Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh let me just tell you!!

Okay, so yeah, most of you know the big news…..I am a MOM!!! Yikes!!!!, Crazy, scary, new, exciting, unbelievable, yes….all of the above and more!! I gave birth to Ava Kiyomi Williams on May 3, 2014. Overall, it was a wonderful experience!! Let me just tell you my story…..pregnancy for me was pretty much a blessing! Morning sickness?! NOPE! Cravings?! NOPE! Tiredness? Yes, unfortunately, but granted, I was working 0645-at least 1600 hours, so give me a break….anyone would be tired working those hours!! So regardless, it was a pretty enjoyable pregnancy and I was able to be "myself" until a few weeks before my due date. My due date was May 18, 2014. I always thought they were off on my due date by about a week….so I always thought in my head I would be going into labor early. Well, turns out my suspicions were right, as I started having contractions on May 2nd. I was supposed to go into work for my 2nd to last day, but realized, I wouldn't be able tolerate the pain I was going through, so I called in sick. I spend the majority of the next day balled up in pain, but then the following day (May 2nd) I had my 37/38 week check up…..I told Andrew, it was crazy I could go from feeling so amazing my entire pregnancy up until now, where I felt like absolute "shit." Excuse my language!! But seriously, I did joke with Andrew saying, "hey, maybe I will be 8cm dilated or something crazy when they check me." Well, it turns out, we went to McDonald's and had lunch (McDonald's in Japan is wayyyyyy better than in the states btw) and then went to our appointment. She checked me and she immediately said, "Holy Cow girl, did I just break your water???!!!! You are like 7-8cm dilated!!!") Me thinking OMG, NO WAY!!!!! She says, "Yep, you are having this baby today!" EEEKKKK!!! We were kind of ready, but not THAT ready!! She told Andrew to go home and finish packing our overnight bag and in the meantime, I am trying to get officially checked into the labor and delivery unit…..well, since they didn't' see me "screaming" in pain, they didn't believe i was in active labor…..and until you are in active labor, they will not admit you. SO….I was advised to keep walking and come back in 2 hours…..so Andrew and I went walking around (with me in excruciating pain at times) and out to eat, knowing we wouldn't be getting good food for a while….So we left Macaroni Grill with me in pain and contractions that were coming every 3-4 minutes….we thought that would be enough…..NOPE!!! Turned me down for admittance once again….so I told Andrew "let's just go home for this final time." (I didn't want to be just lying in the triage area in pain, I'd rather be home!) He agreed….but in the meantime I begged the night nurse to give me something for the pain….she said she could give me tylenol, but "it probably wouldn't work." Reassuring, huh?! Well, she was right, it didn't' work, however, by the time we got back to our house and as soon as i could make it to the bathroom, I knew something was different…..either I was going to take a huge poop OR I was going to have a baby in the toilet. I was scared for the latter and started screaming saying, "Andrew!!! There's something wrong!!! They got it all wrong!!!! I am about to have this baby right NOW!!!" He immediately got on board, said, "That's it!! If we get there this time, we aren't' leaving!!" So, we sped BACK to the hospital, I couldn't even walk in, due to the pain….was wheeled in, told that in the 10-15 minutes I had been there, I had gone from being 7cm-basically almost 10cm! I was getting ready to have this baby!! Did my water break?! NOPE! So because I was 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant, they would not "break" my water…..so I opted for a spinal and then later an epidural at  that point. They did finally break my water and about an hour later, I was pushing for this baby to come out!! And about 30 minutes later, Ava Kiyomi, the love of our life, arrived!! It was AMAZING!!! She could not have been any more perfect!! Tears of joy just streamed down both of our faces and it was a moment I will never forget!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Where I've Been....

I realize and apologize for being MIA for a while! I am going to try and do better at keeping you all updated on what's going on in my life in Okinawa. Here's a brief recap over the last month or so.....

We moved! We were in a place off base, but made the decision to move on base for a couple of reasons. Number 1 reason being, to be able to save a lot more money. Living on base means no more electricity or water bills, which was a huge expense living off base. Number 2 reason being that the majority of our friends live on base and that means we would be walking distance to most of our friends! Number 3 reason was that our street we lived on off base was SO loud with kids playing in the street all the time, running in between our buildings, throwing rocks, hoarding our driveway....anyways, you get the point. With that being said, we moved on base and we love it! We love being super close to our friends, not having to pay the expensive utility bills, and living in a quiet neighborhood!

Most of you probably know by now that I got a nursing job!! YAY!!! I am a sedation nurse at a dental clinic on base. We do conscious sedation at the clinic and the majority of the cases we do are wisdom teeth extractions. I started working a few weeks ago, so I am starting to get the hang of it now and so far I am really enjoying my job. With that being said, I am still adjusting to early mornings.....I have to be at work at 6:45am and with me not being a morning person, that has been the biggest adjustment of all! ha!

Andrew and I took a trip to mainland Japan for our 3rd wedding anniversary. We went to Osaka and had a blast. When I get my pictures uploaded, I will give you all more details on our adventures in Osaka.

This past weekend we went to be part of the audience for the X Factor Japan auditions. I don't know too much about how the X Factor works in Japan, but I assume it's supposed to be somewhat similar to the way it is in the U.S. However, there were a few groups who danced for their auditions and did not sing, so maybe they have a dancing group category?! Ha. Again, I am not sure and we also couldn't understand anything the judges were saying. Another difference in the auditions is that everyone in the audience was SO silent, but when I watch the auditions being done in the states, the audience is going crazy with cheering, etc. Most of the contestants sang American songs and it's pretty funny because they will sing all the lyrics, including the words that are typically "bleeped" out...I don't think they really understand the meaning, or maybe they do?! Haha. But anyways, it was a pretty cool experience to be a part of and we could at least understand if the contestants were going to make it through to the next round because the judges would vote with "yes" or "no".

