Long Time No See

posted Sep 5, 2010, 12:12 AM by Sara Whitaker

Yes, it's really been since May when I updated last.  What can I say?  Being pregnant has sucked the motivation out of me, well, except to knit a few things, cook some, and deal with the drama that occurs when living in a country that has an average birth size of about 3 kg (6.6 pounds) and in my family we tend to have babies closer to 9 or 10 pounds (the baby, at almost 37 weeks is about 8 pounds and I still have 3 and a half more weeks if the doctor lets me go to term).  I'll try to update on that last bit next week.  Thursday is the next doctor's appointment and I'm going to try to convince him that it will be okay to let nature take it's course.  If I can't do that, then the baby will be here in only a week or two.

Anyway, I've added a "Links" page, so that anyone who wishes to can look over some of the sites I find more interesting.  I haven't been updating the food section recently because almost all of the recipes I've been making have been coming from in her recipe archive.  I've rarely needed to make any substitutions or leave things out, except for when something simply wasn't available (then I just leave it out most of the time).  Absolutely all of the things I've tried have been excellent.  So, I'll leave it to her to describe what's going on and talk about the food she makes.  If I recall, she is even coming out with a cookbook soonish (2012), which I will almost certainly be purchasing.

Now, for a little bit of Japan.  My sister is in (or was, she probably finished the class already) in a Japanese class over the summer.  For one of the projects, she asked me to take pictures of the city where I live.  I didn't quite get to everything, but there are a good number of pictures to see, and now that the project is over I will share with everyone else.  One day, I'll get to Matsuyama Castle, Dogo Park (I would have taken pictures of that one this time, but it was really not the best time of year), the few museums, and the city park, but for now entertainment comes mostly in the form of Dogo Onsen and Okaido shopping center.

Under my Sun-brella (ella ella ay ay ay)

posted May 20, 2010, 11:04 PM by Sara Whitaker   [ updated May 20, 2010, 11:22 PM ]

Well, at 20 weeks I decided to quit riding my bicycle.  There are some arguments saying that it is perfectly safe to continue riding until you are too big to ride comfortably, but 20 weeks is when I felt it was right to quit.  I am a klutz at the best of times and adding a body that is gaining weight and continually changing its center of gravity didn't sound like a great idea to me.  I'm not very big (yet), but I wouldn't be surprised if I got there. 

Anyway, what this means is that instead of biking to and from work I walk.  And at some point, Matt will go to the grocery store on his bike to get food (but first he has to be home to do that).  Until then, I walk to the store and get food, too.  I won't be able to do that forever because, as mentioned before, my center of gravity will change.  Besides, 15+ pounds from kid and 15+ pounds from food, just isn't a comfortable thing, not matter how nice the backpack. 

Last week was the first week for the walking thing, and it hurts.  I found out that my car accident four years ago messed with my tailbone enough to hurt again now that I'm picking up a new form of exercise.  I knew this was the case with running, but it always goes away after a couple of days of running.  It hasn't gone away yet when/after walking, but I have found that ice helps a lot, and as long as I use it for 30 minutes after I get home each day, there isn't a problem the next day.  Otherwise, it is super painful to walk again the next day, so ice it is.  I'm blaming relaxed ligaments from the pregnancy on why it is continuing to hurt.  Who knows if I'm right.

Now, about the sun.  Last Sunday (no pun intended), I walked to the grocery store.  It is just about a mile from the apartment, and it takes me 30 minutes to walk there and 30 minutes to walk back.  Well, I ended up burnt on this little foray, and have decided I need a hat.  I would really like a hat like the one my Mom made herself for gardening:

Unfortunately, that one isn't an option (something about it being for her or something silly like that).  So, I will be looking for a hat in the near future.  Until then, I wear SPF 10 makeup, which isn't enough to keep out everything but it does help prevent a scorched face, and besides, I do want some vitamin D, and I take the umbrella with me.  This particular umbrella is huge.  I really need to find a smaller one, and perhaps a nice pretty one, but for now, this one prevents me from turning lobster red and peeling in the mean time. 

