Sunday, March 31, 2013

Viewing Party

I just sent our families to bed. It is a little after two in the morning  in the states and we just finished watching Brandon's game together. Now before you ask for the site to watch the game.. there isn't one, or there could be but I have no clue what or where it is.
I am not tech savvy at all but got the wild haired idea that I could set my computer in front of the TV then video chat with family back home broadcasting the game.
It worked. With a few quirks and minor technical difficulties, both my family (Tag included) and Brandon's got to watch and witness his first start and win of the season. Not to mention a few extra supportive friends of ours. I truly believe he did so well today because he knew he had support back home watching and cheering for him.
If that wasn't fun enough, let me tell you it was, then we got to hear this guy and his post game interview and I quickly recorded it for you all to hear. I was beaming from ear to ear I was so happy for him. I love him more and more each day and when he is happy, I'm happy!
I can't explain how grateful we are for this opportunity. It continues to bless our socks off. Thank you, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for your unending support.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Randoms from Week 4

Hello, slacker here. I do not have much to report on our end.
The season has officially started -- YAHOO!
I have turned into an excellent chef. Homemade chicken noodle soup. Minus the noodles but over rice was just as tasty.

I made a delicious tomato cream sauce pasta to celebrate opening night. I also drank coke from a wine glass because I am fancy like that AND I have been giving in to the soda cravings. I need something American in my life. Although it's not like it used to be and makes my stomach a little crazy. I also discovered that Pizza Hut delivers to our building so THAT is good news. Can I get an Amen? Pizza party next week for sure!

Forgot this awesome video from the game last week. It was a city rivalry game between the Hanshin Tigers and the Orix Buffaloes. Way more Tigers fans.. oh well. This is the 7th inning stretch ritual here. No singing of take me out to the ball game, instead these balloons are just as fun, right? Nothing like celebrating with balloons that look like male reproductive cells. This was post game after the Tigers claimed victory.
Also missing everyone this Easter holiday but found a way to still hear the good news online. You can watch here if you just can't get out of bed some Sunday mornings. I have heard there is a church some of the other Americans ball players that live in our building go to so I'm going to do more research to find out where and when. Just another way to meet and make some friends!
In other news I am three movies deep in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Not sure why I've never seen any of them but figured now is as good of time as any to get on board. Pun intended. Slightly obsessed with becoming a pirate, not really but Keira makes it look fun. And because I can't just sit still and watch a movie I started another cross stitch project.
I have one sightseeing location on my list while Brandon is gone mostly for the photos (and shopping) and I haven't figured out which day is going to be best to go. I would like to be there at night but slightly afraid of getting disoriented, not lost. Perhaps I'll go twice, once during the day and once at night. Good plan right?
Okay sorry I have no raw egg stories but everyday can't be that adventurous. If you decided to go out to eat this weekend and enjoy some fine American cuisine please dedicate a bite or two for me. Oh and if you know how to order a pizza in Japanese please email me - you'd be my hero.
Hope you all have a Happy Easter!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Raw Egg and Off Day Exploring

Monday was an off day for Brandon. No practice, no baseball, no obligations! We had decided we were going to go out and do some exploring together. I have made several trips over to the Sannomiya area but they have always been solo. Yesterday we headed out together to see what we could find.
Let me back up a quick minute. Saturday I went to the game with one of the other wives. After the game the five of us went to find a huge dollar store just a few train stops from home. Dollar stores here are amazing! We bought all kinds of kitchen gadgets for a buck. After we shopped for a bit Brandon and I decided to stay and eat. His teammate, wife, and daughter headed back early. They just didn't think their active 18 month old was going to make it through a sit down dinner.
We sat down and started looking at the menu. There was zero English. Brandon has been able to figure out what certain symbols mean and with the help of his phone he can look up some things too. He knew what he wanted and had seen it in the food showcase outside. I had no idea. I said just order me some plain noodles. We are both on our phones looking up the equivalent to plain noodles. We did, sorda, and this was my meal.
All of a sudden I am kicking myself for this bright idea to try something new.
Raw eggs? No not for me. I don't even like my eggs a tiny bit runny. Blah. Suck it up Lauren! This isn't real life. How am I going to choke down this entire bowl?  
Major mental pep talk going on inside my head. Brandon proceeds to tell me to stir it up to eat it and that I wouldn't ever know and before I knew what was going on his chopsticks had punctured the yolk and he was vigorously mixing the egg into my entire meal. Ok, I thought maybe I could just scoop the egg out and eat the noodles but that surely wasn't happening now. I had a frothy bowl of noodles and egg. I did what I promised him I would do. I tried it. I couldn't do the slippery texture and I'm not a huge fan of Udon noodles. As I felt Brandon looking at me with a smidge of disappointment, I said ooooh yummy these are so delicious and tried taking several more bites. A fair shot I would say at trying the meal. As we were walking home, he told me that he was glad I continued to try it even though I didn't like it. Luckily we had a frozen pizza snack in the freezer and I had that for dinner. Moral of the story, I don't like raw eggs. Period. The following night this was our dinner. I had to have a little taste of home and it sure hit the spot.
So back to exploring. It was chilly and windy but that wasn't stopping us.
We were in the same area to where I had been going before but we walked passed and all around what I had already discovered. There is a huge department store, Daimaru, and we checked out all nine floors. There was everything and it was all very expensive and upscale. Men's fashion here is very different than in the US. It is often hard to tell if you are in the men's or women's section they all blend together. So we just kept finding more stores and continued walking and walking. We started to get hungry so we turn around and started to walk back. Through the side streets we kept seeing lots of people and so we cut over and checked it out. Hello Chinatown, in Japan!

