31 December 2009

Christmas (Numero Dos)

The Hubby and I were truly blessed to have a wonderfully quiet and lazy Christmas holiday.
My Mom sent our presents early, so we had gifts from "Santa" and from each other under the tree.

Christmas day came and went & we loved it.
Then yesterday, 5 days after.. Justin picked up 7 boxes from the post office!
[Yes, 7!!]

It was Christmas alll over again. I loved every minute of it.

I may or may not have gotten misty.
I may or may not have opened the boxes very, very slowly.
I may or may not have stuck my nose in the box to smell my Mom's house.
I may or may not have put on a sweater she handed down to me and nearly cried when it smelled like her.
I may or may not have acted like a child last night.

So, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The pictures of my brothers and Mom are already hanging on the wall.
The Pajama's from my cousin were worn to bed last night.
The tea has already been brewed.
The sweaters are already hanging in the closet.
The socks - are amazing!
The CD has already been listened to.
The cookies have been tasted.
The mittens were worn last night in the cold.
The scarf is ah-mazing.
And the jam, was perfect on my toast this morning.

I can't say it enough, but these people (these beautiful people) -didn't have to send us anything.
But let me just say: there is nothing like having gifts from home. Just knowing that we were in your thoughts over the holiday was enough, but it was really special to open hand-picked gifts from everyone.
We loved it all..
But we love you even more!
Distance does NOT stand in the way of the unconditional love I have for my family and friends.
And right now, I truly understand that.

Tonight is New Year's Eve and I couldn't think of a better frame of mind to start the new year with!
Sending all my love and thoughts out to you all as you say goodbye to 2009 and give a warm welcome to the fresh start 2010 brings!

30 December 2009

A Year in Photos!

"To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before and which shall never see again."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson



Have a very Happy New Year!

29 December 2009

Dinner goes Greek - CYT style.

[Note: CYT is the acronym I use for the Cook Yourself Thin recipe book. The Hubby doesn't feel like he is eating she-she-foofy food if I say it is from the CYT book rather than the girly-book-with-the-black-dress-on-it. What he doesn't know doesn't hurt him.. it actually makes him healthier!]

Back in NY, one city away from my hometown, there is a wonderfully-delicious Greek restaurant. 
It was a special treat for our family and on my birthday, since we could decide what we wanted for dinner, I usually requested take-out.
Also, the Hubby and I had a special dinner there when we first started dating.
& I've introduced many family and friends to my love of Greek food through this restaurant.
[I'm definitely not salivating all over my computer desk right now...]

This is the restaurant that introduced me to the world of eggplant, lamb, cucumber dip, and feta cheese.
Needless to say, I've definitely been craving Greek food. 
So, as I was flipping through my recipe books, I found a similar recipe for lamb kebabs out of Cook Yourself Thin.

image via Amazon.com

Here is the page for the recipe, from their TV website on Lifetime.

It was so easy to make and it fed my craving for some Mediterranean flavors. I did not serve mine with the yogurt, I served it on top of some brown rice with a Greek-style salad on the side.
I got a thumbs up from the Hubby - which means this recipe is a real gem, since he is the disgruntled food critic...
Living overseas and shopping from our commissary can be limiting. So I had to make some substitutions..
but overall, I was able to cook it up according to the recipe..

If you don't have this recipe book, buy it.
They also have a new book called, Cook Yourself Thin Faster, which is the next recipe book I buy.

image via Amazon.com

I have used MANY recipes from my book, which is evident by the food-crusted pages...
It has gotten a lot of use in my house & although I haven't seen a dramatic change in my body shape, I feel TONS better about eating delicious and satisfying food that is well portioned and overall healthy!

All of the recipes are available on the internet on the websites above. [but just for good measure, you can click ---> here. Or here. Or here. ]

28 December 2009

Promises for the Future.

So we have a 50/50 split about resolutions.
Some people make them and keep them.
Some people make them and break them.
Some people don't make them at.all.

Do it or don't do it, There is no doubt that people are full of anticipation and curiousity of what the new year (& new decade) will bring us.

Every year, I present my hopes for the future -  to the universe. Clearly, most everything is beyond my control. But, by doing this, I feel that I'm putting my best-positivity out there.

In addition to this, I'm taking this new year to simplify my life.
New Year = Fresh Start.
Kate from Centsational Girl has the right idea:

Go check her out. 

This new year, I'm starting with a lightened heart, mind, and home. 

26 December 2009

Mail Call- New Year Edition

I wanted to share our New Years Card with everyone.
Without all the stamps.

