Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Rant About Ethnic Food Recipe: Can We Keep the Flavor Yet Make It Healthier?

Hello, my loyal readers, I'm hoping to help everyone be able to enjoy good foods, especially if your doctor told you that you had to lose weight, and sends you to a dietician or nutritionist.  Mind you, I am all about trying to eat healthy, but at the same time, also to allow us to enjoy our favorite foods, especially our ethnic foods.  Don't forget, I do not have a kitchen, I have a science lab where I create tasty food that is also nutritiously balanced.

Granted, these days, you can get some really good tips and a list of stuff you try to still eat a healthier version of things, such as whole grain pasta and ultra grain tortillas.  But, my biggest complaint about all of these tips, is if you eat the "typical" middle American types of food, you're in luck, these lists, suggestions, tips, etc are like hitting the jackpot.  But....  What if you are from a different ethnic background, or a multi-ethnic background?  Here is what many "food experts" say, and I take this from a multitude of Certified Nutritionists, Registered Dieticians, Nurse Diabetic Educators, and online sources such as Mayo Clinic, is that the highest rate of obesity related diabetes occur in our Latino/Hispanic, Asian American, and African American ethnic groups...  Mostly because in many of these cuisines, they are either carb heavy and/or high in fat.

Why does this happen?  When talking Mexican food, the carbohydrates come from the tortillas (flour is a worse offender than the corn), Spanish rice, and the refried beans (legumes are a starchy protein) which are fried in bacon fat or some other form of lard or saturated fat.  In many Asian restaurants, there is a high amount of sugar in the sauces, and of course, there is always rice, some even breaded and deep fried...  Soul Food consists of BBQ'd ribs (fatty), fried chicken, collard greens cooked with pork hocks, and the barbecue sauces are often high in sugar or corn syrup as well.  All of these foods are delicious, but, in their usual format, not very healthy.

Unfortunately, when we ask our "experts", they are usually of the American country cooking types, who have NO idea how to do these ethnic foods correctly, nor how to honestly use better swaps to make it better.  For example, I had one nutritionist, who just thought she was all that and a cute bag of chips, too, tell me that to make Spanish rice, to just use a tablespoon of salsa with the rice.  So I asked her how she would prepare that...  I think she said something like making rice on the stove top, with plain water, and when you put it on your plate, to put the salsa on...  So I mentioned that I don't want to use cold salsa or room temp either, because it takes away from having hot rice, and getting a good blend of flavor to make it still feel authentic when doing it that way.  She asks me how the salsa can be cold.  Um.  I buy a jar of salsa...  Use it with tacos...  The remainder of the salsa goes into the fridge because it's opened...  So, a few days later, I want Spanish rice, and so I take the open one out of the fridge...  Because it's been in there, it's refrigerated, so the salsa is cold, and you said to use 1 TBS on the rice...  So she says to just put it into the sauce pot...  I tell her I use a rice cooker, and I want the measurements, because 1 TBS is not going to be enough for the amount of rice, she says just to put as much as I want...  *sigh*  so I ask her, if she has any suggestions, and she snaps at me about how she just gave me one, and I'm being difficult...  

Okay, but, for those of us whose cultural foods which utilize rice or cous cous, knows that having these whole grains means that it has to be the right texture...  As in, if you use 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, you don't want to use the whole 1.5 cups of water AND a 1/2 jar of salsa to cook that rice, unless we want soggy food...  No, we do NOT want soggy rice, it is the medium as to which the rest of the meal revolves around, especially for someone like me, who was born and raised in Tokyo for 8 years, and the word "gohan" (Think the vowels of Gold Bond - go like the go in gold, han rhymes with bon in bond) means rice, but it also is used to mean "meal".  Imperfect rice is just NOT acceptable.  At all.  I also think that it is completely silly of these people that they think everyone should make the foods so, well, WHITE!  When you want Mexican food, you want Mexican food.  You don't want Taco Bell.  You don't necessarily even want Tex-Mex.  You want bonafied, authentic, real deal Mexican food that slaps your taste buds the only way these flavorful foods can.  But, if you need to lose weight, or need to lower cholesterol, you know you need to make these adjustments for your own sake, so you can keep taking care of family members.

What I am attempting to do, is to try to take at least a couple of these recipes, and keep the honest to goodness flavors in there, while making it better for your health, so you can feel good about serving your favorite people the foods they love while making the move toward being a stronger people.  I say this, because, if you have to use exercise to offset your eating habits, there is something wrong with your eating habits.  It's a good balance of eating well, loving what you eat, and exercising to take you that extra mile toward a holistic healthy of mind, body and soul.

