5 minute Oreo Pie – Kid Friendly

So although this might contain far too many calories for your liking here is the quick and easy Oreo pie! So easy that your kids can probably make it all on their own! With this recipe there is no baking, no raw eggs, and no dangerous cooking equipment needed. So it is totally easy to get the little ones stirring and measuring up a storm!

So there is an “official” Oreo pie recipe on the Keebler Oreo pre made cookie crust. However I do not use that version. I am sure it works just fine but we do not have access to some of the ingredients on that list. So we improvised and this is what we came up with:

What you will need:

Oh gosh the Oreo pie crust is missing in the photo!

Milk (almond milk is a perfectly fine substitute and I have made this with unsweetened vanilla almond milk previously)

instant chocolate pudding

instant vanilla pudding

pre-made Keebler Graham cracker oreo pit crust (just 1)

cool whip or whipped cream (whichever you may have on hand…any homemade mind would be awesome too however I never make it on my own 🙁 )

a hand full of Oreos

Hot fudge (optional)

 

Instructions:

yes, thats it! Already made and ready to go. The easiest way for a kid to make a treat without worrying about raw eggs!
  1. Prepare the Premade pie crust. Take the plastic top off of it. yup. that. is. it.

Now if you are using hot fudge layer the inside of the pie crust with hot fudge and allow it to cool and Harden onto the crust. (kind of a protective shield from all the calories to come if you will. )

If you are skipping the hot fudge step because A. you don’t have any on hand or B. you are saving the calories for more whipped cream instead then please do not hesitate to go to step 2!

add whipped cream. sometimes I use cool whip. I use whatever is on sale, or whatever I have on hand.

2. add whipped cream to the inside of the pie crust. Form a small layer of whipped cream as your base. This does not have to be thick. Remember to reserve most of your whipped cream for the next steps. This only needs to be a few sprays or spoonfuls.

watch out everyone, 2 year old in the kitchen! Get out of her way!

3. prepare instant chocolate mix and instant vanilla pudding mix according to their box directions. (Ok so you basically need to add the required milk or almond milk but you do not need to place in the refrigerator  for a long time just mix in the milk and stir them up!)

you don’t even really need a mixer or whisk for this. the toddler just used the spoon until her arm got tired. then she passed it off to the big bro!

4. mix chocolate and vanilla pudding together. Thats right… this much stirring and mixing pudding flavors is a preschoolers dream!

OK, I lied we ended up adding in a whisk. But more for the photography beauty than necessity!

 

5. layer the pudding into the piecrust adding small amounts of whipped cream in between layers.

Pouring it in may require help from mom, but if the mom isn’t a total neat freak the kids can probably do it just fine! ha!
mix your layers!

6. cover the top of your master piece of pudding with whipped cream. Do it slowly and make it pretty. This layer will be on top!

You are almost done! so quick, right?!

7. Crumble an order or two and add it over the top of the whipped cream and then add some Oreos around the edges. (I use to add entire Oreos around the edges but find they could get a bit soggy so I actually like this better if you break the Oreo in half and place them in the edges this way. They still look like entire Oreos from the top and it also reserves some of your Oreos for the kids to eat if you are giving this away as a gift!)

8. Let it sit in your fridge for a while (or freezer if you want it more like ice cream cake consistency)

9. Eat it up!

** I actually find that this is a really simple and cheap gifting treat! We have made this many times for military members away from their families and the young guys and gals really enjoy it. It is simple and a yummy treat especially in the summer. The kids get a kick out of making a treat for grown ups and this one they can make all on their own!**

 

 

Help Someone By Delivering A Homemade Meal

So usually in this section I plan on sharing some of our favorite family recipes and food adventures that we may have out and about in Tokyo. Today I am taking this in a different direction. I wanted to share our experience with “Meal Train”

The basic idea of a “meal train” is to help out by delivering a meal to someone in need. This can be applied for any need but most commonly used for new parents, illness, surgery, or other life event that may cause a burden on someone to have the ability to cook meals for themselves or their family. Of course many of us are familiar with these through churches or friends but I recently participated in this through an online forum and it made scheduling and coordinating meals for someone in need 100% more efficient.

There are several websites online that you can use but I participated in a meal delivering group through www.mealtrain.com. This was my first time using meal train.com and it was really easy to use even for a first timer! You can also use this for pot-luck and the like.

So basically the person who organized this idea of having meals delivered to a family just went to the site and created the event. It is free to create and then you can pass it around through emailing the link. Whoever wants to sign up for the meal train just simply clicks on the date that they want to claim for taking a meal and they follow the instructions. You must make an account which is pretty easy. You just need your name and a password. Then you claim the date you want to deliver a meal on and you type in what meal you will be taking over.

There is a section of information for each meal train where the organizer can request special diet requests like allergy information, dislikes, and such. This way you do not have to worry about what you are making and you do have a bit of a guide.

You can also view the entire meal train list. You can see what other dates are open and view the dates that are taken and what meals are scheduled on those days. So when I signed up for my meal train dates I just went in and claimed my dates. Then I also viewed the dates near mine. I wanted to make sure I didn’t serve the family chicken 2 days in a row and such.

The meal train had the delivery address, family names, and delivery time requested. It was all input by the organizer of the meal train. This made everything so easy. I didn’t have to worry about losing the address or calling around to make sure the family would be home. I just logged into the meal train and checked out all the details.

I also had reminders sent to my email from the meal train. We were pretty busy when we volunteered. We were in the middle of an international move and I had a lot on my mind. However I still wanted to help out and send over a couple meals to the family we were serving. I was worried that I might forget though! So I set up the meal train reminder to send me an email the week before, that way I could get all the items input on my grocery list. Then I had a reminder sent to me the day before meal delivery. This way I was reminded that I had a few foods to prep the night before. The automatic email reminders were amazing! This alone makes me want to tell everyone about meal train! So much easier to notify everyone and make sure no one forgets their dates or any information. And trust me I am the one the always forgets things!