Enjoy the rest of 2009!

Dec. 24 & 25 (a summary)

It was a wonderfully-lazy Christmas here in Japan.
We spent Christmas Eve having dinner with some friends. Thanks for cooking!
We went home and settled in for the night.
We suprisingly woke up relatively early.
[Probably instincts from being a kid are lingering around in my 20's.]
So our gifts were opened by 9:00! A.M.!! 

We had a bunch of holiday phonecalls & one of my favorites...
My Aunts and cousins sang, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" to us!
I was all smiles! 

Within our $50 budget, we both were able to find some terrific gifts!
I spent all last night organizing all my crafting supplies in my new ENORMOUS craft container!
Woo Hoo!

We did not take a picture of our Christmas because we spent the day:
-in our pajamas
-on the couch
-grazing on food
-taking a nap
-watching a Christmas movie marathon

The weather was nothing short of gorgeous. Blue-Sunny skies. 50 degree weather. But we did not take advantage of it. We were too comfy to move off the couch.
Plus, Justin was still a little under the weather and coughing...

Christmas is over..moving on to..
Are you pro or con??

23 December 2009

Review of a Japanese Custom

Yesterday was the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year...
Nothing to really have a party about, but I take note of it
..simply because it is on the calendar and is the first day of my least favorite season.
Well at class last night...
My fabulous students introduced me to their custom of soaking in a bath of yuzu.
This is a yuzu:

[photo via Wikipedia]

This fruit is small, typically very tart, and part of the citrus family. It is rarely used in food, in Japan.  But can be used like a lemon just to add some zest to a dish. Other ways to use it is in liqueur, marmalade, cakes, vinegar, and some sauces.
I used it in a bath.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say:
"Yuzu is also known for its characteristically strong aroma, and the oil from its skin is marketed as a fragrance. In Japan, bathing with yuzu on Toji (the winter solstice) is a popular custom. The whole fruits are floated in the hot water of the bath (sometimes enclosed in a cloth bag), releasing their aroma. The fruit may also be cut in half, allowing the citrus juice to mingle with the bathwater. The 'yuzuyu,' or yuzu bath, is said to guard against colds, warm the body, and relax the mind."

Last night would have been perfect for a long relaxing bath after a night of teaching & such.
But, the universe had other plans... the Hubby rolled his ankle in a basketball game & my washer decided to leak its disgusting standing water all over my kitchen floor.
So this morning, after the Japanese maintenance guy made my house smell gag-worthy..
and after I scurried around picking up the small messes we had made over the past few days..
and after the Hubby came home with Burger King that made my house smell additionally gag-worthy...
and after I put my 3rd load of laundry in...
and after I blew out all the candles I lit to hide the smell of the said gag-worthy smells....

I stopped everything I was doing.
I turned on the hot water.
I lit one, lavender-vanilla, candle.
I grabbed a warm-fluffy towel from the dryer.
I turned on some Christmas music.
I listened to the [BYU v OREGON ST.] game that the Hubby was watching in the living room...
I pulled up my hair.
and I soaked in yuzu.filled.water.

The aroma is very soothing. I cut them slightly. Wrapped the yuzu up in a washcloth and tied them off with a hair-tie. I soaked for about 20 minutes. It was wonderful.
It's amazing. I am so warm. Warm enough to cuddle up on my bed for an afternoon nap!
Oh the joys of being on vacation. siighhh.. yawwn...
After my snooze, the Hubby and I are going out for dinner with his co-worker & his girlfriend that just arrived to Japan for Christmas.
We are going to a local brewery for some italian food and beer!

Happy day-before-Christmas-Eve!
Stay Cozy!

21 December 2009

A Simply Simple Holiday.

I'm in love with vintage Christmas Cards. My Mom sent me a very cute card with a vintage Christmas image on it this year (Thanks!).

Enjoy your Christmas season. Don't forget to:
Think twice before dropping $300 on a present. 
(Does he really need a North Face Jacket? -he is only 10. 
Does she really need a Coach Purse?- she is only 16.)
Find a simpler way to show you care.
(Make something home-made. Or give your time and volunteer!)
Wrap yourself in the warmth of love not gifts.
(Just enjoy spending precious time with family, not spending precious cash on gifts.)
Instead of spending hours in line at the Mall, sit and enjoy hot-coco and Charlie Brown Christmas.