So, here it is...  These are not perfected, but, these are at least a slight improvement of family favorites to serve.

Sesame Chicken:
2 TBS Soy Sauce
1 TBS Sake - dry
2 tsp Sesame Oil
3/4 tsp Mrs. Dash
1 tsp fresh ginger juice
     Mix well.

1 lb  boneless/skinless chicken breast, in 1" cubes
     Marinade at least 1/2 hour (longer is okay)

10 minutes before you're going to cook, add the white of an uncooked egg

5 - 6 TBS of Arrow Root flour or Water Chestnut starch

Deep fry in hot peanut oil.  Drip dry 1st on cooling rack, then paper towel lined baking sheets. 

Serve with steamed rice and a spinach salad

1 lb 90% lean ground beef
1 -  15oz can of vegetarian refried beans
1 medium onion, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 TBS cumin (to taste)
3 TBS cilantro (to taste)
Lime juice - varies, to taste/cookware
Red pepper flakes to taste

Brown ground beef with the onion 
Add the peppers/spices
When meat is almost all done, add refried beans*
As the mixture becomes tacky and difficult to handle, use lime juice to de-glaze pan to add & blend flavors together

I do not use salt, because the can of beans has enough sodium, plus using other spices lessens the need for salt.

*I do not drain the 90%, because SOME fat need to be able to absorb into the beans, and because the grease will be minimal, it is better for you than rendered bacon fat.

Don't forget to top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and your favorite garden salsa.

Rice Pilaf:
18 oz risotto or Jasmine rice
26 oz low sodium/99% fat free chicken broth 
1 small onion, minced
parsley flakes to taste

Mix well, steam in rice cooker

In a skillet, heat olive oil, saute to get that fried/crusty flavor

(Yes, I do it in reverse order)

If you have any requests for your favorite foods, let me know, I'll see if I can find a way to polish it up, and then give it back to you for you to try it out, and let me know if it passes your test.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ethnic Food Meets USA: Taco Burgers

This is a cool recipe. Here it goes:
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
1 egg
1 & 1/2 TBS lime juice (to taste)
2 TBS cumin
3 TBS cilantro
1/2 TBS red pepper flakes (to taste)
pinch of garlic salt
8oz your favorite cheese, crumbled or shredded
8 slices of tomato, or diced, your choice
8 leaves of lettuce, or shredded
8 burrito sized tortillas
Your favorite salsa 
Optional: Sour cream.
Mix the meat, onion, cheese, and spices together. Form into 8 patties. Cook on your George Foreman type grill, or broil until outsides are seared, and most of the grease drained out. 
Place each patty into a tortilla, fold the tortilla over. If using diced tomato and shredded lettuce, fold that into the tortilla as well.
Lightly fry in a fry pan by placing folded side down, or, if you have a press, to grill it into a panini style sandwich.
If you’re using the sliced tomatoes and whole lettuce leaves, place those on top, similar to how you’d make flautas. Add your salsa, and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bucket Wish List & Walls of Poverty