Our meal train group made a meal for a family every other day for a few months. They had taken in other children that were having some family difficulties and were allowing the kids to finish the school year out before having to leave the country. Doing the meal train every other day allowed for the family to polish off any leftovers without bombarding them with food but also giving them enough meals to help them offset the costs of taking in more children without any assistance.

I only sent two meals. I also dropped off my meals on the same day. I had precooked everything and didn’t have to give the parents any cooking instructions. I thought this would just be easier for them. All they had to do was reheat. I also was not sure if they would have leftovers from my first meal. So I gave them the second meal in advance should they choose to use it early or should they decide that they wanted to make plans instead of waiting around for us to arrive with food as it was a weekend delivery.

I think that I will utilize meal train again in the future. It is just such a nice helpful way to help others. And this makes it so simple. I would not hesitate to creat a meal train in the future. When I think that someone could realize use a meal in the future I think I will just try to create at least a short meal train.

I do have a couple suggestions for anyone looking to create a meal train. I hope these will help you if you plan on trying this out.

  • suggest all meals be delivered in disposable containers (the family can skip a big clean up)
  • ( FYI- I used foil containers that were 3 for $1.00. Then I covered the tops with glad press and seal. It keeps out any leaks and is much cheaper than the large foil containers with tall plastic lids. Plus you can stack the press and seal paper without leaks. The plastic lids on foil containers crush if you have to stack them!)
  • choose meals that everyone in the household can eat (so nothing super spicy if it for a house with small children)
  • choose meals that can easily be reheated
  • choose a one dish meal if possible (easier for yourself to bake a casserole type of meal and transport less containers)
  • if you don’t have time to make a meal or think that your cooking skills aren’t adequate don’t skip out! Send over a gift card and then they can plan to eat out on a date. (if it possible for the family in the meal train)
  • simple is best, don’t stress yourself out by making a fancy dish you have never attempted. Many people who need a meal train for help with be thankful for your time and help. They don’t expect you to make a five course meal. Make a simple meal that you have cooked previously.
  • label your items. If you are not pre baking the meal make sure you leave prep instructions like the temp and time to bake. Also label what exactly you have in the containers.

I hope you have as much luck with meal train was we did! Leave your experiences or tips in the comments below!

What We Are Reading in April

One of my favorite things to read or watch from other homeschoolers (besides their awesome homeschool room tours, of course) is updates on what they are currently reading. This might sound completely boring but being a homeschooling family and using a “book basket” for a large portion of our education supplements everyday I really rely on finding new and great books to try. I have gotten tons of ideas from other homeschoolers about books I would have never come across without their suggestions.

I also want to point out that there are many more homeschoolers and families in general who can really utilize the book lists that are living over seas in non English speaking countries. We currently live in Tokyo. So of course the use of English is common here, but not in a level that would be appropriate for a child who’s native language is English and they are an advanced reader. If you are trying to grow your Childs English vocabulary and keep them interested in books there is little in most stores for an advanced English speaker. Most books here are English for preschool age kids learning the basics as a second language or ESL study books for high schoolers and adults tackling English to pass some sort of exam. Neither of these options in books and reading material is right for my 8 year old advanced reader who is a native English speaker.

We do have libraries here, and they do have small sections of English but not much. There are English libraries to be found as well but they are generally small and serve a specific population (like government employees or military and their access is restricted to those who live on location). Many of these smaller libraries will have a decent selection of children books but as the age of your children increases the reading material appropriate for them decreases. There just is not a high enough demand for things like historical fiction aimed at junior high / high schoolers and things like that to really homeschool with. Many expats that are not homeschooling would really like to supplement their children’s education as even many of the private international school have some questionable “advanced level” reading when most of the class is usually not “international students” but native students of the home country who can pay the pricey tuition. So the reading level and books available are not always on par with a native speakers level or interest.

One of the only things that we can really do is order online, have family ship to us, or order something from amazon or the like if shipping doesn’t completely kill it! Of course books on a tablet would save on this but some books, especially for younger children just are not the same when viewed on a tablet.

Basically my rambling is just to say this…. Thanks to every homeschooling parent who takes the time to post reading lists! It is so helpful and there are many of us overseas that could not locate these great resources without your reviews and information. We just simply wouldn’t not necessarily know that some of these great under the radar books are out there. I watch and read a lot of the lists and have built a lot of additional curriculum from the help of those of you who share your lists and it has really helped our homeschool experience.

With all of that being said here is our own May reading list:

Christian Hero’s Then and Now: Nate Saint

Friendle

Henry Huggins

The Giving Tree

Christian Hero’s Then and Now: Cameron Townsend

Biomes of the World: Desert

What About Deserts

The Importance of Michaelangelo

Michaelangelo

Famous Artists Michaelangelo

The Little Island

Cultures and People of Jamaica

Enchantment of the World The Dominican Republic

Enchantment of the World Cuba

The Secret Life of Trees

Eyewitness Books Tree

Crinkleroots Guide to Know the Trees

Arthur’s Chicken Pox

The Treasure

Fiesta Babies

Brown Bear, Brown Bear,  What Do You See?

Little Critter This is My Town

Mouse Soup

Just a Duck

Hedgie’s Surprise

 

The first few chapter books we will use a read alouds and just free reading. There nature books about trees we will be incorporating into our nature walks. The books about deserts will be used in our book basket time for the first week of May. The books about countries in North America will also be used in our book basket time during the first week of the month. The giving tree will be used on Fridays as we add in some poetry and different reading and writing times just for fun.

We have added a few books on Michaelangelo and we will use these as examples while we explore this artist. We will recreate his style and make one of our own creations for some art investigation time this week. We currently use My Fathers World for our spine but We do not use the art book that they provide. I prefer to have my older student learning about famous artists from history, different styles of art and trying them out rather than “crafting” for subject time. I  think a lot of kid crafts are really fun and a great way to learn but for art as a subject we want to move to something a little more formal this year since he is getting older.