On my list of things to do this week?
1. Wrap up the gifts for The Hubby.
    a. Double Check the receipts - we had a $50 cap!
2. Review and re-Review the recipes for Christmas Dinner.
3. Make sure Skype works for Christmas morning with my Mom.
4. Bake some cookies.
5. Enjoy all the TV Christmas Episodes & Movies.
6. Drive around base to see all the Christmas Decorations.
7. Sleep in.
8. Listen to my favorite Christmas Music.

I'm sure you are all getting ready for traveling...
For more family time than you have had in a while...
& Possibly for some traditions (good & bad).

Be safe driving, flying, or train-riding.
Be good house guests.
Be patient with family.
Be patient with traditions.
Be thankful for holidays.

Be Merry!

19 December 2009

Random Assortment of Things.

Hello! Happy-almost-Christmas!!

This week was exhausting.
And I'm really happy that this 2 week break decided to work itself into my schedule at just the right moment. Another week of craziness and I would have gladly hopped in a kayak and started for the States.

Kayaking?? Yes - it is true. Google Maps suggests a kayak to take across the Pacific ocean to get back to the states. 
 [Don't believe me?? Go to Google. Click on Maps. Click on Get Directions. Type in Tokyo for A. Type in New York City for B. VoilĂ ! Scroll down to about 23-25ish. Kayak across Pacific Ocean. No Joke.]


I love working with kids. And I love working at the Middle School. 
But: I don't love working with students high on candy canes/soda/pizza/ and chocolate. 
And I don't love working with Teacher's that are crabby and in need of a (much deserved) day off. 
So Hallelujah - for some time away!

The Hubby was put on Quarters for the past couple days. He has been so sick. 
I never see him like this. This one really knocked him out of comission for a couple days. 
So, I set up the living room all comfy for him and stocked up on ramen, cold meds, cough drops, and water.
And I stayed as far away from him as a could. I do not, I repeat, DO NOT want to get sick for Christmas. 
Oh and the fact that I turn into a pathetic-pitiful-whiner when I get sick - so the Hubby was understanding. 
He fell asleep on the couch and I shut myself in the bedroom. And that's how its been since Thursday. 
What's funny is that we miss each other. Neither of us can wait until he gets better so we can get back to Christmas stuff. We haven't even driven around to see all the lights yet! Geesh
So my fingers are crossed that his immune system kicks this cold in the butt --so we can get on with our lives...

Tonight: I'm going to a Christmas Concert with T! Two of our students sing in a gospel choir and we will be attending the concert together! We might even have time to stop off for a little sushi beforehand. Yum!
This weekend, If you are traveling, stay safe.
If you are shopping, stay safe too. (Last minute shopping can be brutal!).
If you are sick, feel better.
And if you are starting winter break, christmas break, or just a few days off on the weekend, RELAX!

Remedy for a crazy holiday season?
Made-for-TV Christmas movies, hot coco (or [my fav] hot apple cider), and some cookies!

17 December 2009

Holiday Mail.

I was so-beginning to think we were forgotten over here in Japan.
I was really beginning to think Japan is just too far.
I was beginning to think that I had some serious shopping to do..
I was beginning to notice all that space under the Christmas tree.

But -Yesterday I had the biggest surprises in the mail box -
I had Christmas Cards from family and friends
& a huge package from Mama Bear - She is awesome. And very on top of things (sorry I doubted you.)!

I'm happy to report, there are gifts under the tree & cards up on the garland!
Tomorrow is my final day of work. Monday is my final day of school.
{Then I have 2 weeks off!}
Yes, that's right. TWO WEEKS!!
I see lots of reading & naps in the near future...

OHHH and in the forcast for Japan we are expected to get some flurries.
Nothing to really write home about - But, that means I might have to leave the house a little earlier to (maybe) scrape some frost off of the windshield. Exiting things happening here at Yokota AB.
Woo.hoo. Don't be too jealous.

Happy last minute holiday-ing!

16 December 2009


If I had one wish to make right this minute.
I would wish for three buttons.
I know you all have felt the need for some buttons in your life.
Buttons that you can press....
When things get overwhelming.
When you want to hold on to a moment for just a little bit longer.
To linger on a good-bye kiss.
To get through deployments.
Here is what I would use them for: 

Fast forward:
I would use this button to go through the grocery store.
[& I would continue to use it while I unload them in my house].
I would use it to quickly get through tearful nights. 

I would use this to stay in a nap for a few extra minutes.
Or to give myself a few more minutes seeing his face.
Maybe I would use it to give myself a minute to think.


I would use this to take back my word.vomit.
I would also use rewind to remember my memories a little clearer.

