25 Random Things About Me

I was tagged on Facebook by my seven friends Christa, Susan, aka Mrs. Carlson, aka Susan “Whimsy” Carlson, Valerie-the-Wannabe-Pyro, Rebekah, Laura, Robyn “Pigeon” Vannoy, and Amy for “25 Random Things”. I was already tagged for the “16 Things” meme and there is no way I’m writing 25 additional things, so I’m only writing nine more! If you really want to read the other 16, click here.

17. This August, Tom and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We were married in the Chapel of Atonement at the Church Farm School, a boarding school for boys, in Exton, PA. There was an extreme downpour between the wedding and the reception – which was at the Catranis’ house. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my wedding. It was the most relaxed, fun wedding I’ve ever attended to date. Potluck wedding receptions are the way to go! Secretly, I wish more people would get rid of the formality and stuffiness of their wedding.

18. My shoe size is 7.5 US. While I have rather small feet at home, in Japan, 24.5 cm is an L or LL size! It took me a while to find the only L size pair of house slippers in the grocery store bin. They are red felt printed with a calico-pink flower pattern. If you saw my slippers (see them while you can, because they are rapidly falling apart!) by themselves and tried to guess whose shoes they were (wouldn’t that be a fun bridal shower game?) you’d bet they belonged to the cute white-haired lady in the kitchen ;)

(Speaking of shoes, my favorites are my brown Nike cross trainers (shh! Sometimes I wear them in the house if the floor is particularly sticky!), my black ankle-high high-heeled zip boots, my vintage leather, 16 eyelet black Dr. Martens, my black satin pumps, and my strappy brown chunk-heels. My next shoe purchase will likely rain boots. Maybe a pair of Chooka Koi Tattoo Boots or perhaps these Autumn Rose Wellingtons from Victorian Trading Company?)

19. If I were to order a drink in a bar, it would likely be either Guinness,, Makers Mark Bourbon (on the rocks) or a Sapphire Gin and Tonic.

20. I am attempting to learn Japanese out of necessity. The best Japanese lesson series I have found is at JapanesePod101. I have Rosetta Stone and did learn some Japanese from it, yet I enjoy JPod101 so much more. If you are serious about learning Japanese, it’s worth it to upgrade to the full version which includes quizzes, online flashcards and multimedia to enhance your lessons.

21. Curry is one of my favorite foods to eat and to make. I love how curry is a mainstay dish all around the world, each location with it’s own unique flavor combination. The story of how curry was introduced to Japan is quite interesting. Incidentally, A Taste of India in Exton, Pennsylvania,is my favorite place back home for Indian cuisine. Their curry is lick-the-plate delicious.

22. I have never gone on vacation. Ever.

23. Complaining is one of my pet-peeves. The only exception is if something is genuinely wrong, and the goal is to find a solution or because the situation is bad enough that beer and hugs are required. FWIW, I also loathe nagging.

24. One of my goals in life is to build my own house. After living in Japan, the house would have to include some tatami rooms, hot-water-on-demand, a tub that overflows onto the floor, and a loooong kitchen sink suitable for gutting a small shark if necessary. Unlike my present house in Japan, it would have heat :) The kitchen would open up into the great room so that I would never be separated from guests because I had to check to see if the food was ready.

Tom has talked about having perimeter floors in our dream house that make the sound of birds softly singing when walked upon. Such floors are called uguisubari, aka Nightingale floors, and they were designed as an ancient security alarm to alert homeowners when ninjas are prowling about. Apparently, he walked on uguisubari while touring the Nijo Castle in Kyoto.

The house would also have to come with both flower and food gardens, as well as an orchard. It would need enough pasture for a dairy cow so we’d have fresh milk and I can make my own cheese, as well as and a creek for fishing.

The list goes on. I admit – I keep a scrapbook full of house ideas, complete with paint swatches, just in case this dream ever comes true.

