Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandpa Steve's last day

We've kept busy the last few days/nights with my dad here!  We went out to eat at a super yummy Brazilian place nearby and had the most amazing grilled pineapple ever.  We explored ETWS- a Japanese type version of spencers, linens and things, and a toy store all in one.  Went to a 100 yen store and found a great clothing store similar to Banana Republic next door.  Grilled at home and had a great dinner together.  And finally got to go to one of the restaurants i've been dying to eat at since moving here- Som Chai!  I am kicking myself for not having visited earlier!  It was without a doubt the best Thai food i've ever had!
Today, we revisited the clothing store, because Dad had seen a really nice jacket he wanted to buy before leaving.  While we were there, we went to an Aeon grocery store for some lunch because Dima had suggested it.  We were not disappointed!  They had rows and rows of yummy Japanese treats to grab.  We ended up having a tuna roll, inari (fried bean curd wrapped around sticky rice), crab tempura, some kind of crab patty, a fried battered fish of some sort, a huge block of tofu, and tons of other great things.  The food was so great and only cost 750 yen (about 9 dollars).  Zach loved the tofu!  He is really going to miss Japan when we move!
After a nap, we headed to comprehensive park for a stroll and playtime for Z.  Japanese parks are so much fun.  I just wish Zach was a little older to really enjoy them like he could.  Once again, I will say it.  He is really going to miss Japan when we move!
Going down the slide with Grandpa Steve.  He LOVES the slide!
 All the neat things at the playground and Zach was more interested in the leaves!
 Another slide!  Oh what fun!
 Looking at the ducks.  But he was much more interested in the leaves.
We brought some bubbles with us, but he was far more interested in the packaging it came in then the bubbles we blew!
Playing on a climbing rope/trampoline.  He was disgustingly black after this!

And so, we had a wonderful visit.  It is always sad to say goodbye to family after they visit.  Luckily, we will be in the states in just about a month now!  Can't wait to be re-united with grandpa steve again!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

He's here...

When I was a kid, my dad traveled to Asia a few times a year.  We always dreaded the trip, because it meant a few weeks without Dad, but looked forward to his homecoming.  He always brought us really neat gifts!  So when I learned that we were moving to Japan, I had crossed my fingers that my Dad would go on business near me for a change!  Unfortunately in our 2 1/2 years here, he had not yet had to travel to Asia!  But finally, he had a quick trip to Korea planned!  Yay!  And so, he booked some tickets to fly over to Okinawa to visit us for a change! While it was a very quick trip (4 days... boo!) we made the most of our time together.  I'm so happy he could come see us in our home.  I'm sure it's quite a role reversal for him, as he's not used to seeing his little girl grown up, married, with a child, and another on the way.

We kicked off Saturday evening with our beloved Sushi go round.  We took full advantage of all they have to offer at night, including our favorite sushi of all time- broiled tuna!  It is tuna marinaded in teriyaki flame broiled with a lite mayo sauce on top.  It is to die for!  We ended up ordering 5 plates of 2 pieces between the 3 of us and were full after trying some other dishes.  Just when we were digesting, we noticed they had made about 7 more plates of tuna!  How could we NOT grab it?  (It's a special order, so it doesn't normally go around the belt for grabbing, it has to be special ordered from the kitchen!) And so, with stuffed bellies, we headed home with a great first night.

Today we decided to really get out and see some things.  We first headed to Ryuku Mura, a neat little village nearby with a lot of Okinawian things condensed into one place.  I liked this place, as it wasn't in your face "buy this buy this" like I think so many things in Japan are.  We first saw a small show.  Then walked around the village and looked into some of the small shops.
 This was part of the shishimai (lion dance).  Here is the Wakuya about to play fetch with the Shisha!
 The lion dance appears from June to August (lunar calendar).  Here is the Wakuya making a lion fetch the ball!
 King, queen, Sanji Government service (high officials)
The Eisa dancers playing the drums.
 It always cracks me up to watch the Japanese get involved in silly things like this!  They were all walking around dancing to the music at the end!

After the show, we brought Zach around some of the little villages to look around.  The first place we stopped had a big goat.  It was making typical goat sounds, and Zach got terrified!  The look on his face was priceless.  Unfortunately, I was laughing too hard to snap a photo.  But after, we saw a baby goat walking around.
Not quite sure about this...
 My boys looking into the pond at the Koi!

After Ryuku Mura, we went to Cape Zanpa- a beautiful lighthouse with intense views!
 My dad couldn't get over how the waves were hitting the rocks!  It was pretty windy!
Pretty far down there!

After a quick lunch at a korean BBQ place, we went down to Yomitan.  Yomitan is a neat little village where they make pottery and blown glass.  We looked around for awhile and enjoyed walking around while Zach napped in his stroller.  And then we headed back to relax for a bit before going to dinner at a great Brazilian BBQ place!

