Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Finally Arrived

It’s so fun to look at the decorations and anticipate Christmas.  At the first of November Christmas day seemed so far away.  As the days filled up with meetings, activities, and service they went by more quickly.  It really was a time of service and giving.  We wish that the Christmas spirit could be with us each day of the whole year.  Here’s a glance at some of our Christmas events. 

The days are pretty chilly, so one of the elders had these snuggy slippers in his apartment.

Just enjoying more of the decorations in the basement of the bus terminal.
Two cute dogs out on a stroll, while looking at decorations. 
It was fun to see a few angel ornaments for sell, when most ornaments are Santa or reindeer.
We were pleasantly surprised to see this "Believe" table decoration in one of the shops.  
We were invited to a wonderfully interesting Christmas dinner at the Rojin, Assisted Living Home, by members of our free English class.  They served large shrimp, edamame, and some foods that we are not familiar with.   A choir sang some Japanese songs, and a few English Christmas carols.  they gave out gifts to everyone who attended.  We received two large bags with bundles of Kleenex boxes, something every home needs in the winter. 

This was the cute desert at the Rojin dinner.

Young women and men helped to decorate and prepare cupcakes for our church Branch party. 

These are some of the tables of food at the church party.  They requested my "tortilla salad"  and I happily made two large bowls. See the salad half way up the picture.  Mami, Risa, and Kenshin did an amazing job of putting the party all together, with a special message, really fun games (a treasure hunt and musical chairs), and super yummy food.  We had over 80 people attend, with about 20 non member friends.  We sure like to spend time with these people. 
This is the beginning of the Christmas party, before games and food.
We picked up a Costco ham a month ago, and cooked it for our missionaries on Christmas Day.  We put together a fun dinner at our home, with mashed potatoes, gravy, cut apples, tortilla salad, and brownies.  The missionaries walked into our home and said "It smells like America".  Japanese food smells delicious too, but different. 

We put the ham into a cooking bag, and luckily it fit into my microwave/convection oven. 
Our group just before the ham dinner, on Christmas Day.  It was really special to be together with our "mission family".
Thursday (Christmas Eve Day) we had a Zone Training Meeting.  The missionaries played a few games before the meeting, had some fun, then settled down to a great meeting.   

A fun relay game before the meeting.

Musical chairs with only Elders, then musical chairs with only Sisters.  All had fun.

The smaller group of missionaries on Christmas Day, were given permission to watch  "It's A Wonderful Life" or  "Frozen".  They borrowed Frozen from a member.  We didn't watch it with them, because we were at home preparing the ham dinner.
This is a room in our home with tatami floors, which are easy to sit on.  They were playing a Book of Mormon game.  They laughed and had a good time.
One of the sisters surprised us and put this "Merry Christmas" on our door.
Our Tokyo friends, Brother and Sister Suzuki, send surprise boxes from time to time.  This is the Christmas box they sent.  Lots of wonderful surprises.

Our Church friends filled a box for each of the eight missionaries in Kagoshima.  These are our two boxes.  Some things to eat, and some things to wear. 

Did any of you see the full moon on Christmas Day?  This photo doesn't do it justice.  It was big and beautiful.  You can see a hint of the volcano if you look closely.  
A fantastic sunrise view of our volcano in Christmas Day. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Can We Find A Little Bit of Christmas?

Do the Japanese like Christmas?  Yes, they do. Even though Japan is not a Christian country, they seem to like Christmas.  We have heard from multiple people that a big tradition on Christmas Day is to eat “Christmas Cake” and KFC, yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The day after they take down Halloween decorations, they start putting up Christmas Decorations.  We don’t mind seeing them go up early.  It is such a nice time of year.  Christmas brings out the kindness in people, people helping people, helping to make things, teach things, decorate things, leaving anonymous surprises, writing letters of appreciation.  So, it is fun to see the decorations go up.  It isn’t everywhere, but we see it here and there.  Some are big, and some are so small, if you blink, you might miss it. 

Somethings we don’t see are nativity decorations, about Christ’s birth.  We have internet access to some wonderful videos about the real meaning of Christmas.  Life has ups and down, but this time of year helps us to stop and count our blessings, such as wonderful family, and great friends, health, a safe place to live, safe water and food to eat.  We are thankful for each of you.

Our gift to you is a link to Christmas videos and more:

Here are a few of the fun decorations: 

The beautiful Christmas at our Kagoshima chapel.  The women are so talented to tie bows as they string the continuous ribbon around the tree.  We enjoy the white flowers mingled with the ornaments

This is in Kenmin Koryu Center,  Very interesting with only bows.

