Friday, April 30, 2010

Roses in Afghanistan - Michael

These roses have been working on blooming for quite a while. It has been this week, with a little help from the rain, that they have come out in force. It is such a stark contrast to the all-business nature of the rest of the camp. Kind of makes you want to stay awhile - you know, I think I will stay awhile. :)

These roses are on the opposite side of my billeting building. The chapel is directly behind the vantage point of the top pic.

Blessings - Michael

Choosing Joy!

©2010 D.R.G.

~Coram Deo~

Living all of life before the face of God...
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Thursday, April 29, 2010


...but it's after midnight so it's Friday. Grrr.

The day began with a  PWOC call. The day continued with PWOC emails. (Budget due by 1 May - final tweaking).


More PWOC emails (I don't like budget season at all).

Bible study (amazing scones from a place I have to go find)

Nice visit afterwards with Twyla and boys


More PWOC emails (Have I mentioned I'm so blessed to have a financial liaison who is an expert?????? She doesn't even make me feel like an idiot when I say, "I don't get it.")

Japanese Lessons

MORE????? MORE???? MORE PWOC EMAILS - (It's nearly over and then off to others to wrestle with, then back to us to wrestle ::snort::)

Skype with Mike from 10 - 11 p.m.

Final PWOC it any wonder I can't find time to do my own budget?

Going to bed....I've learned most urgent things will wait.

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homework Must be Done....

Tomorrow night is Japanese...if we are going to do our Maku homework it would have to be today. Off we went. Stacia wanted to know if they would have Japanese toys. ::snort:: We've not tried McDonald's yet - though we drive by it 2 - 6x a day.....I was pleasantly surprised. It cost much less than I expected. I'm not sure which of the menu items are unique to Japan, as we didn't frequent McD's in the states.

We did notice right off that we got small straws.
From 2010-04-28
Nolan was the first to figure out how to make them expand. Cool.
From 2010-04-28
Stacia liked the ketchup packets which come in little containers like jelly does in restaurants in the states. Much less mess this way.
From 2010-04-28
She also approved of the drink choices.
From 2010-04-28
I was determined to try Akiko's "suki desu" favorites. No one else seemed eager to branch out....
From 2010-04-28

From 2010-04-25
Not bad, really. I liked the burger, though I'll remember to tell them to skip the mayo next time. ugh. Nolan tried the potato bacon pie.....he wasn't sold. Of course he's not had bacon in years. LOL
From 2010-04-28
Today was WINDY and RAINY...really windy. 32 mph gusts....the wind was SLAMMING against the corner of the 2nd story....and the carport was rising and falling all night. I woke up this a.m. and the hatch on my Joy was open....

Arielle saw the orthodontist. He's not sure they'll be able to work her in this summer...but we go back in June for x-rays and molds. Nothing moves fast here...but it does move. ::snort:: He said that, "if she wants braces, they can fix things," but very little orthodontic work is "essential"....interesting, as off base orthodontists will make you think your child's health could be ruined if their bite is incorrect. He had "numbers" and said she made the she would get braces back home....but maybe not here. We'll see. I could SHOOT the dentist in TX (who is now retired). I asked him over a year ago if she needed braces. If he'd said yes, she'd have them and they'd automatically continue them here for free. We may have to wait until we get home at this point.

Had a prayer meeting with the local PWOC retreat prayer team.

School. Working on the puzzle.

Came home to Skype with Michael, but it appears he's not around....I'm heading out for the Onsen now.The kids are settling in for the night. I hope.

....about those "Japanese toys," Stacia was happy with the iDogs...and you get to choose your own color here. LOL

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Routine Randomness?

People often assume our family  is either "total chaos" or "run drill Sgt style," when they hear that I have a largish family, bake bread, homeschool et al. It's neither.

