Grand grands…

Boy and their toys.

Feeding ducks and fish

Watching cartoons

We visited a different park every other day

Tickles

Watching swim lessons

A banana bread baking contest between mom and Grammi

Dinosaurs and trains

Playing games and building toys

Origami straw rockets

Walks to the store

Noisy meals

Gourmet cooking

Little boys arguing

Covid…. sigh…

Shopping with our daughter

Lunch at a really cool Soba restaurant

Helping address and stamp my daughters New Years cards

A snot tsunami after a sneeze

Two boys howling like wolves

Origami monster corner bookmarks

Bey blades crazy

Walks to the post box

Veggie Tales Silly Songs with Larry

Quiet mornings for prayer before the family wakes

Reading a great book

Being buried in stuffed animals

Coloring via app during kid TV time

Watching cooking shows with our daughter and son (in-law) after after the boys bedtime

A weekend road trip to the place my father served in the Navy

A Japanese dollar store trip

Coffee… lots of coffee. Almost daily trips to a coffee shop.

Tiny and huge hotel rooms

Mountains, oceans and plains

Smallest elevator I have ever seen

Word of the day: Magnificent

Random outbursts into song and dance during meals

“I’m hungrier than a peacock eating snacks”

Pokémon chip cards

Guard Cat

Waking to two 4.4 earthquakes, that I originally thought were my cats scratching themselves on my bed.

Walking past the guard cat, seriously, with a pillow for a shield.

Gift giving and receiving.

Extravagant hospitality.

Aunts, uncles, cousins grandparents and great grandparents

Blowing bubbles

My father explaining crossword puzzles to his great grandsons

Wind and Sun

Used Kimono shopping with my daughter

Goodbye tears leaving them

Happy tears to see my honey again

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Daily word prompt…

A blogger named Selma put out a daily word prompt challenge. I thought it might be fun to try it once! Todays word was flock.

Spring rains soften the ground

A flock of birds gather around

They arrive in masses

To feed in the grasses

Startled by some sight

From the yard they alight

A large black cloud

Wings flapping loud

Repeating over and over

Until they are gone

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2023/01/21/your-daily-word-prompt-Flock-ydwordprompt-January-21-2023/

Thanks for the challenge Selma!

In person…

It’s hard to explain Japan in words or pictures. You have to visit and see it in person to really comprehend the sheer volume of human life flooding the streets during commute hour. When I say the skyscraper apartments are close to one another, I mean, some only have a couple feet between them. In many places, there are so many huge buildings, that it is hard to imagine the sun ever warming the ground. At times, I felt if I reached my arm out the window of our car, that I might be able to touch the homes.

Tokyo from an elevated freeway

The cities are painted in shades of grey and rust, with only the periodic bursts of color in the signage. Smaller towns (Seattle, San Francisco sized) are still filled with overhead wiring for everything, but have more vividly painted buildings, and way more retail signage filled with cartoonish characters and bright colors. Step out of the cities and into the country, and the houses begin to look more like what most westerners expect Japanese buildings to look like. Beautiful tile roofs, with decorative ridge lines, manicured gardens, unique architecture and a little more space around the houses. Community gardens dot the residential areas, and plants soften any hardness of the buildings.

Old look restaurant

The Japanese city planners plan their city parks to perfection. There are many smaller playgrounds with running space dotted throughout the cities. Especially as buffer zones between industrial and residential. There are even more multi acre parks filled with huge playgrounds, walking paths, garden areas, grassy fields, man made water features, etc. These garden parks can transport one from city to countryside just by stepping out of one’s car. They are filled with families playing and older folks exercising, a beautiful juxtaposition of harshness and beauty.

A city park, Hasuda, Saitama, Japan

There are multi lane freeways, many are elevated to take advantage of air space, and single lane two way streets. There really is no rhyme or reason the the directions. I was told that after WW2, cities just started building roads without any plans or direction. Not sure why. Parking is at a premium, and in very busy places, one might find cars on contraptions to make the most of the “air space”. In many cities, empty house lots have been converted to parking lots for 6-10 vehicles.

