Wednesday, November 26, 2014

七面鳥 の日 (turkey's day)

Happy -early- Thanksgiving!

We've got big plans over our Turkey-day break.  Namely, we're headed to the land of the rising sun for an investigational trip.  AHHH.  I'm not freaking out about it (I'm totally freaking out about it).  And I don't really have any specific topics to talk about, but I do have some random quick quips:

1.  My phone is dying.  I'm hoping I can stretch it's life to my actual expat date early next year, but we're regularly having moments of the stupid thing just randomly shutting itself off.   While I'm using it as a GPS to get somewhere.  While I'm trying to call the veterinarian to confirm Bubba's boarding dates.  While I'm attempting to take a pict
ure of the dumbest American memorabilia possible to share with The Mister.  It may not make it, is what I'm saying.  Blargh.

2.  The American memorabilia.  So.  Japanese culture is one of gift-giving.  If you are invited somewhere, you are expected to present a gift of thanks to the people who included you in their plans.  We were advised by a previous expat to prepare a few little gifts for this occasion - something that is uniquely American, he said, would go over like hotcakes.  I was assigned the task of putting together these offerings.
And I thought it would be super easy, but I forgot that this is Christmas season, so apparently all the  "American Memorabilia" was swapped out for "Santa Memorabilia" on the sales floor.  I settled for small bags of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, because peanut butter is not a common thing in countries outside the US, so I figured they would be unique (and also because they were the only candy I could find that wasn't shaped like Christmas Trees.)  I paired them with tiny tiny american flags on toothpicks.  They're dumb.  But I think they'll suffice without embarrassing us.

Meanwhile, there was a good 30 seconds where I genuinely debated just buying the entire rack of these calendars and scrapping the candy idea.  I know no one over there will get the joke, but I laughed.

3.  This is not a quick trip, so Bub and Mac were brought to their respective boarding facilities this morning (Mac is staying at a place that takes him on go-cart rides and lets him have play time with other dogs his size and age.  He seems to love it?  Bub is staying at the Vet, because they take cats and if something goes wrong he's already at the vet.)  Bubba is not a fan of going in his box, and this morning we were a good 30 minutes behind schedule as he tried to make a case for his living under the couch for the duration of our trip.  Part of me recognizes this was sort of funny, and part of me is upset that the last thing my cat will remember of me while I'm away is me stuffing a broom in his face so I can get him out and we can get in the damn car already.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?  Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Drive in Michigan, in 5ish Simple Steps.

Welp, Winter is upon us.  I had foolishly packed up my thickest winter coat in hopes that I wouldn’t have to use it until after we came back from Japan.

Photo courtesy of

Hey foot of snow in one day... Ugh, so ...I had to unpack a box this just to make sure I could continue to survive Michigan.

Oh, sorry, did I disturb you?
Has not moved since I made
 him go outside to pee earlier.
The storm hit us Sunday night/ Monday morning and is still delivering a pretty steady stream of snow and impaired outdoor vision.  Most places (including the area colleges!) had a snow day yesterday.  Unfortunately for both The Mister* and I, yesterday required some travel, we were not so lucky as to snuggle under a nice warm blanket all day, like SOME dogs I might know.

I found there were some perks to venturing out-
  • No line for a haircut, even on $9.99 haircut day!
  • The library’s DVD copy of “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar**” was available! (have watched it 3 times so far.)
  • The guy at the burrito place was SO bored that he gave me extra chicken without charging me just because I was someone to talk to for thirty seconds!
  • Almost no wait at the Dr.’s Office!

That’s right, yesterday I had to traipse out to the Dr.  For the record, I’m fine, I just needed to get some ducks in a row before exporting myself abroad.  

Actually, since the Dr. I use is currently in an office 30 miles from home, I called yesterday morning to see if I could reschedule:
Sure, I totally understand, ma’am.  Looks like our next available appointment is… February 16th at 3:15.  (I leave for Japan February 5)
…Back roads and crossed fingers it is!  I made it there and back, but I noticed a sincere lack of common sense from my fellow idiot drivers.  I thought it best to take a moment to remind everybody of a my top 5(ish) snow-driving pointers as we buckle-down for winter.