Just wanted to give you all a quick update on my busy life and I will update again soon!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunsets and Salmon!

I made the most amazing salmon the other night....this was actually my 2nd time making it because it is so yum and so simple! Because I get the salmon at the Japanese grocery store, I am not sure the exact weight of the salmon filet that I use (since I am unable to read Japanese). I do know it makes enough for 2 people and we normally have a little bit leftover, so I am guessing it is about a 3/4lb filet of salmon. Here is the recipe:

Cashew Encrusted Salmon

1/3 c cashews
1/3 c shredded parmesan cheese (not the grated)
1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
3/4 lb salmon filet

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put cashews, cheese, olive oil, and italian seasoning into blender/food processor and grind until it is a fine consistency. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place salmon on top. Put the cashew mixture all over the salmon, place another piece of foil on top of the salmon and enclose with the foil. Bake for 12 minutes covered, then uncover salmon and bake uncovered for about 5 minutes, until the top is slightly brown. Enjoy!

This salmon is so good that Andrew, who doesn't even really like salmon, loves this recipe, so please try it out! I imagine if you absolutely hate salmon, the cashew mixture would even be good to put on chicken. I wish I had a picture of it to share, but I am so bad at taking pictures of my food before I start eating it! Oops!

One thing that I have been good at taking pictures of, are the sunsets here! They have been absolutely breathtaking. These are 2 I took the other night which were taken on my iPhone and I didn't edit them at all. How amazing!





Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Snorkeling, 4th of July, and SUP yoga!

Summer is here in Okinawa! That means in order to stay cool most of your activities need to involve being in the water, so that's exactly what i've been doing. A few weeks ago my friends had discovered this amazing beach so they were nice and introduced Andrew and I to this secret spot! We took our snorkeling gear and had so much fun......the beach was amazing and there was a huge cave you could go inside and swim, float, whatever. This picture doesn't do it any justice to how beautiful it is, but it kind of gives you an idea of how huge this cave is. 
We all put on our snorkeling gear and went out to discover the ocean. It was the most amazing snorkeling experience i've ever had. We saw so many different fish, both big and small and there were so many I felt like I was in an aquarium. It was awesome. Of course we had to take a time out for a picture!
After we worked up an appetite snorkeling, Whitney's husband brought his grill to the beach and grilled us up some hamburgers.....it was a great day!

Our first 4th of July in Oki was a ton of fun. Us girls decided we needed to tie dye t-shirts for the occasion. That was so much fun doing and I think we are going to continue the tie-dye tradition now for all upcoming festivities! We had a big group of friends that went to Torii Beach which is an Army base and we tailgated in the parking lot and then went into the party. We swam in the ocean, watched fireworks, and had a blast! Please note how awesome our shirts are.....in case you want one....yes, I will be taking orders! Haha.
A few days later, my friend Erin found a free stand up paddle board yoga class and asked if I would want to try it out.....of course I did! It was a really cool experience and used a lot of core strength. The last part of the class was my favorite because the instructor just had us lie flat on our backs on the boards and relax. That was so relaxing and I loved it. Our goal for next time is to do a headstand on the paddle board....think we can make it happen?! Wish us luck and more pictures to follow! :-)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tilapia Thursday

I made this last week and it was such an easy and delicious recipe! I used tilapia, but you could use flounder or a different white flaky fish of your choice as well!

Cajun Tomato Tilapia

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil
4 tilapia filets (4 or 6oz filets)
3/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup green pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes (drain most of the liquid)
1 Tbsp Mrs. Dash's Extra Spicy Seasoning Blend

Directions:

In a fairly deep skillet, heat oil and sauté onion and garlic on medium heat, until soft. Add tomatoes, green pepper, and spices....stir and cook for about 3 minutes. Lay the tilapia on the sauce and cover and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the fish easily flakes. Serve the fish and then spoon the sauce on top. I served our fish on top of corn grits and topped it off with the tomato mixture and it was fabulous!




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

2 new recipes and a workout!

It's been forever since my last post and I apologize!! I am back in Okinawa after a wonderful trip back to the good ole U-S of A where I got to see all of my family and friends who I miss so much! I will recap on my trip back to the states in a later post, but I wanted to share 2 delicious recipes with you as well as the treadmill workout I did today. First things first....food! You need to make these pancakes NOW and thank me later.....they are SO amazingly good.

Better than banana bread pancakes

1/2 super ripe banana
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup fat free cottage cheese
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pumpkin pie spice (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl (smashing up the banana as you mix). Then put this mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.....it will now be the consistency of pancake batter (don't be worried about the cottage cheese--it blends right in!). Spray pan with non stick cooking spray and put batter in pan making 3 pancakes and flip when necessary. When pancakes are done, I sprayed mine with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and sprinkled a little pumpkin pie spice and drizzled with syrup. If you don't like this recipe, there may be something wrong with you! :-)

I am new to the whole kale thing, but I found some at the commissary and decided to try it out! I was not disappointed because these chips I made were so good!

Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips

Kale, chopped into 1 or 2 inch sized pieces
1-1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Course Kosher Sea Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Wash and chop kale. Make sure kale is completely dry. Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Mix in the kale and toss to coat. Place kale on foil lined baking sheet, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Space kale out evenly so it is not overlapping. Bake for about 13 minutes or until crispy. (Note: Keep a close eye on it at about 10 minutes and frequently check because it will burn fast!)

Now, thankfully both of those recipes are healthy, but still....to work it off, here's a good treadmill workout.

Time             Speed          Incline

 0--2                  4.2               6
 2--4                  4.2               8
 4--6                  4.2              10
 6--8                  4.0              12
 8--10                4.0              14
10--11               7.0               0
11--12               6.8               0
12--13               6.6               0
13--14               4.2              10
14--15               4.2              11
15--16               4.0              12
16--17               4.0              13
17--18               7.0               0
18--19               6.8               0
19--20               6.6               0
Repeat 1X.