I suppose it's better to use the umbrella for sunshine than for rain...


posted May 10, 2010, 6:52 PM by Sara Whitaker

I apologize for the lack of any blogging going on the last few weeks.  I went to the US to visit my family and bring back some baby things that I knew I could get there easily, or in certain cases simply  because I could read the instructions there but not really in Japan.  I had a great time in the US.  My family treated me to some home cooking, let me cook in a kitchen with an oven (even if I didn't quite cook the pineapple upside down cake all the way), and chauffeured me around to various restaurants and stores.  

At my parents', I was able to spend a great amount of time with my Mom and siblings while my Mom and I knit together and watched Hulu (where it isn't banned), and I even got to help my younger brother with his trig homework.  For Mother's Day, I knit my Mom these pair of socks.  They are definitely not my favorite pair of socks, since they are top down and I have a weird toe on it, but Mom says that they remind her of the beach and she loves the beach. 

My trip did illustrate for me what I miss most about home.  I miss the food and the space that is available in the US, sure, but mostly I miss my family.  Even when I went to OSU for graduate school I was at most a phone call away from my parents and only a 5 hour drive.  Now, I have to make sure that I'm on skype when my family, mostly my Mom, is even up and then when she isn't, or she's away from the computer, I wait an hour or a few days for a response from her.  Oh well, that means she has to deal with me talking a lot when I do get to see her in person.  I probably drove her a little crazy because I talked like I wouldn't be able to talk again.  I guess that's what happens when you are isolated, language wise, from so many people.  Although, I'm pretty sure I did it to her on the phone in Columbus, too.  What can I say?  I like talking to my Mom. 

Anyway, I guess this little expedition in Japan will make me appreciate the United States more.  And, the good news is that they are planning to visit.  There are some technical details they have to work out, and because the family is so big they are going to come visit in twos, but at least I won't have to wait until next July when I plan to be in the US again to see them.  We will have to see what entertainment we can come up with for them while they are here. 

Under the Cherry Blossoms

posted Apr 7, 2010, 9:44 PM by Sara Whitaker

Last Friday, the GRC had a Hanami party, unfortunately I didn't get any pictures.  So, hopefully I'll remember to get some pictures of the local sakura trees (Japanese cherry trees), and add them here.  Anyway, a Hanami party is a Japanese barbecue at night underneath the cherry blossoms.  The cherry blossoms at Dogo Koen are white, although in other places they are a different shape with some pink in them.  The party is at night so that the lanterns that are placed into the trees really make the blossoms glow spectacularly. 

For the food, it is really the same barbecue fair that I described at the last barbecue, except there wasn't any chow mein this time, but there were some grilled shellfish and sweet potatoes, which are purple here, the sweet potatoes, not the shellfish.  I didn't have any of either because I ate mostly the thinly sliced beef dipped in sweet chili sauce and a few grilled onions dipped in the same sauce.  I also had one of the rice balls covered in nori (seaweed) that was stuffed with what looked to be salmon.  When I got to the salmon I gave it to Matt.  The rice tasted good with the seaweed though. 

In other news, Matt and I went to a luncheon with a bunch of the staff and new faculty from the GRC on Monday.  Matt started his position as an assistant professor on April 1, so this was a way to welcome him to the position and also to welcome me in my new position since they didn't do so when I first started.  We went to a Japanese restaurant, not one where you sit on tatami mats, but we had actual chairs.  Then, the servers brought in boxes of food.  Each box was divided into four sections with tempura (fish, shrimp, and sweet potato), sashimi, and two unidentifiable sections.  There was also a soup with seaweed and a fishy tasting dumpling; the broth was also a little fishy tasting, but I ate the broth and the seaweed.  Then, there was a small vegetable plate with cucumbers, carrots, daikon, and some pickled things sprinkled with vinegar.  And finally there was white rice with small dried fish on top.