Yes, this is another one of my gripe blogs. A rant of sorts. Story telling of disgruntled people, including advocates. But, I promise to keep the rating at PG-13.
I have a bucket list. No. Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere too soon, and it will be a LONG time until anyone will be able to rid the planet of me. My job as an advocate is nowhere near being complete, or the ball rolling fast enough to hand off the baton to the next person. So, if you want to see this as a positive thing, go for it, though, there isn’t much that can be said to the fact that somethings will never ever happen, unless some sort of freakishly good karma kills off this insanely crazy dogma that seems to be a regular in my life. I wish it would go away, because no luck is sounding like good luck in this long time of bad luck.
So, let me start with my bucket list, so you can rant and rave about how cool my list is, because, you know, sometimes I just have to drown myself in cotton sheets of coolness. But don’t get me wrong. There is no awesomeness here, because this is only a bucket list, and nothing more at this time. So, here it goes, you freaky cool friends of mine, here is my list.
1) Hand Gliding - solo... Yes, I want to jump off of a cliff, strapped into a mock set of wings, and fly in the air until I’m good and ready to land on solid ground. And I want to do it w/o being attached to someone else. Yes, I am afraid of heights, but, soaring through the wind is so appealing, that it overrules my acrophobia.
2) Playing a Trombone... Yeah, you know, that golden brass instrument that you buzz your lips into, and it has a moving slide that helps you change the notes you’re going to play. And, even if it’s just once, I’d like to play it in a Big Band, Swing Band, Jazz Band... think “Sing, Sing, Sing with a Swing, with the Christopher Columbus Intro”... That would be totally awesome. And yes, I want to play in front of an audience, and hope that at least a few people know how to dance to this kind of music... Pass the smiles around, you know? Yes.
3) Electric Bass... Yes. Plug me in, you crazed rockers out there! You know you love to rock out, and I want to jam on! Classic rock, alternative rock, if it rocks, I want to jam on, similar to this short list, but there are more: Turn to Stone by ELO, Basket Case by Green Day, Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf, other stuff including some Billy Joel songs, most of Dead or Alive’s Rip It Up album, and other cool songs by awesome bands like Bachman Turner Overdrive, and you know, that stuff... Only a couple of bubble gum songs from the 80’s, but, it would just be neat.
4) Drums... Oh, yeah, you know, like the one song... I want to bang on the drums all day, and a song similar to The Entertainer by Billy Joel. And a couple others. Just to say I learned how to play. That’s it.
5) Becoming a Diver, as in, a Search & Rescue Diver. Just because, it isn’t necessarily to save anyone, but, in many cases, in situations like missing persons or other important times, people need closure, and I’d like to help get that for people. Even if it isn’t the result they are looking for, it at least will give them the opportunity to move forward with life.
6) Droning - like Bag Pipe Drones. And not the usual type, I was thinking more like The Kilt Meets Wednesday Addams. I know, I know... I’m a little off center. But, hey, it would be crazy fun, to pull off an act like this. Maybe I could be a secret ninja moonlighting as a weird piper... Okay, so even joking aside, though, yes, I would do the Addams Family themed piping, another is to play at funerals of people who may not have had anyone to give them a funeral, or maybe too destitute to have anything except to just be dumped into Potter’s Field. This, because no one should have to die alone and forgotten about. I know it’s just me, but, sometimes that is all it takes, is just one person to make a huge impact for someone else, and especially if they were forgotten about in life, doesn’t mean they should be forever forgotten in death.
7) Be in a movie, somehow, or rather than write an autobiography in book form, to write a screen play instead, for my life in words and pictures.
8) I’d love to be able to work with a dog sled team in Alaska or Canada. And while I’m there, go fishing and cook up what I catch on an open fire.
9) There are a few celebrities I’d love to meet. Of course, #Rhyno is at the top, but, there are others, too, that would be super neat. These include #HughJackman, #BrookeShields, and won’t bore you with a long list of who I’d like to meet. I’d also love to become on good terms with Russ Feingold. Rhyno, whose real name is Terry Gerin, is at the top, as a professional wrestler who is also running for state assembly in the greater Detroit area. He’s not your typical athlete, who get pegged as being meatheads. He is actually quite smart, and with what I have read up on him, he will be excellent as a state rep. Mr. Gerin has passion, loves the community he calls home, dedication, and is moderate in his vision, which will bring back more unity in state government for Michigan. The fact that Detroit used to be famous as “Motor City” for all of the various car companies that manufactured there; Racine, WI used to be famous as “Tractor City” for the Case tractors that were manufactured here. Also, Racine and Detroit are in S.E. corners of respective states, and while Racine has Lake Michigan, Detroit has Lake Erie to the east.
