Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rediscovering My Inner Geek

I had really hope to have some wonderful good information gleaned from my trip to Hello Work on Monday to write about.  Yeah... that didn't happen at all.   I waled into the office and asked the lady at the front desk what I needed to do since it was my first visit there.  She handed me a for and told me to fill out my name, b-day, address, and any relevant info about the type of wor k I was looking for.  I do all that (while juggling Keia), making sure to not that I'm looking for home work opportunities and bring it back up to her a few minutes later.  Its then that I'm informed (despite everything I've read, and what I'd been told by other people) that they don't match people upwith home work opportunities,  to get those you've just gotta have connections.  So that was it, my visit was done before I even got a chance to register.

After this I went home and started looking for some advice on some forums for foreigners in Japan.  I got some really good advice, including suggesting I start doing mommy and me English classes out of my home.  This seems to be the best line of action so I'm currently trying to come up with a plan.  Not just  lesson plans mind you  but business plan as well, prices, class times, payment methods, and promotion.  It's all quite overwhelming.

So what have I been doing to keep myself sane between all this overwhelming stuff, thehouse keeping, and the kids fighting?  Exactly what the title of this post says,  I've started playing videos games again, RPGs specifically; even more specifically the Suikoden series.  At the moment I'm playing Suikoden 5, in Japanese, I picked it up used at the local Book Off for ¥500.  Thing is I've never played the English version, so the reading and trying to understand the story is taking me I'm sure at least twice as long as it would in English.   After I'm done with this one I'll be moving on the the Japanese version of the1st one, really old PS 1 from 1995 I think.  I've played the English version trhough more times than I can count but I finally tracked down a Japanese copy of it used for ¥1000 (it seems to be pretty hard to find).  Don't know why but there's something so fun about playing the original versions, with the original meanings and all, no translation mistakes or anything like that.  Like I said inner geek :) 

Also update on the ear acupuncture while I've not lost a lot of weight as of yet, my appetite is much more under control.  The potluck lunch on Saturday I was pretty worried about, but it turns out I didn't need to be,  I actually found myself  physically unable to eat what I normally would have.  Though I admit today all the stress got to me and a ate a bit more than I should have, but it still wasn't a full on binge.  So if I get these English lessons going and start to get a little bit of money coming in I'll be getting me some more ear beads.  Word of cautions though really be careful not to press to hard.  I didn't realize it but apparently I was because not I've got little bead sized scabs on my ears. 

And now to get a little bit of geeking out in before bedtime :) 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bad to Worse

There's a saying in my buddhist organization 'winter will always turn to spring.' Meaning that no matter how bad stuff gets and how long it seems to go on things will get better eventually.  But you know, I've always despised winter.

Forgive me  if this gets, depressing, or ranty, or rambly it's really all I've got to de-stress at the moment.  I don't smoke,  and Keia's still nursing so drinking is out,  and comfort eating...yeah  that would be a good way to flush that money I spent on the ear beads down the drain. 

I've known finances were tight around here for a while, I knew not to expect Kiyo to have any over time again this month;  what I didn't expect was when he told me today that I should probably not expect any for a year.  But, he'S totally cool with that he likes coming home at 6 and having dinner, I would like it too if we didn't depend on his overtime to make ends meet.

So tomorrow it looks I'll be heading to Hello Work, which is a government run work referral center.  The thing is with my language ability, and trying to work around Yosei's preschool schedule I honestly don't believe  I'm going to find anything.  There's also the matter of Keia and daycare.  I really wanted to avoid putting her into daycare,  wanted to wait to start working until she at least started preschool.  Most places won't hire you unless you've got a daycare all lined up,  most private daycares are incredibly expensive, and all the state run daycares (which charge on a sliding scale) typically have waiting lists .

Seems at this point my most viable option is a work at home, putting together trinkets, decorating crap in rhinestones get paid by the piece sort of job.  The apparently have those at Hello Work so here's to hoping they have one or two for me.  It'll kinda be like working in my own little in home sweat shop.  I've ready that lately painting and decorating fake nails for companies has become quite popular, the pay is quite low at around ¥60 for a 10 nail set,  but something like that would be right up my alley (though I'd have to make like 100 sets a week to see any benefit). 