I confess....years ago....when the older ones were younger, I had a schedule, charts, 15 min  color coded  blocks of time.....and by golly the kids stuck to my schedule.... I created MOTH schedules before MOTH was around. ::snort::  It worked well for us. I'm not mocking you if that is the season you are in. Several CEOs told me rivaled their corporate charts.  I THOUGHT that we needed a LOT of structure in order to "maintain control" with a large family. As time went on, it became apparent I would have to give up my tendency towards perfectionism or risk making my family neurotic.  Enough said.

I also noted that we weren't having FUN or ENJOYING school or family life...we were plowing through life to keep on time with my chart.

Now we have a routine. We have flexibility. We may not start our routine at the same time, every day...and we may not end at the same time...but we love the time to explore, to pick up and rush out when the need arises, to work straight through my scheduled breaks because we're on a roll and we'll play longer later...that sort of thing....and it works FOR US. We really aren't living a chaotic life. We're doing quite well, thank you....even if it SEEMS, from the outside, that we're "unstructured"...we've got a plan. ::snort::  On the other hand, we're really not maintaining a strict structure these days.

Today for instance.....I needed to bake and I needed to school and I wanted to go say goodbye to a Chaplain deploying and his family (6 weeks and my deployment buddy will be back)....

I got up, spent time in the word, put on work out clothes, started a load of laundry (routine), jumped on the bike (practiced one of the retreat sessions - figure if I can speak it while hyperventilating I'll be able to do it at the retreat ::snort::), hung the laundry, and started yeast soaking, while I jumped in the shower.

I ground flour and set it all to sponge, while we ate breakfast. While the boys did dishes (routine), I turned this....

Into this - 2 loaves of Seven grain bread, 1 Italian loaf and a pan of Cinnamon rolls (all from the same recipe)

Sat the loaves in a warm oven and began couch school. Within an hour couch school was done for the day and we had these on the cooling rack.

We had just enough time to do table school. Then the younger three and I rushed out the door to go to the base's passenger terminal.  The kids enjoyed the last play date with Ricky they'll enjoy for six weeks. We said our goodbyes. We grabbed lunch, stopped by the post office, dropped off a DVD at the library, picked up more soft foods at the commissary for Jared, and looked around for  items to put in packages for Mike.

We got home, put things away.....had a nice dinner - Shepherd's Pie (I'd started potatoes in the crock pot this a.m. and only had to mash them and throw together the filling....this recipe is below the bread recipe so invariably I crave this on days we're baking LOL ), skyped with Mike briefly, and are now working on a new family project.  THIS will keep us involved on long, lonely evenings.

Our goal is to finish  in a week or so....and that will be tough as our champion puzzle workers are NOT's time for a new generation to step up.

Is it chaotic? I suppose it's a bit more chaotic than some enjoy....but honestly...we got a FULL day of school done, baking, house is clean, visited with friends and had family time.

Why do I share? It just seemed like a good time to share a candid view of how it works around here. No, we don't have a firm, 15 min block schedule these days....but that doesn't mean we aren't able to accomplish a lot. I've been getting a lot of, "how do you do it?" questions again....and it seems that offering a candid look is helpful. It's not always pretty - but that's life. We don't "do it all," we do the things that God has impressed on us are important for THIS season...and it works...  A key point seems to be that I'm focused. I get up and get moving....the day really is centered around the BIG ROCKS...relationship with God, family, school, ministry.....and yet it's the BIG ROCKS that bring fulfillment to our hearts.

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Cream Cheese Frosting (Desserts Sue Gregg)

Cream cheese frosting tends to seep slowly into cake. For best results, freeze the cake before frosting it, and frost just before serving. Cover and store leftover cake in fridge or freezer (freezer is best). I've not noticed or done any of the preceding...but there you have it.

AMOUNT - Frosts 9x13 cake or 12 - 18 cupcakes (or a big pan of Cinnamon rolls)

Whip Cream Cheese until soft; blend in remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy:

8 oz Cream cheese (light and neufchatel work)
1/2 stick (1/4 C) soft butter
1/4 C honey
1/2 tsp lemon or orange extract, or 1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated lemon or orange peel, optional

Honest opinion - this is not as wonderful as the Cream Cheese/Powder Sugar frosting I used to make...but it's close and is much healthier...not healthy by any stretch...but healthier.

