Friday, July 26, 2013

Peach Cobbler

I've found myself in the kitchen quite a bit lately. One of the things I never realized is just how much life revolves around meals and eating. In college cooking dinner consisted of boiling noodles and pouring jar spaghetti sauce over the top. I just never had the urge or desire to spend lots of time in the kitchen preparing delicious tasty meals. Which is why it was always such a treat going home for breaks because my mom would spoil us with our favorite meals.
Then when I started dating Brandon, it didn't take me long to figure out that they key to his heart is actually through his stomach. I began cooking more substantial meals when I would visit him during the weekends. I know the type of food and quality that is typically served to ballplayers and just felt that I wanted to cook him something that would actually fill his belly. I also knew that he was away from home cooking for eight months and some home cooked meals would hit the spot.
Now we are married and isolated in a foreign country that has even more limited food options and so my skills as a cook in the last five months have far succeeded what I thought I was capable of. The first meal I cooked in this apartment was hamburgers and a box of Kraft macaroni. Not my proudest moment but we didn't go hungry and at that point I imagined we would have lots of burgers and lots of macaroni. We ate them on bread with ketchup and that was that. Fast forward a few months I made burgers again but with homemade macaroni, lettuce, tomato, and bacon to top the burgers and we had them on buns. I remember thinking, 'wow I've come a decent way in the cooking department.' It wasn't a huge accomplishment but what I realized is just how much more comfortable I've become in our new surroundings. Little victories.
Even more so in the last month, Brandon often makes comments like the following, "You know what sounds good? That mozzarella cheese dip you make. Do you think you could make that?" My first instinct is to say no way, I will never find all the ingredients I need but for some reason I don't have the heart to say no. I understand what he is going through as far as wanting certain things from home to eat or snack on. So I make the efforts and attempt to fill those requests with a positive outcome more often than not.
Thus began the real advancement of my cooking abilities. Dip turned into potato salad, which turned into his Mema's chicken and dumplings, which turned into me wanting a peach cobbler. I don't know where the notion came from in my head that I couldn't make any of the above but it was there. I'm happy to say that it has since been removed and I now feel like I could attempt to make just about whatever Brandon's requests. Other things I've cooked include chicken fried chicken, a cheesecake, meatballs, curry and rice, beef bowls, cinnamon rolls(fail), biscuits(semi-fail), lemon garlic tilapia, vegetable soup, stuffed chicken, and chicken and noodle soup. I will admit that some evenings the last thing I want to do is cook dinner, or maybe it's getting the groceries, but the satisfaction I feel after making something delicious and seeing Brandon dig in for seconds or thirds far exceeds the workload.
I've taken for granted the amazing cooks in my life and this year has made me appreciate their talent and gift so much more. I can't count the number of times I wished I could pick up the phone and called to ask how to make a certain dish. Maybe it's knowing I have my own child on the way and that I want to be able to always provide delicious meals. It could be just the simple fact of knowing that if I don't cook, our options for meals here are extremely limited. Either way it has sparked a passion for cooking and learning how to cook some of Brandon's favorites and some of my own.
With all that being said, summer is not summer for me without a peach cobbler. Usually I just have to sweetly ask my mom and wam-bam-thank-you-ma'am a peach cobbler is served.  However not this year. After a long discussion via facetime with some secret tricks and tips I slapped on my apron and gave it a whirl. Ok there was no apron but what's a little flour on your shorts going to hurt?  So I now present to you the makings of my very first ever peach cobbler. I know I have one proud grandma in Heaven.
If you are wondering if it tastes as good as it looks then I will lie to you out of the sheer kindness of my heart that it was awful. No good. Not making it again, until Brandon gets back on Monday. This one I plan to dish out to some of the gracious friends I've made here. Ones that borrowed me the sugar and the glass dish for which this delicious treat wouldn't be possible otherwise. And probably to anyone else who knocks on the door between now and when it disappears.
Cooking and baking has also helped fill a small void that I've had to create. I truly miss sewing and crafting, and even writing here regularly. But again a passion has been ignited for me lately and I hope to continue to share these things with you, just from the kitchen instead of in front of my sewing machine, at least for now.
As always, thank you for letting us share pieces of our life with you! It means show much to be able to not only experience this adventure but to share with everyone back home just how much God is richly blessing our lives and helping us grow in areas that are lacking. Amen for that.
Cheat tips:
Slice peaches into dish. Immediately add lemon juice over peaches.
Add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract with step two.
Eat with vanilla ice-cream.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Parents Visit Revisted..(the first few days)

Lets travel back in time.. to my parents visit two months ago. I keep saying I will recap their visit and just have not made the time to do so. Now that I am in a writing groove I'm going to try and keep the ball rolling with an update of their visit! Whoo hoo. Plus it's like I get to relive it again!

