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Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankfulness

Hello my friends,

I had a couple of questions from my last post so I thought I would answer them here.

Taci asked about the scarf pattern. It is the Drop Stitch Scarf and it's free on Ravelry. The yarn is from Hobby Lobby and is their store brand "I love this Yarn."

Kris asked how Alex got interested in Japan. When he was 13 he met some Jr. high students who were here for 3 weeks one summer on an exchange program. Alex was beginning university that fall and by the time the students left after 3 weeks, he knew what he wanted to do. He bought his textbooks and was speaking Japanese before classes started less than a month later. He got his BA when he was 17 and his Masters Degree at 19 when he moved to Japan full time. He's been teaching English in private schools in Japan every summer since he was 14. He also speaks Chinese. I think he was gifted with an ear for languages and music. He taught himself to play the guitar by ear also and can finger pick each individual note. He's very stubborn and won't stop until it's perfect, whether it's languages or music!
Thanks for your interest.

Gracie asked what our plans are for Thanksgiving. Well, our other two kids are coming home with all three grandchildren! This Grandma is very happy. I have the turkey thawing in the refrigerator and will begin baking tomorrow. I found a wonderful Apple Cinnamon bread that I tried out on Hubby last week that I think will convert to gluten free fairly easily. Otherwise I'll be making a couple of different variations of sweet potatoes and green beans for the actual dinner. Mashed potatoes with no dairy in them. Two celiac disease and one dairy free grandchild does make things interesting. But...I know we'll have a great time. Brad, Mandy & Piper will be here Thursday late morning and Jamie, Kyleigh & Caleb will be here on Wednesday.

I have ALL of my Christmas shopping done and just two scarves to finish for Alex and his girlfriend and I'll be done with making presents too. I'm going to wrap things this afternoon so there won't be any peeking this weekend! :-) It's always a relief to be done and usually I finish the first part of October but for some reason I'm way behind this year. I like to be done early and then enjoy the season with no stress.

Yesterday at church, the teacher who received the mittens from me brought me this.

It is a big thank you card from all of the students. She took a picture of her class with the mittens on and then had individual photos and a hand written thank you from each child. They colored the page the color of their mittens! She read them the story of the Grandma who made her grandchild mittens and then told them about me making them each a pair of mittens and let them choose their colors. She said the kids were SO excited. Not one of them had a pair of gloves or mittens. She kept telling me that I really needed to understand. These kids have NOTHING and they are taking such good care of the mittens because they don't have much. I tell you what. I was crying like a little baby after reading those cards and seeing those sweet little faces.

I asked Lindsey if all of the children now had mittens and she told me the other two first grade classes were also in need, but she didn't want to ask me to make more. Well, you know this grandma can't stand to have babies with cold hands. Gracie...my scarf is once again on hold, (I am over halfway done now). I have to get more mittens made for those kids. It's cold here. 15 degrees last night. I have yarn leftover from the others and I will get busy today, making more mittens! I'll keep you updated on the progress. Lindsey wants me to personally bring the next batch to the school so the kids can meet me. None of them have ever seen anyone knit and she want's me to show them how it's done.

I've also sent in my application to be a CASA volunteer. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, it's a voice for the children in the foster care system. You are there to represent only the child. Not the parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, courts, etc. Just to give the child a voice in court. I'm excited about it, if accepted I'll undergo training in January. Please pray that if this is something that I'm meant to do that I will be accepted into the program.

Here is Harumi's scarf all done. Alex's is the same pattern and about 1/3 finished and then I need to make his girlfriends scarf. I want to get the box into the mail early next week so he will get it in time for his birthday, December 7. Pearl Harbor Day. Ironic isn't it? My boy who loves Japan was born on Pearl Harbor Day. :-)


Well, I'm off to get some things done here at home. I've already went and undecorated the church from fall. Winter d├ęcor will be put up on Friday by those much more talented than I. I can tear things down with the best of them, but please don't ask me to decorate. :-) I've also been to Hobby Lobby, the post office, Walmart, (twice-Hubby called and asked me to get something for his office which moved this past weekend after I had already been to Walmart.) Two loads of laundry done and now I need to wrap presents and get busy knitting.

Have a blessed day everyone and remember why we celebrate on Thursday. To give thanks to God for giving us this great nation, our families, our friends and all of the other blessings in our lives.

Blessings,

Betsty

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Brrrrr it's cold!

Good Morning and Happy Thursday to all of you, my wonderful bloggie friends! It's cold here in Spokane today although the skies are gloriously blue. It was 17F last time I looked on our deck thermometer. Quite a change from the 60's and 70's we enjoyed last week in Japan. First I thought I would show you my knitting projects at the moment.