Surprisingly, with all that food, I didn't eat much.  And, I've found that the worst part of eating Japanese food is that they don't really use napkins.  They use pre-moistened cloths to wipe your hands before eating, usually they are hot, but sometimes cold, especially in the summer.  However, they don't usually use the cloths as napkins throughout the meal, they use chopsticks so that their hands don't get messy.  That is fine, except for when you eat something and can't stomach the idea of swallowing it.  That means you can't do the American/Western trick of hiding the food in your napkin as you casually spit it out.  However, I have found that taking sips of hot tea or milk (the milk was when visiting a friend.  She wants to make sure I get plenty of calcium for the baby), usually some beverage with a stronger flavor to it, then drinking that with the other food in my mouth helps to get it down without too much trouble.  Sometimes, I do have to break up the bite into smaller sections with my tongue and swallow several sips of tea to get the whole bite into my stomach.  I will admit that the tea that was served was especially hot at the lunch and that I burnt my tongue several times as the meal progressed.  Luckily, there was a sort of strawberry jello for dessert that helped to make up for my lack of an appetite at lunch.  It was sliced strawberries with two different kinds of gelatin looking stuff, one was clear, one was milky white.  It tasted good, and I ate Matt's as well as mine because it was sweet so he shouldn't eat it any way. 

Matt got a lot of food from me for that meal.  Luckily, when I explained that I'm pregnant, I was only laughed at for not eating certain things instead of offending someone.  I may have offended the wait staff because they were surprised I didn't eat much, but I didn't think to tell them "ninshinshiteimasu" (currently pregnant). 

Just Peachy

posted Mar 29, 2010, 11:17 PM by Sara Whitaker   [ updated Mar 29, 2010, 11:22 PM ]

I'm at 13 weeks and 5 days and apparently the baby is supposed to be about the size of a peach now.  I went to the doctor today and had blood drawn, weight measured, ultrasounds performed, etc, and found that everything seems to be progressing well.  I have the newest ultrasound image to post, and I will say that I won't be posting many because I find them creepy looking.  However, the doctor said that the baby looks like E.T. right now, while I think it looks more like a small, carnivorous dinosaur that you would see in Jurassic Park.  So, I had to post the creepy picture this time. You can click on the image for a larger view.

There's now a guest book

posted Mar 26, 2010, 2:29 AM by Sara Whitaker

I finally figured out how to add a guest book to this silly website.  Please feel free to add comments as you wish; however, please keep in mind that I will be moderating these comments and if any are offensive or inappropriate, then I will take them down.  So, if you wouldn't want a small child to hear what you said, then please, don't say it.

Also, the way I have this set up, you won't see your comments the instant you post.  It will take between 3-5 minutes before making it onto the page.  However, they will get posted.  For those that are curious, I have this set up through Google documents and it apparently, it just takes that long for it to refresh.

I Passed!

posted Mar 8, 2010, 12:44 AM by Sara Whitaker

So, the next session for Japanese classes starts on Wednesday.  I took the placement test about a week or so ago and finally got my results this weekend.  I made it to level 2!  Yay!  I would have felt really stupid if I didn't pass this time. 

I will continue to post lessons from the class on here, and I intend to finish up the lessons that were in class A soon, hopefully before Wednesday.  This class is much faster than the last class.  It is 10 classes at 2 hours a class.  That's nearly the same as the other course.  The slower course is 12 classes, but also 2 hours a class.  However, in the intensive course, the classes are every weekday, unless there's a holiday.  So, I will be busy from March 14 - March 24. 

Hopefully it goes well, wish me luck!

It's Official!

posted Feb 11, 2010, 9:12 PM by Sara Whitaker

Well, we found out several weeks ago that Matt got the job he applied for at Christmas.  We haven't been able to share the news much with people outside of our family and close friends because our director at the GRC wanted to wait until after it made it to the University review board.  That meeting happened Wednesday, and they approved the decision.  So, Matt will start a new job on April 1st as a professor here. 