Our Michaelangelo unit will be fairly short but hopefully packing a lot of information. I will post our schedule and what we use once we have finished.

Most of the young child readers listed at the end of the list are for my toddler. She is able to really get into stories right now. She especially loves stories with animals as characters. We will be focusing on reading stories, talking about them, acting them out and working with simple workbooks. (connect the matching items with a line type of workbooks)

She will begin formal “homeschool preschool” during July as we are in the middle of a move currently.

The science books, and easy readers will last for only a week. The chapter books may last 2 weeks, depending on our schedule. We will go to the library again next week and switch out our science, social studies, geography/culture, and easy readers with another set. This supplements our book basket time each day so trips to the library are necessary each week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Items For Relocation With Kids

Are you relocating? Do you have kiddos? If so… this list might just be for you! We have previously relocated overseas and will be doing so again soon. We have several moves under our belt along with the experience of moving with a very young infant and a school age child. There are many things that make life easier but these are 10 items that are great to have on hand. They make life so much easier!

I also think that most of you  reading this will be far too familiar with the items listed to actually care about seeing them online! So I have added some of our views from our relocation! I think they will be more interesting than moving supplies!

1. Ziploc bags

Yes, seriously this is a must have. It makes life so much easier. You have no idea how many times having an assortment of ziplock bags will save your life when you are moving. We use them for storing left overs when you are forced to eat out because all your belongings are in a truck or on a boat. We use them for packing coloring and drawing items to keep the kids busy in an empty house, on a plane. We use them for holding dirty diapers that you have no trash can for! Sometimes you just run out of bags and you just really have a diaper that you need to contain… if you know what I am saying! We use them for separating dirty clothes from s=clean clothes so that your suitcases won’t smell when you have a little baby who spits up on their outfit and you have no access to water at that moment. There are plenty more uses but this is just an example of how this can really save your day just by having an assortment of different size zip lock bags!

2. Sleeping bag / Japanese style sleeping mat and cover / pack and play

Depending on the age of your child you will either need a pack and play or a sleeping arrangement of some sort. My infant used a pack-and-play the first time that we moved overseas. It helped out tremendously. She did not even notice that she was in a different places multiple nights in a row. It helped her adjust to her new surroundings by having the same sleeping arrangements and it helped us adults sleep by not having to share a bed in a hotel room with a baby/small toddler. We all slept easier! The double room allowed for a bed for our older child, a bed for the parents, and the baby still had her own safe space. I also had the comfort of knowing she was sleeping in her own clean bed with her own clean sheet over the pad. Not a hotel crib covered in germs.

My older child uses a sleeping bag in a knapsack with a drawstring. It was inexpensive and you can find it on amazon for about $20. He got his favorite super hero and he can carry it himself on his back because it is small and not heavy at all. This might not be needed when you are staying in hotel rooms but eventually you might make it to your final destination before your needs and sheets and this will be a real life saver. Plus it turned into a way to save on space in the car. If you are doing a move by car it can be used as a blanket and then put away into the small knapsack instead of piling many blankets and taking up all the available space in the car. If you have a large family it also eliminates the issues of fighting over who gets what blanket and who is taking up all the space in the back!

During our overseas move we beat our household items to the new destination by about 3 months! We had some furniture to borrow and linens as well but they were not the best. My child decided to sleep in the sleeping bag instead of using the linens that we could borrow.

For our next overseas move my daughter will transition from the pack-n-play and instead use a Japanese sleeping mat with a blanket and mini pillow. It is small and fits inside a quilted bag. It buttons closed and has handles to carry. This is basically the same idea as a sleeping bag but for my small child it seems a little safer and comfortable than being zipped in a sleeping bag. She will be using it when our household is packed up and moving on a boat to another country. Then she will use it at our next destination when our furniture will not yet be delivered. She has been using it currently in her own room and it used to it. We live in Japan so these are easy to find. In another country you might find this on Amazon, or just a store that might sell some type of set for napping at a daycare. You could also check somewhere like the Japanese birthday store on line. The price range varies. I found ours on sale for $28.99 but it was originally much more. You can find most of the popular characters and a decent quality sleeping mat set for between $40-$70 USD. This washes in a regular size washer and dryer easily. It also holds up well in the wash but I would recommend hanging to dry rather than using a dryer.

 

3. Powder Detergent

You may not be able to take liquid with you on your flight to your new destination but if you have a long overseas move ahead of you I do recommend taking at least a small amount and putting it in a ziplock box ( I actually will take a small box of tide but you may not have enough space so a small bag will do also). Even if you can easily go to the store and buy some detergent once you arrive, I found it easier to have it on hand. Any messes that happen during the move, or on the flight can be washed out in your hotel sink or bathroom. There are wash services available in most hotels but lets be realistic…. large families with lots of children on a time crunch are probably not going to have the luxury of time and mosey to waste on a wash and fold service! If there is a mess, I put it in a ziplock bag and in a suitcase, when I get to the hotel I was it all in the tube by hand and then hang it on the line in the showers. Yes, people actually use those clothes lines at the top of the showers near the racks for things other than swimsuits! 🙂 This is how I previously survived my flight attendant life! Uniforms were washed every night in hotels by necessity!

 

4. Plastic Shower Caps
Yes, you technically could use shower caps for covering your hair if you do not have enough time to dry it… but that is totally an amateur move! You are going to sue your cheer caps for so much more than that! Have super dirty stroller tires? Cover those bad boys with shower caps when you enter your hotel so you are not walking on dirt or mud, have a sleeping baby in your stroller and don’t want to wake them? Slip your shower caps over the tires while the little baby sleep! Why wake them when you are moving and can use all the extra minutes you can get to unpack a few more boxes!

Have shoes that you would like to put back into your luggage but they are pretty yuck from your neighborhood run this morning? Slip the shower caps on your shoes before you pack.

Keep them on hand and cover food that you have left over from take out. No Saran Wrap needed!