15 December 2009


Some of my favorite and best moments are captrured by a [cheap] point&shoot camera.
Of course I would love, I mean really REALLY love, a new camera.
But: there is no money for me to buy what I want.
I digress.

My point is:
A little blur in the photos, for me, is okay.
They aren't high quality. Actually they have zero quality.
But what they do have is content.
Here are some of my favorite blurry photos:
[[WARNING: You may go cross-eyed looking at this. Sorry-in advance.]]

Sometimes the blurry ones capture the essence of the moment.
Usually they just sit in computer files. Discarded. Unworthy.
When in fact - they are very worthy.

[[I dusted mine off and showcasing them here.]] 

"The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play."
-Arnold J. Toynbee-

14 December 2009

Holiday Party.

I want to show some love for the fabulous men and women that make up the English classes that T and I teach.
I mean look at these faces:

How could not love them??
I've talked about them many,many times (here, here, and here).
They are family here in Japan. For a year and 1/2 they have been my Japanese Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters.

Life has a way of bringing people into our lives..
I can't even tell you how many times I've wanted to [suspend time] & soak up the bond I have with these people. Just for a moment. Take it all in.
Love transcends cultures, beliefs, and language. 

The party was a cross-cultural feast. We had a table full of Japanese home-made goodness.
I know my palate has been transformed when I can pick up a pickled-burdock-root and think...
Mmm. Not.half.bad.
And I know my food cravings have transformed when comfort food switches from pasta to white sticky rice.
T and I supplied the Christmas Cookies and some appetizers.
This year we did a Secret-Santa-Exchange. Which was a blast!
I'm particularly pleased with how everyone actually kept their secret!! :)
We laughed, chatted, played games, had some wine, chatted some more, and laughed (and laughed a little more).

Momo was the life of the party. She performed a hip-hop performance. Ummm. Incredible! No Joke this kid could out dance me any day of the week. She also brought along this box & it was full of mis-matched playing cards. Kids really do find joy in even the simplist of things.
Aka? Kuro? Ju? Go?
Can you find the card?

Her and her Grandmother, Miki-chan, are so darn cute!
Just take a look:

You know it was good party when you crash from exhaustion and fun!
Not an alcohol-hangover. It's a holiday-party-hangover.
What a great way to end the year. I am SO looking forward to the next one with them!
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family:
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, [wherever you are], you need one."
-Jane Howard-


Sometimes Life is Messy has a new-do!!
[And I'm a bit in love with it.]
So I must give credit where credit is due (because surely, it is not I doing this)....

Dirt & Lace Designs took care of all my blogging designing needs.
If you are considering a do-over, a re-do, a new-do, or just something to-do..
Go and Check.Her.Out.
This beauty of a blog took about 3 days start-to-finish, and it is fabulous.

I heard about Stephanie from Jessica @ Learning As We Go.
Jessica, that lucky-duck, won a give-away! And her blog looks Ah-mazing!
Sure enough.. I was ready to take my blogging to the next level.
AND you-bet-your-tush that I'll go back to Stephanie for all of my blogging wants (who are we kidding, they're needs!)

So the BIGGEST shout out to Steph and Jess for contributing to my revamp!

12 December 2009

An Award!

Steph @ Watching Airplanes awarded me this:

 Thank you ever-so-much! It made my Saturday complete!

The rules are simple.
1. List 10 things that make me happy.
2. Tag 10 bloggers that brighten my day.
So, first 10 things that make me happy.

[[In no particular order]]
1. Love. People in love. Love stories. Romance. Being in love. It all just makes me happy.
2. Family. And my family-away-from family here in Japan.
3. Education. (a.k.a. Brain Food)
4. Modern Communication. Facebook. E-mail. Skype.
5. Friends. Near and Far. Old and New. :)
6. Chai Tea Latte with soy milk. And the people that make them on base make me happy too!
7. Finding good deals makes me happy. Clearance and sale racks.
8. Being creative. Scrapbooking. Decorating. Making cards.
9. Being a foreigner. It makes me happy when I figure something out or learn something new - just from being a foreign person in a foreign place.
10. Blogging. I know dorky to put in here. But honestly, I didn't think my blogging would amount to much. It has changed me. Reading all of your blogs makes me happy. Thank you! 

On to tagging the blogs that make me happy:

Madeline P.  @ Uber Chic for Cheap
Katie @ Loves of Life
Rachel @ and if it's a hero you want, i can save you
 Meg (SunshineMeg) @ Float on...
Kate @ Centsational Girl
Jenny @ Bits & Pieces of My Life
Jennifer@ Crazy Shenanigans
Kell @ Unnecessary Drama
Ashley Paige @ i love you more than carrots
J.L.S.  @ Better When We're Together

These are just the handful of blogs that keep my spirits up. 
Because the truth is, I'm in love with all the blogs I'm following. And I'm always looking for new discoveries to add to my reading list! 