10) Be an ambassador. To some foreign country where it may be difficult to find someone to go to. As a kid, I had many dreams... I wanted to be a performer, or POTUS, or a lawyer, or a ball player, or a hockey player.... But, with each thing, I came back to being able to be a dignitary in a foreign country. I’d graduated with a BA in International Relations with a minor in Political Science, hoping that this would be able to get me into the game, but, it never happened... 
11) As the founder of a 501c4, #YouthVoiceInitiative, I’d like to be able to say that the organization passed at least 1 good piece of legislation to protect our abused children. I have a few people that have been coming to meetings, and seems as if we will be able to do that sooner than later. Here is to hoping that this part WILL happen. So, to make up for # 10, maybe redefining what it means to be an ambassador would be appropriate, to be the voice from those who are in abusive situations that can’t speak for themselves without risking being hurt very badly. I would be happy with that.
12) Start my own business, where I can sell my creations. But, again, I have no start up capital. No one seems interested in buying my stuff. While no, it’s not designer bags or what have you, but, I also don’t charge a lot, either. I love to cook, but, with a bad back, I don’t know if I could do the restaurant thing. Most people who have eaten my food will testify to you that not only do I make nutritious look delicious, but also that it is fit for fine dining.
Of course, I consider myself lucky, it’s not as if I have NEVER done anything exciting, it’s just, somehow, life just dudded out on me... BIG TIME!!!! I’ll get around to this later. But, to bring the mood back up, here are some of the things I have done: 
1) Traveled to New York by myself (I was 19), and met my friends Saddaf and Farah, and met their sister Furyal and the rest of the family, over the New Year holiday. They were nice enough to take me to the Pak-Am party, where we got to spend New Years Eve at a New York penthouse on Time Square, to watch the balloon drop... Though I didn’t get much of that view, it was just too cool to be able to do that, and yes, almost 30 years later, I am STILL bragging about this...
2) As you may have guessed, I am pretty musical minded. As a young child, I had made up my mind that I wanted to march in a band for the 4th of July parade, and to be able to play a concert in a concert hall. I did both with my clarinet, as I did join the Lighthouse Brigade marching band, and even got to be in the drum-line for the last 3 years. I also played tenor sax, and played concerts locally with both my clarinet and sax. I even played a short stint semi-professionally with the local municipal band.
3) Took a cruise to Mexico and Bahamas, and went parasailing, and it was totally fun.
4) I did get to go around much of Wisconsin with the marching band, and got to go to Cheyenne, WY for the Western Days as part of a band competition, as well as to Traverse City, MI for the Cherry Festival for more band competitions.
5) Traveled to Boston, MA for the Sister City Planning conference way back in time, and I must say, Boston is a big city with a LOT of history, and it’s beautiful there. I wouldn’t mind going there again, and if I were to move to a coastal city permanently, it would be Boston.
6) Went to Washington DC twice, during the lobby days where I was successful in getting a few bills passed with the legislators, and being spring, the cherry trees were in full blossom, and was very impressive. The smell off of these trees in blossom is my second favorite, behind the scent of lilacs in full bloom.
7) I love amusement parks, and I love riding roller coasters. I’ve been to 6 Flags; Disney in Florida, California, AND Tokyo; Epcot Center.
8) Got paid to be a nude model for an art class. B) Was co-coach one year, and the head coach another year for my son’s little league baseball team.
Okay, sorry, sorry... Didn’t mean to brag, and there are a few more things I’ve accomplished, and well. Maybe I can include everything in my screenplay, if anyone will take it, produce it, and make it into a movie. I am just glad that I at least had a little bit of an opportunity for myself. What I don’t have, though, is the fact that I’d like my son to have the same type of experiences, but have not had the money to be able to pull it off. I’m not even sure how I’m going to be able to replenish his bank account since I had to deplete it a long time ago to pay off our electric company. Yes, that was irresponsible of me. Yes, I feel guilty because there should be a small chunk in there, but there is nothing for when he graduates in 2018. I have no idea how I’ll get it in there with the way this crap is going.
This brings me to the humongous poverty wall... Here is the thing. The US economy crashed in 2008. We are still on our knees and struggling to get back up. Japan’s economy crashed in 2014. They are already doing a much better job to bring the economy back up. While I’m sure they exist, I had not witnessed any homelessness while I traveled there. Though there were those who were poor, even health foods were more affordable.