5. Safety information for children

I know, it sounds crazy. You feel like you are never going to take your eyes of your little ones, especially in a busy airport or a train station, or the hotel lobby, but it can happen. Kids can get lost. And even though it is unlikely they they will get lost, what if their parents or family is in involved in an emergency and no one can explain exactly who should be contacted and quickly? If you are traveling in a foreign country or moving in a foreign country this can be stressful and even older kids can freeze in a emergency situation in a new place where they can not speak the language!

For older children, if they carry a wallet or are big enough to wear a necklace or jewelry you can easily attach all the emergency information needed there. Remember to also include the information in the local language.

For younger children you can attach it on the inside or a jacket or even write it on their arm on the inside so as the entire world doesn’t have to see it! I know it sounds silly but many little kids could escape your eyesight and not have the slightest idea who to call when they are on the other side of the world and can not use a phone to make an international call to grandma!

KEEP IN MIND EVEN 911 IS USUALLY A DIFFERENT NUMBER!!!
SO everything they have been trained to do will change!

 

6. First Aid Kit

This might sound like a no brainer but you would be surprised how many people have to ask flight attendants on a flight for band-aids! Traveling with kids you will be in cars, planes, trains, hotels, and a new home that is EMPTY! Even something as simple as a little Neosporin and a few band aids will go a long way.

Also keep in mind that the country that you may be relocating to many not have the same type of over the counter medication readily available. There are some countries even in Asia where it is pretty standard procedure for people to make a trip to a doctor or clinic for even simple over the counter medicine. It is best to just skip this possibility by just packing a few things on hand that you may really need.

Long flights and altered eating habits may also cause havoc on children and infants alike. If possible keep not only some type of fever or pain reliever but also some type of stomach comforting medicine. Being immobile on long flights and long car rides can really wreak havoc on a little ones system so be prepared for all the possibilities!

 

7.Tooth Brushes and Wet Wipes

Oh yes, of course you knew to bring your tooth brush. But don’t forget those wet wipes. They are not only for baby! They can really be a savior on the 12 hour over night flight. When the kids wake up feeling crabby and really lethargic a wet wipe can really make a world of a difference. Send them into the bathroom or use at their seat. Have them brush their teeth, wash faces, hand, arms and backs of necks with wet wipes. This can make kids feel refreshed and on many airlines, if you are not flying first class they will not bring you hot towels, even on long haul flights. Keep this in mind.

8. Do not forget your towels and linens!

A towel, hand towel and washcloth for everyone in your party can make life much easier! Sure, you will have towels at the hotel, but what happens when you arrive at your new home and nothing is unpacked yet? Al you may have the energy for might be a hot shower. It will not be as great if you do not have a towel with you! If your shower is not cleaned and ready to go st least you could use your wash cloth and hand towel as a make shift shower for the time being! and then you would still have a towel left over to dry off!

I also recommend brining an extra old sheet. This one you will not plan on using for sleeping. This sheet you need to use for the floors or carpets you may encounter that are not suitable for picnics or crawling babies! When we first moved overseas our homes floors were not yet cleaned. I did not have the time or energy the first couple of days to give the floor the type of cleaning it needed. I also found that old sheets were the best idea in an emergency. We have to evacuate our home during a typhoon and our temporary shelter was no place for kids to be playing, sleeping, or hanging around. It was extremely dirty. We put our sheets on the ground so we could sit on them for eating or read books and play with toys. We did not sleep with our sheets. We slept on cots with our blankets or sleeping bags.

 

9.Thumb tacks and maps!

So this might sound really strange but I found that Dumb tacks were really helpful to have in our moves. When we arrived in our new place we had a bunch of important papers, a bunch of delivery dates, a baby who loved to crumple things, and no furniture. Without a desk or table and no where to really put anything I found it especially helpful to have a few thumbtacks. I could just stick really important things to the wall, in the kitchen, near a door, where ever I really needed to see something I put it. We had to set up new phones as ours weren’t compatible in the new country, we had to buy a car, I didn’t speak the language and I was really forgetful! I had a 2 month old and a kiddo entering kindergarten. there were just oo many things happening! My husband was starting work at his new location and sometimes he would be in trainings and just plain busy so I really needed to have a handle on information otherwise I could have really missed some important information!

This may seem kid of funny but we also found it really helpful to hang a couple maps for our older child. He Hung a world map and a U.S. States map. I let him put some stickers on Tokyo and them some stickers on places where our family was. Then he could check out the map and have a better idea of where he was, where grandparents were calling on Skype from, and a better idea of time zones. That helped him understand WHY we couldn’t just call anyone at any time … even though we missed them! I highly recommend this map idea to anyone moving with younger children. it became a fun school lesson instead of just plain old confusion!

10. A pack of Comforts

For some kids this might be just some drawing materials, for others it might be ledges. Whatever is your Childs favorite things that are small be sure to pack it! We packed small backpacks for plane rides, some people pack an entire storage container in the back of a minivan. whatever you have the space for go ahead and do it! Some favorite snacks, favorite toys, and favorite books will really help them adapt. Sometime when you arrive you will not have quick access to internet setup, you may not be able to find movies in your language and your netflix might not be able to be used yet without your internet! Also different countries have different netflix movies and shows available. So if you’d kids have something that will destress them and keep them happy, pack it.

Another important one if a few packs of the favorite snacks. Some countries you won’t find things like ranch dressing. If they are having trouble adjusting, you might want to pack a few. If you need things like this to get you through the first few days, it is totally worth it. Sometimes the first few days will be hard but it does get easier!

My list could go on and on. Many ideas out there are available on Pinterest and through other groups. These are just a few things that I found to be really important and helpful in our specific situation. I hope it can give someone else out there a helpful idea or two!

Books and Educational Toys in Hino

As homeschoolers we are always looking for a great bookstore and educational games and toys. We are also looking for places that are easy to access (especially when it comes to stroller friendly areas and wheelchair accessible areas), have some sort of English Language section, and have decent prices. Sometime in Japan all of these wants can be a difficult to find. However, Last week we found a newly opened book and educational supply store in Hino.