We are a bit out of order but I'm positive no one is going to mind. The day they arrived they got in around 3:30 pm, putting us at our apartment with two tired travelers close to five. I fixed an easy meal of beef bowls and then we tried to keep them awake to kick the jet lag.

The following day we headed into Sannomiya, a giant city center, to shop, look around, and pretty much not do any crazy sightseeing on their first day. We went to a rooftop nursery. I introduced my dad to the bakeries and his favorite, cheese bread, and then we decided to go catch the Buffaloes game at the outdoor stadium. On our way to the field we stopped at another shopping area where my parents delighted in some crepes. Then they experienced their first Japanese baseball game.

The following day we were greeted with rain. I had not planned ANY activities for rain and had no idea what we could do. My dad, Ken, found a couple sake breweries not to far from our apartment so we headed out to those. It was a wet nightmare but after my dad stopped and got directions, with my assistance, we set out to find the brewery. If you've seen one you've seen them all but it was neat to see just how it used to be made.
Then the days start to mix together so it gets confusing. We went to have a Japanese dinner one evening at a Yakiniku. There is a grill built into the table and you order your meat choices or vegetables and cook them yourself. At this particular restaurant it is timed and you can eat all you can in 90 minutes. At this point, I don't believe we had shared the news that they would be grandparents. I was super nervous that the raw meat sitting in front of me was going to make me sick, but I enjoyed the entire meal with no problems. I even had tongue for the first time and it was pretty good.
The first few days allowed them to get a feel for traveling by train and the general idea of our life here in Japan. Our first all day excursion was to Awaji island which you can read about here and then we will be ready to move on to the next big travel days of Hiroshima, Kyoto and around Kobe.
But first...a special video. We decided to tell my parents the night before Mother's Day because Brandon was busy all day that Sunday and wouldn't be around. A little back story behind the gift. There was some sort of pop up sale  in our building that had all sorts of Japanese goods. My mom spotted this really pretty lazy susan she wanted but didn't buy it. When she told me about it, I told her not to get it because it would be to hard to get home. The next morning we walked right past the sale again, she had a massage, and it was still there, which is when I got the bright idea to buy it and use that to surprise her with our news. While she was getting her massage I hurried, bought the plate and got it back to the apartment, hid a special surprise inside, and kept it until after our dinner pictured above. She thought she was just getting her lazy susan but ended up with so much more! I love that Brandon captured her reaction because they are the only two people we got to tell live in person.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Honest Pregnancy Update

Here I am, 16 weeks pregnant and I've hardly given this baby the attention it deserves here on the blog. I used to write here because I loved to create and make things and then share them for anyone who stumbled across them. Now I write more or less to share with everyone back home in the states some of our daily life and adventures we are experiencing in Japan. But our baby is both something we've created and want to share with everyone plus a very huge part of our daily life.

I've been apprehensive to share much about the pregnancy because at times I wonder, 'does everyone really need to know x, y, z?' And because I am not one to handle criticism and unwanted opinions about such a touchy subject very well. Brandon and I are both believers and we have already been in prayer for God's guidance to be the best parents we can be and will rely on our faith to guide us in this new and exciting journey.

So here is a little bit of our story and the beginning of our little one.

It was our decision to start trying for a family at the beginning of this season, this was no surprise. Since January we discussed it on a regular basis and felt based on travel plans and the off season we would try to have a baby between mid November and January. Once I made it to Japan we prayed about it to make sure we were both ready and to ask God if he wanted this for us then we were ready. On May 2nd, we found out that God was in fact ready for us to be parents. This is the note I used to tell Brandon. He was speechless and yes that is a Japanese pregnancy test.