There is so little visibility out there that you can’t see anything but whiteness more than 10 feet in front of your car.  No, your head lights might not improve that for you.  But you know what it DOES do?  It lets everyone else know that there is a car coming from the opposite direction sooner than .5 seconds after you pass them.  No one wants to play street peekaboo with you.
without headlights

with headlights - hey look a car!
  1. Stop tailgating.
Do I have to explain this? You can’t stop reliably. You can’t slow down reliably. I’m not going to go any faster - because I can’t without losing control of my car and I enjoy not being in a giant death missile - and if a single thing goes wrong in this snow-pocalypse, you are 100% for sure going to go straight through my back window.

No one wants to play street peekaboo.  No one.
Me, when you suddenly WHIZ by going the opposite way without your headlights on in a damn Bilzzard.

4.  Think about others.
Pedestrians - is that car going too fast to stop, or going downhill?  Or Uphill?  Maybe don’t walk right in front of it.  IF it can stop in time to not hit you, it might become impossible to get the momentum for that car going again.  On the flip side of that, Drivers - YOU are in a nice warm car, pedestrians are outside in snow that is coming in SIDEWAYS.  It’s flipping cold.  Stop if you can and let them get somewhere inhabitable. Because karma.

  1.  HEADLIGHTS.  USE THEM.  LIVE TO SEE ANOTHER DAY BECAUSE PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU.  I seriously do NOT understand how many drivers did not have any lights on yesterday.  What the hell people?!
    James Bond would use his headlights.

Winter is so pretty, but between watching how ugly is can make people be to each other, and how it plays so strong into feeding my anxieties***, I’m ready to be anywhere minus snow for a few years.  Just 2 more months!

Did I miss any snow driving tips?  
Tell me in the comments!

*The Mister had to fly to Indiana yesterday for work.  That plane delayed more times than I have toes (for the record I have a normal amount of toes).  He didn’t make it to where he was supposed to until around 1am.  He was at the airport to fly out by 1pm.  Long day for him.

**To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), is a campy, hilarious, and fantastic film starring Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, and Stockard Channing.  It features cameos from Ru Paul, Robin Williams, and Julie Newmar.  It is about drag queens, and it is one of my all-time favorite movies.  My first job as a kid was as a video clerk (yes, just like Jeff), and To Wong Foo  was almost always playing over the store CC if I was working (that or Anastasia).  I can quote it forwards and backwards, and I loved how it annoyed my homophobic macho-man coworker.  What I’m saying is, if you haven’t seen it, put it on your list.  And if you have, it’s time for a re-watch.

***You know what sucks about winter and anxiety?  I get anxious when I think about something by immediately focusing on the worst possible scenario.  Sometimes these are totally ludicrous (e.g.: if I don’t do the dishes the house will implode and everyone will hate me).  But dangerous snow driving completely legitimizes my fears - the things I’m afraid will happen are totally possible and sometimes likely!  
The sticking point here is that my worst fear in snow driving is that I get in a car crash and Mac dies.  Which means Mac does not ride with me while driving in the snow.  Which means I am anxiously driving around without the service dog who tips me off to a panic attack before I panic and veer off the road to my own imminent death.  So… that’s probably great.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The First (of many, let’s be real) OMIGAWD I’m Moving to Japan Freakout.

The Mister works at a company that is based out of Japan.  It is the reason we will be moving there at the beginning of the year.  It also means that at any given branch of the company (like the one here in Michigan, USA), there are many native Japanese folks fulfilling their own expatriate assignments. 

A week or so ago, one of The Mister’s Japanese cohorts asked if I knew how to make pumpkin pie. He had heard about the American custom of pumpkin pies, and he wanted to try it. The Mister gleefully offered to ask me to bake a pie, and about three minutes later, suddenly there was a whole dinner party planned around the fact that I would be baking two pies for some of our Japanese guests.  They were excited, I was all like “heh, yeah, no pressure or anything, just representing my American heritage with this PIE.