So: Keep Blogging!

11 December 2009

Tree of Life.

If you could add what you wanted to a tree of life...

What would it be? 

“A life is like a tree - if you don't make it straight when its young and green, you'll never do it when it's old and dry.”


10 December 2009

Locked Out & Biographies

As I'm going up the elevator - my mind is wandering to the hot tea (Tazo-Joy) that is screaming my name and the delicious chili on the menu tonight.

I'm a bit exhausted. The hubby has been needing our one (and only) car to cart his gear back and forth to work. So-I've been take my bike (I like to ride my bicyle...I like to ride my bike - Queen fans anyone?!) - Which - by the way- has been awesome. I've lost 2 pounds this week which directly influenced by my new means of transportation. I digress.

Back in the elevator - I'm practically drooling over the meal I'm going to be making. I should really get started on it, so it can simmer and get all delish.

I'm juggling my bags in my arms (that were just previously juggling on my handlebars of my bike) - get to the door, which should be unlocked since I don't have a key....again, because I'm riding my bike. [insert loud gasp] The door won't open. It.is.locked.
Just for good measure - I turn the knob both ways....nope.definitely locked.

I'm rifling through my bag - looking for the keys, that I know aren't there. nope. definitely not there.

ugh. The Hubby must have come home for lunch (which is unusual lately) and forgot to leave it open for me. Oy Vey! My cellphone is locked inside the apartment. What to do?
I could go to his work. BUT they are playing war this week, so who knows where the war zone begins. I might become a casualty. And who knows if he is even "alive" to be able to hand over the keys. So. yea. not-an-option.

I sling my purse over my shoulder and leave my other bags hanging on the door handle. I get back into that elevator, which has the drool on the floor from when I was thinking about the chili in  the near (the now distancing) future. What are my options?
I could go back to work and try to get a hold of him. I don't really want to go back there.
I could go wander around the BX for 3 hours.
I could take a bike ride.
I could go and sit at the cafe for a couple hours.
So- as you can see, I'm not overly concerned with how to fill my time. Its just a matter of choosing what to do to fill up the 3-4 hours before the Hubby gets out.
At this point, I decide just to go with the flow. Before I knew it I was back on my bike and found my self pedaling to the library. I just finished a book, The Road, and decided to go search for a new one.
Libraries are somewhat stressful for me, there are so many choices... And if you don't know me - making choices (especially at restaurants) is not easy for me.
Soon-I'll have 2 weeks of winter break. One of them completely free from ANYTHING...SO I thought I would put together a little reading list for myself.
I'm big on fiction. I love getting wrapped up in love stories of fictional characters in their made-up world. And I gravitate towards tearjerkers, lovey-dovey stories, and anything by Jodi Picoult (which was a recent discovery with her book 19 Minutes).
BUT: There are some real-life stories of people with incredible lives of success/tragedy/love/everything-in-between. I want to know about them and I want to read their life stories. Therefore, I hightailed it to Biography and skimmed the collection.
Here are my choices:
1. Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel (just for fun!)
2. Audrey Hepburn (I'm fascinated by her)
3. Einstein (just because..)
4. Isoroku Yamamoto (In light of the recent anniversary of Pearl Harbor)
5. A Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood (I'm pretty excited about this one)

They are all very different on purpose.
Often the non-fiction books I choose are on these subjects:
-the Holocaust-WWII the European front-
-Salem Witch Trials-(I just read The Heretic's Daughter-its a ficitional novel by Kathleen Kent)-
-Mental Institutions in America late 20th Century-
I've seriously read tons of books on these things. Strange I know. But I'm drawn to these periods of time.

Clearly - in addition to stuffing my face with Christmas cookies I am going to be broadening my mind to some fascinating people and stories.

Oh & of course I picked up The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult.
Six books in Six Weeks.

Challenge? Yes.
Possible? I think so.
Stupid? Highly Debatable.


09 December 2009


99% of the time I'm able to function with a broken heart. 
But, that 1% is enough to stop you in your tracks. 

My heart broke into a million little pieces the day my dad died. 
And I'm positive that I'll always have a chip on my heart, even if I manage to put it back together. 
I bring myself to tears as I enjoy the memories
They may hurt like hell...
but it is all I have left.