Lined down both sides of the street were vendors selling hot food. Here we go again with the food and it's uncertainty.


I told Brandon to try whatever he wanted. It all smelled really good but I couldn't help but wonder what it was that we were going to be trying. We got to the last vendor without any food but decided to get an order of Gyoza to hold us over until we found a place to eat. There was five in an order so we split 3/2 and I was SO bummed we didn't each get our own order. I can't wait to go back. Truthfully, can't believe I'm admitting it, we should go back and try some of the other stuff too. Of course don't tell me what it is before I eat it but maybe trying it first won't be so bad. Best gyoza ever!
At this point we were back to most of the stores I had already seen and so we found a place to eat. Obviously I am a bit skeptical about ordering food and not being exactly sure what I'm getting. I mentioned before that most restaurants have displays of their dishes outside of the restaurant. Once we picked a place, we both decided to take pictures of what we wanted and would just show our waiter or waitress. I know this seems REALLY bizarre and possibly rude but what other option did we have? When it was time to order, our waitress started to tell us to go out to the case so we could show her what we wanted. Wow that's funny we took pictures so we showed her, she took our order, and wam-bam-thank-you-ma'am our food is what we picked out. It was good too. I really needed a meal that was going to boost my confidence in the food department after the raw egg dish from two days ago.
food photos  are from the case // us with actual food
Then guess what we did? More walking and shopping. When I say shopping we barely bought anything ALL day. I grabbed a coffee so I would quit complaining about being cold and then we found another building that had floors of shops. We discovered some pretty amazing camouflage shoes yesterday and I had one extremely happy guy ready to do some buying. Except we both have big American feet and most the shoes here are too small for us. We never found a men's  shoe size over 11, maybe came across a 12. I can find some shoes but most of them are for ladies sizes 8 and below. There were some cute little artsy shops with stationary and that type of thing. There were furniture stores and housewares shops, you name it, they had it.
It was a good day. Our wallets thanked us for barely buying anything. Brandon's loot included a camouflage umbrella and a camouflage pair of socks. I picked up a pair of work out pants and a tank from the trusty Gap. We picked up milk and chocolate chips on our way home. I made another batch of cookies to send with Brandon on his long road trip and we called it a night. We got plenty of exercise, had decent food, and spent lots of quality time together. I'd say it was an off day well spent.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Catch Up

