Food and Friends

Chiaki and Ayumi came over today to play and have lunchies - we haven't seen them since they visited me in the hospital after I had Joel, and it was lovely to hang out with them again.

Joel seemed to be fascinated by Ayumi's ear...love at first sound?

Big brother and sister got in on the photo action as well...

Check these two out! Ayumi is 8 months and Joel turns 3 months tomorrow, but look at their sizes! Ain't much difference, hey...

Their mommy made a superb banana cake, and I loved how she tied it up - Japanese people are so good at wrapping and tying up presents! When I untied it I tried to figure it out, but no luck. So I just had to dive into the cake and forget about it.

It's Not All in Our Heads

Joel really is getting a flat spot on the right side of his head, folks. He favors that side, and even if we turn his head to the left, his neck muscles are so strong that he turns right back to where he wants it.

I think Matthew had the same problem but then he started sleeping on both sides, so it wasn't really an issue. Any suggestions for Joel-o-bean?

Quotable Quote

Matthew's friend Rei-chan, upon noticing Joel's big elbow dimples, asked me, "Is he OK?"

Big Bro, Little Bro

Maffa with his onigiri...


And Joel with his come-hither look...Hey, baby!

Bibimbap

Our friend Nobue made gorgeous bibimbap today for lunch! Yum yum yum. It's a Korean dish with rice, meat, veggies, and an egg (with hints of sesame oil and garlic)...


And then you stir it all up with some hot chili paste...mmmmmmm...but only use a little or you'll blow your head off!

Need Rice at Midnight?

Open 24-7.

Mama and Joel-o-Bean

Mama's Little Helper

Frankly, my dear...

Got this from Wayne over at the Lifestream blog:

Ingrid, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business.

Several members did not approve of her extracurricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.

She made a mistake, however, when she accused Frank, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon.

She emphatically told Frank (and several others) that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing.

Frank, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny… He said nothing.

Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Ingrid’s house, walked home, and left it there all night!!!

You gotta love Frank!



Japanese Dancing Bean

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Cake You've Got To Bake

I've been desperate to make The Pioneer Woman's yogurt-marmalade cake since she posted the recipe about a week ago. Saturday I seized the pan by the handles and went for it, much to our taste-buds' delight.

Stuff I did differently: She used some kind of spray shortening/flour stuff for her pan, but I can't get anything like that here. I just used good old butter (well, actually, margarine) and flour for mine. She called for canola oil, but I used melted Japanese "cake margarine" (there was a dearth of butter in Japan when I bought it, no lie - but for some reason there was loads of milk). Her recipe had 1 cup of sugar, but I figured it would be too sweet, so I used 3/4 cup. Also, I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice into the glaze as I was heating it up.

Stuff I'll do differently next time: I'll definitely use two lemons' worth of zest to add some more zing, and cut the sugar even more down to 1/2 cup. The marmalade definitely adds sweetness so I don't feel like I need all that sugar. (And I'm so darn sweet...need I say more.)

I also put the cake into the fridge and it was luscious cold. Perfect summer dessert - chilled and zingy. (Because it was cold, the glaze around the bottom of the plate congealed, but that was okay - I just used a knife to spread a bit on each piece of cake).

The verdict? My expectations were exceeded! Come on over for a visit, and I'll fix you some...

Limbo-ing Laundresse

I've had a request for pics of my laundry-drying situation! So here it is, in all its glory. Not very exciting, I know, but it's the part of my daily routine that I most cherish (not). You gotta love doing gymnastics to get your clothes out to dry!

The view from our bedroom glass-sliding door



And from our living-room area (which is why we usually keep our sheer curtains drawn)

Hope I wasn't too negative about all this - I do long for a clothes dryer, BUT I'm grateful we don't have to go to a coin laundry or wash our stuff in a dirty river somewhere, you know?

The Perfect Pair

I found the BEST combo for my toast topping: cream cheese and Nutella. Oh. my. word. YUM. (But don't worry, I use lowfat cream cheese!) I love Nigella's cream-cheese brownies, so I thought this would work, too, and boy, did it ever.

By the way, does anybody know if you're supposed to refrigerate Nutella? I just read the Japanese package and it doesn't say one way or the other. (I think it would make it really hard to spread, but anyway.) Let me know if you know...

I Love You, You Jerk

Matthew has a lovely, affectionate manner when he gives you a hug - a gentle squeeze, accompanied by a special Matthew word, "Aho".

Unfortunately for Matthew, he lives in the Kansai area of Japan, where the word "aho" means (you guessed it) "jerk". But if you are the recipient of one of these hugs, you know that is not really what he means. He does like you really. Honestly.

Three Pics of Three Boys in Subway



Why, Oh Why?

