New Sanno Mini Vacation

We packed up our bags and headed to the New Sanno for some rest and relaxation as a family between Christmas and New Years. The hotel is the kid's favorite place in Tokyo, hard to compete with an indoor pool and fun restaurants, and just far enough to make it feel like vacation.

They were very excited to find the Christmas decorations still up.

 The lobby is always warm and welcoming.

The kiddos were excited to have their very own beds in their very own room.

After a swim in the pool and a good night's sleep, we were off and running around the city.

Reasons I Love Japan

A simple milk tea from the Lawson convenience store is cheaper than Starbucks yet the quality and service are on par (if not exceeding) that in the States. It even comes with it's own little bag to dispose of the tea bag once it has finished steeping. The little things:)

Mochi Pounding International Party

We spent the day after Christmas celebrating the upcoming New Year the Japanese way, pounding mochi. A Japanese friend organized the pounding party at her local community center and I was excited for DaddyO to get the opportunity to join me at one of our get togethers.

Kaori prepared the rice. She got the mochigome もち米 (glutinous rice) kernels from a cousin who grew it on his farm. She prepared it in her rice cooker and then transferred the steaming hot rice into a tradition mortar (usu) and we took turns pounding it with a wooden mallet (kine).

The result was a sticky mass.

This was divided into individual portions and served in three different ways: with sweet bean paste (anko), wrapped in seaweed (nori) and served with soy sauce (shoyu), and rolled in soybean powder (kanako).

A variety of pickled vegetables were also prepared.

We loaded up our plates and enjoyed the lunch outside together.

What a fun New Year's tradition.

Merry Christmas Photos

Thanksgiving morning consisted of us heading to DaddyO's show bird to take some Christmas photos. With his in and outs on the boat there wasn't much time to squeeze them in. It was a cloudy morning, perfect for snapping a few shots as a family.

Setting them up though could be a challenge. More kids meant more eyes looking every which way. They practiced looking at the camera with DaddyO.

Some more with him.

And a few with me.

The kiddos still look so small alongside the helo.

I love closeups.

So much personality.

Doing a little posing.

And some pictures with the tail.

A few clicks and a stop at the post-office later and our cards were ready to be sent to friends and family.

Until next year!

Christmas Eve Cake

Each area we live in has a special set of customs and traditions that we have had the pleasure to learn. Some we just experience and forget with, and some we have picked up and brought with us. The Japanese love Christmas cakes. While their cake isn't really about Christmas at all, it reminds us of the true reason we are celebrating the holiday. The birthday of Jesus.

EJ and I had fun flipping through catalogs of cakes, convenience to department stores sell them, and picking out our favorites. A Japanese friend recommended a bakery just a few minutes away for our cake

We headed over Christmas Eve morning and the baker was a hubbub of activity. One case had an assortment of cakes on display, the other was full of ones already boxed up and ready to go.

Fortunately there were a few left for us to choose from and EJ chose her favorite.

They boxed it up and EJ got to carry it home to the boys.

The cake is a modge podge of all that the Japanese think Christmas is about, amazing how they fit it all on one cake.

Funny enough the cake came with candles. I'm not sure if the Japanese use them but we lit them up and sang Happy Birthday after EJ and DaddyO returned from the candlelight service.

Christmas cake just may take the place of plum pudding in years to come!

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