We were visiting one of our favorite Aeon Malls, the Tamadaira No Mori, it is about 30 minutes from our house, so it is not too bad to drive out and see whats new. This specific mall always has different vendors on the first floor. Many sell different kinds of traditional Japanese crafts (which make for great souvenirs and gifts to send back to family), homemade traditional snacks, and sometimes a yakitori vendor or two! My favorite of these has been a small shop that sells chopsticks of all kinds. They even have these expensive sets with glittery landscapes of Mt. Fuji that I am especially fond of! The first floor also has restaurants and a food court.  Even if you are traveling  here with picky eaters, you are sure to find something that everyone will like!

The second floor is where you will find the newly opened Orion Books. It is located on the back side next to a couple of dimly lit thrift stores. The bookstore it self is relatively large. The main aisle way of the 2nd floor goes right through the bookstore so you really can’t miss it! One side of the aisle has shelves of books grouped by section but we did not see any English books there. It is possible that we may have missed some but I will be sure to check back again.

The opposite side of the aisle had a children section. There are tables with popular children’s picture books, chapter books, and educational books. There is also a few aisles of popular character books like Moana, Sophia, and some other popular Disney characters. These books are in Japanese but my kids still found it to be great fun looking through the picture books and exploring their favorite characters anyway.

There is an aisle between the character book section and the educational toy section. This is where the English learning books are located. They had books about general low level English that were hardback, nice quality and durable. These would be great for a preschooler or even an early reader. They contained beginner English lessons and pictures of objects with their names and things like this. There are Japanese early learning books ground right beside them so you should be able to spot this educational section without a problem. 

 

Behind the education books section we found a large section of education toys. There were 3-D maps of the world and Japan that you could build with puzzle like pieces, wooden magnet food cutting sets for motorskill practice, and brain teaser games of all types. These were really high quality toys and games.

Much better than we have seen at the chain toy stores, and typical department store toy sections. Some were a bit pricey but this was to be expected as most of the toys being sold were wooden and “natural” materials vs plastic at the chain stores.  And honestly, they have a lot of things here that would serve as great birthday or Christmas gifts. Especially if you are sending something overseas and want to get something different than what you will find typically!

There were too many types of educational sets and toys to list and I am sure the selection changes frequently but it is worth checking out.

Access to the book store is easy. There are elevators and escalators. Elevators are also specifically marked for those with wheelchairs and strollers so you should not have too many issues fighting the crowd! The aisles are wide enough for strollers or wheel chairs and it is easy to navigate. As with most other Aeon Malls this one also offers the infant carts, and the toddler character carts. So you probably do not have to bring your own stroller or baby carrier as generally they are readily available.

Parking is also really easy. You can simply enter the parking garage connected to the mall and just take the elevator right down to enter the mall.  Most of the times that we have visited the here the parking has been free. I am not sure what the actual policy on parking price is, so be sure to look for signs to be on the safe side!

Getting Here:

Address: 

2 Chome Tamadaira, Hino-shi, Tōkyō-to 191-0062
Train: Toyoda Station
Hours : Daily 10-10

 

 

Homeschool Tag

One of our favorite “Nature Walks” this is at Showa Park in Tachikawa Japan. This is during the cherry blossom season.

So recently I was checking out a lot of Homeschool Mom Tag You Tube videos. It is like a guilty pleasure of mine! I love to see what others are using in their own Homeschool, what new ideas that I can try out, and just see how they overcome some of the issues with homeschool life in general. So I was watching one of my favorites (Homeschool on the Hill <–look her up!) and she suggested that viewers write their own answers to the tag in the comments section.

I am not a YouTuber and I do not comment on youtube videos (not against it.. I just do not currently do that!) So I thought that I might just write a blog real quick and answer the questions for anyone out there who still reads these blog things! 🙂

**Disclaimer: Going to post some photos of some of the places we see here in Japan and in Korea. I think most of what I have mentioned for schooling is not anything new so it is probably more enjoyable to see some of these landscape photos than just our supplies!!**

Let’s get right into it:

Homeschool Mom Tag Questions:

Do you have a set budget for your homeschool?

NO! I say no, but I am feeling really guilty for that! I do not have a set budget yet! The first year I homeschooled I was not sure what to expect. I bought a FULL deluxe style curriculum from SonLight. I wanted everything included and totally put together for me. I was really worried about homeschooling and I thought I was going to possibly rot my oldest Child’s brain! I seriously was afraid that I might mess him up for life!  This was an expensive option but it worked really well, especially for the first year. However we finished many things before the year was over. I just added more and more books and courses as the year went on. I quickly learned how this can add up so now I buy used… mostly.  I am not afraid to spend on homeschool (unfortunately!). I think its worth it. I don’t buy fancy purses or lots of designer clothes but I do spend on books! It is my guilty pleasure.

Jeonju, South Korea. Visited this famous park during the annual Lotus Festival. It was amazing! Lotus picture to follow! This was during a summer trip to see the grandparents!

1. Were you homeschooled?

No, I was never homeschooled. I went to good ol’ public school in the suburbs.

I did have neighbors who homeschooled and I always noticed that they were finished with their school day really early! They also went to college early, they were great at playing musical instruments but I also thought that they had no friends, were too “churchy” to hang out with me, and I just felt like we didn’t fit as friends. I thought it was crazy that they weren’t allowed to wear pants and just in general did not understand why on earth they would all want to stay at home with their mom ALL DAY!

Now I know many of those things to be totally different than what their life was actually like, but that was my impression as a kid who had no idea what they were really doing all day! I had no idea that they were just regular girls!

I also was some hooligan public school kid who would have probably learned a whole lot more if I had been studying with them instead of spending money at the mall to keep up with the Joneses at school!