More Recipes.

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm diligently trying to work exercise in to my morning routine. I enjoy leisurely time in the word, but for my health, I really do need to make exercise a priority. This is the week to start again. Jan and Feb were good. March was too full of travel. April....well ever noticed  how easy it is to break a good habit and how hard it is to begin again?

5:30 - put a load in the washer - 30 min on the bike
6:05 - hung clothes outside
6:20 - 7:45 walked with Zander
8:00 breakfast
8:30 - 11:30 couch school
11:30 - 1:00 piano lessons and table school
1:00 - 4:00 - speaking research, some PWOC stuff, housework, laundry folding, hanging more (3 loads today in the wind), walk to ponies, played a bit of games with the kids....
4:45 - head to base
5:00 errands for Jared
5:30 - drop Jared and Arielle off; pick up dinner for younger 3
5:45 - 7:00 Weasel's Den - fun visit with Susane, local PWOC President
7:00 - 8:00 on to the library
8:00 - 8:20 wait for Jared and Arielle
8:30 - dropped mower off at Rick and Renee's

It all fit. A great day. Our walk was gorgeous. It was a clear day and felt very warm to us. We enjoyed the views of the mountains.

This lady was happy to greet us and exchange niceties about the weather. IN JAPANESE...I'm learning, I'm learning.

I'd been wanting to grab some shots of this barn, but we're always driving past....took many shots

Our house from down the road....doesn't the laundry look cozy?

We tried all morning to take a photo of a "bird other than a crow," we captured this one in our own yard.

We keep a box in the entry way  and we all throw things in to send to Dad. When the box is full, we mail it. This is working well for us.
Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...


Zander continues to be excited about his new readers. He's doing great with them. He has to read each book with only 2 mistakes before he can move on to the next one.  We started at the beginning and continue to play phonics games...building new sounds - while building confidence.

Today,  he was looking for the right spot in his MATH book and commented, "I do remember I'm over here in the New Testament part of the book." ::snort::

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

I do NOT find this amusing!

Neither do I find SNAKES in my bed amusing. Certain gentlemen are now warned. I will retaliate.
Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

My mountain view - Michael

If you look between the blu-ish bldg and the green roof-top landing, you can see faintly in the background some of the snowy mountains that ring this entire area. It is hard to get a clear picture of them because of the constant haze here, but they are there and they are big. This is the beginnings of the Himalayas.


Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...
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The Neighborhood is getting Crowded - Michael

When I first arrived, there was quite a bit of room next to and behind my billeting building. This is soon to take a turn for the more crowded look. In the top pic, you can see the Coffee House portion of the Chapel. The building to the right is my billeting building. In the foreground you can see the new foundation they are putting in for more housing. They will be Conex-style billeting - containerized, modular kind of things that just fit together. Kind of handy. Presto, instant neighborhood.

In the second pic, the camera is panning to the right. The bottom room on the corner is mine. For the third pic you can see the gap between my building and other conex-style buildings out my window. This whole area is soon to be filled with Conex-style billeting. It is all for a good cause. Folks just need to move to a safer locale. Out my bedroom window is that safer place, actually. :)

Soon to be filled with Conexes - 2 high.

Choosing Joy!

©2010 D.R.G.

~Coram Deo~

Living all of life before the face of God...
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Golden Toffee Blondies

Arielle and I made these today from Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove Cookbook. These were a big hit. I even heard someone say, "I think these are better than brownies."

From the cookbook....

1 C butter (2 sticks)
1 3/4 C light brown sugar (Rapadura)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C all purpose flour (Prairie Gold)
1/2 tsp salt (sea salt)
1 12 oz package of semisweet chocolate chips (could 1/2)
1 C toffee bits (such as Heath)

Preheat oven to 350*. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil, pressing foil so that it fits snugly into corners of the pan and overhanging edges serve as handles. Lightly butter foil.