I repeated this once for a 40 minute workout, but you can adjust it to your time liking. You could choose to do the 20 minute workout or you could make it a 30 minute workout by only repeating the first 10 minutes....you get the drift! My thighs were on fire by the end of the walking segments, so I quickly welcomed the running believe it or not!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I wish I could take credit....

For these recipes that I have made over the past week because they have been so delicious! These recipes were so good that I just have to share them with you all. Just click on the recipe title and it will direct you to the recipe. Both of these recipes are from the blog, Skinny Taste. If you haven't checked out her blog before, visit it now. There are recipes for everyone and best of all, they are healthy, nothing super complicated, and I haven't been disappointed with a recipe yet.

The first is for White Bean Turkey Chili. I made this on a rainy day and it was delicious. Here are a few changes I made to the recipe. I used 1.25 lbs of 99% lean ground turkey instead of the 3 lbs of ground turkey the recipe calls for. The recipe calls for 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth, but I found that the chili was going to be too thick for my desired consistency....so I used approximately 3 cups of chicken broth. I used 2 cans of cannellini beans and 1 can of white navy beans. I didn't have a bay leaf, so I omit that and also didn't have oregano, so I used italian seasoning instead. Although I decreased the amount of meat and beans used, I kept all the seasoning portions the same amount as what the recipe calls for. The flavor of this chili was excellent and I think it was even better as leftovers!

The next recipe is for Sweet and Fiery Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salsa. We made this recipe Saturday night and instead of putting the pork in the oven, we put it on the grill. This recipe is another winner! Our produce selection here in Okinawa isn't the best when it comes to getting fresh fruits sometimes, so instead of using a fresh mango, I used frozen mango. I also am not a huge cilantro fan, so I omit this ingredient, but next time I would probably try it with the cilantro. The pork was a little sweet, yet with some spiciness and the mango salsa on the side balanced all the flavors out so well and was a very refreshing dinner!

Tonight, I am making Cheeseburger Casserole so I will let you know how it turns out!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Kadena International Wine Fest!



Last weekend we were given tickets to go to Kadena International Wine Fest. I was pretty excited about this because I love to try out new wines and it was a sold out event! I had to idea what to expect going into this wine fest, except knowing I would be drinking a lot of wine and we had heard to get there early, before they run out of the "good" wines. We got there right at 5pm, when it started and there was a line out the door. When we got through the door, we were all given a wine glass for our wine, a wine sheet which listed each table and which wines were at each table...oh and a pencil to make notes about the wine. So basically, we just found our way to the first wine table we saw. I didn't know if there was going to be a method to the madness of tasting the wine, since there typically is an order you go in, but it seemed like it was just "find a wine and taste it." I decided to try out a few white wines to start off and then made my way to reds. The layout of the room was a little disorganized in my opinion because there were six tables that each had about 20 different wines at each table. The tables were scattered and not really in one particular area. In the meantime, there was a ton of food buffets scattered throughout the rooms as well. It was a little overwhelming and the food wasn't that great in my opinion. It got to be so crowded around all the wine tables, you had to fight your way through the crowd to stand there waiting for your tiny little sample of wine. They poured such small samples of wine it got to the point that it was hard to distinguish the different tastes of the wine. Towards the end of my sampling spree, all I wanted was just a normal size glass of wine to sip on while I ate my food. So then, I just decided, enough with the sampling, I am going to order a glass of wine from the bar, so that's what I did.

These were a few of my favorite wines that I did taste:

  • Sommerbosch Chardonnay, which is a South African wine and very non-oaky
  • Edna Valley Chardonnay, which is from San Luis Obispo County in California, this is a medium-bodied wine, and my personal favorite! I linked the name of the wine to their website if you want a better description of it. 
  • Estancia Pinot Noir, which is another California wine that was very good. 
  • Alamos Malbec, which is a wine from Argentina that I have had before and thoroughly enjoy!
Those are a few highlighted wines that were there that I enjoyed. 

Unfortunately, my favorite red wine is not sold here. It is the R Collection by Raymond Vineyards and it is the Field Blend. It is a red wine blend and as my brother-in-law would say, "it's so good, it goes down like candy." Haha. But really, it is SO good and I could only dream that Raymond Vineyards would ship me a case of their field blend! Next time you are in the mood for a good red wine blend, see if you can find this wine and I don't think you will be disappointed!


All in all, the Wine Fest was a fun time and I was glad we went.....and of course we had fun with our friends!




Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bingata

Here's a Japanese lesson for all of you who may not know what bingata is. "Bin" means colors and "gata" means various patterns. So, put it together and you get bingata, which is "colored designs." Bingata is an Okinawan traditional resist dyed cloth and there is a design of some sort stenciled onto the cloth. Bingata is worn during traditional Okinawan arts performances and historical reenactments. When Heather and I went to Okinawa World, we decided it would be fun to get in touch with our artistic side and make our own bingata. It was a really fun experience. We sat down at a Japanese style table and the lady didn't speak much English but she demonstrated what we needed to do and she also gave us written instructions that were in English. I chose to do a Hibiscus flower coaster. You put different shades of paint all over the stenciled white design until you don't see white anywhere else. Then, you take it home with you and let dry for about 2 days. The last step is soaking it in hot water for about an hour, which causes the excess paint to wash off. It was pretty cool to see my end result. Here is Heather doing her coaster!
Here is a picture of my coaster with all of the paint on and how it looked for the next 2 days while it was drying. As you can see the background is a tan color, which is a special rice paste which is scraped onto the stencil across the cloth. This will wash off when you soak it in the warm water.
Ta-Da!!!.....Here is my finished product after soaking it in hot water.
Pretty cool, huh?! For someone who's not very good at arts and crafts, I was pretty impressed with my skills! haha.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Healthy Chicken Broccoli Casserole

 Last night I made a really good, healthy recipe and it couldn't have been any easier! I put it together right before I left for the gym, stuck it in the fridge, and then all I had to do was bake it in the oven!