Wednesday I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, making a batch of cookies, and a little thrift shopping to help pass the time until Brandon got home.
Thrifting was fun. I found this little shop because I have to walk passed it on a regular basis. I thought I would stop in to see what was there. Lots and lots of stuff. I spent a couple hours trying on different things and she would pick different stuff out for me. Mostly expensive new designer stuff that she has in store.  I made the mistake the first day telling her the first day that we are here because baseball. She automatically assumed I have loads of money to blow which is not true. Her favorite line, " I give you good price!" Then she would punch it in the calculator.  I did find a few dresses and a sweater or two and I will for sure go back and dig some more because the sweetest lady works there.
 It all helped pass the time until he came home which ended up being around nine that evening. I had cheeseburgers and macaroni (again) waiting for dinner. I didn't think he was going to be home that early and we had decided he would just pick up dinner on his way. They were going to be here earlier than I thought so I felt bad not having anything here to eat. When I found out my seven o'clock ballet class was cancelled I threw together a quick meal.
Thursday the buildings fire alarm went off. I panicked. Our alarm is right outside our bedroom door and it is LOUD. I ran to our door to look to see if anyone else was outside. There wasn't a single person. I waited a few minutes and the alarm stopped. I went to lay back down and about three minutes later the alarm went off again. I threw on a jacket and shoes grabbed the phone and my wallet and went to leave the apartment. Over the loud speaker came a Japanese announcement that I couldn't understand, still panicked, and then shortly after was an English message. I was to remain calm and stay in our apartment. Several minutes later they announced again that there wasn't actually a problem. AKA false alarm. Not so fun.
Brandon got home early from practice around two so we hung out for a while then decided to go for a walk and explore since he hasn't been. It was right around sunset so the temperature quickly dropped and it got chilly. We walked on down by the water and watched as all the cargo ships were being loaded. Where the water meets the wall we saw tons and tons of fish. There was a man fishing not far and he caught one. As we were standing there watching the guy was struggling to get the fish into his net. I got the brilliant idea that we should go help.
I offer to hold the mans fishing pole while he walks with his net to be able to reach the fish. Of course I have NO idea what I'm doing I just wanted to help so Brandon is guiding me. Then out of no where the line goes flying in the air over our heads and lands behind us on the concrete.
I said to the man, "I think he got away." He kindly made me feel better by saying he didn't like that fish and didn't actually want it anyway and that they didn't taste good.  I think he was lying but maybe not.
Then for the rest of the night Brandon teased me how I lost the mans fish yet apologized that he has never taken me fishing to teach me how to properly catch a fish. I've never had to use the phrase 'the one that got away' but now will forever remember the night I lost the Japanese man's fish.
After that we decided to pick up groceries to have tacos for dinner and found a new grocery store near by. It seems so much nicer than the one in our building but there is no cheat signs in English.
Friday I made homemade cinnamon rolls and then went into Sannomiya with one of the other wives and her adorable daughter. I wanted to get supplies to make some new bracelets with the team colors.
Today I'm going to the game because it's the weekend and a cross city rival game so it should have a nice crowd.
Brandon leaves again on Tuesday the 23rd and won't be back until Thursday April 4th. The season officially begins while they are on the road. I haven't thought of things to do while he is gone but I think the cherry blossom festivals will be calling my name.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cilantro and Jalapenos

About this time tomorrow night my lovely husband will be home! I thought the day would never come. Not really, that is being pretty dramatic, but I have been anxious for him to get home before he even left. I've been hitting the gym. finishing my phone cover, making meals for one, and wearing out our free trial of Hulu.
After I posted last time I hit a funk and then had to eat my own words and forced myself to the gym.
Complete. I'm loving it.
My go to chicken teriyaki
Tomorrow I am making cookies to welcome him home. It's taken me several trips to gather all that I need for them but I finally did. But that is for tomorrow.
Today, I had a plan. It was to wake up, get groceries for cookies, dinner, and homemade cinnamon rolls (hubby's request nothing easy), an aerobics class at three, then cook dinner for myself. I was so bored yesterday that I had time to write out the recipes and the groceries and then organize them in a list by section at the grocery store(s).
At two I decide to make a quick sweep through and get whatever I could find on my list then and then save the rest for either the evening or tomorrow. I figured I probably couldn't carry all the groceries at once so I wasn't to worried about it getting everything the first time. 
I made it to the gym at ten until three to see that the class was cancelled for today. Bummer. I decided to stay and workout. I noticed the empty studio space with a ballet bar and took advantage of it for my cool down and stretch. It was nostalgic and made me miss Wednesday night dance class growing up.
After that I went to another store to get the cookies supplies that I couldn't find at the other two and then headed back to the grocery store to try and find cilantro and jalapenos for dinner. I have never bought either of these items so all I know is they are green. I assumed the cilantro would be by the basil and parsley but no luck. I decided what the hay, lets ask someone who works here.
Big mistake, every time I said something in English he repeated back to me in Japanese. He eventually led me to some green peppers, if they are jalapenos I don't know, but I figured the five minutes of us never getting anywhere except repeating back and forth and not understanding was a waste of time, I gave up.
But I didn't. I found another worker who happened to come out and start stocking produce right where I was hunting. I asked him, he looked at me with his hands in the air and walked off. He brought back another different guy and I asked him. He started laughing, immediately knowing it was a lost cause.  Then he busts out his handy iphone hands it over to me and I type in cilantro.
FINALLY we are getting somewhere. He turns to ask the other guy and the very first guy (yes there are now three people attempting to help me) and says cilantro in Japanese and the first guy I talked to throws his arms up in an X. Okay cool! You don't carry cilantro and I'm not that big of a dummy for not being able to find it.
By the way, to the few Americans that DID walk right past me, thanks for leaving me hanging. Next time maybe you can help me out a little.
Then we go through the same thing with the jalapeno only it didn't go as smoothly. He led me to a bag of green peppers but like I said I'm not sure they are actually jalapenos. When he showed me in his phone it only said pepper. I would guess by the pepper photo that is turned into a dragon that they just might be hot peppers. I'll let you know on that one.
Long story short. I should have went prepared by looking up the Japanese words first OR find a handy app, like the man at the store, on my phone. And I didn't even use the stupid peppers I did buy.
Knock off Chipotle burrito bowl
Now that this story is dragging on way longer than it needed to be I'll let you get back to your day. I just felt like EVERYONE in the store was watching this all go down and maybe laughing but oh well I don't care. I got over my fear of asking for help and will probably ask again another day. Just with my translator app handy.
I did find a second hand shop in our building that carries some pretty nice stuff. I plan on going there tomorrow to dig through the goods and I'll be sure to share that experience soon. The lady working there is so nice and I can see myself stopping by just to chat with her and she can maybe teach me some Japanese.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Two Weeks