This is my first year spending the holidays away from home. 
Although - I am ancipating many new traditions, I'm still longing for old ones...

...what I would give for just another moment with him.


08 December 2009

Holiday Faux Pas.

The holiday season brings people hustling & bustling
Amidst all the craziness, don't forget your manners
Or your Common Sense!! 

It's like they can be lost in the frenzy.
Maybe they took a holiday vacation. 
Maybe they flew south with the geese for the winter. 
Where-ever they are, get them back!!! 

Here are some Holiday [DON'Ts]! 

1. Don't Hate On Someone's Bake Goods. 
Especially if they are still in the room!!! Baking is a delicate and testy little skill. It takes precision and a good oven. Just ask Martha! But, if you find yourself choking down a cookie - just politely excuse yourself or tell Mr./Mrs. Baker that you will enjoy these with a glass of coffee later - then and only then, in private can you throw them out. 

2. Knocking Over People When Shopping. 
Avoid taking frustrations out on strangers. Please don't blame me if you weren't able to get to the store in time for the extra-30%-off-already-reduced-prices. The best way to avoid pissing people off is to have a plan. Create a list of things and designate a spcific route to take. It will cut down on cost and frustrations! 

3. Being obnoxiously Overly Excited During The Holidays. 
With all the baking, card sending, gift buying, gift wrapping, gift shipping - its a marathon of a season. Be Happy - Be Cheerful, but if the other people around you are frazzled and fried, perhaps lay off the caffiene and back away from the tinsel! You could just be the straw that breaks Rudolf's back!! 

4. Recieving a Gift You Didn't Plan For. 
Just saying, "Oh you shouldn't have, because I didn't get you anything" doesn't fly. If this sort of things happens - remain calm, but most importantly remain tactful
You could say that you didn't know when you were exchanging gifts and you were going to deliver yours in person. 
Or that you must have left it under the tree. 
I always buy a few extra gifts for the just in case situations (I call them J.I.C. presents). Maybe buy a couple candles and place them under the tree with a bow around them. This way your friends/co-workers/neighbors/supervisors/gym buddy/fellow-chess-club-member feels like you put as much energy as they did! 

5. Getting Hammered at the Office Christmas Party. 
There are a couple exceptions: 
a. If everyone else is hammered, then you might be okay. 
b. If someone is obviously more hammered than you and is being more embarrassing, then you might be okay. 
c. If your not the only one making out with a co-worker then you might be okay. 
If none-of-the-above is applicable - keep your wild-child-holiday-party girl/guy in check. 
This way you avoid humiliation during the coming year. 

6. Having Sex/Very-Personal Argument in the Next Room While Visiting Family. 
If you could avoid this, it would save you from a whole-lotta awkwardness through the holidays.

7. Re-gift Something to the Person That Gave It To You. 
This is just embarassing. plain.and.simple
If you are unsure about who gave it to you - it is best if you do.not. - I REPEAT - do.not. re-gift it. Just be on the safe-side. You don't want to forever be known as the re-gifter just because you wanted to get rid of a hideous Christmas sweater. Better to donate it. 

8. Avoid the following topics during discussion: 
[Religion. Politics. Race. Sexual Orientation.]

Just keep.your.mouth.shut. Practice a little restraint
It's the holidays-for goodness sake! Let.it.go. 
You and your debating partner might enjoy a heated convo about Politics - but truuuust me. NOT A SINGLE OTHER PERSON CARES. I promise. 

9. Avoid showing too much skin. 
Now in areas where it is particularly chilly. (snowy even.) This is just dumb. 
It's considered a cry for unnecessary and very un-practical attention. 
In areas where it's sunny - avoid looking sleazy on Christ's b-day. 

10. Find other ways to express your holiday cheer. 
Even though you may think matching your shoulder-padded-wool-sweater with a god-awful amount of gold-threaded-gift boxes embroidered on it, with your candy-cane earrings and holiday socks, is showing you are ready for this holiday. 
It really should be kept in your closet. Express your excitement through wrapping your gifts, baking your cookies, and decorating the house. Please. and. Thank-you. 

This is a holiday about family.love.joy.simplicity.gathering.giving.&sharing.

(Treat it as such!)

Mac & Cheese

So - Last night I made some mac & cheese - I updated my facebook status to reflect this achievement and WHOA - Holy requests for the recipe!! 

It was really yummy!
Super-Super Easy. 
With the exercise going on this week - The recipe is really filling and can easily be doubled. And - it is comfort food. Which is perfect for after their 12-hour shift to come home and the house smells good and the food tastes good.  And trust me... It.is.good.