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

3 cups of cooked, shredded chicken (I used canned chicken)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup, reduced sodium
1 package of frozen broccoli, cooked
1 cup of reduced fat shredded cheese
1/2 cup of cornflakes (optional)
2 Tbsp dried onion flakes (optional)
garlic salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients, EXCEPT the cornflakes in a large mixing bowl....mix well. Spread mixture into the 9 inch pan. Crunch up the cornflakes and sprinkle on top. Put in oven and bake until heated through.....approximately 20 minutes.

Eat up!! :)


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Two new recipes!

I am so excited to tell you guys about the 2 new delicious recipes I tried out this weekend. They were SO good and SO easy, which makes everything even better! The first is for ribs. I have never made ribs in my entire life, so I was a little intimidated, but this recipe seemed easy enough for me to handle....and it was a huge success! The ribs easily fell off the bone and the meat was super tender! Here's the recipe...I promise you won't be let down!

12 oz bottled beer (I used Coors light because it's what's in our fridge)
1 rack of baby back ribs (I made 2-1/2 lbs)
1 onion
Sweet Baby Rays Honey BBQ sauce (or your BBQ sauce of choice)
sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Slice onion and layer rings evenly along tin foil. Place ribs on top of the onion, bone side down. Pour beer on top of ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly in foil. Place in a pan in case some of the beer leaks out of the foil. Bake for 2 hours (or 30 minutes more if you have more than 3 lbs of ribs). Take out of oven and prepare for grilling. Brush BBQ sauce on ribs and grill for 10 minutes on meat side down first. Flip over and brush more BBQ sauce and grill 10 more minutes on opposite side. Then......prepare to enjoy!! If you don't want to grill, you can finish these in the oven.....just unwrap the foil, brush on BBQ sauce and bake for an additional 30 minutes!

My next recipe is a French Toast Casserole I made on Easter Sunday. This was a delicious breakfast recipe and was so easy. You can make your own adjustments, but this is how I made mine. This is now one of my favorite recipes.....please make it and let me know what you think!!

6 cups of light (45 calorie) bread, cubed
1/2 cup of egg beaters
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/4 cup of white sugar, divided
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x9 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with bread cubes. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk 2 Tbsp sugar, salt, and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and spray the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray on top. Let it sit for 10  minutes. Combine remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle this mixture over the top. Put it in the oven and bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes until the top is golden. Serve with syrup.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as Andrew and I did! :-)


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ryukyu Glass Craft Village

As many of you know, I have NO sense of direction which puts a whole new twist on exploring! I am proud to tell you all that with the whole week of Heather being here, I did not once get lost!! Thank you!! :-) One of the days we ventured to the completely southern tip of the island to check out Ryukyu Glass Craft Village. It took us about an hour and a half to get there, but the trip was an enjoyable drive and the village was really cool. It is completely free to walk around and check everything out and when we first arrived it was pretty overwhelming, but then we got focused! First, we watched the men and women actually doing the glass blowing. That was fascinating. Who knew that glass could be so expandable?! Not me! The guys would blow through a metal pipe with the glass attached to the end of it and it would slowly get increasingly larger. You could pay to do this process yourself, but you weren't able to keep your own glass from our understanding, so what's the fun in that?!
Then there are quite a few different stores where you can purchase glass. This was the overwhelming part. One of the stores was HUGE with more glass than you can imagine. We must have been too overwhelmed because we didn't purchase any glass. However, they did have a smaller store that was considered a discount store because some of the glass had imperfections. When I do choose to purchase some of the glass before I leave Okinawa, I will come back to this glass craft village because they had the best prices on all of their glass by far. The village grounds were really pretty and all of the walls were covered in glass and made into beautiful pictures. The picture below is one of the walls outside and it is made out of all different pieces of colored glass. Pretty cool!
Everywhere Heather and I went, we were able to find face cut-out photo ops. Apparently that is a big thing here. So of course we had to participate. Here is Heather doing her Shisha lion faces....mouth open to scare the bad spirits away and mouth closed to keep the good spirits in!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Our first visitor!

We had our first visitor here in Okinawa.....guess who it was?! My best friend, Heather!! We had such a great time together (as always) and explored Okinawa to its fullest. While it would be too long of a single post about her visit and everything we did, I will blog about our adventures over the next few days!

The morning after she arrived, she woke up and it was her birthday! A pretty awesome way to celebrate your birthday is to come to Okinawa.....just saying! I even made her a birthday cake with homemade icing, which I had never done before. It was a success! During the day, I gave her a basic tour of the military bases that we live by. I also took her to American Village, which is an outdoor shopping center with a ton of different restaurants and shops. We ate lunch there and then I decided she needed to have a true Japanese experience (one in which I had never experienced before either). What was it? Doctor Fish!! You put your feet into a pool of water that has a ton of tiny fish inside and as soon as you emerge your feet in the water, they start to "feed" on your dead skin. No worries, the fish don't have any teeth so they can't hurt you, but it does tickle. It kind of tickles and almost feels like your feet are tingling, like they are about to go to sleep. But then you look down and you see this!
 Yikes!!! After you got used to the sensation, it was all good and the man must have needed to feed his fish because he gave us a free extra 3 minutes. We had to conclude our authentic experience with some peace signs of course!


That evening we went to Sam's by the Sea in Awase. This is a nice chain restaurant here in Okinawa with each location being a little different. The one in Awase is known as the "romantic location" and it is right on the water. Heather and I both got seafood dishes and Andrew got steak and shrimp. They also make this really good curry soup that comes with every meal....Yum! Then we came back to the house and sang Happy Birthday to Heather and had a piece of birthday cake. A great ending to a great day!