At the Jeonju South Korea Lotus Festival. This park was free of charge and so amazing! If only we could get to Korea more often! This would be a dream to visit for school work sessions!

2. Did you know always know you’d homeschool your children?

NO, I had no idea! My oldest went to a private school and then we moved to Japan. He then attended a public school in Japan (for foreign students) but there were a lot of issues. My husband and I were really disappointed at the lack of discipline and respect that the students had in the classroom toward each other and the staff, I was even more hurt by the lack of respect the staff had for the students. They treated each other so poorly I was in disbelief. And even more importantly the academics were far behind the level that my child was already used to. So he seemed to zone out in school as it was all a bore. So we just decided to try something else.

We looked into private schools and then I considered homeschooling. In just about a week or so after visiting a private school we started to homeschool instead and that was almost 3 school years ago.

If you would have told me I would be a homeschooling parent 5 years ago.. I would have thought you were insane! Now that I am informed about the value of education that you can gain… I am a total advocate for homeschooling.

For our first year I used a boxed curriculum from Sonlight and it really helped to jump into homeschooling with ease. If you are really nervous about homeschooling… buy a boxed curriculum until you get more familiar with it and make your life less stressful! 🙂

Hamura park, near Tokyo, Japan. This was our New Years Eve nature walk! We only saw snow this year on thanksgiving! We only needed light coats for our creekside walk!

3. What are your 3 favorite books in your homeschool library?

Well books in general .. I am not going to list “books for moms” but our favorite homeschool books are usually read alouds! We enjoy read aloud time together sooooo much! it is such a fun thing to do with kids and makes homeschooling so awesome!

For fun we have read the Alvin Ho series. If you have not heard of these or read them you MUST MUST MUST! They are a laugh a minute! Even for adults!

We also really enjoyed the little house on the prairie series. We read these when we first started to homeschool when my oldest was pretty young and we enjoyed them so much. We really expanded into a lot of great historical fiction books and my son grew such an appreciation for “pioneer” times and really fell in love with that era. We also enjoyed it because he got this great taste of America while living in Tokyo! It transported him from our event world to the wide open spaces of the prairie!

We also really enjoy apologia science books. We just recently finished the unit with sea creatures and I just feel like this since is right up our alley! It did not take us a school year to finish (I know that is why some homeschoolers shy away from Apologia) but it does not have to take you the entire year on one unit of study. However, we did hit shin hard to finish it in 1/2 of the year. We also added in youtube educational videos, books, magazine, and generally everything that had supported our science topi. We had so much fun. My son even likes to read ahead and do “extra” days of silence because he likes the flow of the Apologia books.  He is 8 but an read the section and do the notebook journal and “be the teacher” and teach me what he has learned if I need a moment to work with his sister. I know that he is really “getting it”. We will continue with the units from Apologia and have more fun with it!

 

View from one of our nearby bookstores that carries loads of education toys as well! Post on this to follow! Check for the post on our top 5 Tokyo book stores in the next post!

4. Are you the only “teacher”? Does your spouse help, outsource help, tutors, etc.

Well, I am the Primary teacher. My husband is a math genius though so he’s great at helping out in that department with extra tips and quizzes and such! We live in Japan so we also do some of our read alouds and share our work over Skype with grandparents just for fun!

In the future we will add a piano teacher as I can only teach that subject on a beginning level.!

We do participate in sports and have other coaches for that. I am sure we will use other teachers in the future but my kids are still pretty young so this just hasn’t occurred yet.
5. Where is your favorite place to buy homeschool curriculum?

Our favorite place is Amazon. We have a good deal on shipping to Japan with them. Also, this is really the only possibly was I have to get used books at a reasonable price shipped to us. Sonlight was great and shipped to us for a great rate and everything came really quickly, but for used things we have really been thankful to live in the age of Amazon!

I should mention we have used other options too but just Amazon has been the best for really cheap books by the truckload!

We have had relatives order things for us and they have used Christianbook.com. It arrived really quickly but I have never used the site myself. I hope to try some other resources as well in the near future.

For random supplies we love to find things at the “Daiso” which is a 100 yen store here in Japan. It is the Tokyo version of family dollar. They have lots of fun art supplies for crafts and school supplies.
6. Do you have a set budget for your homeschool?

NO! But I should! I try to buy used as much as I can. Of course we do use things that are new from time to time – like Singapore math as it can be hard to find a used workbook that is not filled in!  For the most part I do try and budget more since I am homeschooling 2 kids now. I also try and save the textbooks so that my younger child can use them later. I do not resell anything as we will try and use them in the future.

When I have something that we don’t love then sometimes I do give it to someone else to try as it might work for them depending on their Childs learning style.

I also prefer to give away rather than to sell because I allow my children to fold pages, hi light, and they are pretty hard on books. I would have a hard time feeling ok about selling what we have used in our homeschool! it would not be in pristine condition by any means!
7. What are 2 must have homeschool supplies?

We have some favorite colored pencils that are a brand sold here in Japan. They only cost $1.00 but we really really love them! I think they come in like 12 or 16 in a pack and the quality is great.

Our other school supply would be our “book basket” not really a supply I guess, but we couldn’t homeschool the same without it! We rely on used books under $1 for this or the library. The is a supply that we can not live without but it can be free of charge if you have the time to use your library. For us, we use a lot of Amazon used books because we do not have a lot of English books at our local libraries.
8. What’s your favorite/least favorite subject to teach?

Favorite – geography, history if we are using read alouds

least – piano! I hated piano as a child… with a passion. I am just not the best at teaching it either! I will teach the beginner levels and then my children will use a professional piano teacher. I am not skilled enough to teach a high level… not even close!
9. Are you involved in coops or homeschool groups? What has your experience been in these groups?