25. Cleaning secret : I use a plastic garden rake to gather up all of the toys on the floor to aid with the cleaning process. This idea originated from my mother-in-law, who raised seven children and welcomed the neighborhood to play :) I find that (quickly!) gathering all of the playthings lessens the cleaning anxiety by creating a place to walk without having to step on little Legos, for example. It makes the mess seem less.

Tom… I ‘m tagging you. I have no expectations, but, I admit, I am kinda hoping you’ll play along and write up a list of your own.

An Unexpected Date :)

Today, we had planned to go to Misawa to purchase a car. January 22 is the last day that the company will fund our rented 4WD Honda Minivan. (We had hoped to purchase a car sooner, but we had to wait until Tom completed a driver’s safety class – required if foreigners want to purchase a car in Japan.) Choosing a car and filling out all of the papers can take a while, so we asked Bethany, our pastor’s daughter to tag along to take the children to the Weasel’s Den, an indoor playground on the base.

Despite all of our preparations, however, we awoke to a snow storm this morning.

Bethany was right on time. I give her a lot of credit.

Determined to make the two-hour trip, we all piled into the van and set out in the snow.

We crawled through town on the ice and hoped that the toll road would be better. However, as we approached the highway, flashing red lights emerged through the blustering snow. Police were blocking the entrance ramp.

Unable to turn, we continued straight and the road conditions went downhill. If it wasn’t for the red poles marking the edges of the road every 15 ft, we would unwittingly driven into the ditch. The snowfall was so dense, it was as if we were driving through fog. All of the sudden, this yellow beast of a snowplow appeared out of nowhere. We slid to the side of the road, and they scraped by, taking up one and one-half lanes. After the plow passed, Tom did a three point turn and we headed home. Assuming the weather improves, he said we’d try the excursion again tomorrow.

Bethany has planned to spend the day with us – so Tom and I took advantage of having a babysitter and decided to go out on a lunch date :)

Before we left, Tom crossed the street to the mall in the blizzard with Thomas and Tabitha for some McDonalds sandwiches – a rare treat – for lunch. In the mall is a grocery store. A worker there was selling fish. She picked up the dead fish and showed Tom and the kids that they were sucker fish and demonstrated this by pretending to stick them to her hand. It didn’t happen to me… I wasn’t there… but it fit the bill for a day in the life of Japanese bizarro-world and it didn’t shock me at all to hear the story when they arrived home.

Tom and I went to the Skylark Gusto near our house and …. ate lunch without anyone spilling water, pranking the waitress “call” button, dropping utensils on the floor, crawling underneath the table to exit quickly for a potty emergency (or announcing to the entire restaurant what had just come out of them while in the bathroom), crying because they changed their mind about dinner before the order arrived, or spitting “spicy” food out in a masticated heap onto their plate. We ate steak, drank coffee and talked about grown-up things. Nearly three months without a date… oh how I miss them… dates, and my in-laws who were usually game for spur-of-the-moment babysitting.

After that, we went to the Superstore. It’s a Walmart type store where the aisle signs are in English and everyone speaks Japanese. 1/4 of the grocery side of the store is fish…. it’s wonderful. We bought a chankonabe mix and all of the vegetables, mushrooms and fish to cook in the simmering soup. We picked up some bottles of warm green tea on the way out the door.

Driving in the homeward direction, the roads were much icier. On the (Eastern?) side of the roads are metal barriers with angled slats that direct the wind and snow downward with such a force that it blows the snow across the road and prevents road-blocking snow drifts. We were on the side closest to the barrier, so there was zero accumulation – in other words, all ice with no snow for added traction. We noticed that the locals were driving with the left wheels on the gravel shoulder, where there was a little less ice than on the road itself. Two tires on the thick ice, instead of four. I held my breath as we drove over a bridge, with stop lights at the end, at about five miles per hour.