Friday, March 8, 2013

Last day at school

Today was my last day teaching at the school. I will miss the kids a lot more than I will miss the work of being a teacher! They are such sweet kids and they were sad to say goodbye (as was I), but I will stop in to visit them from time to time! My fourth graders made me a book in which each of them wrote something. It was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes! Here are a few of the pages:



Then one of my favorite little 3rd grade girls made me lunch (rice, sausage, and egg--it was really good in case you were wondering!), a small gift, and gave me a sweet note. It's nice to know I was appreciated! 

 Here I am with my third grade girls.......they are my favorite! :-)
Happy Friday!!!!.....and I promise to keep you all updated more often!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I hope this post makes you laugh!

Okay, so we have been busy exploring on the weekends as usual which always makes for a fun time! We went to the Koza music town area and walked around and discovered some shops, recording studios, as well as a dance studio. For anyone who knows me, I LOVE to watch people do hip hop dance. I am so envious of their dance ability and I just really wished I had those kind of moves (which I totally do not!). So anyways, the dance studio was so cool to just stand there and watch these kids do freestyle dance to whatever hiphop song the DJ would put on. They were SO good. The kids ranged from ages 5 to maybe about 15 years old....one guy was spinning on his head and had all sorts of dance moves, which apparently inspired Andrew to tackle some dance moves of his own later that night.....I hope you find it as funny/entertaining as I do!
video

This past weekend we decided to go look at a furniture store I had heard about to see if there was anything I was missing out on....on our way there, I heard a loud pop and then sssssssssssssss.....like air was coming out of a tire. And yea, that's exactly what it was.....Clif (Andrew's big red van) had a flat tire. So we find a parking lot (those are hard to find around here) and think, okay, no big deal, Andrew can change a tire no problem. Well of course nothing turns out as planned and the van's tire repair kit had the wrong sized wrench for the tire. So we decided since it was a nice day, we could just walk to the furniture store and then figure something out. We walked to the furniture store and I found two wooden pictures I wanted to buy and found out where the next MakeMan (like a home depot) was located....so we walked there (ended up being a 3 mile walk), thankfully found what we needed, and then took a cab back to the van! It was such a classic moment that I had to capture, plus many of you have yet to see Andrew's "hot ride." HA!
Once we got the wrench, everything was good to go and we got home safely, but we were both pretty exhausted after what we expected to be a casual trip to a furniture store! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chicken Taco Casserole

I made this for dinner tonight and it was super easy and super delicious. It also makes about 9 to 12 servings, so when you are only cooking for one or two, it is perfect to make so you have leftovers for lunch and/or dinner the rest of the week!

Chicken Taco Casserole

Ingredients:

1 bag of Baked Tostitos Scoop Chips
2 (10.75 oz) cans cream of chicken soup (I used the Heart Healthy, low sodium cans)
1-1/2 cups of light sour cream
1 (14 oz ) can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilis
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (1 oz) packet original taco seasoning
3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used fat free)

Directions:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan.
-In a large bowl, combine cream of chicken soup, sour cream, diced tomatoes and green chills, black beans, taco seasoning, and the chicken.
-Crush chips up with your hands or however is feasible for you and spread half of them on the bottom of the pan. Spread half of the chicken mixture on top of the chips. Then top with 1 cup of cheese. Repeat this layer one more time with remaining crushed chips, chicken mixture, and the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
-Bake for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and starts to brown.

Recipe adapted from Six Sisters Stuff.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Cooper's trip to the vet and a few other happenings!

Recently Cooper has been doing a lot of scratching around his face. It was starting to concern me because he would start to scratch his face and while doing so he would cry. He gets ear infections a lot, but I ruled that out because he would let me touch his ears and they weren't waxy or smelly. I thought he could possible have something wrong with his tooth, but he was eating fine. So about a week and a half ago we called the vet on base to get him an appointment....well that was a failure because they didn't have any open appointments until February 5th. We waited a few more days to see if Cooper would get better, but it seemed to only be getting worse. This past Sunday we took him to a Japanese vet called Animal Hospital 22. They didn't have any open appointments, but they said if we just walked in, they could probably see us with only about a 30 minute wait. So to the vet we went! Thankfully we had a great experience there and I will definitely take Cooper back there in the future. There was a person there that did the translating, the vet hospital itself was extremely clean with no odor, and best of all, it was super reasonable. We walked out of there spending less than $50 including the office visit, a skin test, along with steroids and antibiotics. Thankfully they don't think anything is wrong with Cooper except for him having some allergies right now to whatever may be in the air or grass and he seems to be doing much better with a lot less itchiness going on!

I was at the gym at my normal 5:30pm Zumba class the other night and I was walking to my car....got into my car and all of a sudden some guy was knocking on my window. Scared the crap out of me! He informed me that while I was in the gym working out his wife managed to hit my car. How in the world do you hit a parked car?! Especially so hard that it gets dented in on the driver's side door. Beats me, but it happened. So now we are just trying to figure out how to go about getting it fixed. We called our insurance company, but of course they speak Japanese, so a translator got on the line and asked us a million and one questions only to tell us they would call us back. Have we heard back yet? Nope! It's just frustrating because nothing is easy when you can't speak the language here! Which is why I am determined to learn it!

I have downloaded an app on my phone and iPad called Human Japanese and it is awesome! I originally started with the free version, but because it was so good, I decided it was well worth the $12.99 for the full version. I just need to get better about dedicating at least an hour to it everyday! I know I will probably never be fluent by any means, but it would be really helpful if I could at least understand what people are saying and contribute a little to the conversation!