Many “fast food” type restaurants present their menu with pictures or faux plates to view

Food is an important part of the culture. Their imports are of the best quality, including blemish free fruits, high quality meats, etc. How it looks when it is served, is just as important as how it tastes. They cater to every sense when it comes to eating out. Atmosphere, music, sights, smell. It is a buffet for the senses. Since the homes, and therefore the refrigerators, are small, most people make daily trips to the supermarket for fresh items. It is not uncommon to see the same people walking or riding to a store every day. There are plenty of restaurants that have sit on the floor options, as well as westernized booth seating.

A beautiful, delicious caprese salad

Some of the people are very friendly and kind and you feel like their friend when you leave their place of business. But I have found that to be less often than shopkeepers who are all business. If you smile at a Japanese person as you walk past them, they probably won’t smile back. My daughter says that is because they are on their way someplace. They aren’t looking to be friendly. One coffee place we visited in Kamakura (the Circus) was incredible. The atmosphere was warm, and inviting, with calm, yet modern music playing. It was a beautiful, simple blend of old and new for an interior. The shop keeper was friendly, smiled and laughed as he helped us. As we began to try what we ordered, he was watching intently to see what our responses were going to be to his Camembert and Gorgonzola cheesecakes. I’m sure he was confident we would love it, but you could tell he took great pleasure in seeing people happy, and great pride in his creations. Wow.

The Circus Coffee Shop in Kamakura
Simply elegant. The Circus

Another store we visited in Kamakura was a shop where the store owner upcycled used kimono sashes into table runners, purses, and more. The owner spoke English to us, very well, and we enjoyed learning she had spent time in Los Angeles. She was very friendly to our young grandsons also. And, I must say, our 6 and 4 year old grandsons did fantastically in the shops! Way to go mom and dad for making tourist time fun for the kids too!

Yet, in other places, the clerks would not really look at you. They seemed as if they were simply going through the motions of the sale. I suppose this is the same anywhere you might go in the world. Sorry for the slightly off topic rabbit trail, but I did want to give a shout out to those two shops.

Huge malls, with throngs of people are common. The stores are all clean, well maintained and pretty to look at. Everything is in its place. There are enough workers to make sure things are always where they belong and look as they should. There are no piles of T-shirts all messed up, only tidy-ness. Again, you really need to experience these things to appreciate them.

I enjoyed my time in Japan. Everything listed above though, is just icing on the cake. My cake was visiting with our daughter, her husband and two boys!

Great read…

I don’t know about you, but I have read a lot of books in my 57 years. When I was young, it was romance novels, until I realized what unhealthy expectations it was breeding in me about love. Then it was novels. John Grisham, Bourne books and the like. Later it became devotionals, my Bible, self help books, etc. in all that time, I haven’t read one quite like Ninja Selling by Larry Kendall.

https://ninjaselling.com/ninja-selling-book/

This book was recommended to me recently by a teacher when I was renewing real estate license. I haven’t sold in the last sixteen years, so I had to go through the classes over again. It was a lot of fun, although, I felt a little old whe. I realized one of the girls my daughter had attended school with was also in the class. But I digress. The teacher recommended that we all read the book.

I brought the book to Japan with me, since I knew I would have spare time late evenings and early mornings without family around. I am at chapter nine already, page 41 of the book. So far, nothing has been said about selling. It seems to be more in the category of a self improvement book. And, I must say, it has been one of the best I have ever read.

In one chapter, it explains the brain’s reticular activating system, and talks about positive pathways and negative pathways. To summarize, whichever pathway you spend more time on, will dictate your beliefs, and thus, your actions. Although it is not a spiritual book, I found this scientific portion, clearly explained a scripture that I have been focused on recently. It is found in the book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8. It says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

This book is written in clear and simple to understand terms. It has bite sized chapters and ideas, which are easy to implement. After ten days, I am already seeing results in my life after implementing some of the ideas. This is a great self improvement book. I can’t wait to keep reading!

Paper crafts…

This morning I got to watch the boys while mom ran an errand and dad worked. They played well for quite some time, but we all know it was just a matter of time before fists or toys started flying. I spent the time researching a short craft project and prepping the materials into little kits for us to do together. They turned out terrific, so I wanted to share them with you!

Corner Monster Bookmarks!

We used what we had (red origami paper and little googly eyes) and the boys loved them. I got the pattern from the following site:

http://tallystreasury.com/2011/02/corner-page-bookmarks-3/

I can’t wait to use some of my pretty scrapbook papers to create some pretty ones for my friends and to sell at the local craft show this summer. I hope you have as much fun as we did today!