This first one is the yarn fellow blogger, lovely Gracie gifted me with. I keep putting it aside to work on other things but it's getting cold so I'm trying to make good time on it. Since it's only size 3 needles, it does take awhile to knit. I think I'm a little over 1/3 done with it.

This is a scarf I'm making for Harumi in Japan as part of her Christmas box. Scarves are very popular over there and people wear them when it's not even cold! It's an easy drop stitch pattern. I just started this yesterday afternoon and I'm almost halfway done.

Lastly are the socks that I carried along with me everywhere. I knit on the planes, in the taxi and on the bullet train! Otherwise they just sat in the bag while I went sightseeing.

I don't think I told you that we had two rather large earthquakes while we were in Tokyo. The first was Sunday morning. Hubby was still asleep and I woke him up so he wouldn't miss it. The other was Saturday night before we left to come home. He's traveled the world but never experienced an earthquake. Me, on the other hand, had lots of experience on my last trip to Japan after the "big one". However the epicenter with those was far away in the ocean, so even though they measured 7-8 on the Richter scale, they didn't seem too terrible. These two were centered right under Tokyo and measured in the 4 & 5 region. Doesn't sound too bad unless it's right underneath you. The second one was the worst with me jumping out of bed to catch Alex's T.V. just before it crashed to the floor. The building swayed and moved for about 20 minutes after the worst of it was over. Not fun. Alex says they were the two worst ones since he moved to Tokyo from Northern Japan two years ago. That is a worrisome fact in and of itself.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. It was at the Ryoken where the group shower room is. Remember that from my last post? They provide these Nukata's for you to wear to and from the shower/tub room and to lounge in while in your room.

Christmas lights at Roppongi Hills. This is a VERY expensive shopping area in Tokyo, which is saying something. Tokyo is expensive anyway and this place is "over the top". Needless to say, we didn't buy anything, just enjoyed the atmosphere. Both Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo Tower are within walking distance of Alex's apartment.

Alex pointing out the entrance to Keio University where he is a translator. It looks small, but the campus goes on and on behind this gate. Many buildings and a big courtyard.

At the Edo museum. The Emperor and other high falutin' people rode around in these. The Emperor's feet were not to touch the ground outside, only special floors in the palace.

In Japan the majority of the restaurants have fake, (wax) food on display outside of the dishes that they offer. We went by the store that makes these wax displays. They look good enough to eat, don't they?

I found yarn at the 100 yen store, (like our dollar stores) and I bought three small skeins of yarn just to say I bought yarn in Japan!

Alex did a LOT of translating for us, although I could read the second sign all by myself.

Some of the goodies we had there. These are all sweets, famous in Japan and found only at this restaurant in Kyoto. Only chopsticks could be used to eat them. Actually, I've gotten pretty good with chopsticks, but these were wiggly little things and I had some trouble!

Like father, like son. Whenever we stopped for a minute or two, Hubby was answering emails and phone calls for work. Alex is working on a translation job so he would pull out his laptop. Here we were waiting for our lunch. While we were there, Alex had a book hand delivered to him by a publishing company. It was just published October 31 and he did the translation. It's about a person who walked the coast of the tsunami damage and wrote the story of the people. We're very proud of our son. I hope it's okay to brag a bit.

Our "daughter" Harumi who lived with us for two years while she was in Spokane going to college. She is a sweetheart and we adore her. She works for Ernst and Young in Human Relations and this is her office building. She took us to lunch on the top floor overlooking the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The second picture is her little boy, Harutaro and Alex. Harutaro was born one day after I arrived in Tokyo two years ago, so I was one of the first people to hold him! Alex is a Pied Piper with kids. I think he needs to go back to teaching elementary school. He loves kids and they love him too.

Harumi took us to Chinatown in Yokohama and we shopped and had lunch before going to her house and having pizza for dinner. She remembered how much we love pizza! Also the port of Yokohama. Important because it's where the "Black Ships" came and opened up trade with Japan and the rest of the world. Before that, Japan was an isolated country.

The bamboo forest in Kyoto. Notice the lady in a kimono and the monk behind her?

You saw ladies in kimono's everywhere you went in Japan. We did try to go to Gion and see the Geisha's, but although we walked around the alleyways for a few hours, we never were lucky enough to catch sight of one. This picture was during the day on a city sidewalk.

The Tokyo Tower, (orange colored) and the Tokyo Skytree. The Skytree is the worlds largest free standing structure. We were supposed to go to the top but it was too windy the day we had tickets and all tours were cancelled. We've been to the top of the Tokyo Tower before and it's a beautiful view.

