Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas insanity

It's been a tradition of mine to bake chocolate chip cookies (with red and green M&M's for a festive touch) for presents since high school. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the recipe.)

Back home with a regular big oven that can bake something like 50 cookies at once, it only took me about an 1.5hr to make around 100 cookies, but here in Japan all I've got is a regular toaster oven and a two-tier toaster oven. I can only make about 25 cookies in one shot so it takes me about 2.5hr to make a batch of about 70-100 cookies.

Still, that's an improvement from my first two years in Japan when I only had a regular toaster oven and it took me 3hr to make a single batch. (If I make multiple batches at once, the time savings are even more noticeable.)

Since this is my last year on JET I decided to be super ambitious and to give cookies to pretty much all of the schools I've visited regularly this year (thankfully there aren't so many--2 junior highs, and 4 elementary schools) as well as my Board of Education, Japanese dance teacher, and taiko group members.

The breakdown:
Tue. Dec. 6- 2.5hr for 67 cookies
Sun. Dec. 11 - 6hr for 281 cookies
Mon. Dec. 12 - 4hr for 189 cookies
Mon. Dec. 19 - 2.5hr for 89 cookies
Total = 15hr over 4 days for 626 cookies

It was an insane amount of work, especially since I also had the JLPT (where I flunked the N1 spectacularly) and English Day (two days of activities from 9am~4pm with 60 elementary 5th and 6th graders and junior high school students) in December.

But it was totally worth it. Some of my highlights from giving out cookies were:

1) at an elementary school, the student I was sitting next to during lunch noticed that I didn't have any cookies for myself and asked "Sensei, hitokuchi wa doudesuka?" (Sensei, would you like a bite of my cookie?). Of course I declined since I had had plenty sampling each batch to make sure they were OK, but it was soooo sweet of the student to offer. ^_^

2) at Kirita, after I gave out the cookies to the 3rd years, one of the students commented that they looked forward to the cookies all year (ichinenkan no tanoshimi--or something along those lines). And another student asked me for the recipe. =D

There's really nothing better than the feeling that you've brightened up someone's day even just a little.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Xmas night museum

For those sticking around in Japan over the holidays, some Christmas-themed events going on at the Towada Art Center from Dec. 23-24.

Christmas Workshop: Make Ornaments & Cards
Date: Dec 23, 2011
Time: 10:00-12:00
Place: Shimin Katsudou Space 市民活動スペース
Materials Fee: 700yen
*Limited to 20 people, reservations required*

Gospel Concert by GRACES
Date: Dec 23, 2011
Time: 18:30-19:30
Place: Kyuukei (Rest/Break) Space 休憩スペース
Admission: Free

Night Tour
Date: Dec 23-24, 2011
Time: 17:30-18:30; 18:00-19:00
Place: Meet at Reception 受付
Admission: 500yen (regular exhibit fee)

Cafe Extended Hours
Date: Dec 23-24, 2011
Time: 9:00-20:00
*Special Christmas Sweets Available*

Love Wari (Love Discount)
Date: Dec 24, 2011
Time: 17:00-20:00 (last admission, 19:30)
Admission: 2 for 1
**Please hold hands and ask for "Rabu wari onegaishimasu" at reception**

Also, completely unrelated to Christmas, the shimin (citizen) free days for December are the 10th and 23rd. On these days, admission to the regular exhibits is free for Towada citizens. Simply say that you are "shimin" to the receptionist and show proof of residence (alien registration card, driver's license, etc.).

Tohoku Expressway Toll Free Zones Dec 1, 2011-Mar 31, 2012

Portions of the Tohoku Expressway will be free for all cars, everyday from Dec. 1, 2011-Mar. 31, 2012.

See the map for more details, but basically you can go from Hachinohe to Sendai for free. (The roads marked in blue are free all the time for everyone; the brown is only free for ETC users on weekends and national holidays.)

For complete details, see (Japanese).