Bethany had told us about a local market in Goshogowara, and we decided to find it on the way home. She had described it as having strings of lights hanging from the ceiling, visible to the road because of the glass storefront. She said it was immediately after a large building. We found the large building – and could just barely see the lights through the windows of the market as the entire storefront was plastered with snow. Tom said, “I’ll hop — it’ll just be two seconds.” But then, he smiled. “Hey, it’s just me and you. Wanna come in?” I took hold of his strong arm and tiptoed on the ice into the store. Beautiful, large, fresh fish were there first thing that we saw as we came in through the door. It was wonderfully warm compared to the outdoors, and the large, snow-covered windows in the storefront brought to mind the greenhouse that melted Frosty the Snowman. Tom spotted a large salmon – for a mere 2300 yen – and the fish monger, a woman, grabbed the fish, placed it on the cutting board and filleted the fish, starting from the tip of it’s mouth, right in front of us. She wrapped up the fins, head and spine and included them in the bag – for soup, if we so desired.

We bought the salmon and walked around for a few minutes. There were local produce stands and many more fish stands. Oysters, clams, scallops, octopus, caviar, fish and more. As we walked by this huge tray of pollock roe – Tarako – the fish monger offered us a sample. He plopped a spoonful into each of our hands. It was soooo fresh and delicious. “Oishi!” The roe itself is very tiny, each egg about the size of a pinhead. It is commonly mixed in with pasta in lieu of tomato sauce.

Bethany needed to leave our house by 5pm. We pulled into the garage at 4:58 and giggled and kissed for the remaining two minutes in peace – worth mentioning, because for once in a looong time, no one could be heard screaming, “EEEWW! LOOK! MOM AND DAD ARE KISSING!!!” ;)

Tagged by Diana on Facebook : 16 Things About You

I was tagged by my sister-in-law, Diana Tiebout Albrecht :) Who will be tagged next?? Muuuhhhahaa

The Rules:
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 random people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you!

1. My Bible (NASB for those who care) is held together by duct tape. I know where everything is located, have many notes scrawled in the margins and love it so much, that I don’t want to get a new one.

2. I was homeschooled from 4th grade through graduation. Maybe this explains why I’m so nerdy? I love to learn new things, so I’m always into trying new things, making new things.

3. Non-fiction is my favorite genre to read. I am warming up to fiction, but it’s only with effort. It’s easier for me to appreciate a mundane true story than to try to spend time following a plot only to be disappointed with the ending. We are listening to the Harry Potter books on mp3, and I love them. Memoirs of a Geisha and Perfume: A Murder were some more recent fictional titles I have enjoyed.

4. I voted for Ron Paul in the Primaries. Yes, I’m THAT kind of Republican. I did not in good conscience vote for a major party candidate in the Presidential election.

5. While I’m not afraid of death (even wrote something to be read at my funeral) , and I’m thankful for the days I’ve already had, there are a few things that probably are “fear of death” related that make my heart pound, vision go blurry, palms sweat and dizziness to set in: Heights (I even have to hold onto something when on my step ladder), children too close to train train drop-offs, children getting hit by a vehicle (when I was five, I was one inch from being killed by a speeding car in the Macy’s parking lot – I still remember my braids flipping around and hitting me in the eye as the car went past), drowning (for all my swimming lessons, I still can’t swim) and accidentally breaking the law – police lights behind me make me feel like I’m going to throw up.

6. I’m married to someone who is the complete opposite of point #5. He’s not afraid of anything… except mollusks, stinky diapers, and parasites.

7. Strawberry Shortcake has been my traditional birthday dessert for as long as I can remember. The berries are perfectly ripe at the end of May. I add orange juice and sugar to the cut berries for the topping, the shortcake is the classic Bisquick recipe, and I top it with homemade vanilla whipped cream.

8. I never thought I’d have children. I have five of them, and I love them very much. They have taught me more about life in the past 7 years 10 months + 9 months gestation than I have learned up until that point. It was crazy to have “so many” children within such a short span of time, but at 28, I can no longer have biological children. God knew!

