Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Art of Embarrassment

We were asked to be actors in the church play this Christmas. We weren't quite tricked, like last time, but we definitely didn't know exactly what we were agreeing to either.

Our church performed a shortened version of "The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. We didn't know this until half-way though the first read-through. I naturally thought the Christmas play would be more nativity related. I was quite confused when there was no pregnant lady traveling with her fiance, & when the main character battled a monster named Apolyon. Stephen, who's read the book, on the other hand, guessed right away what the play was.

I was asked to be the wife/mother. I assume because ever expanding belly makes me look matronly. Stephen was my son.
The feat of learning lines in Japanese and knowing when to say them gave me a bit of a panic attack. Thankfully, our parts were small. And we didn't have to memorize our lines.

When my English students found out I was going to be in a play in Japanese, they asked about coming to church to watch. So, Christmas morning, two of my English students came to our church Christmas party to watch Stephen and I looking foolish reading lines in Japanese with bad American accents.

Everyone in the play was very gracious about our performance. Which was good, because when ever I said a line, the whole audience laughed. ( I don't think that is how the author intended it)

It was a light hearted production, and no-one took themselves too seriously. Well other than this guy...

It was a great experience. It forced us to learn some sentences we otherwise wouldn't know, and the promise of seeing their English teacher be embarrassed got two of my students to come to church.

Gift time

Christmas time is the time for giving and today I was able to give some gifts to a friend and a brand new friend today.

The first friend is a Ramen chef who I've known since the beginning of my time in Japan. My first bowl of Japanese ramen was from his store, and after tasting ramen from other places his ramen is still my favorite. I eventually became a regular at his store :). I get to practice my Japanese with him and He also advertises for my Church's English Class.

We took a picture together when my mom came to visit

The new friend I made this week is the owner of the barber shop right next to my apartment. We became friends when he helped me dig my car out when it was stuck in the snow. I thank the Lord that he provided me with that help (being a California kid I don't know anything about snow). When I went to give him a gift to show my appreciation for his help today, in the conversation he asked if "the the phone made it to me safely". So ... it turns out that his family has helped us twice.

Two weeks ago, Kathryn dropped her phone and lost it somewhere near the apartment, when I was home a Japanese woman came to my door and gave me Kathryn's phone. I was very thankful but I didn't know who it was at the time.

Like most Japanese, since I gave him a gift he immediately returned the favor and gave me something. I have no idea of what it is. I didn't understand when he told me what it was. I think he said that it was for my ear.
If any one know what it is, please tell me. :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

...If Only In My Dreams

The other day I was out running errands: gifts to buy, gifts to mail, grocery lists to fill. Even though the busyness is the same no matter where you spend you Christmas, the differentness of Japan at the holidays was taking it's toll. Little things like not hearing Christmas music everywhere you go, or not seeing kids sitting on Santa's lap at the mall. Just little things, really.

So, when my errands took me into Starbucks, I had to take a short break from Christmas in Japan. The music on the speakers was the same as I always remember, the toffee-nut late tasted just like always, and the cranberry bliss-bar reminded me of good times with friends. I closed my eyes and let Japan slip away. If only for a moment, I was sitting at Riverpark, taking a break between stores. When I opened my eyes, it was Japan again, just like I'd left it, but now somehow a little more like home.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Early Christmas Lunch

Today, we had a Christmas lunch with our students in Chitose.

I racked my brain for some Christmassy thing to make. Thanksgiving is easy. The menu is pretty standard, with a few variations depending on your family. Christmas dinner, though, is different for most every American I ask.

I ended up making beef stew with biscuits. I don't think I've every personally eaten beef stew for Christmas dinner, but it felt American and homey, (and it was super easy because of my crockpot) so it fit the bill.

After class, we brought in the food.

It was a meal of firsts: first time eating biscuits, first time seeing a crockpot, first time having American beef stew.

It's been so nice getting to know "our Chitose ladies" over the past few months. Sharing this meal together was a nice way to grow in relationship and spend time together before the new year.

If you're interested in making the stew or biscuits, here are the recipes I used along with a note or two.

(Credit: Taste of Home)
*When I make this next time, I'll decrease the apple juice and increase the beef broth by equal parts


  • 4 cups frozen vegetables for stew (about 24 ounces), thawed
  • 1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 jar (4-1/2 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 2 envelopes brown gravy mix
  • 2 tablespoons onion soup mix
  • 2 teaspoons steak seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) beef broth
  • 1-1/4 cups apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup cold water


  • Place the vegetables, water chestnuts, mushrooms and onion in a 5-qt. slow cooker. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the gravy mix, soup mix, steak seasoning and cinnamon; add beef, a few pieces at a time, and shake to coat. Add to slow cooker.
  • Combine the broth, cider and tomato sauce; pour over beef. Add bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until meat is tender.
  • Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into stew. Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes or until thickened. Discard bay leaf. Yield: 12 servings.

(Credit: All Recipes)
*These were a hit! I'm looking forward to making them for Christmas Eve dinner for Stephen and me.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg


  1. In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a bowl, whisk milk and egg. Stir into crumb mixture just until moistened. Drop by heaping spoonfuls 2 in. apart onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Tis the season... be really busy!

after hearing about all that is planned for Christmas a friend from America commented, "well I guess being in a different country doesn't make you any less hectic at the holidays." No, it really doesn't. :)

But, you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.

I hope to be back to the blog to share snippets and updates from Christmas time in Japan. There is, and has been, a lot going on this month that I'd love to share. But as is usually the case, when we have to most to write about, I have the least amount of time to sit and write. :P

So for today, I'll leave you with some pictures and commentary from last weekend's Friends Christmas party.

A simple dinner of soup, salad, and make-you-own-sandwich was a hit.
Some American soda was an extra treat!

And of course, no Christmas party would be complete with out way too many sweats!

We played "Pin the nose on the snowman"

I think we underestimated how hard it would be!

Luckily, there was plenty of participation from the peanut-gallery.

We're so happy to have been able to invite our friends over for Christmas fun!

Friday, December 9, 2011

5 words/phrases for winter

It's cold!

It feels like this phrase has been on repeat around our house for the past few week. (I have a feeling, it's not going to stop anytime soon. )

We've officially arrived in winter. The snow is sticking, the nights are below freezing (as are most of the days), and I've been wearing more layers than an onion!

I asked a few of my English classes to share 5 common Japanese words & phrases for winter in Hokkaido. Even if you don't live in the tundra, I hope you try them out!

1)  しばれる (Shi-ba-re-ru) : "colder than cold!"
If your freezing your behind off, try saying this phrase.

2) つらら  (tsu-ra-ra) : "Icicle."
(I've been pointing out all the tsurara I see on houses and dripping from the hoods of cars since learning this word)

3) さむいいですね! (sA-mu-i dess neh!) : "It's cold, Isn't it!" (or, "It sure is cold!")
This is equally as popular in the winter as "Atsui dess neh!" is in the summer ("it's hot, isn't it!")

4)  そうですようね!(so dess yo neh!) : "Yeah it is!"
This is used to agree with the previous sentence.

5) ゆきがふりましたね! (yu-ki ga fu-ri-ma-shta- neh!) : Literally "Snow fell, right!?" My student told me it's like pointing out the obvious. If a lot of snow fell, you would say this. (like the English equivalent of "It's really coming down out there")

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