We have not been in a co-op before. As we are in Japan it is a little difficult to find. They do exist but the one in our area gives information only through Facebook. We do not use Facebook so I am a little out of the loop! Thats ok though! We do plan on using a group starting this summer. It will be our first homeschool group/co op in our 3rd year of homeschooling.
10. What is your approach? ( charlotte mason, eclectic, classical, etc)

I do not really follow one way! I guess that would make us eclectic. This year we are leaning more Charlotte mason as I am trying My Fathers World for our “spine”. How even we supplement this pretty heavily. My son really enjoys workbooks so we have a lot added! We have some living books mixed with traditional textbooks.

We school year round and follow a schedule pretty close to the national school year in Japan. Not on purpose just so we can be available when Appa is off from work as well!

Due to schooling year round I find that we generally go through a couple complete curriculums pre year. This is costly but we spend far less time on a lot of simple review at the beginning of each new year. It is working well so far and mixing our “type” of homeschooling has kept us interested!

Sweet Box Crepes – Harajuku

If you are heading to Harajuku – Takeshita Street to be precise, don’t forget to check out Sweet Box Crepes. We have been to the Harajuku thing with our kids more than once and I do have a separate post on how to make it worth your while with kids this post is just going to address our visit to Sweet Box Crepes for the most part.

Crepes are THE thing on Takeshita street. Santa Monica Crepes seems to be what tourists know about and like to wait in line for. We however always avoid Santa Monica Crepes. Not because it is not good, but just because the line is always a mile long. It is even a mile long on the weekends… when it is rainy. With a squirmy toddler we look for the area with no line no matter what trendy thing we are going to miss out on!

Sweet Box Crepes was about $5 for a Chocolate ice cream with Banana and whipped cream. It was really good. The chocolate ice cream was so good infant that we probably would have just ate that all by itself! It was not overly sweet and the whipped cream was really fluffy and fresh. It was worth our $5 and it was big enough that we got to split the treat between all of us.

They also supplied us with tiny plastic spoons so we could eat it while walking (although eating while walking is a no-no in Japan) and then we all got to share while using our own tiny spoon.

We did not get napkins although they were probably available. We didn’t have too much of a mess considering four of us were sharing – including a toddler- while walking in a crowd. We just peeled the paper down that held it all together to finish eating the actual crepe.

 

Another good point about picking out your crepe from Sweet Box is that you can see all the ordering possibilities in big plastic cases on the sides of the building. Each type of crepe available has a plastic replica made and on display so that you can see what exactly is in every kind. This made it really hard for our kids to decide and in the end I took them to wait on the side of the street so our stroller was not in the way of the line and the Dad did a great job deciding on a great flavor without our extra 3 indecisive minds!

The staff worked quickly and the order was made fresh. So your crepe will come out still hot and delicious… not rubbery! Also – if you have limited Japanese skills or none at all this is no problem. You can pretty much point to what you would like to order if necessary and the staff will help you out. As it is made fresh though be prepared to wait a few minutes for your order to be ready. It doesn’t take long  but you will have a couple minutes of wait time.

You can find Sweet Box on Takeshita Street  just as you enter from the Harajuku station side. You will enter through the main colorful side and walk down the hill. Look for Sweet Box on the right side of the street. If you miss it, it is across the street from Paris Kids hair accessories shop.  If you pass La Pass you have walked too far.  It is easy to spot as it sits on the first corner you will come to on Takeshita street entering from the station side on the right.

 

The above photo is looking down the street from the Sweet Box Crepes Shop. You know if you pass these landmarks you have gone too far!

There is an area in from of the shop that you can sit down on the street and enjoy your treat if you want or you can just keep shopping and walking down the street. We came here on a weekday and found a spot to eat our treat easily, although we choose to keep walking to enjoy our shopping time! Plus we felt that we were in a time crunch as our parking was on the expensive side!

Hours:

Most shops and food stalls on the street are open from 11:00 to 8:00. This can be different form shop to shop but this is the general operating time. I suggest getting there at opening time and enjoying things before the crowd gets really heavy in the late afternoon. The earlier you get there on the week days the most you will actually get to see. On the weekends it can be so crowded that we had to ship many attractions just because we couldn’t even get from one side of the street to the other with kids due to the crowd.

 

Strollers and Baby Wearing:

If you are going to visit Harajuku on the weekend I highly advise you to not bring a stroller. It is very crowded. So crowded in fact that you will literally be bumping into people the entire time. If it was the weekend I would still baby wear my toddler. I would be afraid that she would get lost just holding our hands in the crowded area, SO that is my suggestion.

However if you go on the week days it will still be crowded but you could use a small umbrella stroller. We did use a stroller on our last trip and it seemed to be fine. However this week day was not on a holiday and it was not very warm yet. So be aware of the weather and the time of year that you will be visiting as this will effect the crowd size on the street.

For those traveling with a wheel chair be advised that the street is very steep when coming from Harajuku station side. If you are using a wheelchair or have a handicapped or elderly visitor in your party you may want to enter Takeshita street from the opposite end near forever21 as this area is at the bottom of the hill and not steep. Actually this would be advised with strollers as well. I had to keep a really good hold on my umbrella stroller when walking down from the station side.

How to get there :

To visit Sweet Box Crepes you can drive or use the train.

if you do take the train you will want to take the JR Yamanote route and exit at the Harajuku Station stop. Takeshita Dori street will be right across from the station with a large colorful sign showing its entrance.

.If you drive you can just simply type in “harajuku station” into your google maps. It will easily get you there. We have used this multiple times and had no issues finding this location.

The difficult part you will face is parking. If you are driving just get to the area early so that you do not spend an hour looking for an open parking spot (happened to us!).

We drove and parked at a 7/11 area just down the road. Much of the parking in the area is about 20-30 minutes for between 300 or 400 yen. We stayed for around 2 hours and had to pay 1200 yen to park. ($12.00 for 2 hours of parking).

Bathrooms

Also take note if you are traveling with little ones that bathrooms can be a bit difficult to find here. We had to make a bathroom stop and used the 7/11 down the road. We did not see bathrooms in most of the shopping area or most snack shops. Most snack shops on the street were for take away (take out) orders and there was not inside seating. There are coffee shops and small restaurants if you walk a little further off of the main Takeshita area but I would advise a bathroom stop at the train station or another area before you actually enter Takeshita street itself. If you do locate one you may have too long of a wait for a young child.