But I do really like to bake, and so pies were made and everyone got to try it, and everyone either really enjoyed them or they’re super good at feigning delight (I’m okay with either so long as the illusion remains unshattered).

And then another exec got wind of this pie party and was bummed that he didn’t get to have any pie.  So this same exec asked if I would bake pies again, for him.  And so I did.  Again, it seemed to go over well, but my recipe makes two pies and with only The Mister, myself, and the exec eating one slice a piece, there was a lot of pie left over after that one. (halving a recipe is for sissies.)

As much as I would love to just tuck into an entire pie myself, I brought the remaining pie and a half to my Japanese lesson at the company the next day.  My willpower is crap y’all, if it would have stayed in the house any longer… well it wouldn’t have existed by the time The Mister came home from work 5 hours later.  

As we chatted over pie before the lesson began, our tutor calmly informed me: 

“get your baking in now - they don’t have ovens in Japanese homes.  you’ll be using a toaster oven and a rice cooker exclusively for the next few years.”

I got home and 'kind of' lost my mind.  It’s not like I bake every day, but I really LIKE how creative and silly you can get in baking.  

My beautiful birthday cake. (it turned our poop blue!)
These are mini baked bries with apple slices baked in.  They were AWESOME.

Thus, I’d like to think, if my blog ever became adapted for the silver screen (because, of course it would be), this would be the point where we, the audience, see a montage of me frantically pinning recipes of How to Make Cake in a Rice Cooker” and “Fantastic Toaster Oven Cookies!” all afternoon, to a track of the "Cooking By The Book" remix with Lil Jon.  

The Mister came home from work/ not knowing I had fixated on this statement about Japanese Oven Deficiency, to see a crazed me, hunched over my laptop, hair everywhere, makeup smeared, all “It’s all gonna be okay. I think I can still make a Christmas Cake*” 

Instead of backing out of the room (like any reasonable person would be wont to do), The Mister had some sort of inspired lightbulb turn on upstairs, and he responded with “hey, there’s a bake sale at work on Friday.  I told them you would make cookies.**”  

So today is cookie day.  I will bake all the cookies.  ALL OF THEM.  I shall not only feed my love of baking, but also I get to use my absurd collection of weird cookie cutters.  Which always makes me a little happier.  

Hopefully this can clear the way for me to move on to the next insignificant thing I can freak out about.  
This is only some of my strange cookie cutter collection.  
The weirder the better.  The mustaches are totes my faves.

Yay cultural differences. A necessary  awesomeness.  But they do take time for me.



204 cookies later.
you know me, folks.  of course I made silly labels for the cookie bags.

Have you ever let a little thing get to you like that?  
Tell me in the comments!

*Christmas Cake - Here’s what I’ve taken away from some discussions with our tutor:  In Japan, Christmas is more of a couple’s holiday, and many folks celebrate it by eating cake.  The day AFTER Christmas (the 26th), these cakes become wildly discounted at the bakeries that make them in their beautiful industrial ovens that are apparently the only ovens in the whole country and - *breathe* I’m getting off track.
Anyway, this discounted cake has become a slang term in Japan; women who are still unmarried at 26 are often referred to as “Christmas Cake.”

…therefore - for the record, I am a Christmas Cake.  so there’s that.  

**I am 100% positive The Mister did not tell anyone I would be making cookies, and said this to placate me.  But again, let’s keep the illusion alive for my feeble benefit!  Horray!  There is still a bake sale, and there is still a good cause behind it.  So cookies it is.  SO MANY COOKIES.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

ACME Patented Costume Tomfoolery.

So y’all, we didn’t win the costume contest.  But when you loose to this guy, it’s hard to be too hurt over it.

