Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Trip of the Season

On Thursday we had a nice little trip down to Fukuoka. What was expected to be a very rainy time, has ended up being fairly nice. Time has been going fast, but we still have one more day here down here.
The day after we got there, we met up with an old mission companion of mine. We have been staying at their house and enjoying time with them. One of the first paces we went when we got here was the beach. It was so nice to feel the sand in our toes and hear the waves of the ocean!

This is my old mission companion (Yohei Fukuyama) and I. We were given the... decorations from his daughter, Izumi.

Emily has been so fun to watch with their kids. You can tell by her facial expression that it is probably time to start a family. :)

We made gyoza last night, which is kind of like pot stickers. The Fukuyama's are so nice; they had another American couple staying with them and some other family. From left to right; Kokoro (Maria's sister), Emily, Maria (Yohei's wife), Yohei, and Ashley.

These are Yohei and Maria's kids. Izumi is 3 and loves Disney stuff, so we get along well. Senjiro is about a year and a half old and has also been a lot of fun. 

During our first night in Fukuoka, we stayed at a hotel and got to walk around and explore the city a little bit. This was one of the fun places to take pictures.

This is called "Dashi," and is a huge cart piled up high with all kinds of people and what not. Not too sure what the meaning or significance of it is though.

This was just a cool display at one of the shrines we went to.

There were all kinds of statues, and although this may not have been the most polite, I tried to mimic some of the faces.

Again, maybe not the politest gesture, but am I not doing a great job?

This is in front of the Fukuoka Temple. Izumi, Kokoro, and Emily.

The Fukuyama's also took us to the zoo. Needless to say, we had a blast. I mean, look at this picture. :)

I love these little stands to take pictures at. This is Emily working hard scooping up after the elephants. 

This is me with Senjiro in front of the hippo display.

This was such awesome ramen! They have special ramen down here in Fukuoka called "Hakata Ramen." Instead of the soup base being soy sauce or miso flavored, it is something called tonkotsu.

Another cool looking shrine.

We went to this sports place and I got to ride a mechanical bull. It was pretty weak though... You had to press a button the whole time to get it to move.

The same sports place. You pay a flat fee and get to play with as many things as you want for a certain time limit.The place was at least five floors and had a skating rink; places to play basketball, volleyball, badminton, and tennis; batting cage; arcade; bowling; and all kinds of other stuff. It was pretty fun.
Needless to say, we are having a lot of fun down here. Unfortunately, we head back to Aizu tomorrow, but then we'll be getting ready for our next trip up north to Aomori. Hope that everyone is well and enjoying spring!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Official :)

Yes, it is official. I (Emily) have decided on the University of Oregon, and I'm thrilled about my decision. Narrowing my decision from about eighty to three graduate schools was an agonizing and painfully long process, but I was shocked (pleasantly!) at how easy it was to narrow my decision from three to one. When I told my nine-year-old sister Anna about my decision, she said, "How can you be so excited about going to school?!" Apparently in third grade, the two don't go together. I really couldn't be happier though, and feel so blessed to be this excited about our next step in life.

Well, this week was busy, busy, busy and full of fun. The event that James and I have been looking forward to for months finally came to pass this week...SPRING CLEANING! Our favorite time of year! Mostly because it means that the sun is starting to come out again and the snow is gone...for the most part. We scrubbed our tiny apartment from top to bottom and dejunked (which we both absolutely love). Eight hours, about six garbage bags, and two sore backs later, we still didn't get through the kitchen area of our house, but we stopped and treated ourselves to our favorite katsudon restaurant. Oh, heavenly food. I'll get to the kitchen sometime later this week before we go on our trip...and then possibly treat myself to more katsudon.

Here are some before and after pictures. Actually, that's a lie. This is really a mid-cleaning photo. But like my momma always says, "It gotsta get dirtier before it gets cleaner!"
And the after picture. I took this picture strategically so you couldn't see the huge give-away pile and trash bags hiding in the corner. The garbage man is not going to be happy with us this week.

Can I just say how pleased I am to have a table and chairs again?! We have been eating on the ground with a kotatsu for the last six months or so, and though I love that hideous beast for keeping me thawed through the winter, my knees were not sad to see it go back into storage.
We are planning a few trips in the next few weeks. This week, we are going to Fukuoka. The next weekend, we are going to Aomori, and we are considering another trip the weekend after. Be excited for pictures in the next month or so :)

This afternoon, we were able to start volunteering with an orphanage for babies under two. I don't think I have laughed so hard and had so much fun in a long time. Those kids were hilarious, and everyone (including us) was surprised at how quickly they warmed up to us. We can't take pictures because of privacy issues, but I hope we will always be able to remember these volunteer experiences. Some of the most memorable and rewarding experiences from the past eight months have come from volunteering, and I hope it's something we continue through our life together.

We had our friend Tomomi over for dinner this week. She taught me how to make nabe, a Japanese soup, and we made this yummy blueberry dessert together.