9. Writing is one of my favorite things to do. My major in college was Journalism, with the career goal of being a war correspondent.

10. I love flowers, and have been known to dig up and transplant all of the wild violets growing in my lawn just so that they don’t get run over by the lawn mower. I collect tiny jars just so I have a place to put the flowers my children pick for me – which always seem to have incredibly short stems! Last summer, I labeled every flower and tree at my house in PA with copper tags.

11. The Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements produced my favorite architectural styles.

12. Japanese Cherry Blossom by Bath & Body works is a fragrance that I wear almost every day.

13. I am a Bradley Method natural birth instructor. This is my favorite approach to natural birth as it gets your body ready for birth – you wouldn’t sit around and eat junk food if you knew you had to run a marathon nine months from now! It also trains the husband to be an advocate/coach in the delivery room.

14. I have a motorcycle permit. I will have to take my license test in Japan. Hopefully this spring? My helmet rocks. Riding our Shadow with Tom is one of my most favorite things to do.

15. I love my MacBook. Never thought in a million years I’d own a Mac, but I have come around. It is my favorite computer EVER.

16. Not too many people have two great sets of parents – biological and in-laws. I’m very blessed.

1/3/09 – Evening

Tonight we went out for dinner at a ramen noodle restaurant. We purchased tickets for our soups and then handed them to the hostess. She tore off the ticket and handed us back the stubs.

The restaurant is one of many ramen restaurants in this little “Ramen Town” located in the back corner of our mall.

All of my kids – except for Thomas – seem to love ramen.

Tabitha enjoyed adding the various condiments to her soup – soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic, and pepper. After every addition she’d say, “Mom, you’ve got to try this… it’s soooo good!”

Leah, who was on my right, kept stealing soup from my bowl. Whenever I’d catch her dipping in her spoon, she’d smile sweetly and offer it to me – as if her goal was to feed me all along.

Micah sat on my left. He, too, was sharing my soup (the bowls are quite large!). He could not stop eating the pickled konbu kelp! After he ate mine, he asked for Tom’s!

Aomori Bank is closed, and we had attempted to get some cash out of the ATM thinking that the ATMs would at least be working – it was not! Even the ATMs are closed for the New Years holiday!

We finished our outing by going to the grocery store. Leah and I got separated from Tom and the rest of the kids, and we were attacked by Leah’s fan club – all the old ladies who tussle her hair, tickle her, pinch her cheeks and cry Kawaaaaaaiiii!!!!!!

When we came home, we finished watching The Forbidden Kingdom (starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan).

Off to soak in the tub!

Tomorrow is Bible Study at my house :) We are still in John 1, continuing with Piper’s Sermon “In Him Was Life” as a guide.


To try to imagine the meaning of “thou shalt have no other gods before me” sometimes seems a bit of a stretch in the United States. To apply this commandment to every day life, one must figuratively extend the word ‘gods’ to include the Internet, chocolate, and football on Sundays – or, in my case, an orderly house.

However, here in Japan, out of tradition, or even out of sincere belief, people are celebrating the gods this week. When we came home from our trip to Misawa, our neighbors had left for us mochi cakes, oranges and a kadomatsu, an arrangement of evergreen tree sprigs and bamboo on our doorstep. These decorations are to be displayed in the entrance way, as part of New Years celebrations, to ward away malevolent spirits.

At the beginning of the year, people visit temples and shrines – this is called hatsumōde, or the first shrine visit of the year.

While we have a diverse culture in the United States, most Americans have never seen the worship of false gods to this extent. Back home, “religion” isn’t a topic that most people discuss – of fear that they may believe something different than someone else, and they may offend them. However, Buddhism is so blatant here, there is no helping being confronted with it at every turn.

We are not displaying our kadomatsu :) We did give our neighbors a gift as well – a Christian calendar with passages from the Psalms in Japanese calligraphy over beautiful watercolor paintings for each month, along with a half-dozen gingerbread men!