Today marks TWO whole weeks that I've been living in Japan. I can't decide if this time is going fast or slow. I do know that the time Brandon has been gone has been passing, some days quicker than others but still passing. I joined the gym located here in the building for two reasons. One to stay healthy and active. Even if it's just a 45 minutes to get my blood pumping its better than nothing. The second reason is to make some new friends or at least meet some new people from our building or in our area here on the island. They offer several classes a week so I'm excited to join a few of those. There is also a driving range so if I every get really frustrated I can just go tee up some balls and take a swing.
Since I've had lots of extra time on my hands this week I've had a lot of time to think and work on my cross stitched cell phone case. It's coming along nicely hopefully I finish it today, not that you care about that but still.
With all this time I've had to think I've been missing a few things from back home.
My dog first and foremost. I still doubt that he is going to remember me when I get home but Brandon assures me that he will so I'll take his word for it.

Our families. I don't think this needs any explanation. In the time we've been gone we've missed three birthdays and Easter is coming up too so stinks a little bit. Plus it feels like our schedules are almost completely opposite now with the time change and the fact that I don't stay up until two in the morning like I used to. I know, perfect timing to get my priorities straight huh?
Friends. Slowly but surely I meet new Americans in the elevator from time to time. But still missing all my girlfriends.
Food.  I can't even think about it because its so far in the distance. I cook here quite a bit but it's just not like at home. They need a Chick-fil-a here seriously.
Kitchen and cooking utensils. I would do a lot more cooking if I could find a cookie sheet, casserole dish, and all the other extras I'm used to. I have some things I have thought to cook but the obstacle of finding the right dish is the only thing in my way. Next time I go to Sannomiya I'll be finding a kitchen store and loading up.
The weather. It still hasn't warmed up here like I know it has back home in MO and AL and I'm super jealous.
American TV. I used to say I didn't watch that much TV but I do and I realize that now. The last two nights I have watched ice skating with Japanese announcers and then Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland both in Japanese. Worry not my friends, we are definitely still getting our fix of Duck Dynasty, thank you iTunes. We LOVE that show and we watch it together each week so I love our little tv dates we've made.
Before you think I'm ready to board a plane and head home, which I am totally not ready for yet, I'll tell you a few things that I'm going to miss once we leave but for now I am soaking them up.
The grocery store that I can walk to everyday and the other little stores in our building that carry all of our basic needs.
The gym in our building.
The rice cooker now that I've figured it out. (I think)
The train. I love riding the train.
Our view. Drinking my coffee on the balcony. The sunset behind the mountain each afternoon is quite a treat.
Mostly I am loving the experience and learning to be adaptable. There have been times where I have gotten home sick and been sad but I try to think about the larger picture and how short of period of time we are really gone. I try to find things to do or new places to go to help ease the home sickness. I tell myself I have two choices. I can get down or I can get up. It's not always easy to choose the latter but I know for myself that if I don't I will make this experience miserable for myself and my husband. Plus it's exciting and I'm never sure what's around the corner.
I'm ready for visitors anytime. Whenever you want. Just book your ticket. Go ahead do it.