Why is it that by the time I realize Maffa's pajamas need to be put away, it's time for him to get into them again?

Having Kids Saves You Mucho Dinero

Si, you read that right, folks! Don't believe all those scare stories out there that say your kiddiewinks will set you back $5 million by the time they're seven. I'm here to set the record straight.

Not that I was ever much into hard-core shopping, but I occasionally used to browse, window shop, buy stuff because it was on sale. Not anymore, people.

Take this morning, for example. By the time I fed Joel, got the boys into the car, through exactly 17 bazillion traffic lights, out of the car, and into the store to see the claustrophobic doggies in the minuscule glass prisons at the back, it was time to go back to the car to feed the Joelster again. And by then it was lunch time for Maffa and me, so I just packed everything up and came home, no money out of pocket whatsoever.

And buying clothes for me? Ha. That's a big joke considering how tiny the dressing rooms are. I can barely get myself in one, let alone anybody in a stroller (and it's laughable trying to get my post-baby Western body into anything resembling Japanese-sized attire, so what's the point anyway).

Also, who in their right mind wants to stand in line to pay for something when you've got a toddler raring to go and a ravenous 2.5-month-old, not to mention that you're a breastfeeding mama with plummeting blood sugar levels who wants to eat everything that's not nailed down? (On a side note, Stephen thinks it's hilarious that I wonder about every baby I see. They all have that hungry gleam in their eyes and I figure it must be time to pull over and give 'em some nourishment.)

As for food? Matthew really doesn't eat anything to speak of (how is he getting bigger???) and Joel just has his grub secondhand, so no problem there, either.

We've had loads of lovely peeps send the kids toys and outfits, too, so I've hardly had to buy anything for them at all. Sure, occasionally we splurge on a diaper or two, but heck, the kids are so sweet, we figure they're worth it.

Compare and Contrast

Check out these photos just a month ago when the boys were in the same positions on the sofa - they're both so much bigger now!




Pool Play

Yesterday Matthew and his friend, Rei (pronounced ray) chan, spent the morning in and out of her pool and on and off her tricycle. Aren't they two of the sweetest little kiddiewinks you've ever laid your eyes on? They're pretty hilarious, too, splashing each other and laughing at each other's pranks.




Potty Mouth

Matthew's doing really well at perfecting his stalling techniques - before he goes to bed or we leave the house, he always has to say bye-bye to everyone and everything. No exceptions.

But today I just had to laugh as I was trying to persuade him to get to the front door area (genkan) so I could put his shoes on (which is never an easy task 'cause I've got Joel hanging from a sling in front of me like a little joey).

He said his usual goodbyes to his yellow car, to the CDs, to the ceiling fan, etc., and then as we walked through the hallway, he tapped the loo door and said "bye-bye pee-pee". Flush with success at his own cleverness, he allowed me to get his shoes on and we were off to our friends' home for some pool fun, where I hope he didn't leave any of his own pee-pee as a parting gift.

Joel in the Mirror

Matthew's New Album

Matthew's UK Grandma and Grandpa sent a wonderful present for Matthew: a photo album (with photos and descriptions) showing them in their natural surroundings (i.e. Grandma weaving, Grandpa cutting the grass, Grandma buying the vegetables at Waitrose and weeding her garden, Grandpa getting into his car to go to work, etc.). So creative! Here's a video of Matthew looking at his new book:

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Now we're hoping Mimi and Pop in Wisconsin will make one for him, too! (Hint, hint.)

Mirror Image

Monkeying Around

I don't know if you can see it clearly or not, but Joel's onesie says "monkey business"! Looks like he was being a cheeky little monkey for the camera.

The Godparents II

You may remember our post about Matthew's godparents, Holly and Andy, from way back.

Now it's time to meet Joel's! Enter Richard, a friend of ours here in Nishinomiya. He's another UK blokey, and he and Stephen enjoy their Denny's breakfast bonding once a week at 6:30 a.m. Richard, his wife Chisa, and their three kids, Isaac, Bethany, and Esther, just came back from almost a year at the Bethel Church school of ministry in Redding, California, so we're looking forward to hearing more about their experiences.


Teresa's a good friend from my college days and is already praying up a storm for our little bean. She and her husband, Tony, are really involved in their local church in Tampa, Florida, and have recently celebrated the first birthday of their daughter, Ruthie. Stephen and I have spent many a New Year's Eve with them and their boardgames, and then walking the neighborhood streets banging pots and pans at midnight. They're just downright fun peeps.


Thanks, guys, for being Joel's godmama and daddy! You rock.

The mark of motherhood...

...has to be that constant wet spot on your shoulder.