Our last night in Japan we had dinner with Yoshie, (remember her from last summer?), and Mayako. They've both stayed with us in Spokane. We went to the top of Roppongi Hills tower, the tallest building in Tokyo. This picture was taken outside on the skydeck of the 57th floor about 1 1/2 hours before the earthquake I told you about. I'm so glad I wasn't out there during the earthquake. I don't like heights to begin with and I can't imagine begin on the outside of a swaying building. Especially one that tall.

One of the things that I love about Tokyo is the "citiness" of it. You can walk everywhere or take the subway. No need for a car. Within just two or three blocks of Alex's apartment are every kind of store you would like to go to. French bakeries, Fromongeries, (French cheese shop), dentist, doctor, supermarket, several convenience stores. The ease of living there and taking care of your daily needs is great. He walks about 15 minutes to the University for work. People are in MUCH better physical shape than we are here in the U.S. and they don't go to the gym! That being said, there is no place like home and I'm glad to be back although I miss Alex terribly.

Okay. I think I've inundated you with enough Japan pictures. I hope you've enjoyed them like I have. I'll leave you with one last garden photo. I just LOVE the gardens and trees in Japan. They take such good care of everything and are very detail oriented.

Aren't those colors gorgeous?

Have a lovely day my friends and I'll be here again soon.

Blessings,

Betsy

Monday, November 18, 2013

Home Again

Hubby and I arrived home yesterday and when we finally went to bed last night we had been up over 37 hours straight. We have learned though, to try to stay up until close to your normal bedtime when arriving in a different time zone and jet lag doesn't usually hit as bad as it can if you don't get right back to your normal schedule. That being said though, I'm sure both of us will "hit a wall" about 3:30 or 4:00 this afternoon. That always happens for a few days too, so I try to be really productive in the mornings when first arriving home. The strange thing is, it only happens when coming home, never when arriving in our vacation spot. I've been told that it's because of the direction you travel. And now, on to some photos.

Arriving at Narita airport after a one hour flight and 11 1/2 hour flight. I think those airplane seats get closer together on newer planes. My legs were practically at my chest!

The second pictures is our first morning in Tokyo at Maui coffee roasters for breakfast with Alex. Since we didn't get to go to Maui for the past two years, this is as close as we'll get!

The next pictures were at the Edo Museum in Tokyo where we were lucky enough to be there on the last day of the beautiful demonstration of koto playing by these two beautiful girls. The music was magical and made you feel as though you were in another world altogether. This museum has the history of Tokyo during the Edo period and is very interesting. Rickshaws were scattered everywhere we went in Japan. The athletic ability of these young people pulling them was amazing. Young men AND women!



We spent a few days in Kyoto too and Alex made reservations for us to visit the Imperial Palace there. These reservations aren't easy to get and we felt very lucky to be able to actually see the inside of the palace. The gardens were amazing! Those are handpainted panels that are thousands of years old. It's amazing how they have stood the test of time with the heat and humidity in Kyoto in the summers.


A look at our room in Kyoto. We stayed at a traditional Japanese ryoken across the street from the temple. You sleep in a room on futons. Teas is also served to you in this room. We were lucky enough to have a toilet and sink in our room but the shower is a communal shower and tub set-up. WAAAAAY out of my comfort zone. It has six showers and one big hot bath in the same room. I wanted to get pictures of the shower room for you but it was always occupied when I tried. The first two nights we were there I think I was the only female guest so I had the shower room and tub to myself. The last night was very busy so I skipped the shower/bath. There are exact steps you are to use when showering and bathing in these rooms and I'm always afraid I'll wash or not wash in the incorrect order. :-)Not to mention I'm not fond of being seeing in the "altogether" if you get my meaning by a bunch of tiny women!

Alex is wearing the traditional robe, that you wear to the shower/tub room. Each of us had one and if you visit my facebook page you'll see a great picture that Alex posted of the three of us wearing them. The last three pictures are bathroom pictures! Can you believe the door is only 14 inches wide? Not very big people in Japan!!! Of course the famous heated seats and fancy sprays, etc. and the last is the traditional Japanese toilet in the floor. On my last two trips to Japan I had no problem using these, but my leg muscles are getting old along with the rest of me! I stood in line waiting for the one "western" toilet in a lot of restrooms. :-)


I don't want to leave you with bathroom humor so here's a beautiful photo of a garden that we visited. Do you want to see a few more photos next post or are you done with Japan pictures? I don't want to bore you.


Blessings,
Betsy