Birthday shout out!! I didn't post on the 15th BUT.. Happy Birthday to my Brother-in-Law Chris! Hope you had a good one.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Look out Hobby Lobby...YUZAWAYA behind on my list of favorite craft stores. Lame joke? Yep, thought so but it's true. I LOVE YUZAWAYA!
Despite having to hunt for this hidden gem (inside a music store and up two levels) I found what they refer to as the craft mecca of Kobe and now I know why. Please never EVER make me shop at hobby lobby again. Ever. I'm kidding but it will never live up to what I've now discovered here.
Yuzawaya has any and every possible thing you will need and more if you want to be artsy or creative. I am extremely jealous of all supplies here. Lots of things I've used in the past I have had to order online. If I had been living here I would have been able to just hop on the train and go pick them up. Before I head home this fall I'm going to go stock up and ship a box home.
I set out on a mission to find some things to keep me busy while Brandon is away. You know something to do while the Japanese TV is humming in the background and all my American people are sleeping. Sometimes waiting for you to wake up is torture but that's not the point.
After two hours of looking and going between the six, SIX, different floors I settled with three rolls of washi tape, a pack of needles, a set of ribbons to make a flower, a cell phone case that can be cross stitched, thread for cell phone case, embroidery floss and cording to make a navy and gold bracelet for game days, a macaroon coin purse kit, and dispenser with tulip designs similar to a white out dispenser. It's a bit random but I'm cool with it.


Oh and I bought a sewing machine*.

After all that my body was screaming to go home but ignored it and I went to check out the rest of the stores again to see what I missed the first day. I picked up a new pair of shorts that I've seen tons of the girls here wearing and two pair of tights. Of course shopping alone is going to get old fast and I couldn't help but wish my sister was here with me. I'm pretty sure together we could do more damage than I'm doing alone. I've always been curious if I could rock the hipster look and I'm not so sure about it. I also used to be afraid of people staring at me but now that I'm the minority and everyone stares, I'm over it.

I already shared about the sweet moment on the train ride home but if you missed it you can read it here. I know our families don't like hearing it but we really do love it here. Brandon just text me a picture from his room in Tokyo and it is breath taking. Maybe he can share about that when he gets home. I don't want to tell all his stories for him. Don't get us wrong we love it at home too, obviously its home. However, we could be in places that are a lot worse and are so thankful that we are not. The only thing that could make this place better is if all our family and friends were here!

Yuzawaya ... I'll be back.

*I didn't buy a sewing machine but the thought hasn't completely left my mind yet. There is just all that beautiful fabric, I mean TONS of fabric, calling my name... what to do what to do?

The Sweet Life

Life is sweet y'all and I'm not just saying that because Brandon requested I pick up a chocolate tart last night and he left three fourths of it here with me for the rest of the week. I'm talking sweet, sweet moments of life that come and go to quickly.
I had one of those moments today.
I was walking up the stairs to wait for the train. It is a busy train station to start with but it was probably like what we call rush hour back home but instead of cars it's mobs of people. I had heard a little voice yell out, 'Amagasaki', and I turned to see a small boy probably three in age. It was strange hearing it for some reason. It was in his voice something different. I didn't think anymore of it.
The train comes and everyone piles in. It's not extremely tight, but there is not a lot of room to move. I am standing near the door and in front of me is a mom and her stroller with a baby. The baby starts to get fussy and you can see some of the people on the train start to get agitated. In her attempt to quiet the baby she moves the stroller back just a little bit and on the other side is the most adorable little Japanese boy I've laid eyes on. He has a full round face and longer hair. I quickly remember that is the boy that I heard yelling before the train arrived.
He locks eyes with me and this conversation proceeds to happen:
Boy: hello (he isn't quite sure about this but he thinks that maybe I can understand English)
L: hello (I wave)
Boy: WHAT'S YOUR NAME? (waving back to me)
L:  *** I didn't say anything because at this point everyone in the area turned to see who he was yelling at***
Boy: (He points at me and gives a look) English! USA. What's your name? (he was mad I didn't answer and called me out)
L: Lauren
Boy: (he tries to repeat it. Then he points to himself) My name?
L: (I knew he wanted me to ask him next) What's your name?
He tells me his name that I can't remember, but oh I wish I could. He had the biggest smile on his face. I couldn't believe this was unfolding. I've never communicated with anyone on the train and now a three year old starts talking to me, in English! I have to admit I felt really silly. I could have said anything I wanted and most of the people surrounding me on the train would have no idea at all what I was talking about. But here is this toddler communicating with me and having the time of his life. It was almost as if he was just waiting for someone to come along that he could speak to in English. When he saw me he didn't hesitate for one second.
The train stops. He looks at me with huge eyes and yells BYE as his mom is giggling and hurrying him along. I watch them all the way off the train and I hear him again yell BYE. He was waiting for me to say bye back but it didn't feel right to yell on a crowded train. I then hear him yell bye two more times, maybe three. I wait to see them pass by out the window and he is looking back at the train for me. I give him a wave and he waves back and again he yells bye.
I'm telling you all, life is sweet. My heart was so happy after that it almost burst. This may be silly to you all but I want to remember those few minutes for the rest of my life. Moments like that make me fall a little bit more in love with this country and I don't want to forget them.