Japan history…

My father served in the Navy in Japan for four years. He loved it there. I was thirteen when my brother went into the Navy. After basic training, he was sent to Japan, where he promptly fell in love and married a Japanese national. He was stationed there for twenty of the next twenty five years of his career. This was before the internet. FaceTime wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Phones still had a cord you plugged into a wall, which limited your movement, and often, your privacy. Phone calls to other cities, states and countries were considered “long distance”. The longer the distance, the more expensive they were. On the rare occasion we called my brother we were charged ten cents a minute. That can add up quickly! I never really got to know my brother as a teenager or adult. Sure, he had to come home every few years, and I always made it a point to go home when he was there, but by that time the distance had been solidified even in relationship.

It’s been twenty five years since my brother retired and moved back to the states. He lives a six hour drive away, but he may as well still be in Japan. The relationship is what it is, which is minimal. Welcome 2013. When our daughter graduated from college, she moved to Japan to marry her college sweetheart, a Japanese National she attended college with. Next August will be her ten year anniversary for living there. When she told us she was moving to Japan, I was devastated. I had already lost one family member to that country, now I was losing another. In my pain, I questioned her decision when we spoke. Looking back, I am sure my questions hurt her. She assured me with the words I’m sure she thought I wanted to hear. “It’s not like I’ll never come back”. I think maybe she was talking about visiting, whereas I figured she was talking about moving back. Either way, in my mind, I already knew the outcome of this rodeo. I’d been down this path once before, and I lost my brother. Now I was losing my daughter.

As I said before, when my brother was in Japan, communication options were limited. Today, we have texting and face time. Our daughter has been amazing at keeping in touch with both. Pictures are regularly sent our way of the family, and we get to talk to her and her boys a couple times a month. I have cherished every text, every picture sent, every call. But I miss real face time.

Which brings me to today. My 84 year old father and I made the long journey to go visit. This will probably be his last visit to a country he adores. Not because he is dying, but because at his age, the long trip wreaks havoc with his arthritic knees, and being awake for 24 hours is tough on the mind and body. This is my fifth trip here. To date I have been blessed to have the resources to make the trip. However, with the economic turn in the U.S., my hubby’s work/income has been reduced dramatically, and I am going back to work to help make ends meet. Hopefully this will be temporary, but I am prepared if it is not. Japan was never been a country I wanted to visit. Italy and Israel call to me. But, those have been put on a back burner, because my daughter is more important, and I want her to know that.

Someday, I’ll go to Italy and Israel. Maybe my honey and I will go with our daughter and her honey when the boys are grown. Maybe.

Someday, I hope my daughter will forgive me for the hurt I imposed on her, because of my own hurt. The year 2022 has been full of learning how to really let go of those things which are not mine to carry, how to accept the things I cannot change, how to take care of myself, and so much more. I hope that the new year will bring you the opportunity to change, and to grow as a human. And that you can learn to release your worry and cares, and just be in the moment that you have been blessed with. Because life, is a series of moments.

Incredibly thankful…

I am beginning to really question the environmentalist viewpoint of replacing natural gas for electric for the purposes of heating homes.

I live north, a few hours from the Canadian border. High temperatures during the winter usually range from 25-40 degrees, dropping to between 20-30 degrees overnight. As everyone else in the United States, we also have been experiencing the Arctic Blast this last week. When we built our home, we went with an energy efficient electric ductless heat pump system. There is one exterior compressor and each room has a “head” in it. The heads can both heat and cool. Each room can have the heat or air set to a different temperature. They work great!

Until the temperature drops below about 20 degrees. They tend to build up condensation on the compressor unit outside. When that happens during the winter you get frost or ice build up. It then defrosts. During the defrost cycles, the units are not heating and the air they release into the house is cool. The colder the outside temperature, the more often a defrost cycle is required.

Fast forward to this week. Temperatures in our area have been between -6 and 6 degrees. Our compressor has been working overtime. I know because it sounds like a Diesel engine right outside my bedroom, and the bedroom feels cooler than the 61 degrees the head is set to. We keep the main room of the house set at 63 overnight, and it felt as cold as the bedroom. Fortunately, we have a gas fireplace in the main room, and cadet heaters in all the bathrooms (where cold air enters through our venting) and after a few hours, the thermometer on the remote control said it was 66 degrees. We have been using the fireplace to help take the lid off of the compressor unit. From what I have read, this is common, and it is recommended to have alternative sources of heat in colder climates. That would have been nice to know when we made the decision to install the system, we may have gone a different route.