The job is not a permanent one because it isn't tenure tracked, but that is okay for us.  We don't really want to stay in Japan forever and do plan on returning to the US.  However, this does mean we will be in Japan for 5 years starting in April.  Then, he has an optional 3 years after that, which will allow him to consider the financial situation in the US and see if things have started turning around there, or if there are any positions open. 

This also means that we will be trying to find a bigger house after our 2 year lease is up in another year and a half.  The apartment we have now is pretty small, but houses are available to rent.  Our biggest problem is that we have a dog here, and not everyone wants to rent a place to people with a dog.  We also have a cat, but that isn't as big a problem. 

So, it looks like we will be enjoying Japanese life for a little longer than first planned, although, we always hoped we would end up here for about 5 years instead of 2. 

You Guessed It!

posted Feb 11, 2010, 8:49 PM by Sara Whitaker   [ updated Mar 17, 2010, 11:39 PM ]

This post won't be published for another month, but I figured I'd keep everyone up to date as things are going on. 

As several of you know by now (after March), I'm pregnant.  I'm not making this public knowledge until after March 18 or so (today is February 12).  But, I'd like to share how things are going. 

First, I found out on January 22, 2010, happy birthday Adam.  That's why I nearly forgot his birthday.  I had bought a pregnancy test a month before and used one of the two tests in the package.  There are English directions in it, but after I took the test this time, I realized I had thrown away the English directions.  So, at 2 AM (after Matt had gone to bed and fallen asleep), when I took the test and had the results, I looked to see if Moses was online.  He was my Japanese tutor when I was in Ohio.  I found the directions to the test I had in Japanese online and asked him to tell me which of the two results meant positive.  So, he was the first to know besides me!  The next day, I double checked with another test and then went to the university health clinic to ask for a recommendation on who to see.  I figured it would be like the US where it takes a month or so to get in, so I didn't expect to be seen anytime soon.  They told me to come in that day.  Because Japan has a system where you get a baby health book when you are pregnant and for the first few years of life after that, and it helps to get reimbursed for the delivery, I didn't want to miss getting it, in case there was some sort of time limit on when you could get it.  So, I went in for my first exam.

Well, I went in to the doctor and she confirmed I was about 4 weeks pregnant.  The due date was set as September 29.  She did an internal ultrasound, but couldn't see anything, so she told me to come back at 6 weeks. 

Earlier in the morning of the 22nd, I suggested to Matt that we should go out to celebrate him getting the job he applied for at Christmas.  We had also found out about that news earlier in the week, too.  I suspected I was pregnant, but I wanted to see if I could get another confirmation with another test before telling him, and I figured dinner would be a good choice.  I went to the doctor that day and it took a lot longer than I expected to be seen.  I told Matt I was going to the knitting store and I got a little bit of flack for taking so long.  It only takes about 20 minutes to bicycle to Okaido, so I should not have been gone as long as I was, especially since I was leaving while he was in seminar. 

Anyway, once we did make it to Saion, the Chinese restaurant I asked to go to for dinner, I waited for Matt to order.  This restaurant has a 5 or 6 course meal that you can leave up to the chef for about $25 a plate.  There are much cheaper options, but the food is always good this way and the menu is otherwise in Japanese, without any pictures.  So, usually if there is a special occasion and we go to Saion, this is what we get.  After he ordered, I told him, "I hope you can handle more good news this week. It's four weeks," or something like that.  He didn't understand, and said, "Yes, I know it's been four weeks since you're last period".  I then said, "No, I'm four weeks pregnant".  And then he was excited and happy and kept asking, "Really?  Are you sure?" 

