Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Addendum to "Want a Good Laugh?"

Remember how, a while back, we ate, then drank bath salts?
Well, here's an addendum to that story.  I finally cleaned out my bag, and found this note in the bottom of my bag.  Sister Nomura must have given it to me with the gift, but I never saw it.  Oh, how helpful it would have been to see the note at the time.  It would have given the clue we needed that those delicious-looking tablets were bath salts, not giant sweet tarts:
I really need to clean out my bag more often!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

We Get a New Neighbor

We are getting a new upstairs neighbor.  We were so intrigued with the moving company.  They were extremely courteous and careful.  We wanted to share it with you.  First, they came to the door and told us they were working and apologized for any inconvenience. 
Ours is the door on the left.

They started by lining the stairs and walls with padding to avoid damaging the furniture or the walls or property.

Even though their arms were full, they always slipped off their shoes before entering the home.  That is Japanese custom.
So, America moving companies and Elder's Quorums (Mormon moving companies!) everywhere, there's some ideas for you!  Moving in the Japanese way!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Last Snow

We went out on "seeking lost sheep" visits on Wednesday in Sakata.  It started to snow.  Some of the flakes were as big as quarters (look on my left shoulder.)  The snow was swirling all around. 
Last evening, we went to Sakata eikaiwa and I told one of our students- Hiroshi-  about the huge snowflakes.  He said it would be the last snow of the season.  He said, "It will be the last snow this winter.  I guarantee it."  "How can you be so sure?"  He just looked all-knowing and smug.  So, folks, I guess we have experienced our last snow in Japan.  That season of our life is over.  Just thought you should know.

* I wrote this this morning.  It is now snowing- hard!!!  So much for guarantees!  Ha! Ha! 

Monday, March 6, 2017

We Host Two Dinner Parties

We've recently hosted two families in our little apartment for dinner.
First, we had the Nomuras.  We have been to their home for both New Year's that we've been here.  They are faithful members of the branch.  Sister Nomura is our Relief Society president.   I forgot to take a picture before we ate, so it doesn't look too good.  We had glazed ham, baked potatoes, rolls, asparagus, green salad, and cake for dessert. 
A few weeks later, we had the Kadawakis and their daughter, Shiho for dinner.  Mrs. Kadawaki is our "boss" at the volunteer center.  We have grown to love these people so much.  We served enchilada casserole, veggies and dip, chips and guacamole, corn,  and pico de gallo, with Robert Redford for dessert.

We had such a fun evening with them.  After dinner, Elder Hinton shared a video and gospel message and invited them to learn more.  Mrs. Kadawaki said, "I don't know much about Jesus Christ, but I know you." That really touched and sobered us.  What a responsibility!  We are grateful to know these good people! 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Dinner Party at the Takahashis

We have been teaching Kozue's parents the gospel.  It has truly been a privilege to teach them.  Kozue and her parents recently had us and another couple in the branch to dinner.  They live about an hour from our home.  They prepared a 5-star Japanese delicious dinner.  It was a very fun evening.
I took a picture of this beautiful applique rug that Kozue's mom made.

This shows the spoon and chopsticks rest.  Those were little delicious treats.  The biggest one is marinated seaweed wrapped around a delicious piece of smoked and marinated fish.  Inside that cup was a delicious custard with shrimp, mushroom, and edamame.  So good!

Marinated and grilled beef steak (so rare in Japan!), Japanese potato salad with tofu, veggies, and a cooked veggie salad.

Japanese soup.  The greenery garnish was delicious- maybe the best "lettuce" I've ever eaten.  It was kind of spicy and delicious.

This picture shows the red bean rice.

The group with the delicious food.  I actually remembered to take a picture BEFORE we ate!  Isn't it beautiful?  We love these people: Sezas, Takahashis, and Kotonumas.

We went to a little bakery in our neighborhood and ordered a birthday cake as it was Kozue's mom's and Brother Seza's birthdays to take with us. We walked over there three times to get the order just right.  Boy, weren't we surprised when Kozue cut the cake and we saw that it was a white cake rather than the chocolate we thought we had ordered!  A very common phrase we say to each other is "We're in Japan."  It seems we never really know what's going on!  But, the cake was delicious, even if it wasn't chocolate.  Afterward, Kozue's mom told her that she had never had a birthday celebration before.  The chocolate tag says Happy Birthday to Brother Seza and Sister Takahashi . . . we think!

They also served this "jelly" for dessert. 

Birthday girl

Birthday boy
After dinner, we talked Mr. Takahashi into showing us some of his calligraphy.  He is a certified calligrapher.  It is a very difficult and huge honor to be certified.  There is a very stringent test.  He took it six times before he finally passed.  You can only take the test once a year, so that was over a six year period.  In the first picture, he is showing the one character he missed in his fifth try.  His teacher had taught it to him wrong, so he got it wrong.  That one little character caused him to fail.  He was most discouraged.  But, he persevered, and finally passed the next year. 