Anyhow wish me luck, and I'll be sure to do a write up on the whole Hello Work experience incase any other gaijin (foreigners) happen to find themselves in a similar position.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Update Ear Acupressure/Acupuncture Diet

In looking up ad reading more about it I've discovered in English it's also referred to as acupuncture despite the lack of needles.  It's been 3 full days since I started this,  now the morning of the 4th day.  Here's a bit of a rundown on what I've experienced.    Day 1 I think was more of a placebo effect more than anything else.  I was very aware that I had these things on my ears and so it made me try harder.  While I managed to avoid snacking and bingeing on sweets I was ravenously hungry by dinner time and ended up eating dinner like I normally would,  but considering I didn't snack all day that that's not a terrible thing. 
Day 2 - This day I was less hungry, and more than fighting cravings I was fighting habit.  I wasn't hungry, didn't really want sweets, but still had to fight the habit.    It should also be noted that on this day I started to get a weird twingy cramp link pain in my stomach and chest on occasion.  The kind of pain where you're not sure if you're hungry or sick.
Day 3 - The odd crampy pain continued all throughout the day as well.  However, this was the first day I wasn't consumed with thoughts of eating and whether or not I was actually hungry. This was a really big thing because in the last 7 months 3 days is the longest I've made it without caving and bingeing.  It was also signifigant because I had to bake a carrot cake for a potluck prechool moms social gathering that will be taking place in just a couple of hours.  I made a smaller cake for us to have and I didn't go crazy making extra frosting just so I could lick the bowl or anything.  That right there is a huge step for me ;)  For dinner I did spaghetti and managed to have one normal sized plate (rather than the two that spaghetti usually ends up being) and a small piece of cake.   

As far as the odd pain I've expereinced I'm not sure if its realted to this of not.  I've got a cold; an awful stuffed nose, achy ear, sore throat kind of cold.  And since Keia is nearly weaned and is now just a night time nurser I took the sudafed for the first time in 5 years, maybe it didn't agree with me after such a long break?   I can think of maybe one other possibility too.  In looking at the chart they gave me as the spa it looks like the two beads inside my ear were placed in the wrong spot,  so I googled some and every english chart I found said the same thing :/  I also came  across some info that said that having them placed in the wrong place or pressed in too deep can cause side effects, including sharp pains throughout the body.  My pains weren't sharp, but it certainly makes me a little more inclined to believe in the effects.  Anyhow I took the all beads off for a few hours and the restuck them in what appear to be the correct places. They say you're not supposed to reuse the old ones but, I don't have new ones yet, and these are still sticky and not itchy. 

I plan to leave them on for at least today as today it that potluck social gathering lunch,  really like going to a free all you can eat buffet, so I'm gonna need all the willpower I can get. But so far it seems like something that might work for me, so I'll keep it up and update periodically on it.  BTW as of my morning weigh in yesterday I was down 1 lb not bad for 2 days :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Mimi-Tsubo (Ear Accupressure) Diet

Today is Yosei's marching band club day, with that extra hour of free time its hard to know exactly what to do.  Today though, I had already decided. 
See those little gold balls stuck on my ear?  Yup that's what I went and did today.  They're little accupressure balls with adhesive tape that you stick on your ears.  They're apparently supposed to work as an appetite suppressant when you press on them about 20 minutes before you eat.  Sounds pretty hokey I know.  But one of my preschool mom friends went and did it last week and said they seemed to work for her.  So I went to the same place she did, a little relaxation spa inside a Seiyu supermarket near here, they're doing a special one ear for ¥1050 (roughly $10).  I had some one thatI earned doing online surverys over the past couple of months so I figured I'd give it a shot.

It seems like a silly thing to do with the money problems we're having I know, but I figure with the amount I've been eating lately I can save a whole heck of a lot more than ¥1050 if I can just control myself. 

After Keia was born I spent a whole year working hard and I lost a lot of weight, around 55 lbs.  But once I put Yosei in preschool the rhythm of my days changed completely and for some reason I completely lost control.  And even now no matter how hard I try I manage to do well for 1 or 2 days before losing it and giving into that junk food binge (one of which can cost more than these here ear stickers. 

