes today...I do believe it though. Because honestly it's been so cold. Anyway...have a lovely New Year all of you. I have been boiling a big pot of beans on the stove all day. I have a big pork loin in the fridge. I will fry it and bake it and dice it later, as soon as I post this. We will have a big pot of pork green chili. A big pot of beans and we have 3 packs of tortillas. And a huge hunk of Longhorn/Colby cheese. So dinner for New Year's is set. And Noah will be baking us a red velvet cake today with cream cheese frosting and we will have vanilla ice cream to go with it. Happy New Year to you all!!!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas 2017...

How was everyone's Christmas? I sincerely hope it was merry and bright for all of you. : ) Ours was quiet, as usual... very low key and WONDERFUL. I did take a few days off from the computer because I wanted to focus on my family 100%. So I'm sorry for the delay and all. But like I said, I know you all understand. And even now. While my kids are on Christmas break, I won't be blogging as much and as often. And many of my posts will be delayed. But that's just because... I am enjoying our time. I know once January 8th rolls around, I will be running around and busy and the kids will be too. So for now...I am just enjoying the relax time that we are having together. : ) I am sure you all understand. So anyway...the Christmas post 2017. I baked 2 pumpkin pies. Handmade butter crust. And they came out fantastic. That was dessert for Christmas dinner... done the day beforehand.
I appreciate that Christmas dinner is a little simpler than Thanksgiving. It's still amazing. But it's still way easier. I made a delicious honey ham. Basted it 3 times during the time it baked in the oven. The flavor is *so* good. Branden and Noah peeled all the potatoes for the homemade gratin potatoes. I taught both Bran and Noah how to make my gratin roux. Noah grated the cheese, he's *such* a good kid. Bran made the roux, granted I stood by, but they both learned. Noah baked the cornbread. We 3 plated the salad together. I made the broccoli. We listened to Gwen Stefani Christmas songs. Pentatonix. Some Christmas songs by Sia and some Christmas songs by Sam Smith too. While we baked and got our Christmas dinner made. Noboru unfortunately had to work. He's taking off *many* days in April, so that's why. 
My plate. Honey baked ham, gratin potatoes from scratch, some hot buttery cornbread, some broccoli and for dessert a slice of pumpkin pie with some whipped cream. 
Some of the many packages that got shipped to our house starting from the first week of December. Which I hid and then wrapped while the boys were at school. The boys had a fantastic Christmas and got everything they were hoping for. : )

A watch....
All Fall... Branden had been asking for a watch. I knew he would get one. I told both my kids now that they're older. If there is something you would like on Amazon, email me the link. You may or may not get it for Christmas. And this was the watch Branden had been wishing for. Dreaming about. Obviously he would get it. : ) But, I kept a poker face all December about it. : ) 
Bliss. When you get that special something-something. Ykwim? When you're a teen. It's magical. : ) 

He took these 2 pics himself and Line-ed me them and much he loves his watch. The boys got a good 6 or 7 presents each. Not hundreds but enough for them to each feel special. But this was clearly his most favorite gift. 
This will be released to movie theaters in Japan, January 2018. This one was a joint gift.. for both the boys. So 6 or 7 gifts each.. plus this one was an extra for the both of them. : ) 

This travel bag on the left was only like $5 or $6 bucks. But it has really high reviews. When ladies leave reviews on Sephora they're usually super honest... if they hate it... they say, they hate it. But almost everyone who has bought this Sephora clear travel bag loves it. They say their stuff zips right through the TSA so easily. Plus none of their toiletries leak. They said the lipstick pic has glitter. And that is true, so cute. I also loved the sunglasses and passport pic. It made me think..perfect for travel. Also, I have and use makeup brushes at home. Normal size ones. However, I do travel quite a bit. And when I do fly to Guam or to Hawaii or take small trips to Hakone etc. lugging long/normal size cosmetic brushes is a pain. I have been wanting a nice simple set of travel brushes. I have been checking in Target when I'm near one...but haven't seen a set I liked...looks-wise. And I have looked in Japan too. Again didn't find a set that I liked looks-wise. This set comes in basic black and in this neutral color. I usually prefer black colored stuff if given the choice. But for whatever reason...I did not like the look of the brushes in black at all. Like at all, at all. However...I loved this set in neutral. And I usually hate pink colored *anything*. So...even though these are neutral and more tan than pink...I surprised myself that I liked this set. Also I noticed in the reviews online...most ladies, girls and women were reviewing the neutral sets. So maybe...this sets is more attractive for American women...or I don't know. But this color got me too. And like I said...I do travel quite a bit and I needed a nice simple set. A set that didn't cost a fortune. And a set I like and will actually use. 

And that lipstick has shimmery glitter to it. It's such a cute but basic useful travel bag. 