At the end, Elder Hinton shared a video and a message from the Book of Mormon.  We loved our evening with these dear, dear people!  Thank you and Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

An Inspiring Conference

We were so privilieged to attend a mission-wide conference in which Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke to us.  He came to Japan for a few days and did mission conferences, firesides, and a multi-stake conference.  We listened to a fireside from Tokyo on Sunday night(which was broadcast throughout the entire country), then he came to our mission on Tuesday.  He spoke about how important a mission is in one's life and how a missionary can NEVER go back to what he/she was before the mission.  Either he/ she will be much better, or much worse.  He talked about using every minute of every day to the fullest while on a mission.  He shared his feelings from his own mission and says he doesn't remember a day in the 56 years since he came home that he doesn't think about his mission.  He entertained questions from the missionaries. It was just a wonderful conference and we felt just like the people in the Book of Mormon did when Christ was leaving them. We didn't want him to quit.  But he had a train to catch, so he had to go.  We were so grateful for passable roads and for the opportunity to sit at the feet of an apostle of the Lord. 

Where's Waldo?  Can you find us?  This picture was taken after Elder Holland left.  It is our entire Sendai Mission.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Daddy Shot Them All Last Night . . . Except One!

Ken came home from his walk the other morning and showed me these pictures of fresh bear track.  I assumed he had walked up on the mountain.  But no, he walked down on the river that day.  The river runs right through Tsuruoka.  This bear was in town- and the tracks were fresh! 

Many people in Japan who walk in the wilds wear little bells on them.  The ringing warns the bear so they aren't surprised and then attack. I have tried and tried to talk Ken into wearing a bell.  He says no.  He says they're not warning bells, but "dinner bells" for bears! (and they scare away birds)  Sigh. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Lost Are Found!!!

This is Miharu.  One dark, cold, snowy night about a month ago, we came out of the church after eikaiwa to find her out in the mountain of snow recently pushed off of the parking lot.  She had a flashlight and she was digging, obviously looking for something.  We went over to inquire.  She said she had lost her car keys on Sunday and figured she must have dropped them in the parking lot.  There was a huge storm the day before and the snow plow had pushed all of the snow off the lot.  There was a mountain of snow.  We could only assume her keys were somewhere in that mountain.  We searched and searched.  It was dark and cold and it seemed hopeless. 
For the next couple of weeks, every time we were at the church during the day, we searched.  We talked to her about it several times.  She said it was okay, don't look anymore.  She said she had prayed about it and was told that she would find them, but not right now and that she should just use her spare key.  But there were many other keys on the ring and it was troubling her.  We kept searching. 
Then, last Sunday, she opened the drawer in the Relief Society room, and THERE WERE HER KEYS!!!  WAHOO!  How did they get in there?  We have no idea.  Did someone find them outside and put them in there?  Maybe.  We don't know and probably will never know.  But we were all so thrilled and rejoiced together. 
The next evening, just as we were preparing our dinner, the doorbell rang.  There was Miharu and her husband with a lovely gift of apples for us- huge delicious, sweet apples!  She wanted to thank us for helping and caring about her keys.

She said it reminded her of the parable of the lost coin.
¶Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
She said that we helped and rejoiced with her just like in that parable.
Because of her insight to compare it to the parable, I've thought a lot about that since.  That is our purpose here- to help others and to look for the "lost coins".
 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

I can only imagine the rejoicing in heaven when one is found!!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Making Lip Balm and a Japanese Tea Party

Our February Relief Society activity was very fun.  We gathered in the kitchen at the church.  I recorded part of the opening song.  I love hearing my sisters sing the hymns in their language:
Rizumi then taught us how to make "lip cream."  We would call it lip balm.  Now, if you know me, you know I LOVE lip gloss, balm, etc.  So this activity was a hit with me!!
We measured bees wax and then added grape seed oil.  We melted them together and added a drop of essential oil.
Our beautiful teacher, Rizumi.  I think she gets tired of me telling her how beautiful she is!

We then poured our concoction into little tubes to harden.

See?  See?  She's gorgeous and such a sweetheart.

Ta Da!!!!!!

Rizumi wrote the instructions for us.  She added English and pictures so that I could follow along.

After we made our lip creams, we had a Japanese tea party.  We had mugicha- wheat tea and several Japanese snacks or treats.
I especially loved the dried squid (front left.) Next is shrimp cracker, then something that is like a molasses covered corn puff.  Then a flavored cracker and a octopus cracker.

The whole group.  How I love these dear sisters.

A steamed cake in the top left. 
This was a sweet, bonding afternoon in the Tsuruoka branch Relief Society.  Lip balm and a tea party- two of my favorite things!!!!