These only last for 3-4 days,  apparently leaving them on any longer can lead to a rash, so you're supposed to change them out.  The gave me a little sheet that has a diagram with all the pressure points on the ear, and I found that I can get a sheet of 100 balls on amazon for ¥2000.  So I won't be going back to the spa anytime soon (kind of sad about that, the ten minute ear and head massage was pretty flipping awesome), but if it seems to work,  I guess I can work my butt off on some more surveys and buy me a sheet of balls on amazon :) 

Oh also found out there's a pressure point at the top of the ear thats supposed to help with irritability.  They gave me two spare balls incase the ones they put on come off, but maybe I should stick them up there.  I bet Kiyo and the kids would be a lot happier if I did ;)

I'll update on this in a couple of days and let you all know how it goes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back from the dead

  I wish I could say I've abandoned this blog because I've been too busy to work on it.  I have been busy but really I've just been lazy about writing. 

Spring marks the beginning of the new school year out here and preschool is no different.  Yosei has moved up to the second grade of preschool, the name of his class is tanpopo (Japanese for dandelion).  He absolutely loves his new class and his new teacher; which is a huge relief because the last 2 months of his first grade class he was not looking forward to it so much and was saying he didn't like his teacher so much.  His new teacher is Moe Sensei (pronounced like Mo-ay not like Moe from Moe's Tavern).  They've been going on field trips to the zoo and local tulip festival.  But biggest of all marching band club started three weeks ago.  Marching band is for the 2nd and 3rd years only and practice takes place on Wednesday afternoons.  The 1st year kids head home at 11:30 and the marching band kiddos stay at school until 3:30; that's a whole hour longer than every other day of the week.   Yosei is a drummer, and he absolutely loves it :)

Sadly (or not)  I only get to make bento once a week (on marching band day) this year.  They've decided to switch to school lunches 4 times a week.  And, while it is incredibly convenient and I get to sleep a little later, it's so incredibly expensive; ¥320 (about $3.20) per lunch.  The financial aspect of preschool is becoming quite daunting, and Kiyo has started talking about having Yosei quit preschool.  To me this is not really an option because he's thriving there.

I recently had a conference with the daughter of the principal, and current 3rd year teacher, about Yosei's language.  We discussed setting aside home time for Japanese word study time because his knowledge of the names of objects is severely lacking.  And while he's made incredible progress  in the first 6 months we're really going to have to work hard the next 2 years to get him up to speed.  Because, unfortunately, as it stands he won't be able to enter into a regular elementary school but would have to be bussed to a special school for handicapped children. She said that she feels Yosei is very smart and picks things up very quickly and so if we do a little bit every day, both at school and at home, and make it fun he should be speaking normally within the next couple of years. 

Right there is really all the reason I need to say 'absolutely not' to quitting preschool.  Of course then yesterday I find out that Kiyo's month of no overtime will likely turn into 2 months of no over time. The fact that he was working overtime everyday is the reason we were able to make ends meet all this time.  So now I'm at a total loss as to what to do.    Trying to think of ways to comtribute I've recently started learning (on my own) how to do manicures, and gel nails.  Problem with that is my only 'customers' at this point are friends.  I used to think my hairdresser friend was silly for refusing to take money from her friends, but now I totally get how awkward it feels to charge your friends.  As it stands other than my own nails and lil' Keia's  nails I've only done one other person's so far, and I did it for free for my own practice.  It's s seeming less and less viable as an option of income :/  So I guess in the meantime there is going to be a ton of mean planning and budget cutting until we get overtime back or this manicurist thing begins to take off.  

After the preschool entrance ceremony
At the entrance ceremony

My first attempt at a self gel manicure , glue gingham with 3D lace
 and strawberries
pink glitter gel with 3D flower stickers and stones

