Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Two Thousand Twelve

On New Year's morning we joined the "Gantan Marathon".  It's actually just a few kms. run around  Odawara Castle.  It's a nice healthy way to start off the new year.  In Feb., Taiga turned two.  Yes, those "terrible two's"!  Just a couple more months and he'll reach those "terrific three's"!  In the spring, we were back in CA.  Seeing family and friends back home is always the highlight of my year. 

This year some family and friends also visited us here in Odawara.  My best friend/cousin Ken came just in time for a "cherry blossom party" (ohanami).  Taiga's little buddy from Sacramento visited us.  And my childhood friend (osananajimi), Cindy and her daughter, finally made it this summer.  Aki and Taiga were lucky enough to join them on their trip to Kyoto.  They could see Japan's most famous festival, the Gion Matsuri

We celebrated Aki's nieces birthdays at Disneyland.  Aki's brother, Uncle Yasu, is 6'2 inches (188cm) so we always tell Taiga if he eats his veggies and drinks his milk he'll grow up to be big like him.  :)

Taiga continues to entertain us.  He loves singing to himself, telling jokes and then saying, "That's a funny one huh" and just loves loves talking.  We call him our little "chatterbox"!  He also loves riding his bicycle, riding trains, swimming, running and eating ice cream and snacks.  He goes to daycare twice/week and "Baba" (grandma) babysits him once a week.  He loves going out and meeting people.  He'll wave and say "hi everyone" or "konnichiwa" to anyone.  He speaks English with daddy and nihongo with mommy and can switch back and forth effortlessly.  We were amazed how he just naturally knows which language to use.  Inside the house, it's all Thomas the train or Cars!  Daddy's favorite inside activities are "Hide & Seek" (kakurenbo) or wrestling with him.  He started potty-training a few months ago but sad to say there has been almost zero progress.  On Christmas Eve, he left out cookies and milk for Santa and was happy that Santa came and left him a present.  :)

Aki was busy this year taking care of our family and school.  She goes to the gym when she can find some free time.  This year she's also really improved her ukulele playing.  Her group even had a couple of performances.  I'm still teaching part-time at university (pic. at lunch with Tokai colleagues) and full-time at our school.  Thank goodness I love my work/students.  I still love playing basketball.  I'm the number one bench-warmer but don't mind.  Actually playing one quarter a game is quite enough for me!  It's just fun to be part of a team and playing with a bunch of good guys.  I tried getting into jogging this year but can't seem to get past 10K or one hour of running.  I go to the gym (4B) once a week.  I can see my friends and exercise at the same time.  :) 

Watching Taiga grow and spending a lot of quality family time has made 2012 a very good year!  Only a few days until the new year.  Much happiness and good health to you all in 2013!

Monday, September 03, 2012

"Summer lovin' had me a blast...

Summer lovin'   happened so fast!"  Summer flew by and tomorrow it's back to using the alarm clock (5:30am) for one of my university jobs!  I know I can't complain.  I didn't use the alarm clock for 2 weeks; Taiga was our alarm clock!  Luckily he sleeps in until 7-8am.  This summer we stayed pretty local, no long nor far trips.  My friend Cindy and her daughter from back home visited and brought some CA to us though.  We had so much fun with them!  I made it to the beach a few times too.  My tan wasn't half-bad this summer.  It also helped taking Taiga to the swimming pool. He loves the water.  When I was his age, my mom took me and my brothers to swim lessons.  So what can you teach a 2yo?!  I learned the "old school" way.  Coach just threw us in the water and it was literally "sink or swim"!  :)  My mom said she felt so sorry for us but honestly, I don't remember a thing and have always loved the water too!  "Summer days driftin' away, to uh-oh those summer nights" (lyrics from the song "Summer Nights").  This was one of the hit songs in Grease.  It was my favorite movie when I was just 13 (summer of 1978).  :)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

What is The Happiest Place on Earth?

Maybe Disneyland isn't "The Happiest Place on Earth" as it markets itself to be. However, it makes millions of people happy each year. The Magic Kingdom in Orlando is the most popular followed by Disneyland Park in Anaheim with Tokyo Disneyland a close 3rd with over 13 million visitors each year. Tokyo Disneyland (opened 1983) and DisneySea (opened 2001) are the only Disney parks not owned by Walt Disney Co. 

Growing up in California (home of the first Disneyland which opened in 1955), my family would drive down south (about 6 hours) to Orange County for a summer holiday which always included Disneyland (and Knott's Berry Farm). I can even remember using tickets for the rides back then.  This stopped in 1982. 

Anyway, I have many fond memories of going to Disneyland as a child and as an adult.  No one likes queueing in long lines or paying exorbitant prices for food/souvenirs, but I do think it's worth it, at least once every year or two. 

Here are some pics. when we went with Aki's brother and his family.  We got to see Captain EO starring Michael Jackson.  The last time I saw it was in the late 80's.  Bottom pic. is Taiga with his favorite character, Lightning McQueen of Cars.  We (he) can't wait to go to Cars Land the next time we visit home (summer of 2013)!  :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

California tour with students

This spring was the 10th California tour I've taken with students.  I love showing all the beautiful sights we have in Northern California.  San Francisco is always one of the students' and my favorites.  We usually choose another two places from:  Yosemite, Napa Valley, Monterey, Lake Tahoe
Seeing the smiles on their faces as they ride the cable car, look at Yosemite Falls, see the ocean view from 17-Mile Drive or take a cruise on Lake Tahoe makes me so happy. 

Another highlight is the BBQ at my parents' house in Morada.  My dad barbecues tri tip steaks, chicken and salmon.  All my relatives bring over a dish to share (my cousin Ann makes the best fried chicken!) and we order some Angelinas raviolis.  Oh yeah and my mom makes Jell-O and rice!  After eating, we usually go in the backyard and play.  This trip back was the first time to meet the new family dog, Denbo.  Growing up (in the same house), we always had a pet dog.  Denbo is German Shepherd #5. 

With the yen so strong now (about 80 yen equals one dollar), it made everything seem very cheap.  For example, a big tub of Jelly Bellies (one of my favorite candies) is only about 1000 yen at Costco.  It's double the price (over $20) at Costco Japan.  The Jelly Belly factory is less than an hour's drive from my parents' house.  On a tour a few years ago we stopped there on the way to a Napa winery.  Another cool thing is that there's an Abercrombie & Fitch outlet store in the Great Mall that we stop at on the way home from San Francisco Airport. 

We also did something different this tour.  We saw a professional ice hockey game; we watched the Stockton Thunder win their last home game.  I wasn't and still am not a real fan but did find the game very entertaining.  The action was so fast and furious and right in front of our eyes.  We all left with an appreciation of what they do on the ice.  My next pro game will be an NHL (San Jose Sharks) one I hope.  Other good news (or maybe not), Krispy Kreme reopened in Stockton!  I have to go into Tokyo and wait in line if I want a Krispy Kreme fix here in Japan.  I had them 3 times while I was back.  Consequently, I gained 5 lbs.  :)

After the tour, we got to spend a lot of quality time with family.  We went to Lake Tahoe for skiing/snowboarding/gambling and eating with my brother Kevin and his family, my cousin and my parents.  We played tennis with my brother Lance and his family, my cousin and my parents - amazingly my dad can still play pretty well.  Taiga had so much fun playing with all his cousins and of course grandpa and grandma!  :) 

Thank you students for joining our tours.  Our school's next CA tour will be in August 2013.  Summer is my favorite season in CA.  Every day is sunshine and blue skies.   Won't you join?