So, now we just have to wait until things progress a little.  I am 7 weeks along now (February 12), and next week I go back to the doctor for another checkup.  I'm not sure why they are keeping such a close eye on me, but for now I'm going to the doctor about once every 2 weeks.  With the next baby I'll probably just go to the doctor starting at 8 weeks anyway.  Last week the kid got it's first picture taken, although all you can see is the amniotic sac and a dot that might be the fetus.  I'll take a picture of the ultrasound and post it when I'm able.  If I'm lucky, next week I will see the heart beat.  But, it might be a few weeks after that even. 

At the 8 week exam, I did get to see the heartbeat!  It was very fast, which is to be expected.  The doctor told me that the size of the embryo was a little small, so she isn't sure of the due date anymore; she thought that I might be at 7 weeks  instead of 8 at the exam.  She wants to narrow it down better at my next exam when the baby is a little bigger and easier to measure.  I'll go back to the doctor on March 9.  Today is March 8, and I didn't get around to updating this little note sooner because I have definitely been hit with morning sickness.  I don't feel like doing anything because it just makes me not feel good.  I've been keeping track, I know I'm weird, and so far I've thrown up 10 times.  That's probably too much info for some people, but hey, what can I say?  That's not too bad,  I suppose, and I don't think this counts the dry heaving when I get up in the morning and haven't eaten anything yet.  At some point I'm sure I'll lose count.  I know it could be worse, but the housework is suffering (and I can't even knit!  It makes me sick), and I hope that this is over soon. 

So far, I've been getting sick both in the morning and at night, but the night stuff stopped for the most part recently.  I figured out that if I started feeling sick I probably needed to slow down in my eating and let it sit for a few minutes and then try again.  Usually that works.  In the morning, I've tried just eating crackers to help, but it doesn't.  Luckily, I like crackers anyway.   It seems that in the morning it's mostly that I need to eat something because it's been too long since I've eaten last.  Although, sometimes it's just set off by a texture or smell and I didn't feel sick before hand.  Oh well, supposedly this only lasts the first 3 months.  I have 2-3 weeks left.  Let's just hope I'm not one of those who is sick their entire pregnancy.

I went to the 10 week exam and had an ultrasound.  It was confirmed that my due date is September 30.  So, we'll see if the baby ends up in September or October.  I'm actually hoping it will be a little late because we already have so many September birthdays in my family and only one or two October babies.  We'll see what the kid decides though.  When the doctor saw the baby this time, she said the heartbeat looks very strong and the baby looks healthy.  You could also clearly see 4 limbs and the head.  I'm posting this at 12 weeks and now pretty much all of my family knows.  The ones that don't haven't checked their e-mail yet. 

I'll post pictures as soon as I remember to get the ultrasound into a digital format.

I go back to the doctor on March 30, so I'll update about the baby then.  Until then, I just look forward to my visit to the US April 22-May 8!  I will be so glad to eat "normal" food again, even if it's only for a little while.

What's for Dinner

posted Feb 8, 2010, 12:10 AM by Sara Whitaker   [ updated Feb 8, 2010, 12:27 AM ]

Just so you have a general idea of what things cost in Japan, here's a normal grocery list, with the corresponding menu, for a week.  In Japan, it isn't normal to do a whole week's shopping in one day, but I don't like shopping very much and it's easier to stay on budget if I only go once a week.  This menu and grocery list is from a while ago, so now we spend a little less than this because I've figured out that if I go to 7-star on Monday then I get 10% off, and we bought a bread maker which also cuts down on costs because we don't buy our own bread and because the bread substitutes for more expensive things, before we didn't buy bread because the bread comes in 6 slice loaves and is very thick.  Now, we can slice the bread how we want.  The only trouble is finding wheat flour.  I still haven't found it, although I have a few sources to try.

This list includes the prices of everything, but it does not take off the 10% that I get by going in on Monday.  That is calculated at the register because not everything applies and some things are on sale so get more than just 10% off.

Today, 1 Japanese yen is just over 1 penny.  I think 1 Japanese yen = $0.011204 USD

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