A while back I had told you all about Tina's Best Body Bootcamp that I signed up for. We are already going to be starting week 4, which means we are almost halfway through! It is an 8 week online bootcamp and every 2 weeks she emails you detailed workouts for 2 weeks. I love it because there are new exercises I have never done before and I love having a printout telling me exactly what to do. I have found myself being sore in places I haven't been sore before, which is always great because you know you are working all different areas of your body! Her bootcamp is an exercise plan that any fitness level can follow and you can modify it in any way. No worries if you're intimidated by trying to figure out how to do certain exercises because she attaches a video link that demonstrates each exercise so it makes it super easy to follow. If you are looking for some change in your current exercise routine, I would highly recommend signing up for the next Bootcamp round. It's only $25 and so worth it! Speaking of all this working out.....off to the gym I go! :-)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Skinny Turkeyloaf!

I made this recipe last night and it was so good I have to share it with you all!

Skinny Turkeyloaf

1 lb extra lean ground turkey (I used 97%)
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup quick oats
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt

Topping:

1/4 cup ketchup
1.5 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
2 tsp brown sugar
tiny splash of worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all main ingredients and mix together in a large bowl. Once mixed, hand-form a loaf with the mixture on the baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients and mix. Spread all over the uncooked meatloaf. Put it in the oven and bake for 55 minutes and let it sit about 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where I've been!

It's been a while and I have been busy! Let's see....Andrew and I went to Okinawa World which is I guess what you could call a theme park (no rides, only shows). The main attraction there is a huge cave that was formed about 300,000 years ago. You can walk through it which was unbelievable and it took us a good 20 minutes to walk through the cave! Andrew has most of the good pictures, so I will post more later, but here is one that I took while venturing through the cave.
After going through the cave, we walked around.....it is almost like a little village with different little huts everywhere with various activities you can do (like glass blowing, bingata making, etc) all for an extra cost. We found our way over to the Habu museum where they have all types of preserved snakes in tanks and information about all the crazy snakes out there. I am not a huge snake lover, but it was fairly interesting. They even have a live Habu snake demonstration which was pretty crazy and I was a little scared for the snake handlers, even though I know they are trained!
The last show we went to was the Eisa dance show. The Eisa dance is a form of folk dance which is unique to Okinawa and consists of singing, drumming, chanting, and songs played on the sanshin (a 3 string instrument, kind of similar to a banjo). It was really cool and definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip!

The next day we ventured off to see the cherry blossoms in the northern part of the island. They weren't in full bloom I don't think, but they were still really pretty and I am glad we made the trip!
Let's see....Oh yeah, this week I got to go on a field trip with the kids I teach to the Kinoshita Circus. The Kinoshita Circus is one of the world's three major circuses, so I was pretty excited that I was able to go! I guess I was expecting it to be super spectacular since it is really been hyped up and while it was fun and entertaining, it wasn't anything I had never seen at a circus before I guess. But it's all about the experience and seeing the kids have fun and be amazed with it all is half the fun too! I had to laugh because our kids (from our Japanese school) were so well-behaved the whole time and they were complaining about all the American kids (from the on-base schools) because "they were so noisy." One of my students said to me, "Mrs. Leah, they are acting like animals!" HA! With that being said, I am SO thankful for my well behaved students even though sometimes I may complain! :-)



Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nail clippings anyone?!?

There is one truth to my teaching job at a Japanese school.....it is NEVER a dull moment. Between kids being kids, the language barrier, etc. after my day is over and I am thinking about everything that happened in one day, I can't help but laugh. Today was no exception. Here's my story of the day:

I have a new student in my class. He is probably 12 years old and he comes to my 3rd grade Language class, even though he is only on a 1st grade level (if that). He pretty much can't speak or understand any English. My 3rd grade Language class is my largest class with everyone constantly wanting my attention, so it is a challenge to work with one person who needs so much instruction. Today I had given him some 1st grade worksheets to work on while I was teaching everyone else 3rd grade stuff. Apparently during this time, on top of doing his work, he was also working on picking me a lovely surprise of fingernail clippings! With about 5 minutes left in class while I was walking around he was holding a sheet of paper out at me which had what I thought looked like fingernail clippings on the paper. There were SO many, that I had to ask, "What is that?!?...." His friend (who can speak some English) verified my assumptions by saying they were his fingernails. I'm thinking, "EW! Are you kidding me?! Why the hell would I want your fingernails?!" But I politely and calmly said, "Okay, will you please throw that in the trash?" And his response.....a blank stare. So I repeated myself again and in the meantime, the super smart girl comes over and says, "He doesn't speak English, so he doesn't understand you!!" So I had to get someone to translate it in Japanese so he was able to understand I had NO interest in his nail clippings, although, thanks anyways!!.....Hopefully the gift of nail clippings isn't some Japanese culture thing I don't know about yet. Ha!

So yeah, looking back on my day at work today all I can say is "Wow, how weird....did that really happen?!" :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How old are you now?!

29!! That's how old I just turned! Yikes!! So every year my mom and dad sing me "happy birthday" and then right after, they start singing "how old are you now....how old are you now....how old are you leah, how old are you now?!" Then they say, "how olllddd???" And each year I respond with my age and it has been a family tradition/joke every year. This year was no different because I got to FaceTime with my mom and dad and at the end of our FaceTime, they ended it with the song! It wouldn't be a birthday if I didn't have them sing me that song!! haha. When I was in Charleston my parent took Heather and I out to Cypress in celebration of my birthday a week early. Before dinner we had a cocktail at the bar and we introduced my mom to one of Cypress' signature drinks, the lavender martini. She was hesitant to order it because she is not big on sweet drinks, but we convinced her it wasn't a very sweet drink and she ended up loving it. Then we proceeded down to our table and I ordered the scallops which were amazing. They were served with tempura sweet potatoes, curried pearl onions, and bacon jam. Yum! Thanks again to my mom and dad for the wonderful birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant!
My actual birthday was spent here in Okinawa. I had been deprived of sushi when I was visiting back home, so Andrew took me to Kouwa Sushi, which is one of our favorite sushi places here on the island. The sushi tasted so good since I hadn't had it in so long! Then he baked me a yellow cake with chocolate icing, decorated with sprinkles so we ate that for dessert....after he sang me happy birthday of course! I am still celebrating my birthday today, since it is my birthday back in the U.S. so tonight we are going to have an american birthday dinner....steaks on the grill, baked potato (for Andrew) and a baked beni-imo (for me) and some veggies.