If you remember, my parents came for a two week visit just six days after we found out a baby was on the way. It was obviously very early in the pregnancy but I knew that we had to tell them while they were here in person. I would wake up each morning wondering when I would feel sick and if I would be able to make it traveling and sightseeing with my parents. There was one afternoon where I couldn't get out of bed, I never got sick, I just had zero energy and zero appetite. The next day I felt fine. Back when I remember that I first knew I wanted to have kids, I began praying then each time pregnancy would cross my mind, for no morning sickness - an answered prayer.

Then started my free boob job. Because I'm being 100% honest here this was and is still quite a shock for me. I knew that the ladies became sore, what I didn't realize they would grow. And grow. And grow. And there is one of us who isn't complaining. Slowly but surely my clothes are shrinking. For a few weeks my belly would grow all day and then shrink back up while I was sleeping. Today, the belly is almost always out or at least it only takes until after breakfast for it to show up and I'm becoming quite fond of it.
Having a growing body is a challenge for a pregnant woman at least for me it was/is. I know that each and every kilogram I gain is for the best reason in the world. As a woman, and being at the I look like I ate to many cupcakes phase will take a small toll on your self esteem. At the time I was feeling really guilty about feeling bad about gaining some weight so I decided then I would make sure that I would feel as healthy as I could and make sure to get exercise for the both of us. I bought some goggles and a swim cap and started hitting the pool after a gym workout. And I finally started to feel confident and healthy as I continue to grow. Although this past week I have slacked, but know how to simply fix the problem, as soon as I get my doctors approval for $30. I know, ridiculous.

I began eating the same thing for breakfast for about a week, then the following week it would be something different, and this pattern still follows. This week it's frozen waffles. Last week it was Frosted Flakes with fruit on top and the week before it was scrambled eggs and cheese. For lunch my favorite has been tomato + cucumber + avocado salad or sandwich. I also have lots of nights were I want to have a glass of chocolate milk before bed or a handful of M&M's. There haven't been too many cravings. Mostly because I know the things that I would really like are 5,000 miles away so I try not to let my mind wander there and it's been working. Oh and cherries, I have LOVED cherries even at almost $5 a pack. Blame it on the kid, expensive taste already.
In the beginning, I continued to drink soda and coffee but I would try and limit myself to one a day. But it was hard and I failed miserably. I also had lunch meat and a hot dog or two but couldn't convince myself that these things would hurt our baby. I also had way to much candy, which led to a toothache, which led to me realizing I was making bad bad choices. Sorry baby, momma is a first timer. I know in my heart that God is protecting this child and that if there is something going to happen to our baby I know that it is His plan and not mine. I would simply ask that while I did those things that he allow them to not hurt our son or daughter. I still feel this way today however you'll be glad to know I have adjusted my habits and try eat and drink things that will help our baby grow but I'm not a drill sergeant either, it's about moderation. Lesson learned.
Our doctor visits are every four weeks and each time we visit we get to see the baby. The first visit we got to see the heartbeat. On our second visit we got to hear the heartbeat and this past visit we got to see it's little legs and arms moving. We have a DVD that they add each visits ultrasound and this past visit has been my favorite thing to watch. I thought the first two visits were great but this past one blew me away because it actually looks like a baby at this point. Our doctor speaks very little English but he knows how to say everything looks good, which we LOVE hearing. I think I mentioned before but we are not finding out the gender of our baby. Check out this little sprout! Each week I will read to Brandon what our baby is said to be doing. So this week he or she can hear our voices and it's not weird at all having someone talk into your belly. It has probably heard us laughing a ton at night because we are on this strange Jimmy Fallon kick where we watch video after video until way to late. Other than that we just pray he/she is healthy.
Don't get me started on the amount of toilet paper I've been going through. I think the placement of the bladder in a woman may have been a tiny joke BUT I'll take it because I know it's only going to continue for the next five months. I have to get out of the pool and use the bathroom more times than the old folks, a tad embarrassing.
That is our pregnancy through the first 15 weeks. I have been blessed with zero nasty symptoms, a boob job, shrinking clothes, the ability to hold it like no ones business, a tiny baby with super cute little bones and a thankful heart for this wild ride of an experience that is going way to fast already. And I almost forgot a super supportive and excited husband which has made this experience even better.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

All -Star Break 2013

As much as I've tried to establish a regular schedule around here, it just isn't going to happen. Which is what I need to get used to because that is probably how it will be once this baby arrives.

It's the final day of all-star break! We had two entire baseball free days but a week filled with fun.