In all my life of hearing with natural gas, I’ve never had a furnace struggle when the temperature drops. So my question for the environmentalists is this: while electric heat seems to be friendly to the environment, is it conducive to keeping people from freezing to death?

At peace…

Sometimes I drift away away from God. I don’t go off on a big sinning spree or anything extreme like that. I just get so busy, or have too much stress in my life to sit with him and listen for his voice. To still my brain. That’s where I’ve been for the last few months.

I’m a nutshell, in late October, I was rear ended with my two oldest grandchildren in the car with me. The next day my granddaughter and I were feeling the impact. Over the next two days, we hosted two weddings on our property. The first went smoothly due to the use of a wedding planner being on site. I merely had to show her where things were, then sit and enjoy the festivities. The next day was a different story. Since the bride was a friend, I wanted her day to be perfect. She had planned it well, but didn’t have a planner taking care of details. I ended up on my feet for close to 12 hours before bowing out. My neck was hurting, my ankle was swollen and in pain. I spent the next week off my feet nursing it with rest, heat and ice therapy and some Apis Mellifica to reduce the swelling.

The constant communication with both insurance companies, and regular chiropractic appointments started immediately. My company, The Hartford with AARP (yep, I’m old enough to be a member), was fabulous to deal with. They explained how things would work in easy to understand terms, and provided me with all the resources I needed. The other insurance company, which I will not name so as not to get a torte claim filed against me, was not, and has not been so fun or efficient to deal with.

Things settled down a bit until Thanksgiving. My son came down with strep throat a few days before. I had planned to watch his youngest (age 2) for a Grammi day the day before thanksgiving, then pickup his two oldest (age 12 and 15) from school and have a sleepover. the youngest had what seemed to be her normal sniffles, and the oldest coughed her way through our game of dominos. The little one sleeps better in my bed, and I found her snoring in my face due to a stuffy nose around 1:30. Just as she fell back to sleep at 2:00am, our granddaughter came into the rom to wake me up and tell me her throat was burning and she wanted to go home. Her dad came and got her, and after the other two woke up in the morning, I decided they also needed to head home. We were expecting a lot of family and friends for the day, and didn’t want to risk spreading strep. Mom picked them up, and I spent an hour spraying every hard surface they were near with Lysol. The two girls were diagnosed with strep the next day. Mercifully, God protected all of our guests from that.

Then influenza hit our sons pregnant wife, followed by extreme morning sickness. Constant vomiting and dehydration. While she had the flu, I had the kids for a few days in an effort to keep them healthy, which worked, but I don’t sleep well with the little one close by. I have to sleep with earplugs daily so I don’t hear cats playing, or my hubby who stays up later than I. I was exhausted.

On December 7th, my honey got slammed with something, and was in bed for four days, and exhausted for another five days. Which brings us back to my opening paragraph.

I wasn’t praying. I wasn’t reading my Bible. I wasn’t sitting in Gods presence and just being. Something came up with our new tenants in our shop and I found myself furious. I let loose on my honey that Friday morning when he woke up, knowing full well he didn’t feel well enough to talk about it. He dealt with me graciously, let me vent and didn’t respond. The next day, it was another tenant issue, and another outburst and attack, and more grace shown to me. I was so angry at my husband. I was allowing horrible thoughts into my head. “He doesn’t love me. He cares about others more than me. Why do I continue in this marriage? God has abandoned me, I must be doing something wrong”. And more. I realized I was in a really bad place.

I remembered (more likely, the Holy Spirit reminded me) a book I owned called The Power of the Praying Wife, by Stormie Omartian. I began to read the preface, where she shares her testimony of living in a broken marriage, feeling unloved, and hopeless. The tears flowed as I read. The book has a list of things to learn to pray for our husbands, along with a prayer to speak for each one. These are to be used to teach us how to pray for them. The first prayer in the book was about changing us as wives. I prayed before speaking the prayer. I told God how angry I was, that I don’t want to pray for my husband, but knew it was the right thing to. I acknowledged that I knew this was an issue with me. I spoke the first two prayers about myself over a few times, until, i was able to pray from my heart, as opposed to just reading and speaking a prayer. I finally started feeling some peace in my heart. A little while later, something else came up that made the anger rise up again. I went upstairs to pray again, until the peace returned.