Love these. When I travel I can just throw these in my cosmetic bag and go on vacation for a week or two. Perfect size for when I travel.

Eye shadow palette from Tarte.

I love makeup, that doesn't look like you're wearing makeup. I have been wanting this neutral palette for ages. I can use every color in this because they're all neutrals and I gravitate towards neutrals. So all in all...we all had a nice quiet Christmas here. We all 4 got what we wanted. It was a nice dinner. And the best thing about cooking a big meal at Christmas is that you pretty much don't have to make dinner or lunch the next day at all. And we ate ham until Wednesday afternoon the last was ham sandwiches that day...for Wednesday night's dinner last night... is when I made something different. But pretty much...lunches and dinner for a day or two...are taken care of because we made such a big dinner on Christmas. : ) I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. And ate plenty of good food. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The boys are on Christmas break from school now. And yep, we baked 3 more dozen Christmas cookies today...

Just a quick little catch up from me... super duper quick! Both Branden and Noah started their Christmas break from school yesterday/Friday December 22nd. They do not go back to school until January 8th.

The kids and I baked a 2nd batch of homemade Christmas cookies this morning together all 3 of us. Half are pictured here. Three dozen you guys! We now have tons of fresh Christmas cookies from scratch to munch all weekend. Noboru is munching one right now... as I type. We baked pretty vibrant Christmas trees and stars again. I also made 2 pie crusts this morning after we finished the cookies. So tomorrow morning, I can bake us 2 fresh pumpkin pies for Christmas dinner this coming Monday. Baking them 1 day ahead just saves me time.

All things from Amazon (Japan and the US) and Sephora and stuff arrived from the US and yes the DVDs made it, phew. And everything is wrapped up and under the tree. We have absolutely nothing to buy. Nowhere to run. We're all set.

Last night we had curry soup nabe, all 4 of us. A family favorite of ours. And tonight we are having nikujaga. Tomorrow night we will eat homemade American style fried chicken made by me. Noboru *loves* my homemade fried chicken and Japanese folks, usually buy it from KFC at Christmas time in Japan, so he's stoked for mine tomorrow night. Mashed potatoes and gravy. And dinner rolls from our favorite bakery. And some broccoli. We'll have a pretty simple, but delicious homemade meal here at home for Christmas eve. And for Christmas dinner. We'll be having a spiral sliced honey ham. Marinated with a honey and pineapple juice concoction that is just so delicious. We'll have homemade gratin potatoes, cornbread. Broccoli. Black olives. Salad and pumpkin pie. And we'll be eating ham sandwiches for days after that. Yum. : ) Have a wonderful Christmas all of you.  Eat lots of good food. Be happy, kind and smile. : )

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Noah's Cross Country Marathon at the local elementary school...

In Japan at many elementary schools, kids do a Cross Country race, in Japan we simply call it their marathon. Our school in our tiny town does the same thing at our local elementary school. Grades 1 all the way to the 6th grade. All grades, every child participates. There is a lead up beforehand... where the kids all practice for a good 3-4 weeks beforehand. Our school has the kids runs laps around the school field. The day of the big race. The kids at our particular school run around the natural terrain of our part of Japan. So the kids in our town who attend this school they run laps around rice fields. All grades run 1 lap. How far, the specific distance is determined by which grade you are in. And all 5th and 6th graders run the farthest and they have to run 2 huge laps. It's exhausting for them. But they all manage to do it. When Noah was younger, in the 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade Noah was super into running. He loved it. He lived for it. And he won many medals. But after the 3rd grade he told me, "mommy I'm not into running anymore" And I said...I love you no matter what, win or lose. I just want you happy." And so after the 3rd grade, he has always ran for pleasure and with a great big smile on his face. No more medals granted...but he's so happy running. He came in 17th place out of both grade of boys so about a total of about 50 (25 from each grade). So not too shabby. This pic was taken after we parked Noboru's super tiny mini minivan, can park here perfectly. My car is too big to fit on this tiny narrow space. But his car fits so nicely here. Noah's Cross Country day was Tuesday, December 12th.

We came right at the time the 4th graders were finishing up. And we saw the 5th and 6th grade girls run first. I cheered and clapped for some of Noah's good friends. And then the 5th and 6th grade boys went next. They were the final team running in the cross country. : ) This pic is of the 5th and 6th grade boys. Go Noah go!!! Have fun!!! Those cars belong to parents watching the kids run. We too parked along the rice field roads. The streets are closed off around here for thru traffic on race day. Good thing we all live in such a tiny town. That us parents can just park along the outskirts of where the kids all had their race. : )

This was Noah's final 2nd lap. His first lap was all smiles. And this lap, I have a nice smile captured too. But I let Noah pick out his 1 pic that he would like to share on here and he picked this one. : ) He said...because it shows him running. Awww. We love you so much Noah!!!