The saddest thing about the poverty level here in Racine, is that I am not the only one here, and the others who are also hit hard by it are not just strangers or acquaintances. I KNOW these people. They are some of my friends. People who also have dreams, things they’d like to accomplish, pursue their other interests besides work, etc... But, notice how everything on my bucket list requires a chunk of money... Money I don’t have... I’ll give it to you straight.
I realize my finances aren’t public interest, but, I have no reason to be embarrassed, so here it is. My son gets $666 for child support each month. Every Saturday, I work for an elderly lady who pays me $20 each week to help her with her shower, grocery shopping, and a little bit of light housekeeping. This is it. This is what I am supporting 4 people on. Both Mike and David had their jobs fall through, and are in the same bracket as myself to try to find employment. My rent for the house I live in is $500/mo. Sure, at that price, it is a good deal for a whole house. But, having internet costs money. Electric and gas cost money. Nonfood items such as toilet paper, tooth paste, etc. cost money. Money I don’t have to be able to buy everything, yet, I do what I can so that even if I use double coupons to make the food stamps last longer, so I don’t have to shell out cash for that. Gas costs money. Technically, the rent I can afford is $175-250/mo for rent (that would bee around 25-33% of my income). We all know that the lower your income is, the less amount of your pay should go for it. So, if you make $2.5 million a month, you could probably afford to spend 50% of your income on housing. For those of us who are in poverty, it is actually irresponsible to pay this much, yet, here in Racine, there is no place available to help us make up the difference in the rent, because the list is still 2 years out. We can’t even get on that list at this time.
For those of you who may not know, I left the home care agency I was working for as a CNA to go to the VA nursing home to be the full time unit clerk for one of the buildings. The main reason was because my back, which was already partly messed up to begin with, ended up going totally to pot by the time I ended my 12.5 years of employment there. While I still experience 24/7 back pain, it’s not as severe as it was when I used to work as an aide. There were days where when I left my last client, I could barely get into my car, and had to have help getting out of the car when I got home. On two separate occasions, the back pain was so bad, one time I got a morphine shot just have it calm me down from the excruciating pain I had... The next time, I was given a prescription for hydrocodone. Of course, it was only for a short run, just 3 days worth, but, with the pain level was so bad, I would have rather died than to have to live with it. As in going into labor to birth 8 pound babies on a daily basis sounded better than the kind of pain I was experiencing, because at least once the baby is born, the pain level comes down fairly quickly to tolerable zones. 
Okay, so back to this poverty thing... When people see me, they figure that I am strong and capable. I look like I am physically strong. I am. Or at least I used to be. Mike says that he can still feel a thick layer of muscle on my back, that most women and half the men he knows doesn’t have the kind of back muscle I have... And I wish I could do a whole lot more. But, I was tested for physical function, and I was pushing to try to work what I would call a normal amount for me... And I was surprised that it lists that I have a 20# weight limit for 1/3 of the day, and should be broken up throughout, as opposed to doing it straight through. OR, 10# weight limit for 2/3 of the day, and also be intermittently done. Doing work where I would have to crouch, kneel, twist, or work overhead for long amounts of time are off limits for me. So, that leaves office work.
Mind you, I am fully capable of working in an office. I know how to use the office programs, file, fax, use multiline phones, take messages, be professionally helpful, etc. My goal is to make sure that the boss has as little on his/her desk as possible, and to solve issues before they become big problems. Happy customers/clients are repeat customers who bring their family and friends back for said services and such due to the high level of work performance on my part, while making them feel comfortable. Yet, in the last year and a half, no one has wanted me for any office work. I have bills to pay for. A teenage boy to fend for. Things I need to get to run my household the way I want. But, I don’t have employment. I hate the fact that there are times I get dirty looks from other people when I pull out my food stamp card.