Fushigi Toddler

Matthew won't touch spaghetti or macaroni and cheese with a barge pole, but my goodness, he's the only little blond kid I've ever seen who adores rice onigiri, mixed with little tiny tiny white boiled and dried sardines (chirimen), and wrapped in seaweed (nori).

Methinks he thinks he's Japanese.

(By the way, if you want to see a piccie of those little fishies, go here. Not sure why there's a packet of cigarettes, too, but maybe it's for a size comparison.)

Old Farts?

I've been looking up loads of folks on Facebook and most people I know are not on there! Does that mean they are officially old farts (as someone wrote on one of my Orangewood classmate's wall)? I can't even find my own cousins, who are all younger than me!

I just have to say here that I am exempted from this derogatory category, however, because I do have a Facebook account, thank you very much!

Fushigi Choco

Well, I got my watermelon fix, but not in the form I expected!

Japanese snack companies are always coming out with funky new flavors for each season, and the latest thing, hot off the 7-11 shelves, is these watermelon Kit Kats.

Yes, I ate them, and yes, it was pretty weird.

But don't worry, they won't be around long - in a few weeks they'll be pumpkin flavored or something else wacky like that for fall (even though the heat will still be blazing - and the autumnal clothes will be in full swing as well, no matter the temperature).

Pool Party






It's been a year and a half since Matthew was last in a proper swimming pool, but he took to it like a duck to water when we took advantage of umi no hi vacation day today to head up to the office where my boss has installed an above-ground pool.

Much fun was had by all, including Uncle Andy (Matthew's God daddy) and his Tokyo friend, Dan. Only Seiji and Jomar were left out as they had to bid on the cars so that we can all get paid at the end of the month.

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Listen and Laugh

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Matthew during his "nap" the other day!

Having a Ball

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Matthew and Kunio knocking the beach ball around a bit

Facebook

I just this instant joined Facebook, so if you're on there, look me up! I'm still not entirely sure how it works, but I guess I'll figure it out as I go along.

Boys' Night Out

I'm holding down the fort while Matthew's godfather (Andy), Stephen, and Joel's godfather (Richard - I don't think you've met him yet), are out for a night on the town seeing the new Indy Jones movie and grabbing a curry afterwards (at a restaurant where they rate the heat on a scale of 1-40 and 3 will blow your head off - wonder what 40 is like).

I guess this is payback for going to a cooking class on Father's Day, though I did take one of the boys with me. Wonder if it's too late to send Matthew along for the film???

Actually, though, we're having fun dancin', so it's all OK. No worries.

We Don't Need No Gymnasium

Who needs to pay big yen for a gym membership when you can hold your 2.33333...-year-old and dance around the living room to Rodrigo y Gabriela?

Monk Metal

Check out Brother Cesare!!!

Cutie Patootie

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Summer Love

I've had this post on the brain for a few days, and then just Skyped with my dear friend, Teresa, who asked for this recipe! I had to laugh because I was planning on posting it anyway, thinking somebody would probably want it.

So even if you're not Teresa, but you want some healthy jello for your kiddies (or heck, all for yourself), try this (in honor of Ruthie's FIRST birthday!):

Go to the store and buy some mixed veggie/fruit juice (100% juice, no sugar or artificial junk, please). Lug it home, but don't put it in your cabinet or your fridge. Get out a saucepan and plonk it on your stovetop. Measure out 1 3/4 cups of juice and bring it to the boil, and while it's heating up, mix 1/4 cup water with 1 tablespoon of plain unflavored powdered gelatin in a big bowl. It'll start to get a little goopy, but that's good. When the juice boils, dump it in the water/gelatin mixture and stir it all up till it's all liquidy and nice. Let it cool a little, then put it either in cute little silicone cups in funky shapes or one big Tupperware/Pyrex bowl. Fridge it till it's set, and then chow down, baby. (Recipe loosely based on one from What To Expect the First Year.)

And if you're so inclined, make this YUMMY tomato bread salad. I can't find kalamata olives here in Japan, so I just used regular black ones that I scored at Costco. Don't worry about using fresh lemon juice if you don't wanna. If you've got the stuff in the bottle, which I do, that's perfectly fine. Oh, and I added some fresh mozzarella cheese (cut into chunks) for some protein, and then just added a bit extra lemon juice and olive oil because the cheese is pretty bland. Also, I used regular salt and not the coarse it called for because I'm not crazy about crunchy salt. We had freshly boiled corn-on-the-cob with it and it was all good. [Stephen's suggestion: Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together before you stir it all the other ingredients together so that the pieces of bread don't soak up too much of one or the other. We had a few bites of the bread that were pretty lemony.]

Now I just need some watermelon and kakigori and I'll be all set.