Oh yeah, and happy birthday to this crazy guy too! He is 6 years old today....yes, we do have the same birthday!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Blast 900



It was my last full day in Charleston before heading back to Okinawa and I decided that I needed to get in a good workout before traveling/sitting on the plane for the next 24 hours. I had heard great things about Blast 900 and that it was a tough workout and it’s also a bonus because your first class there is free! The concept behind the name of Blast 900 is that you will “blast” 900 calories in the 60 minutes of the class. Let me just start by saying that it was definitely one of the hardest, if not the hardest workout I have ever done.

The Blast 900 gym consists of one room where the workout takes place. There are 12 treadmills and 12 spots available on the floor, so if the class is full, it maxes out at 24 people. When I took the class there were only 6 of us, so we all started out on the treadmill. The trainer calls out 3 different speeds and inclines: one for runners, one for joggers, and then another for walkers. This is great because all fitness levels can do this class. You spend about 5 minutes on the treadmill while the trainer is calling out different speeds and inclines. You are basically maxing yourself out on the treadmill. Then you hop off the treadmill and head to the floor to do more fun stuff like lunges, squats, pushups, abs, bicep curls, etc. Again, once it seems like you can’t handle anymore of that stuff, it is time to get back on the treadmill. The class continues like this for the whole hour. I can honestly say that I was extremely close to throwing up during the class! At one point our incline was so intense on the treadmills it looked like they were almost straight up and down. Craziness. But of course I loved it! J

What I do not love right now is sitting on the plane getting increasingly sore from that workout! I can’t seem to stretch out enough! Speaking of this flight….I need to vent on one thing. My biggest complaint about flying United Airlines is their lack of water. I drink a lot of water and it is important on flights to stay hydrated. They give you a tiny cup they fill with water that contains approximately 5 sips. I asked for a whole bottle of water and they told me they can only “pour.” On one of my trips to the back of the plane to ask for water one of the flight attendants told me she would not give me any water and that they would be coming by in a few minutes and I needed to wait.  Seriously?! I think I had to wait about 15 minutes until I got my tiny little cup refilled with water only to be just as thirsty right after finishing it. She was standing around talking and it would have taken her all of 2 seconds to fill my cup up with water. That flight attendant was the only non-accommodating person on the flight and I will be writing a letter of complaint.

Anyways, I am back in Okinawa safe and sound and hopefully the jet lag will not be too bad! When I wake up, it is my birthday in Japan! J

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Treadmill workout!

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas! Our family had a wonderful Christmas and it was so great to be able to spend time with the family! I have been enjoying all of the holiday foods and home cooked meals and was in need of some good cardio today. It is way too cold for this girl to do any running outside, so I made up this treadmill workout. The constant switch between sprinting, jogging, and walking prevented me from getting bored. Try it out and adjust the speeds accordingly to your fitness level!
Minutes InclineSpeed
0 -- 3 0.5 4.0
3 -- 4 6.0 4.0
4 --5 7.0 4.0
5 -- 6 0.5 8.9
6 --7 0.5 6.0
7 -- 8 0.5 4.2
8 -- 9 0.5 8.9
9 --10 0.5 6.0
10 -- 11 0.5 4.2
11 --12 0.5 8.9
12 -- 13 0.5 6.0
13 --14 0.5 4.2
14 --15 0.5 8.9
15 --16 0.5 6.2
16 --17 0.5 4.2
17 --18 0.5 8.9
18 --19 0.5 6.2
19 --20 0.5 4.2
20 --21 0.5 8.9
21 --22 0.5 6.2
22 --23 0.5 4.2
23 -- 24 0.5 9.0
24 -- 25 0.5 6.3
25 --26 0.5 4.2
26 --27 0.5 9.0
27 -- 28 0.5 6.3
28 --29 0.5 4.2
29 --30 0.5 9.0
30 -- 32 0.5 4.0

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hit me on the flip!!

Oh yeah I am back in the United States!!!! Holla atcha girl on the flip phone....heeeyyyy!!! haha. Yeah, that is right, I have a flip phone which takes me back to being in high school and thinking the Motorola Razor was the bomb. Hmmm....yeah, not so much anymore!! Texting is a real challenge! I think I had developed fast fingers back in those days because right now it takes me about 5 minutes to send a text using the numerical keys to type letters.

Anyways, it feels awesome to be back in Charleston! It has been so great being back home and seeing my friends here....especially spending time with my "sister" (as Andrew calls her) Heather. If I could just pack her up in my suitcase (she would fit) and take her with me to Okinawa, I'd be set! We have been having fun together....laughing....tearing up the dance floor....getting some good eats....giggling...you know how we do!

I went back to my old gym today and took one of my favorite classes and it was killer. I will be lucky if I can walk tomorrow. Speaking of which, it has been a challenge for me to find a really good workout class in Okinawa, so I have been in a search for something new to try. I found Tina's Best Body Bootcamp that I am going to try out! This is an 8 week online bootcamp class for only $25. I have heard nothing but good things about her bootcamp. Over the course of the 8 weeks, it is broken into four different phases with each phase lasting 2 weeks so you are constantly challenging your body. I have just gotten my introduction email from her and so far, so good. The bootcamp officially kicks off on January 7th! There is still time to sign up so if you're looking for something new to add to your fitness routine, check it out. There are even prizes to be won....$1000 grand prize to be exact! What do you have to lose?! :-)

Well, I am off to do some more fun stuff in Charleston......catch you on the "flip." :-)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Curfew deja vu!