Day 1 with Grandpa Steve (it still gets me every time to think my dad is a Grandpa!) was a great success.  We got to see so much!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Okuma- day 2

Day two of our weekend getaway began with a yummy buffet breakfast at the hotel, and then a checkout of our room!  Yes, we had to check out then check back in!  But we loaded up the car and headed north on an adventure to the northernmost part of Okinawa- Hedo Point.  We have been meaning to make it to hedo point since we moved here, and it was well worth the wait.  It was absolutely beautiful and we had a perfect day for sightseeing!  
Stunning views up north!
Dima and Zach made a wish!
Dima was making me nervous here!

And then... we saw it...way out there, we noticed a huge cock statue.  We had no idea what it was, but laughed at the sight.  Then we saw a map and learned that it was an observatory.  There were no questions, we had to get inside this huge cock!  
Do you see it way out there?
And so, with a few wrong turns, we made it.  It was better  up close then from far away!  
The boys inside, looking at the view!
The view from inside!  Beautiful!
 Daddy and Z looking at the water
Zach trying to figure out where we are
Love this shot from down under!

And so, we headed back to Okuma, as our new room was available.  After some lunch and an "attempt" at a nap, we decided to try taking a buggy ride as a family.  Zach was not happy about this helmet on his head!
 Get this thing off me!
Ready to go!
Unfortunately, our ride was short lived.  Zach was cranky from missing his nap, and he didn't like sitting in the front by himself.  So our ride mostly consisted of us taking turns holding him like this:
Wussy baby
By the end (15 minutes in) Zach had fallen apart and we knew it was time to head back.  
Enough Mom and Dad!
While daddy was returning the buggy and equipment, Z and I went through a maze.  It took awhile to get him away from picking up garbage, but eventually Zach got his legs moving through the maze and made it out the starting line!  
left or right?

And so, we headed in for some Dinner and ended our night watching a movie and indulging in a piece of chocolate cheesecake while Zach slept.  

We had a great time, but this was an eye opening experience.  Traveling with a toddler is something we will have to get used to.  We learned that we won't be doing any crazy trips for awhile, at least until our kids are older!  But for now, relaxing trips like this are doable. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Okuma- day 1

Now that you know that the Stepanoff family is expecting a new little bundle of joy, you have probably figured out why i've been so tired!  It's been a long 14 weeks, and I had really been needing a well deserved break.  Dima had spent the last 2 months in the freezing cold of Korea, working insane hours and sleeping in a tent.  We both needed a little vacation!  When we heard that Dima was getting a 96 (4 day) this weekend, we knew this was our chance to unwind after a long few months.  Since travel off this island is very expensive, and we had 2 days notice, we knew we had to stay close.  Where do most people go when they want a little island getaway?  OKUMA!
Okuma is a resort way up on the northern part of the island.  It is only for military and sits on a peninsula surrounded by two beautiful beaches.  There are many water sports to take place in, but because it's not quite warm enough, we had to skip all water fun.  We took advantage of this weekend to relax as a family and have fun.  
We arrived and were put in a very small room.  It is only now that I realize that a small room just doesn't cut it anymore with a toddler in our lives.  We realized that we now need two rooms to be comfortable.  That way, when Zach goes to bed, we can go to bed in the other room and hang out before we go to bed.  But in a single, we can't do that!  Unfortunately, because this was planned last minute, it's what we were stuck in for our first night.  It was a eye opening experience for our upcoming trip to Tokyo.  Lesson learned!
Once we were unpacked we went out to walk and explore a little.  The first stop after a long drive with a 1 year old?  The park, of course!
Going down the slide with Dada!

Excited about a new park.  I can't believe how big he looks walking!

Couldn't be happier!

After a wonderful trip at the park, we took a walk to a very small beach where nobody was around! This was the first time Zach has gotten to really see the ocean since he was old enough to walk around and enjoy it!  He was very confused, but I'm confident he will love it as much as we do when it warms up!
He's deep in thought about this very big bath tub!

Hey Mom!

We continued on a walk along Okuma, taking in the sites.  I promise I did not edit any of these photos!  This is how beautiful it is in Okinawa!
Okuma beach

Playing with Daddy on a walk

A beautiful day ends in a beautiful sunset.  

We had a bit of a tough time getting Zach to sleep that night, as he's never slept anywhere but in his crib. And in a single room?  Not easy!  Luckily, we brought our amazing baby monitor and we were able to walk outside and relax on the beach after he finally went to sleep.  It was a beautiful night, and we spent it looking at stars (we can't see the stars from our house) and talking.  I am so lucky to have a marriage that can consist of sitting on a beach and talking for 3 hours straight.  
And so, we rested our heads for the exciting aventure that awaited us the next day!