I get most of my recipes from the Cook Yourself Thin Cookbook. 

I love it! The recipes are really easy to improvise, because as you may (or may not) know sometimes locating things at our commissary is mission impossible.
Here is the original recipe. In red is what I improvised.

2 cups multigrain elbow macaroni[No multigrain elbows here. So I used some shells.]
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup skim milk, warmed for 1 minute in the microwave, or heated on stove
8 ounces low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 1/4 cups)[I also added colby & monterey jack.]
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup Panko crumbs or whole-wheat bread crumbs [I used my whole wheat bread that I made Friday night. Yum!]

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

3. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly until golden, about 2 minutes. Continue whisking and add the milk in a slow, steady stream. Bring the mixture to a steady simmer, whisking constantly, and whisk until thickened, about 2 minutes.

4. Drain the pasta in a colander. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the cheese, and stir until the cheese melts. Immediately add the hot, drained pasta and stir until well-coated. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

5. Divide the mac and cheese among four 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins and sprinkle 1 tablespoon bread crumbs over each. Broil until crumbs are golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes, taking care not to let the top burn. Serve immediately. [I don't have ramekins, so I just plopped mine into one big baking dish and put it under the broiler.]

So this recipe is really easy and really filling. I served it with some marinated chicken that I sauteed with garlic and onion and I made some butter-herb brussel sprouts. 

Improvise with what you have! 


04 December 2009

My Letters of Grievance.

Dear Mr./Mrs. Sandman,
             It seems you have stopped visiting our house. With 12-hour shifts, papers to write, cookies to bake, and work to be done - the Hubby and I would greatly appreciate it if you resume your route to our apartment. 
Kate (& Justin)

Dear Cooking God/Godess,
My last few dinners have been less-than-spectacular. I could use some of your cooking godliness.
We are running out of ramen noodles & I don't want to buy another 12 pack.
Please and Thank you.

Dear Guardian Angel,
I know that you normally do a stand-up-job keeping me super safe. BUT, I have accumulated 3 bruises, a near-embarassing-bike fall, tripped on the side walk, and I ran into a door.
If it isn't to much to ask, please do a little more guardian-ing...
I don't think my body can take to much more while you are on vay-cay....

Dear That-Time-Of-The-Month,
 First: I would like to send you a big-fat-thank-you for appearing ever-so-timely on our anniversary.
I hope you sense my sarcasm.
Second: Do you really need to bring along debilitating pain and gut-wrenching nausea?
I think we can do better.

Dear Skin (a.k.a. Epidermis),
You know.... I'm very kind to you.
I take good care of you.
How do you consider pimples and alligator-quality skin as equal repayment??
We need to fix this, A.S.A.P.

Dear Patron Saint of Exercise & Activity,
Who ever you are: It looks like I might need some extra motivation this season.
If you could focus some of your energy on my forever growing middle section that would be great.

Dear Appliances,
I ask you to take a moment of silence to mourn the loss of the dishwasher and the large burner on the stove.
They were old & out of date. But- they gave us a whole year's worth of service.
I only pray that you other means of preparing our food don't quit on me.
Much Appreciation.

This pic made me smile today. xoxox.

03 December 2009

2 years and counting.

We have been married for 2 years!

2 years!!!! 

My-goodness... they just FLEW right by! 

This year between getting boxes of gifts ready to be shipped to the states, starting a new job (Did I forget to mention this?! YES! I have a new - equally flexible - position at the school!), both of us getting our school done, && trying to create some great holiday spirit our first year spending Christmas together - well it snuck up on us... 

SOOOO.... how did we make it special?????

I cleaned.
I set a beautiful table for the dinner I was cooking. 
I made some really delish (& easy) Chocolate Mousse for dessert. 
I chilled a bottle of red wine. 
I wrapped the gifts. (We had a limit of $25!)

It was relaxing. Exactly what we wanted for our anniversary. 
Who needs a fancy hotel room? Who needs a $200 7-course dinner?
Who needs to get all dressed up? Who needs an expensive gift to commemorate another year??

Sure, all those things are great. 
But - if you have the ability to get to the truest meaning of an anniversary - you will see that all those [money-sucking] traditions just mask the deepest definition of the day. I'm absolutely positive that if we had the money to do all those things - we would have never discovered the beauty of our anniversary day. 
As we celebrated last night - it was just us - in our first apartment - celebrating together. 
Enjoying food that I made. Talking. Laughing. Just in love. 
It really is that simple. 
No expectations - No pressure. 