Now, mind you, I’m not trying to complain. I’m glad we have the food stamps and medical care, because without them, I don’t know what I’d do for us. That, I am thankful for. But, of course, it’s one of these things that I would rather have my own money that I earned to be able to pay for my own stuff. It’s that little thing called self pride. I am ready and willing to work. People tell me not to give up, to keep trying... But seriously... I have easily filled out 3000 applications since April of 2014... What am I supposed to keep trying? I’ve already applied to these places, and I can’t get anything? Even after graduating with a BA... My best job based on my education was as a substitute teacher, where I got no benefits at all, and the call rate was so erratic, I had to leave.
Thing is, what is there that is helping people? Only if you are homeless, have AODA issues, or just released back into the community after serving time as a felon... Seriously? GEEZE!
Yes, I have used the Workforce Development Center. I got my CNA & HUC diplomas there. I was certified. I went in for all of the workshops. I updated my resume. I applied like a crazy lady. Nothing. I signed up for this F-SET program, and they wanted me to go do house keeping for a shelter “to develop work skills to put on the resume”... Um... I’ve been working for over 30 years. I did all of my own housekeeping until my back wouldn’t do it anymore. And I need work experience doing housekeeping to have something to put on my resume? UGH! I updated my resume again, through the orientation. Still no luck.
I went to DVR. The one lady dropped my at the end of 90 days over this function test that the center doing it had sat on it so long, that my time expired. The original lady assigned to me pretty much refused to help me in any way that made logical sense. I had told her that I went to my doctor, got the referral, sent it over to the therapy department, and had called, they didn’t get back to me, and then ignored my call backs to find out info, and rather than the DVR counselor stepping in to help, also sat back and let my time expire. Then refused to answer my inquiries on what I can do to open my case back up.
So finally I go to Racine Vocational Ministry. They send me back to reapply at DVR. I did get started. But, so far, I don’t think it’s going to help me much. I got handed a list of “job developers”. I picked one. I met with her. Aside from a small little tweak on my resume, and a template for a cover letter, I really haven’t gotten anything else...
Yes, I am using online job boards. I’m on Job Center of Wisconsin,, City of Racine, Racine County, Career builder, every hospital in S.E. Wisconsin, Indeed, and a bunch of others... I am capable of office work, I try and want to learn everything about the job, so I can be efficient in the organization I work for... I want to work. Yet, not. one. single. offer. After all of these... then I get accused of being insecure, when I come across strong. Um. No, wench. I am not insecure. I know I’m worth hiring. But, after literally, 3000 rejections in the last 2 years, and over the course of time since I graduated with my BA in 1995, and have worked graveyard at gas stations just to have income.... I figure the amount of jobs I’ve applied for to be gainfully employed in a meaningful workplace adds up to about 7000 professional type jobs... And 7000 rejections for what ever reason... Am I supposed to be happy? I would think most people would have given up long, long ago. Maybe I’m insane. If one cannot understand that I am frustrated in this situation, maybe you don’t “get it” that yes, some of us actually bust our butts to get little to no success... Yet still poke stupid comments and think it’s cute... Well. Since some of these people think that they’re being cute, when they make stupid comments, yes. I flat out tell them they are being stupid. If that is offensive, maybe it’s the truth. Then be glad I’m doing you a favor, so you can stop being stupid....
Until then, hoping to be able to find something that works, though I don’t know where. It seems as if no one wants anyone my age who is qualified, has a set of work ethics, and is willing to go the extra mile, because some 20 year old bubble head who acts like Kelly Bundy got hired for my job because the boss thinks that stupidly cute is grand. Then don’t wonder why your business failed or that you’re not doing the business you wanted and is within reach... If you wanted a successful business that brought in the comfortable type income, you should have hired me instead. I would give accurate information. Pointed them in the right direction. Actually paid attention to customers... And they would have been satisfied, became repeat customers and brought in family and friends... The saddest part of all of this? I have at least 5 friends, 2 acquaintances and 4 others who are friends of my friends who are in this same predicament that their life dream is slipping away, and don’t know how they’re going to have their children go to college or learn a trade, or what ever it is. All of us have bucket lists that are not even on the back burner. They are in the basement or garage collecting cobwebs because it seems that even our leaders don’t seem to care, because survey says the unemployment numbers are down. Where? - then lead us to the places we can get those jobs, then! That would help solve a lot of our problems. I dare you to ask me how it would.
Peace out.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