Teethy Kid

Just now when I was brushing Matthew's teeth before his nap, I noticed he's got two two-year molars that have come through on the top! I'm always wary of sticking my fingers in there to feel around, so I hadn't noticed until today, but this probably explains why he had a sudden fever and some extra drool last week.

Congratulations, Maffa!

...you're sitting seiza style on the floor, he walks into you, and gashes your knee open.

New Words

Matthew's getting to be quite the little bilingual orator!

  • bib = babby
  • bird sounds = ng ng ng (kind of a throaty clicking noise)
  • ice cream = eye fee
  • marmalade, jam, jelly, or jello = lelly
  • dozo (meaning "here you are" in Japanese, when you give someone something) = doso
  • show (as in TV show) = show
  • duck = gucky (now adds the -y on the end)
  • dirty = duhty (and he usually picks up whatever it is to show us just exactly how duhty it is)
  • green = meen
  • bread = bed
  • bowl = bowl
  • now adds the article "a" on the beginning of some words (for example, "a gucky")
  • hai (Japanese for "yes") = hai

Dimples




Joel had a photo shoot this afternoon while Matthew was napping - I just couldn't resist those elbow dimples. Could anyone?

The Baby in the Mirror and the Lellow Brother

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(Notice the lovely soothing sounds of the breadmaker in the background.)

Our friends Harumi and Minoru are expecting their first child in September, so they're practicing on Joel!


Matthew was NOT getting into the pool, but he had a blast slapping the water and splashing Rei chan!

Da Boyz




PB Is My IHC

So my unopened jar of all-natural organic peanut butter has been sitting on the counter for about a week now, staring at me in disgust. I love the stuff, don't get me wrong; I crave it, I want it, I drool over it. (Apparently my mom ate peanut butter pie like crazy when she was pregnant with me, which explains a lot.)

But I just can't get past that IHC factor. There's a goopy mess of oil about an inch thick just glopping around at the top of the PB, up to no good, waiting to slosh out over the sides when I go to stir it in.

And slosh it does. Boy, does it slosh. You should've seen the counter last night after I decided to tackle that sucker. It's like stirring liquid into a rock, basically, and it takes FOREVER and lots of muscle power. (Who needs the gym?)

Once it's done, it's done; I can finally enjoy one of my favorite delicacies, and get some extra protein to boot. But man, mixing it all in is a daunting project, and not one I take a shine to.

That oil has enough shine for me; I think Grease Monkey must be my middle name.

Now you'll just have to pardon me while I go swinging through the kitchen for my PB fix. It's ready and waiting.

Wishing you all fantabulous organic PB joy,

Abigail G. M. Munday

It's Not Easy Being Green

I took a gander at my pale cream pillowcase the other day and was floored to see tinges of bright green right about where my face lies.

Hmmm.

Not a good thing.

Got me to wondering about alien blood and such.

I pinched myself and then kicked the brain into high gear (which ain't easy when you're not used to it).

What the heck could it be?

Of course! It must've been the "lellow" stuff I slather on my countenance every morning (Mama, lellow! Lellow!) to cover up the redness. It's not exactly yellow, though, more of an in-your-face mint green (you know, the color of tiles in public bathrooms at rest stops). (Apparently green and pink are at opposite ends of the color spectrum, so there you go. They cancel each other out. And I don't have to look either flamingo pink or scary mint-chocolate-chip-ice-cream colored.)

Phew. My trusty stain stick got it out - I can breathe easily again. And I don't have to worry about my origins anymore, either.

G-Came, G-Saw, G-Ate

Late last night I was at the G8 summit in Hokkaido, sitting around a table in a big fancy-schmancy hotel, with Angela Merkel as my group's leader. Her face was a mask of smiles, trying desperately to be diplomatic and in control as several people in our unit played with toys (one guy in a chair right next to the Chancellor was vrooming a plastic car up and down the table) and chowed down on food that was supposed to be eaten during a break and not during the important negotiations we were now in.

Yes, I have to admit that I was in Dreamland at the time, but I wonder, was it that far from reality?

(And by the way, don't worry about me. I've never dreamed about the G8 before and probably never will again. Fushigi.)

Beebee - That's Me!



I'm getting to be a big boy now - look how much space I take up on the rocker chair! And see how dashing Daddy and I looked yesterday in our blue stripes and matching hairstyles.

My big brother calls me "Beebee" and it's starting to stick. I thought my name was Joel, but maybe I was confused. Mama wants to take pictures of my brother, too, but he's too fast for the camera to catch very often.

Fun Times




Matthew's old friend, Jidai, and J's little eleven-month-old bro, Yuka, came to visit yesterday (oh, and they brought their mommy, too).

I loved Jidai's backpack! He carries his own diapers, which I think is very responsible of him. Gave me a good idea for the Maffa.


 

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