The final game before break, I met Brandon at the stadium and we left after the fifth inning. I picked up dinner, Domino's, for our train ride and we headed to Tokyo for the two days off.

We planned to get up early and go to Disney Sea but that didn't happen. We staggered out of bed around 11 and headed over to the Disney resort to grab some lunch, shop, and hang out. Around 3 we decided that we would stick around and go to Disneyland for half price after five, which we thought wasn't until six, so we killed the next two and half hours.

We rode some rides, watched the magical light parade, and grabbed some waffles before the rain came and the park closed.

We checked out of our hotel and made our way to DisneySea. I originally thought it was going to be more like sea world inspired by Disney but not so much. It is pretty much like Disneyland but with some water rides and a huge pond in the park where they do all kinds of fun shows that spray water and the characters dance. The ride where you get wet was actually my favorite and we even went back just to watch the people having a good time. We had to skip several rides because I now fall under the expectant mother category but tried to get Brandon do go with out me. He said he would pick the baby over the rides any day so we skipped them. We decided if we were going to catch a train back to the apartment we couldn't stay for the final show so we left a little bit early to head home.

I met Brandon after practice and our translator (who is the BEST by the way and we appreciate so much all that he does for us) took us to Costco to get some groceries for our BBQ we were having on Sunday. Having a car makes that trip SO much easier.

We had a cookout with some of the other Orix baseball families. Our building has a BBQ patio that you can rent out for parties and have access to tables, chairs, and grills. Another group had it booked until six so we crammed our party in from six -eight. Once we found some lighter fluid we were up and running. The guys ran the grill, the girls brought some side dishes, and a good time was had by all, I hope.

After practice I met Brandon for an afternoon movie date. For a few seconds before the movie started we accidentally thought we purchased tickets for the Japanese version of the movie.. luckily we didn't. After the movie we headed to the Dr. for a check up on our little baby and I can't believe how big he/she had gotten. My favorite part is the tiny little leg bones. You tell me a 2cm femur is not adorable, cause it is! Doc said everything looks good and to come back in four weeks so until next time I'll just be watching our latest ultrasound on repeat.

We finished all-star break tonight with Outback for dinner. I'm exhausted from going, going, going, but have loved being busy and spending time with Brandon before we finish off the last 12ish weeks of the season. Where has the time gone? I'm getting pretty antsy about going home. Things like seeing my puppy again, family time, visiting my sister's new house, cuddling friends new babies, driving, and all that fun stuff. Until then, it's Japanese living.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Week Alone

It's quiet here. Almost too quiet. Yesterday I took my sister to the airport and its nearing 24 hours and she isn't home yet. Her flight from Osaka was delayed by about three hours just allowing her to miss the plane crash at SFO where she was to catch her connecting flight. It's scary and I am so thankful that she is safe and hope that she can make it home soon!
We had a super busy but awesome visit from the time I picked her up until the time I dropped her off. She got to experience Japan as Brandon and I do and I'm letting her do a recap of her time here so that I can finally catch up on my parents visit from May.
If it wasn't bad enough sending her home, Brandon just walked out the door for a week. It is bittersweet. He is finally recovered from his injury 100% and is scheduled to pitch for the big league team on the tenth. How I have LOVED our afternoons and evenings together and it will take a few days for me to adjust to being here by myself after about two months of having him here.
Which will probably leave me missing him and my new best dog friend Henry. Karla and I went on a little trip to Tokyo to visit our friends living on the Yakota Air Force Base and I soaked up some dog loving time with this little dachshund. He was so pathetic waiting by my bags before we left. I think it's safe to say he liked me a little.
So for the time being, I will keep growing this little baby of ours that received two packages this week. My friend Rachel, which finally had her baby boy on the 5th (Happy Birthday Max and to my bff Liz) sent us some baby goodies and a some reading material for me. Then my mom shipped us a box with stuff we needed, toothpaste/deodorant/lemonade packets, etc., and then this CUTE bear and onesie that she made for us. I can't believe how small a newborn onesie is, but I love it. Trying not to get anxious because we still have six months to go.
While Karla was here she couldn't resist pictures of my tiny bump I've been sporting - already rocking her Aunt duties.  After being on our feet all day and large meals that baby really likes to pop out, which makes me wonder if we are going to have a big baby on our hands come January.

With all of that said, I am left with a full heart to take on this week alone and catch up on some Facetime!