My first hard gel extension attempt

Some practice nails

My first non-self manicure

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Rice Cooker Cheesecake

A few times a year some of the moms at Yosei's preschool put on little cooking and crafts workshops.  Recently I attened one in which they showed us how to bake a cheesecake in our electric rice cookers.  Now, if there's one thing Japan lacks its some good cheesecakes,  but I decided to go hopeful for a good cheesecake.  And while they recipe they showed was very easy and pretty good, it still wasn't quite right too me; it was way too eggy :/  With the small amount of everything else the 4 eggs the recipe called for was just way too much.  So, I took this recipe, looked up some New York Cheesecake recipes, and did a little bit of alteration on the original rice cooker based recipe.  And, I must say, it turned out pretty awesome,  though it does lack the delicious graham cracker crust (graham cracker are quite difficult to locate around here) but its the cheesey cakey part I've always found to be the most important anyways :P
I'm going to share my experiment here,  but be warned I cook in metric soif you really want to try this as well a little digital kitchen scale that measures in grams is going to be a huge help ;)
The ingredients:
1 pack (200g) cream cheese
4g flour
40g sugar
45g heavy cream
1 egg
1tsp lemon juice
Normally cheesecake calls for sour cream, however they don't sell sour cream in Japan, so heavy cream and lemon juice is the substitute. 
Add cream cheese to mixing bowl
Using an electric mixer beat until soft.
Add all other ingredients to the bowl
Beat until smooth
Pour batter into the rice cooker pot
Put the pot into the rice cooker
Close the lid and hit start :)
This is where it starts to get a little time consuming, rice cookers can't finish the cheesecake in one go.  At both the workshop, and here at home it takes 3 cycles to cook the cake completely.
End of the first cycle, still very custardy in the middle, turn the cooker off completely, close the lid and hit start again.
End of the second cycle, not quite there yet. Turn the cooker off, close the  lid and hit start one last time.
End of the third cycle. The edges of the cake start to pull away from the sides of the pot and are turned a nice golden brown color.  Remove the pot from the cooker and leave the cake to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes before trying to remove it from the pot.
When you do remove it simply put a plate on top of the pot and flip it over.
And ta-da! And adorable little dome shaped cheese cake. After this you'll want to refrigerate it for a few hours so it firms up and turns nice and cheesecakey.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preschool Art and Crafts Show

I was going to write about our Colorado trip,  but its been over a month since we've been back, and every time I tried to write about it it just feels very long and drawn out and boring, and I wasn't even halfway through it.  Anyhow I just didn't feel the motivation to even try to finish it.  So I'm moving on to something else.
This past Sunday Yosei's preschool held their annual arts and crafts show.  An art show of the kids' arts and crafts, sounds pretty awesome right?  Well turns out they also ask the parents (moms) to also submit one or more pieces for the show too D:  In talking to the other moms I gathered that there are a lot of them that sew, knit, crochet. etc.  Me,  I can't do any of that. So even though I haven't done it in years I fell back on what I know  drawing and painting. 
My submissions to the show are as follows:
Acrylic of Yosei

Acrylic of Keia

Ink Celtic Knot Drawing

Wearable Childrens' Fairy Wings

Both the celtic knot work and the fairy wings were done some time ago.  The paintings I did in the last couple weeks just for the show, my pirst paintings in 8 years-ish.  Not my best work, but at least I haven't lost all that I've learned.    Anyhow turns out all that worrying I did about what to enter turned out to be for nothing,  it actually seems I may have overdone it :/  There were some cute homemade crafty things, soaps, thinsg made from leather craftings kits,  some cute little aisian knotwork cell phone charms that several moms did at the preschool craft workshop the week before, etc.  The principal even did some crocheting.  But it was apparent that quite a few of the moms didn't bother to enter anything at all :/ 
The kids' work, on the other hand, was really fun to look at.  the following is what Yosei did:
Bento - sandwiches, tamago-yaki, cherry tomatoes, pasta, broccoli, and mini hotdog cut to resemble and octopus.   (Down at the bottom there he traced his own name too) 


Family portrait - Yosei in the far left corner, a big bald Keia, a little mama (complete with pink hair)  and an even littler papa.  Judging from the scale of the drawing I guess its pretty clear the kids run this family.

Memories of the Sweet Potato Party

Self portrait - head and body shape obviously drawn by his teacher :P

The theme of their big are display this year was Sanrio.  Yosei and his friends made Shinkansen.   (All the flowers, tracks, and other cool background stuff was done by us moms.)

Despite feeling like a total showoff it was pretty fun to see what all the kids did.  My favorite was Yosei's family portrait, I can't get over how awesome my pink hair is :)