And this is my baby. Yes, they are green onions. I'm so proud of them. The dark part at the top is how much they have grown in the last week or so. I'm so excited for our first harvest :) Stay tuned for my tomato and basil growing adventures. I love spring!!!
Hope you all have a fantastic week!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Moving to Oregon?

Talk about awesome... Emily just heard from the last school that she applied to for graduate school. After lots of thinking, hard work and waiting, she was accepted to all three of the programs she has applied to; University of Denver, Portland State University, and University of Oregon. We are very excited to be a little closer to knowing where we will be having our adventures next year. Although we still don't know where we will be going, Emily is leaning towards the program at University of Oregon. Stay tuned for more details. :)

This week we also went and sang karaoke again and also went bowling. If you have ever wondered about what it was like to bowl in Japan, we took a few pictures to illustrate the fun experience.
These are the awesome Velcro shoes that we were given at the bowling alley for 300 yen. Can you guess who's shoes are whose? If you guessed that Emily's are the bright and colorful ones, you would be wrong folks... Those were mine... 

We had some coupons (play 2 games and get a third free). I started with a warm up for my first frame (bowled 2 gutter balls) while Emily got right into things and started with a strike! It wasn't looking good for me... However, the bowling alley provides a little tambourine to help encourage people, like me. Or maybe they are for celebrating strikes. Needless to say, we used it on numerous occasions. As you can see in the background, the actual lanes look the same. :P 

We also had some coupons to get 2 free drinks, so in between frames, we got to enjoy our ginger ale.

This was the final scoreboard. Top one says Jeemuzu (James in Japanese) and the bottom says Emirii (Emily in Japanese). Consequently, these were our best scores. I will say that Emily did beat me the first game by quite a bit, but I caught up in the 2nd and 3rd games. You also notice that Emily got a strike in the first frame for this game as well. Her only strikes were in the first frames... Crazy. Anyways, you can see that the bowling experience in Japan is not all that different than the US. It was such a blast!
To sum up some other things from the week...
We made some homemade pizza this week (bacon and pineapple) and it was so delicious! The one further is the before we cooked it, and the one closer is the after we cooked it. So yummy!
Emily also made some carbonara and it was pretty awesome.

This month's bulletin board at Emily's school that she made. So pretty!

I think we have explained this about half a year ago, but here in Japan, we watch General Conference a week later than the US because of the time difference. We really enjoyed Conference and the messages that were shared by the Prophet and other Church leaders. Because Easter is today, I want to mention a talk shared in Sunday morning's session by D. Todd Christofferson titled, The Doctrine of Christ. If you have time, it's a short talk in which I invite you to either read or watch.

With all the love we can muster, we hope that everyone has an awesome Easter Sunday and enjoys the upcoming week! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Brother Husband

This post is dedicated to my beloved sister and hubby, who have a relationship. In my family, we like to call it the "Brother Husband" relationship, a term probably coined by my mom who was and still is totally in love with all of her brothers-in-law (and really, who can blame her? I have such phenomenal uncles).

My favorite photo of my sistah and her brother husband:

This photo totally captures the crazy ridiculousness of their relationship. I should have it blown up and framed on my wall - two of my favorite people in the world.
And THIS is a late valentine that was sent to my dear hubby from my darling sistah. It is honestly the most epic valentine I've ever seen. Literary genius.

In case you can't read it, it says, "Santigo [that's what we call James]: Too bad you couldn't be MINE...happy valentine's day...mwah!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ice Cream: A Good Sub for Exercise

The highlight of this week was definitely being able to watch the first session of General Conference this weekend. Usually, in Japan, General Conference is broadcast the following week in a city that is about an hour away. Fortunately for us English-speaking-technology-addicts, we can watch it online the same day from the comfort of our own bed. We haven't been able to watch the whole conference yet, so feel free to comment and tell us which talks we should be listening extra carefully for. What was your favorite?

A couple other fun things that happened this week included a lunch outing with Sonoka, a friend from BYU-Hawaii. Who would have guessed that a few short years on some obscure island in the middle of the ocean would turn out to be such a life-changing experience? And that it would result in having friends literally all over the globe? 

I (Emily) have been attending a weekly Zumba class when I can for the past couple months, and I have dragged a couple friends into it with me. This past week, our friend Chizuko and I tried to go together, but found out that it was cancelled. We thought it was a waste to get out and not do something fun together, so we substituted (see below). Perhaps not as healthy for the body, but definitely needed for the soul :)


We are so lucky to have such a good friend in Chizuko. She has been a lifesaver on multiple occasions. We love her!
James went bowling this week with the missionaries and some friends. I was at work, so I didn't get to go, but we are going tomorrow for Family Home Evening. I've sworn to beat James in at least one game, so stay tuned!

Spring weather is so crazy! We had two beautiful days this week where all of the snow melted, the sun came out, and the breeze was semi-warm. We had to take advantage of it, so we had a romantic dinner for two out on our back balcony for date night.

That's all for this week. Love to all our family and friends!!!