We caught the men setting up this big tree the first of November.  There were ladders, lots of smaller trees waiting to be placed around the train station mall. 

Lots of workers helping to place all the little trees around.

One of the first store windows to decorate.  Yay!

We don't have any electrical outlets by the front door, but we found these lights at one of the stores.  They are run by a battery pack.  Small LED lights, only 450 Yen ($4.50).

Our cute Christmas tree.  We added Daiso dollar poinsettias  last year. 

The red becomes dominant when we turn off the room lights.

The elders in Satsuma Sendai have a tradition of hanging these giant stockings.  We wonder how long these stockings have been in this apartment, and whose big feet did they come from?

The only decoration at the toll way rest stop.  The children really like it.

If you blink, you might miss this one.  They have a cute tree, and a light up wire reindeer.

This is at one of our missionary sister's apartment in the Kumamoto Zone.  A daycare is on the main floor.  They only have a few decorations, but they have the spirit.  The women who run this daycare are really nice, and always say hello to us. 

The shoten, is a covered shopping street.  Most of the stores have decorations.  It is a fun place to go, although we don't have time to go shopping very often. 

Here is the cute tree at the Rojin Home, Assisted Living Center, where we teach a free English once a month to the cutest group of grandmas and grandpas.  They really practice speaking English.  One woman is 101 years old.  We wish we had more time to spend with them.

 What a super delicious Christmas Cake.  This cakes serves four people.  Yum!  Too bad I am allergic to chocolate.  It's really ok, because my desert is yummy fruit.

One of the businesses put up a string or two of light, wouldn't you say?

This area had lights wrapped on two long rows of trees.  It was so pretty and intriguing.  It makes us want to walk along this street.

Dolphin Port is a tourist center by the water's edge.  Some of the blue shapes are dolphins.

Another side of Dolphin Port.

 The volcano has been very quiet the last few months.  We caught this little tuft of ash coming out of our wonderful Sakurajima.  If you look back in some of our past blogs, you will see a variety of sizes of ash coming out of the volcano.  We love Sakurajima. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Miracles

Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Japan.  It is an American holiday to remember the Pilgrims and Native Americans working together and sharing a feast.  It causes us to stop and think of all the things we are thankful for.

One year ago we invited English class friends, church friends, and missionaries to the church for a Thanksgiving dinner and Family Home Evening/ Katei No Yube.  I prepared a huge pot of cooked chicken in gravy, rice, cut fruit, with people bringing other misc. food.  We had about 20 people.  We went around the tables and had everyone say something they were thankful for.  It was a great night and a good memory.

This year we had a couple of miracles.  Last July, Chie sent us Reynolds Oven Turkey Cooking Bags, and a few other American products.  We are friends with her parents in Tokyo.  I didn't think I would ever use the cooking bags but held on to them.  Her mother likes to send us a surprise box every few months, and sent us a 14 lbs. turkey.  It miraculously fit into our small microwave/convection oven!  She bought it at Costco in Tokyo.  It was like $36.  She also sent a Costco package of instant potatoes. The week before Thanksgiving I cooked the turkey, deboned it, and stuck it in my little freezer.  Someone gave us a pumpkin-like squash.  I cooked it, scraped it out, and mashed it with spices, eggs, and milk, to make a pumpkin (pie) cake.  I made wassail with apple juice, orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.  We invited the missionaries, 4 elders and 2 sisters, and had turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cut apples, cut pineapples, wassail, and pumpkin cake, with a dollop of ice cream.  It was a lot of work, but we all enjoyed it.  We watched a short a short video on giving thanks, about three minutes long.  We are thankful for so many things:  family, extended family, friends, coworkers, a safe community to live in, good water and food, a house to live in, and knowing why we’re here in this life and where we are going after this life.  We are thankful for all of you and your good examples in our lives.  Thank you, thank you.  We love you all. 

 The 14 lb.turkey cost about $36

 The Reynolds Oven Bag was very helpful.  It keeps splatters off the oven.

After cooking the turkey, I deboned it.  We even saved the wishbone.   

 From left to right:  wassail, mashed potatoes, turkey in gravy. 

 Chocolate chip cookie, pumpkin cake, ice cream.  Yum.
 Our thankful group.
Our grandchildren helped to make the (hand) turkey decoration last year.  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  We will enjoy it many more years. 

And yet another amazing view of our volcano.  We never grow tired of it.