The luck of the Irish

Not being Irish, St. Patrick's day was never one of those holidays I looked forward to.  Drinking beer filled with disgusting artificial green dye wasn't exactly on my list of things to do in college, not to mention I don't look particularly great in green.  But just as with valentine's day, I have found ways to embrace this holiday this year.  Beware, more holidays in the making!

This year, a special leprechaun has arrived in the Stepanoff house to hide a very special pot of gold!  Can you find the pot of gold?
This little leprechaun is here to announce....
 He is going to be a big leprechaun!

That's right.  Baby number 2 is on the way.  And don't you worry, just as I have photographed much of my pregnancy and first year with my first little leprechaun, leprechaun number 2 will come with his/her own new projects for your viewing pleasure!  

Baby number 2 will be coming to Okinawa in September of 2012, making the kiddos about 20 months apart.  Yes, this is quite a close age difference, but the plan has always been to have them close.  It will surely be difficult, but I strongly believe it will end up being worth it in the end.  

I have kept this a secret for some time now, having found out in early January about our new little one. I am currently 14 weeks along (3 1/2 months), and am barely starting to show.  It has been a very long first trimester.  I struggled with some pretty severe exhaustion, and with the hubby gone, this was a very difficult time for me.  With a 1 year old walking running around, a dog constantly at my side, and lots of other responsibilities, the exhaustion couldn't have come at a worse time.  I just about broke on many occasions.  But alas, the dust has finally settled, and I am feeling much more myself these days (with a quick power nap in the afternoon).  

As for how baby #2 is doing, all seems perfect.  I have been feeling him/her kick a LOT already (they say it's sooner with your second) but it's only that butterflies feeling that Dima can't yet feel.  I recently had an ultrasound done and he/she looked to be growing exactly on target, happily moving around.  We are still trying to decide whether or not we want to know the sex this time around, but my gut is telling me it's another boy already.  Boys are wonderful, so this would be great.  Not to mention Zach would have a great friend in his little brother!

I will be using this blog this time to document this pregnancy.  I will no longer be using my Facebook for those updates!  So please, click the "follow" button on this page to follow our adventures in this pregnancy, raising a 1 year old, and life in Okinawa.  

I end this post with a question to all of my friends and family:
What are your opinions on finding out the sex of your child?  Did you/will you find out the sex of your child?  What are the pros and cons of not finding out?  Is it something you would suggest to someone in their second pregnancy?  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Boy love

As I mentioned in a previous post, Zach and Neko are attached at the hip.  What Zach lacks in the hair department, Neko makes up for with his thick brown coat.  They love each other.  And now that Daddy is home, it's triple the fun.  The three of them are great buddies, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  
This evening, we took advantage of "nice" weather.  It's been cloudy for months now, but at least it wasn't raining!  Zach was cracking us up by giving his doggy big hugs.  Eventually Dima got the great idea to do this to them:
Look at the look on Zach's face!  He is so happy.  And Neko is so content with a bald baby on his back!  
Eventually it was time for Zach to take a bath and go to bed.  I am officially the mom to a toddler.  As you can see by the face I got when I signed "tubby time" and tried to grab the boy.  
No mom!  I'm hanging with the boys!

I sure am in trouble if baby #2 is a boy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Welcome home Dada

It has been a long 2 months with the hubby gone.  We have dealt with longer deployments in the past, but this one has been the hardest for me thus far.  Not only do I have a toddler walking around the house now, but I have been going through some extreme bouts of exhaustion.  Not to mention the sun literally has not come out since Daddy left in January!  Thankfully, the storm has settled just in time for Dada's arrival last night!  
Unfortunately, Dada came in around 7pm, so Zach was already fast asleep upstairs. The dog however was wide awake, and ran to his side the moment he walked in the door.  He won't leave his side now.  He's such a daddy's boy.  Though he is partial to Zach when he has food too.  
Though the reuniting is always a wonderful thing, it often takes quite an adjustment.  When Dima left, Zach was barely walking around the house yet.  Now, he runs around and is like a kid instead of a baby.  I absolutely love this stage, but it's very different from 2 months ago! Our lives have adjusted in a result of these changes, so we've developed quite a routine by now.  And so once again, I will be spending the next week or so teaching Daddy all about our new routine, and finding ways to incorporate him into this routine.  I am so used to doing everything myself by now, that it will have to take some adjusting to get daddy involved.  Don't get me wrong, I'd take him home any day, but it's always an adjustment when he gets home.  I'm sure my military friends completely understand where I'm coming from.  
In any case, I am ecstatic that he's home for a very exciting few months ahead of us.  We have a trip to Tokyo planned in April, followed by a 2 week stay in the states for Dima's brother's wedding!  Not to mention many other exciting things in the works!  Welcome home Daddy.  We couldn't be happier that you're here with us now!