Back when I was in high school, my curfew was always 11:00pm. I hated it! It seemed like everyone else always got to stay out later than I did and I didn't think that was fair. I had to beg my mom and dad for an 11:30pm curfew and only was given that extension on "special" occasions. One of the reasons I was so excited to go to graduate high school and move on to college was the fact I would no longer have that curfew! :-) Well, 10 years have gone by since my high school curfew, but guess what?! It's back!! Here in Okinawa, all U.S. military members and SOFA status personnel (me) have been given an 11:00pm curfew due to recent events of military members misbehaving on the island. It really affects what you do at night because you have it in the back of your mind you have to allow enough time to get home by 11:00pm. Even if it is as something as innocent as going to a movie at night, you have to be sure that it will let out in time so you can rush home to be in by 11:00! Well, it seems as if the 11:00 curfew wasn't enough to keep people from doing dumb stuff because since the 11:00 curfew there have been a few more incidents and most recently, a military member got into a car accident (because he was driving under the influence) and slightly injured 2 local nationals. Now, on top of having a curfew, U.S. military members cannot purchase alcohol or drink anywhere off base.....they also cannot leave base if they have had more than one drink. To enforce this policy, the gate guards on base are going to be doing random breathalyzer tests. On base establishments can still sell alcohol, but alcohol sales stop at 10:00pm. I am not sure how this is going to work out.....if military personnel are so caged in....but I guess time will tell. What do you all think? Do you think this new policy is going to be effective?!

Anyways, I went on the field trip with my 2nd and 3rd grade students on Friday and had a fun time. We went to a place called Murasaki Mura, which is a large village where you can choose to do about 65 different arts and crafts. Each one requires money of course. Our group chose to make accessories. Everyone in our group made necklaces. I felt like I was 8 again making my necklace, so it was fun. haha. Apparently the place is pretty expensive if you aren't an Okinawan. They offer special prices to Okinawans. For example, for Okinawans the activity we did cost 1000 yen, which is about $12. If I were to go there on my own, that same activity would have been 2000 yen, which is over $20. That would definitely NOT have been worth it, so I don't know if I would choose to go back there if it wasn't a school field trip.

On another note, the book that I am reading, Gone is getting SO good. There was a crazy twist that just happened which I was definitely not expecting......almost every free minute I have, I find myself picking up the book to read more because I need to find out what happens! It is a page turner....speaking of which....I think I am going to go read some more right now!! Hope you all are having a great weekend!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Random thoughts....

Here are some things I have been doing or thinking lately!
  • I have quickly learned that in Japanese culture when a family member passes away, you give the family at least 1000 yen. This equates to approximately $12. Two employees at the school had family members that died this past week, so I have been giving out my yen. After I gave the first 1000 yen (yesterday) I got a thank you letter as well as a hand towel from the teacher who's relative passed away. I found this interesting, so I need to look into Japanese customs and culture more so I can have a better understanding.
  • I have started to read, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I've heard so many good things about this book and it was a bonus because it came out in soft cover=cheaper! As soon as I started reading it, I was hooked and am already on page 95.
  • I was teaching the kids how to "gang am style" today in class.....is that inappropriate?! haha. They were laughing and loving it. 
  • Two different Japanese women were amazed because #1, one found out I liked Beni-imo tarts and #2 a different lady was surprised to see me buying green tea. Both are really good. If you don't know what beni-imo tarts are, they are really good....I will be sending some of you them in the mail to see what you are missing out on. 
  • Speaking of Beni-imo....I love everything beni-imo.....Beni-imo is a purple sweet potato and it is even more delicious than an orange sweet potato.....not to mention, it is my favorite color! They even make beni-imo ice cream....double yum! :-)
  • I need you all to send me music you are listening to. I feel out of touch with the music world because we only get one radio station here!
  • I am going to FREEZE when I come back to the U.S. in a few weeks. It's been in the upper 60s here and overcast and I have been getting cold. Then, I look at the weather in Virginia and it is SO much colder....what am I going to do?!
  • I am going on a field trip with my 2nd and 3rd grade class on Friday to a Ryuku glass making factory. Google Ryuku glass and you can see pictures of this really cool glass they make here. There are several factories here you can pay and take a tour of and make the glass yourself. I think we are going to be making accessories from the glass, so I am very excited about this! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A day at Prefectural Citizen's Forest

The weather was so beautiful today it was a requirement that it be spent outside. With that being said, I found a park called Prefectural Citizen's Forest that I wanted to go check out. So off in the van we went! We got there and the park ground itself is really big. There were quite a few different sections of the park. There is one part of the park where people have tents set up.....so apparently you can bring your tent if you have the inclination to camp out. There was also something called "ground golf" which I am not sure what exactly that was. We saw one family playing and it kind of looked like a cross between putt-putt and croquet....interesting. Then there was a small bike path with some hills and curves (kind of like a dirt bike path, only it was paved) that kids were riding their bikes on. One thing we saw a sign for, but we didn't see it in action, was something they called "grass skiing." Like I said, I do not know what that is, but I am assuming they had some sort of "skis" that you put on to go down this big grassy hill. I figured I would play it safe today and not injure myself, but maybe in the future I will have to try out grass skiing. HA! There was even a mini zip line, which Andrew had to document my first trip down the zip line....watch how intense it is for yourself! haha.
video

The most intense part of our day was the hiking trail. I had heard there was hiking at this park, so we had to check that out too of course. The hike wasn't too long, but it was intense! There were SO many steep stairs to go up. I definitely was out of breath when we finished climbing up all of them. This is what each set of stairs looked like:
Like I said, they were no joke! But at the end, it was all worth it and this is the view we got to see on top of the mountain, or whatever it was that we climbed!