I woke up this morning a little wiser & a little more in love. 
Despite our arguements, our differences, our time apart, being in the military, living so far from family, and being so young - we have grown into this relationship. 
People have doubted us. People thought we were crazy. 
People thought we shouldn't have gotten married. 
They really don't know us. 
Despite the resistance - we have flourished

 We are ready to take on the challenges that the next year of married life will throw at us. Because let's face it...
[Life can be messy]

But - the beautiful bond that holds us together is what gets us through the difficult times. 

So. As our anniversary winded down, we fell asleep, silently toasting to the year ahead of us! 


01 December 2009

4th times a charm!

Another tale of being a foreigner in Japan!

This past weekend - I met up with some friends to go find this great gyoza restaurant. 
[Don't know what gyoza is?]

They are little heavenly dumplings filled with all sorts of goodness. 
Also known as pot-stickers to some people.

The above picture is the normal size of these little yummies! 

Well - there is this legendary place known as Communist Gyoza. It is located about 20 minutes away from base by train & is supposed to have HUGE gyoza and lots of delish flavors and many kinds of stuffings. 
Cheese, Corn, Garlic, Pork, Shrimp, Crab, Scallop, Onion...the list goes on and on and on.
So a few of us (gyoza lovers & gyoza virgins) met up to start the journey [search] for the place. 

Why is it called Communist gyoza??? 
You know the famous Seinfeld Soup Nazi???

"No Soup For You!"

Well - Communist Gyoza is fairly similar. Crazy
So on the menu (wish I got a picture) - there are some rules:
Rule #1 - You can only order once. So if you order the delicious scallops and your thinking your would like another order. No Gyoza For you! 
Rule #2 - There is no take out. You can't order 5 plates and take what you don't finish home. All or nothing. No Gyoza For You! 
Rule #3 - You are charged for a drink regardless of whether you want one or not. Seriously.

And: They dictate how much they think you should order. 
Example: For the family of 5 that was with us - they were going to order 7 plates. The waitress takes the order - then 2 seconds later she comes back to the table and was like..
Waitress: "7. No. Gyoza - Big Size. I think...4 plates."
Us: "What? No we ordered 7."
Waitress: "No. 4. - Yes. 4 only."
[Then the cook comes from around the counter and stands next to the waitress - just to make a point - they were serious. You can't order 7 - You can only order 4.]

We ended up negotiating for 5 plates - but they were not going to have 7. 
The reason we were ordering so many plates was because each plate was a different flavor. We wanted to try many different ones. 
But- As soon as they brought our order out- We understood exactly why they said only 4. 

THEY were delicious. But they were HUGE and Yummy. 5 gyoza come per plate. I could only eat 4.5 and that was pushing it. I left that place stuffed! 

BUT - (Here is the Fun part.)

Getting to this little slice of heaven was not easy. We got the directions off the internet from (what we thought was) a reliable website. The directions seemed easy enough and we did (I promise!!) follow them to a T. We walked for about an hour and 1/2
We [backtracked], we (circled), and we {retraced} our steps over. and over. and over. 
I'm serious we must have walked like 4-5 miles. 
We stopped at 5 different convienent stores to ask directions. 
No-one knew where this place was. 
We called 3/4 different people and they couldn't get us to the restaurant. 
We even stopped at an Irish Pub (where we ended up drinking at later) not once, but TWICE for directions. && They SPOKE English and they couldn't get us there. 
We went down some creppy-zig-zagging alleys that took us further away from where we wanted to be. 

[We witnessed the falling of a drunk Japanese Man. On our first time passing him. 
We witnessed a woman helping that man (who busted his head) on the second time passing him. 
& We witnessed the Ambulance arriving at the scene to help him on the third time passing him.]

Finally - using my VERY limited Japanese... I asked a random guy for help. This is proof that Japanese people really are one-of-a-kind. 
This guy (who didn't speak English) searched  for the restaurant on the internet on his cell phone, called the restaurant for directions, then walked us all the way there (which was more than slightly out of his way, I'm sure!). This is him: 

When we finally got there - the kiddos were starving - and we made MORE THAN ENOUGH room in our stomachs for the few extra calories...
considering we trekked through this city for more than an hour and a half. 

Here I am- 
Before: Ready for some fabulous gyoza!
During: Bitchy-Cranky-Hungry.
After: Satisfied @ the Pub with a full stomach and a beer! 

 I have to credit - the Vaughan Family for the Pictures!! Thanks!