Neko snuggling with Daddy in the morning

Zach holding onto Daddy in pure excitement in the morning before work!

Friday, March 9, 2012

best buds

Just a few days before my c section, I began to get really worried about how the dog was going to react to the new baby when we came home from the hospital.  Was he going to destroy everything in the house in order to get our attention?  Would he try to jump on the baby?  Claw him in the face?  I spent a lot of sleepless nights worried about this meeting.

As it ended up, we brought Neko outside to meet the new addition when we came home from the hospital.  And what did he do?  He wagged his tail and started licking the baby's face.  Zach learned very quickly how to push the dog's face away when he'd had enough.

And so for the first 6 months or so, the dog constantly gave the baby attention and kisses.  As Zach got bigger, and began to sit up, stand up, and eventually walk-things have changed quite a lot.  Now, the innocent dog will be laying on the ground, and Zach will jump on him for big hugs.  He pulls his tail, ears, and tortures him in more ways then I could name.

Does the dog complain?  Not a bit.  Because he loves his little brother to death.  Not to mention the baby drops food on the floor during mealtimes for him.  The two are inseparable.  Once you find one, you find the other right by his side.  Now I understand what they mean about a boy and his dog.  This photo is proof of this exact point.  Of all the space in the house, neko has to lay down right where Zach is standing.  And Zach has to stand right next to Neko.
Despite the looks we're being given here, they were quite happy here.  They're giving the, "mom we're playing leave us alone" look.

It is comforting to know they love each other so much.  It's much worse when Daddy is home to join in the fun!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raw almost vegan strawberry cheesecake

I've recently adopted an almost raw vegan diet.  I started it out to test to see if it really did give you energy.  As many of you know, I've been struggling a lot lately with extreme exhaustion.  Not good timing with the hubby gone!  My house is an absolute disaster because I've been so tired I couldn't even stand long enough to dust! It's been a long month and a half- we are ready for Daddy to come home!  

Anyway, I tried this as a test and guess what?  It worked!  I have been up at 6:30 every morning since starting and have energy throughout the day!  I feel great and have been keeping active running, attending body sculpting class, and doing long yoga classes all week.  I've even brought Zach to the park 3 times this week and an indoor play place once.  I have had the energy to crawl through small tunnels, and chase after a walking baby (yes, he's walking now).  I haven't felt this good in a long time!

My diet has mostly consisted of TONS of fruit and vegetables, hummus, salad, baba gnash, juice, and lots and lots of nuts and seeds.  I havent felt hungry once as I'm eating a LOT.  I don't know if this is a lifestyle I will keep with.  I do enjoy some chicken and love eggs in the morning.  But for the time being, with the hubby still gone, it's working great for me.  I feel fantastic!

Awhile ago, my super healthy friend, Alicia, told me about this yummy paleo cheesecake she made.  I figured I'd look into it and guess what?  It also happens to be raw AND can be made vegan.  I was dying to give it a go, but making an entire cheesecake for one person?  Not fun.  So when my friend, Jess told me she was throwing a mini get together for her husband's birthday, I just knew this was my chance to dive into it!

The original recipe can be found on My New Roots.  I changed a few things and doubled the recipe because my pan was big and I like a tall cheesecake!  I found it extremely easy to make.  If you decide to try this though, be sure to read the recipe first and plan accordingly.  It takes some planning!  You have to start a day early!

And so, here is what I did:

Raw "vegan" strawberry cheesecake

1 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1 cup soft Medjool dates
1/2 tsp. sea salt

3 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours, overnight is best
juice of 4 lemons
2 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract
2/3 cup raw coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup raw honey (This is what made it not vegan.  If you wish to make a vegan version, use agave nectar.  They don't sell it in Oki!)  (Also, I ran out of honey so used a little maple syrup to substitute) 
2 cups strawberries (thaw completely if using frozen)

1. Place nuts and dates in a food processor with sea salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness. Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. Scoop out crust mixture in a 10x10" pan lined with saran wrap, and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout. Rinse food processor well.
2. Warm coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan on low heat until liquid. Whisk to combine.
3. In the most powerful food processor / blender you own place all filling ingredients (except berries) and blend on high until very smooth (this make take a couple minutes so be patient).
4. Pour about 1 1/3 cups of the mixture out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the raspberries to the remaining filling and blend on high until smooth. Pour onto the first layer of filling. Place in freezer until solid.  This takes a few hours.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time between making this and serving it, so it wasn't nearly done!  
5. To serve, remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the freezer (what leftovers?).