My Cousin Wedded:

James and Breeyn, sharing a kiss after cutting the cake.

Yesterday, my cousin Breeyn married the love of her life, James. From what I understand, even from siblings of both the bride (Caelyn and Logan) AND groom, they are meant for each other. And, it’s neat that the parents and family of the bride took James into the family, while at the same time, the parents and family of the groom took her in as one of their own. I was overjoyed, as I was speaking to the groom’s mother, Diana, that she was honored to “finally have a daughter” (she has 3 sons). For both sets of parents, it’s the oldest children who married, and it’s the first wedding of all of their kids. It’s neat.
Anyway, it may seem weird, I don’t know, but, Sean is my oldest cousin, and I remember always looking up to him somehow, and maybe someday, I’ll explain a little bit how he had “rescued” me from a couple of silly predicaments I got myself into. But, it’s just one of these things where the rest of us cousins are a few years younger, and at the same time, the rest of us are in a close age range of 4 years with 6 of us in that 4 year span. So, you can imagine what could happen at family gatherings with just a small gesture by Sean, and the rest of us would push the limits from there... Breeyn, his daughter, is the 1st grandchild for our family. Also the 1st great grandchild for our grandparents. So, attending this wedding is kind of a milestone for the extended family as well.

Jennifer, myself, Sean, Kristen, and Jerry

Two of us are missing from this picture. My younger sister Megi, and my cousin Michael, who is the youngest of Jennifer, Jerry, and Kristen. Yes, it’s the 6 of us, who all probably worshiped Sean on one form or another, and I’m sure that Uncle Joe, (Breeyn’s grandpa) will tell you that the 6 of us together could have counted as a group of rascals or something.
It was kind of crazy, because as Sean walked Breeyn down the isle, of course all of the parents were teary eyed, but not like Sean, who probably felt like he had 1000 emotions running at the same time... I think most of us in attendance were teary eyed, too... I know I couldn’t help it at that point. Yet, here we are at this point, and of course, Breeyn was perfect (as if it would be any other way). But, okay, enough of me blabbing...
The service was great, the dinner was fabulous, and the reception was totally fun! Here, I’ll share the fun. And, if you don’t believe me, you can also ask “Aunt Joannie”, “Uncle Warren”, or Abbi, who is dating the Best Man. It’s all good.

Breeyn and James, encouraging others to dance
Abbi and Jason - she has a beautiful smile, and what a cute couple!
Diana and Michael, parents of the groom
Joannie and Warren dancing
Me with Breeyn - she makes such a perfect bride!
Me with Sean, next best thing to being my older brother
Father of the bride & mother of the groom sharing a break from dancing, while Jackie (mother of the bride) listens to the conversation
My aunt Judy, aka Sean's Mom, aka Breeyn's grandma, aka my Godmother

Some of my pictures didn’t turn out as good, but, it as a fun time, and blessings to everyone.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Our Japan Trip #6 - final chapter

This is the final chapter of the Japan trip, that my sister Megi took my son Chad and me on, and these are just some miscellaneous things that I just thought was cool, interesting, or just plain different, to the point that for me, it’s remarkable.
In case you’ve missed the other episodes, here is my list of the blog series, just so you know, I’m not always a nut about what kinds of pictures I take, and the commentary I give to each picture.

