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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Foam Christmas Picture Frames

The candy trains are completed. I finished making some foam Christmas picture frames for the tree. They weigh very little and are easy to hang on the tree.  

These foam frames will feature some of our student’s pictures and they will be given away at the party. I’m not crazy about the colors, but my resources were limited. Oh well, I hope they like them.
The next project for the Christmas party will be stuffing a piƱata with candy and superballs. Superballs? I’ll explain why in the next blog…stay tuned.  George

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making Bread

One of our neighbors in Tsukahara was kind enough to give us a lesson on making bread. Since we don’t have an oven and she does, we visited her kitchen. Learning to make bread was fun and I hope she will give us more lessons on baking.

As you can see, the bread turned out perfect. Some of the rolls were sliced in half and used as hamburger buns. Dried cranberries were baked into the loaf of bread...YUMMY.
After the lesson, I shared some sourdough yeast with her that I brought from the U.S. My hygienist, Debbie, gave me some yeast as a going away present. Debbie if you are reading this, I hope your B&B is alive and well in Homer.    George

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


How about some pictures of Y.E.S.? I’m glad you asked. Here are some pictures of the neighborhood. Y.E.S. is located in the city of Hasama. Hasama is on the outskirts of Oita City. Oita City is the capital of Oita Prefecture (A prefecture is kind of like a state). We are located near a few public schools. A very large medical school is also nearby. We don’t have the best location because it’s impossible to lease a building with pets. However, if at some point our business is successful enough, we will think about purchasing a building near the main road. It’s one step at a time for us. Right now, we need to focus our attention on gathering materials and designing lesson plans that are appealing to all age groups.

Hasama is one of the fastest growing cities in Kyushu. It’s easy to see why. Hasama offers something for everyone. Plenty of walking trails, shopping malls, a large cultural center, even fast food restaurants. Hasama is made up of people who want to enjoy the countryside, but they also want the conveniences of a city. Many of the homes are recently built and considered large by Japanese standards.

If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll notice that the homes are western style. I like to call them “boxes”. Most of the new homeowners don’t expect their home to last more than 20 years. I think it’s because of the materials. The construction is similar to western style homes, but the materials are thinner and mostly made of plastic and laminate.

The walking paths in Hasama get plenty of use from the local residents. This was appealing to us and the dogs. Another nice feature about Hasama is that it’s close to the bay. When the roads are too difficult to drive in the mountains, we can stay in Hasama. It rarely snows here. 

Speaking of snow, Erika informed me that she saw some snowflakes mixed in with the light rain. The first snow in Tsukahara and it’s only November. I’ll try to take some pictures when I get home.  George

Note: This view is from Hasama. Mount Yufu is the volcano on the left. Mount Tsurumi is the volcano on the right. Tsukahara is on the opposite side of these volcanoes. It's a 45 minute drive home.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Log Splitter

It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter. The temperature has dipped below freezing. The wood pile has grown to an acceptable level provided that the winter season will not be too severe.

Our manually operated splitter had to be retired because of a hydraulic leak. It did a heck of a job considering how cheap it was. Rather than follow the same route, we decided to go electric this time. My goodness! What a difference! Manually, it would have taken 10 days to do what we have done in only one day with the electric splitter. It was almost fun to split wood. Seriously, we accomplished ten times more work with ten times less effort. I could split oak with a diameter of 15 inches. No problem. Maple, cherry, oak, and acacia were no match for the splitter.
It’s a heavy duty machine (300 lbs) with two speeds and it requires a 20 amp circuit. The slow speed does the initial work of splitting the big stuff. The fast speed follows through and finishes the splitting process. It’s very simple to use and relatively safe. 
We ordered it from Rakuten and they delivered it within a couple of days. It's amazing how fast packages are delivered in Japan. The mail is even delivered on Sunday...after 8PM...out here in the middle of nowhere!  We discovered that it's easier, cheaper, and more convenient to order online than to go to the store. Since Erika and I hate to go shopping, this is a good thing.     George

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Party Time

It wouldn’t be Christmas without these classics. We’re trying to incorporate these videos into an English lesson plan for the holiday season.
 Our Christmas Party will be in Hasama on the 15th of December. Erika has been making the invitations and I’ve been busy with the party favors. We are very grateful to the community of Sunny Town for letting us use their community center for the party.
A few of the parents will help in making this a fun and successful Christmas party for everyone involved. Erika and I are very excited to share this holiday with the students. In Japan, Christmas is all about presents. Many students believe that Christmas is on the 24th of December because that is when the gifts are exchanged. I’ve been trying to explain that Christmas is a birthday that is celebrated on the 25th.
Since Halloween is the kick-off to the holiday season, Happy Halloween. The kids really don’t understand the scary part of Halloween. Most of them know that it’s a time for wearing costumes and eating candy. We are going to pass on having a Halloween party and concentrate on having a great party in December. Stay tuned…
A footnote: The people who know us know that we don’t celebrate holidays. We have never given each other a present for any occasion, except for my 50th birthday, last year. It’s ironic that we are planning a Christmas party with all the bells and whistles. Life is full of surprises.    George