When my husband came in from shoveling snow, he told me he felt God had spoken to him how to deal with the situation I was angry about. As he shared what he heard, my mind was thanking God. For showing me he hears my prayers even when I am struggling and have been the one neglecting our relationship. For speaking to my husband. For showing me that He still loves me. I desolately needed to know that I was loved, even in my ugly hours.

I am taking the praying for my husband to heart. Each day I read a chapter of the book, and pray the prayer for my honey. And now, I am praying the same prayers for my honey, sons, daughters and all our grandchildren. And I still pray the prayer about changing me first, for myself, for our daughter and daughter in law, and our granddaughters.

No marriage is perfect. If you are struggling, try to remember why you fell in love with your honey, and make a decision to pray for them, to make working for your marriage worth the effort. If you seek God with all your heart, if you are honest with him, and willing to do whatever it takes to make things work, He WILL meet with you, He WILL hear your prayers. He WILL show you his love for you.

I pray that you can find peace for your heart when you are struggling.

Fresh flour…

I recently had a friend introduce me to the idea of using freshly ground flour for my baking. She told me to watch a lecture by a food scientist named Susan Becker.

https://www.breadbeckers.com/blog/our-story/

After watching the presentation, I felt compelled to try for a while. I had been dealing with gluten and dairy intolerance for quite some time, sleep disturbances, and more. What could it hurt?

I decided to order the lower gluten ancient wheats named Einkorn and Sonora from a local farm. These are both unhybridized grains. The einkorn is a smaller, flat, brown kernel, and bakes up with a sweet flavor. However, it requires some recipe tweaking to get a decent rise of any sort. I would use this for sweets. The Sonora is a short, round kernel, which has a more buttery flavor. That would make great savory quick breads and pancakes.

I won’t try to recap all the health benefits, and the science behind the switch for you. That’s why I included a link to their website. I will say that after using fresh ground flour for a few months, I am seeing some health improvements. On the off chance that I eat something with standard glutenous flour, I don’t bloat up nearly as bad as I used to. My sleep disturbances have also started falling away, and I have more nights than not that I sleep for a full seven hours uninterrupted. That’s amazing in and of itself, seeing as I have met slept that well in the past 15 years.

We don’t eat tons of the stuff, but I have switched my breakfast from a bowl of oatmeal to a plate sized blueberry buttermilk pancake with butter and a teaspoon of brown sugar, and 8oz of raw, organic, vegan protein shake made with equal parts water and almond milk.

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/20177/todds-famous-blueberry-pancakes/

One note to anyone thinking about doing this: invest in a high quality electric grain mill. After taking a half hour to grind 2 cups of flour in my vitamix, my honey treated me to a grain mill. I can grind 2 cups in about 30 seconds now.

I hope you enjoy trying this little experiment.

Eeewwww!!!

During the winter months I store some potted plants in my greenhouse to overwinter them. This year I have a few African daisy plants, several purple fountain grasses, basil, lavender and three pepper plants.

Last Sunday when I went to water and check on them, I noticed dirt around the base of one of my pepper pots. They are the black plastic nursery pots with holes for drainage. This summer we had an issue with some potted trees being destroyed by voles getting into the pots through the drainage holes and eating the roots. I figured that might be what was happening, so I set a snappy mouse trap with a piece of snickers bar for bait. I learned years ago while working in the basement of an old home that rodents love snickers bars.

When I went to check it Wednesday, the trap had been sprung, the bait was gone, but trap was empty. I decided to resort to glue traps. I usually don’t like them, as they are less humane, but they can be more effective for smaller or larger mice. I put it together, baited it and set it in place.

Here we are Sunday morning. Out I went for the bi-weekly greenhouse check. The pepper plant now has a huge tunnel in it from the top to the base of the pot, and there are roots pulled out and half eared. I checked the trap.

Eeewwww!!! There was a blob of fur in the trap, but I could not identify the creature as it was half eaten! I will spare you the details of what I saw. I am guessing that it was a vole, due to the tunnel in the dirt, and I have to guess that there is another one in there that cannibalized it? My husband asked if it tried to chew a leg off to get free. I told him I couldn’t see a head… yuck. So, another glue trap has been set. And they will keep being set until there is nothing more to catch.

Yuck. Ewww. Gross. Shudder.