Melt butter. Beat with sugar 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined and light in color. Add flour and salt and beat until combined. Fold in chocolate chips and toffee bits

Pour batter into pan. Bake 25 minutes. Blondies will be golden brown on the edges yet still soft in the middle. Do not over bake.Transfer to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, use foil edges to lift blondies out of pan and cut into squares.  (We couldn't wait).

Tip: The key to moist blondies is making sure you don't over bake them. The top of the bars should be shiny, yet the middle of the bars will still feel soft to the touch.

Ours didn't have toffee, and we used Rapadura instead of brown sugar, and fresh ground whole wheat instead of refined all purpose flour....I can't imagine how rich these would be if I'd had toffee. I will cut the chocolate by 1/2 next time....or make them plain. Very good.

More recipes here
Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yabusame ~ Uma Samurai

Erika told us that Towada would be having Yabusame today and tomorrow. I visited the website, I watched the You Tube clip at the site, we wanted to go. We couldn't find clear cut directions to Chuo Park. Google failed me, there are about 6,000 Chuo Cohens in Japan. ::snort::  I finally hit on calling Melissa for directions. SHE KNEW HOW TO GET THERE - Thanks, Melissa. They were perfect, right down to running the red light on the bridge over the river. When I pulled up they were honking at a lady parked on the bridge. ::snort::

We felt a bit ripped off. This is SUPPOSED to be Cherry Blossom time. All the festivals are going on - but there are no Cherry Blossoms. In the You Tube you see the archers riding between rows of Cherry Trees.....and the park would be gorgeous if all the trees were blooming.  The good news is that it's only 26 min from our door to this park.We'll go back as soon as we see blossoms in town. LOL

Yabusame is the name we were given. I can't tell you what it means, as it isn't in our Japanese/English Dictionary. Google tells me how to pronounce it but not what it means. Strike 2 for google today. ::snort::

This was the first time I took the kids and ventured to a new spot in Japan. I discovered that outside of Misawa folks really are more interested in Americans. ::snort:: I also discovered that they are VERY friendly to a mom alone with children.

We were BLESSED by a gentleman who took a liking to our family. He chatted up a storm. We found out that writing English is very hard. That George Bush  was an honest man. That Katakana is very hard to learn to write (yes, we knew that) and that these were "Uma Samarai." THAT I can translate - horse knight. The twist to this event is that all the competitors are female. There was an instructor who was male.

They ride FAST down the lane and pull arrows, shoot, ride a few more yards and do that three times in one run. When the umbrellas go UP it means they hit the target. Who knew Samurais wore Levis?

Here are a couple of many of the video clips we took.

This was a fun spot to walk around and observe.

One Mom and Grandmom were excited when they saw Stacia and I walking....they called me over to say they had bagels...but it didn't sound quite like bagels. They proudly showed me and I said, BAGELS - they took me to a little boy who was walking around the grounds selling bagels. He made our day and we made his. LOL Speaking of food....Stacia was the hit of the "food court". I had to buy SIXTEEN yakitori and we also had bagels, potatoes and drinks......all for about $20. Festival food is cheaper than eating in town.

This is the way to picnic...tatami mats and low tables...we only had to remove our shoes.

Jared was a trooper. He came with us. When he was ready to come home we did. This was fun to see on the way home.

What can this mean?

We dropped Jared at the house and the rest of us went to the beach.  I'd been a bit melancholy seeing something new in Japan without Michael. This is OUR beach, so it seemed a good way to regain equilibrium.....and searching for sea glass always calms me.  The trench is back again, Mike.

When we walked up, Stacia said, "It's not snowing!" ::snort::

Back at home we rode bikes, played 4 sqaure and basketball. Zander was surprised that I could make baskets.

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...