5th blog -

The above picture was taken from the Canadian airport in Toronto. On our way there, to Japan, we flew from Chicago to Toronto, and had a 4 hour and 45 minute layover at that airport, and we took some interesting pictures while we were there, and through many different places we stopped at or walked through. Some may not be of much interest to other people, but, I just found it interesting.
Here are the things I thought were remarkable from Toronto.
Ketchp flavored potato chips. I understand BBQ, but, ketchup? Hmm.
Malt Vinegar? Different. All Dressed Assaisonnees - WTH is that?
Crunchy Cheetos, I know. But these are Croquants? ???
Couldn't catch the flavor name, but obviously, it's not original flavor, and they are small rounds.
The Kit Kat is the same, but, the packaging looks like an American throwback. Next to it, interesting to see it is called Links, instead of jerky.
Because it's such a pain to go back through security, rather than being able to exchange your Canadian money, it goes on an account.
Other odd things we came across, while on our trip, but didn’t get to buy or get a picture of, is the fact that we saw Seaweed flavor Pringles. Yes. The flavor was seaweed. Now I wish I would have bought some. Another odd thing... One vending machine had orange flavored coke. I’m sure it was in line with Pepsi with lemon, or Coke with lime. But seriously. There was a can of orange coke.
Maybe I’m just a little too easily amused, I don’t know. But, I just thought it was really neat. Okay, so here are some things in Japan, that I thought were neat, and just to show what a commuter society that they are, especially in Tokyo, check these couple of things out.
Bicycle parking underneath a train station.
Bike ramps for people to walk their bikes up or down, and a couple of them take their bikes on the train, to ride the rest of the way to where ever they are going.
An area map, so we wouldn't get lost during travel. I don't think this would help me much, but it did help my sister.
A usual side street in Tokyo. The white lines are painted for walkers and bicycles. The writing tells them which way to drive, and the only sidewalks are on major streets, not neighborhood streets.
While there are some alley ways to drive in, not all of the pavement is for driving down the alley.
This alley way is strictly for walking, to make it a walking path, as opposed to an alley. These are quite common.
Here is a different type of street, and you see the different store fronts and how closed businesses have graffiti.
So, please allow me to back up a little bit, to show you the little apartment that we stayed in while in Tokyo. It was a cute little place, and was cozy, to say the least.
Entrance into the apartment. The room Chad and I lived in to the left, kitchen going straight forward. A closet was located across the little hall from our room.
The panel up and to the left of the sink is the water thermostat. Medicine cabinet above that. The area in front of the sink is where you're supposed to shower, because the bath that gets drawn is to be shared, to save on water. The toilet is in a different room, so, when in Japan, if you ask for the bathroom, you will be shown the tub & shower. To ask for the restroom, just ask for the toilet.
We bought yakisoba at the grocery store, and it has vent holes to drain extra water out, w/o worrying about spilling our noodles.
The stores we went past weren’t all the typical type of Japanese stores or market. Sure, there were some places that were more like supermarkets, but, these really are not your standard store. You will recognize them, I’m sure, but, I just thought that it was interesting.
Okay, so maybe McDonald's is a bit obvious. Of course McDonald's is everywhere. But, the katakana alphabet spells out mick-ooh-do-na-rue-do. Their sylables all end in a vowel, except for the soft n, the last letter.
Here is a 7-11 store. See the bike coming? On the same strip, it's bike on one side, walk on the other. Yes, the sidewalk is shared.
A Century 21 office, that had just opened it's doors for the day. A welcome mat was put out later to go down the two short steps.
Yes, a full Mobil station with a car wash bay and a bay or two for fixing your car. Gas is about equivalent to $1.14/gallon for the regular.
Well, so other places where I thought we saw interesting places are more like restaurants and such we went for breakfast the first morning. Others are from grocery stores and what not. These are things you just don’t see around here, where I am.
Automated waitress, where you place your order and pay here, and a ticket spits out. You hand your ticket inside (the door is to the right) to the cook, and sit down. When your food is done, the cook brings it to you.
Fortunately, there are window menus that will help you order, and many are in both English and Japanese. Others are more like a regular menu.
This was common, where there are soy sauces, Sriracha sauce, and pickles and such. This one also had the flavored water.
I did take a lot of scenery shots on the road, when our uncle picked us up from the train station, and there are a lot of nice shots, and some of that was interesting to know, also. So, just to show you the variety, here are some shots of our travels from subways, trains, and drives. Some subways have lower levels from L1-L5 (L = Lower, not level).
Train station lookout.
Another view from the train station looking out in Tokyo.
Being the rainy season, even if it is not raining, this is a normal cloud cover during the monsoon season. The steam on the upper right side of the mountain is steam, coming up from the forest on the mountain, not coming down from the sky.
This is in the country side of Japan, and it's interesting to me, anyway, being a Wisconsinite, how housese are literally built into the mountain side.
Many of these woodsy areas are starting to get bamboo trees overtaking the areas where they grow, because fewer things are being made with bamboo, due to plastic and other materials used to make other containers.
Yes, I took some pictures while we were riding in the car. But these are other interesting sights, that you don’t just see anywhere. And yes, sometimes I take weird pictures.
This is one of those toilets that is built into the floor. Yes, you can do both #1 & #2 here. Disabled people have "Western style toilets" that look just like ours.
Believe it or not, this is a urinal that was found in the women's restroom. I am not sure how that is supposed to work. No, I have no clue as to how.
Of course, our trip wouldn’t be complete without more pictures of the hike we took. So, here are other random pictures we took of our surroundings while exploring the area on foot.
Chad took a picture of this monarch type butterfly. Cool, isn't it?
A selfie we took of ourselves, in front of one of the rivers.
Atomic carrots, at a grocery store. I wonder if it was near Monster Island? But, I doubt if it's related to Godzilla.
This is amazing. You know when you go to the grocery store, and want to get a convenient lunch? And they're very expensive? And mostly not very healthy for you? Well, these are healthy, lots of lean protein, plain rice, veggies, etc. Just under $4.00, and will fill you up for the rest of the afternoon.

Of course, we can’t forget about the trip home... And the treat we got.
That, is a bottle with powdered tea in there, that you shake into your tea cup. It is related to the type used in the Tea Ceremony.
So after you shake a bunch into your tea cup, you put the cup under that spout, and get hot water to mix your tea. Right where you sit.
To go with that tea, look at that... Sushi on a conveyor belt... The people who ring you up know what to charge, because different sushi comes on different plates. It would be easy to go overboard, but, we didn't really have time, so we kept ourselves in check to make the flight.
We got to go past a couple of the Embassies located there in Tokyo.
As we were coming home, we left Tokyo on June 21, 2016 @ 5:40pm. On our home flight, this is the sunrise coming as we approach the US, and arrive in Chicago, at 3pm on June 21, 2016. What a time warp.
Thank you again, for obliging me, as you’re getting enough of my travel babble. But, it was too much to put into just one blog. It was fun to go, nice to come back, and now, chill out at my computer because all of my friends are in here... Happy 4th!