Groot had easily already spent a couple thousand of his $5000.00 grand prize on just building that costume, but holy cow was it impressive.  He was on stilts of course, but what you can’t see from the picture are all the little details he included.  There was a to-scale Rocket Racoon on his back in a fierce battle pose wielding a light up gun.  His arms had blink-y lights built in so he could create the bio-luminescence look from the movie.  And my persona favorite was the tube built into the “bark” of one arm that allowed him to “bloom" a small flower for ladies.

Good show, Groot man.  Good. Show.
We of course, had our picture taken with him.

Oh yeah, and THOSE are our costumes.

Road Runner and Wyle E. Coyote, at your service.

The Mister and I wanted something that would be easily recognizable but not something that everyone else was doing - we’d batted a few ideas around but nothing was really feeling AWESOME to me (and since I create those costumes, that’s important!)  Then one day The Mister’s friend “threw him under the bus,” The Mister asked me for a cartoon to illustrate the concept of “bus-throwing” to said friend, and I used a Wyle E. Coyote cartoon for pose reference.  Suddenly, Looney Toons provided the inspiration, and off to the races we went!

My dress is sewn from an old blue turtle neck and light blue fabric I found at a thrift. Both our tails, the "crest/ head feathers", his ears, his nose, and both sets of feet are upholstery foam that I shaped to give us cartoony expression before covering with fabric. Each of those pieces is attached to the main costume pieces by SNAPS, so I could remove them and throw the big costume pieces in the wash for multiple wearings.

Both masks (mine out of foam, his out of fleece) were created from scratch and painted to match our ensembles.

For accessories I made a sign for me ("Meep Meep!" on one side, "ROAD RUNNER (accerlarati incredibilius)" on the other) and an ACME rocket backpack out of an old protein powder container and rope for him (which doubled as our storage for the night since we didn't have pockets!) The Mister also had a t-shirt that I painted "COYOTE (carnivorous vulgaris)” onto underneath his coyote suit, so when he inevitably overheated and needed to unzip the top half, people would still know what he was supposed to be.

My favorite part of these costumes is my feet - I wore striped tights, then found a pair of wedge heels and sewed on fabric from another thrifted turtle-neck and upholstery foam to make me look taller, my legs look longer, and give me the bird toes the road runner uses to zoom into the sunset. I even painted stripes on them so you can't quite tell where the tights end and the feet pieces begin (hint, the joint is half-way up my knees)

I had a blast competing in the costume contest - judging took place by inviting all participants to walk around the perimeter of the casino floor.  I caught on pretty quick that the people judging the costumes didn’t want to just see the costumes, they wanted to see you BE the costume.  

I learned this from watching a man in the line ahead of us wearing only a crude diaper, sucking on a pacifier and dragging a blanket. (you may have noticed I did not mention he was wearing a shirt.  He placed in the top 20 just by acting like… well acting like a baby.  So I followed suit!

No, not by acting like a baby, but by insisting that the Mister follow behind me slowly, while I quickly zig-zagged back and forth on my spot in the line, stopping with sharp movements to consider the people around (and for so many of them to take pictures!).  I MEEP’d at people who Meep’d at me.   And I tried (mostly failed) to keep a straight face when people realized Wylie was behind me and either warned me to "look out!” or asked him what’d he’d do when he caught me.  It was great.

So all in all, we didn’t place in the contest, but that’s okay, because the people that did, totally brought their A-game, and I feel like the effort we put in was still super appreciated.  

Other worthy competitors.

Oh yeah, and THEN we got to watch THE VILLAGE PEOPLE.  Who were fantastic!  I was amazed at how many songs I knew from their set list, and also at the fact that all the members look so... good yet.  That said, I don't know that the Native American member necessarily needed to wear the ass-less chaps and do all those spins up on stage.  Woah.

How was your halloween?  
Did you dress up?  

I would be remiss here if I didn't take a second to shout out to a brilliantly wonderful Mister - I'm fairly certain that having his wife stuff him in a onesie and parade him around all night wasn't as much fun for him as it was for me. But he played along beautifully.