We will share more about Takeshita Dori in Harajuku in another post. We wanted to really focus on Sweet Box Crepes so that you and your kiddos could have a plan in place for your visit here. We did try out other crepe venues on previous trips but we found this to be the easiest for families with children. Shorter line, on the corner offering space for a larger group to eat, reasonable price, lots of variety of flavors to pick, and some shades to stand under while in line. It was also English friendly ordering so don’t be intimidated! If you want to check out their full menu just check out www.crepes.jp  however it is in Japanese only. Please leave a message if you want to know more and we will get back to you as soon as possible if you need help with your trip to Takeshita Dori!

Happy Harajuku-ing!

 

Easy Protein Doughnuts

I have come up with a solution for Doughnut temptation. My super quick recipe for Easy Protein Doughnuts!

Sometimes I have a weakness for doughnuts. Who doesn’t, seriously? My kids are also big doughnut fans. Even more so than cakes  and candy. However, I do not think that a doughnut can beat a really good chocolate chip cookie! That is like the holy grail of kid snacks. I will try and make a healthy version of a chocolate chip cookie when our household is begging for homemade cookies!

For now I give you the new and improved protein doughnut! It is so simple and quick to make you will never want to stop at Krispy Kreme again! Ok, thats probably not sure, but here is a solution for those counting their macros!

 

All you need:

PE Science Snickerdoodle protein powder (or your favorite type of protein powder)

Oatmeal

Almond Milk (vanilla unsweetened)

Almonds (or another type of nut if you do not like almonds)

2 eggs

Coconut flour

How to Make them:

preheat your oven to 350f

Measure out 1/3 cup of almonds and chop them into small bits. I like to chop them really small because my two year old is not really great at chewing almonds. So the smaller they are the safer it is for little kids to enjoy.

After chopping the almonds add them into a mixing bowl

Add two eggs to your mixing bowl. (You can use egg whites instead if you like but your consistency may end up a little bit thinner and it works out just fine)

Measure out 1/3 cup of all your remaining ingredients and all them to your mixing bowl.

so add in :

1/3c of oatmeal

1/3c or almond milk

1/3c of coconut flour

1/3c of protein powder**

(side note: We generally use a protein powder that is a snickerdoodle flavor as it is kind of like a snickerdoodle type of doughnut. While it is cooking the house smells like a doughnut shop and my husband is always asking “what are you cooking?” because it smells delicious. Whenever I answer ‘I’m just making protein doughnuts” no one believes me! its better than any Yankee candle!)

**You will have to check your protein powder. There are some nutritional proteins (usually vegan type) that are safe for children. Not all protein powder is to be consumed by kids. If you are making a batch for kids to share be sure to check your label on your product.  If you are unsure of what types of powders can be used by children check with your pediatrician or a local supplement store. Whey Protein is the commonly suggested type for children. Look for something that is low in fats and calorie count. Optimum Nutrition has various types that are safe for children and generally recommended by health professionals. **

Mix all your ingredients in a mixing bowl until it is pretty even. Don’t over mix. Mixing should take you just about a minute or two. You can easily hand mix this recipe. No need for electric mixers.

Now for the easy part :

 

Now that your oven is preheated and you have mixed everything up just simply add it into a silicone doughnut mold. If you do not have one of these you could just use any silicone mold and cut your pieces into any shape you please. We just prefer a silicone mold as I do not have to add any nonstick substance and they are very easy for clean up.

In our doughnut mold it takes from 12-15 minutes in the oven. They will stay pretty pale in color. so just simple check on them throughout the cooking time and do not wait for them to turn dark golden brown. if this happens it will be too late and you may have burned them.

Set the mold on a rack to cool .

You can add toppings like melted dark chocolate if you wish but we just eat ours plain. Plus my kids probably wouldn’t want to wait any longer than they have to to eat them!

 

 

 

 

 

Baby and Toddler Carts in Japan

One of the best freebies in Japan are the Baby Carts in the stores. If you are like a lot of families visiting or relocating to Japan then you want to know all the little details about how to make your life easier when navigating a foreign country. A great place to find things to do with little ones is to visit your nearest mall. Aeon Mall in particular is very kid friendly.

When we first arrived in Japan I was overwhelmed by the many differences. Most of the shopping areas had really narrow aisles and my American style stroller seemed monstrous and just did not work well in the tight crowded space. It can also be a struggle if you are living car free in Japan or downsizing to a more Tokyo friendly smaller scale car. One of the best things I found when I first arrived was the great abundant of themed baby carts and toddler carts in the malls.

I realized that many families in the malls, grocery stores, and department stores were pushing along sleeping babies reclined in style while still having a place for the shopping bags. The toddlers were pretending to drive along with their favorite characters and they were being pushed along giving their moms and dads plenty of shipping time since they were throughly entertained.

The baby carts that are available in many of the stores and malls are high up about waist level and the baby sit can sit up straight or recline fully to allow your child to nap. This also provides those who came to the mall via bicycle or train a way to transport without having to baby wear throughout the entire trip. It is also helpful to many in Japan with mini sized cars that do not have the trunk space to haul a stroller if they are also going to be making purchases on their trip.

 

The baby cart is free for use in the store and you can take it all the way out to your car or bicycle when it is time to pack up your purchases and head home. There are also handles on the cart for shopping bags to hang and a rack underneath to store your basket while you are adding items to your cart.

Some of the baby carts face forward but generally you will see the infant style baby carts facing towards their parent so they will feel at east.

The carts have rubber handle grips and do not have a tight strap or buckle. Instead they have a plastic breathe comes across the lap and between the legs. The plastic Lapland can be tightened or loosened. It will not get loose enough for your child to fall out but it can not get too tight like a small buckle or strap. This design is pretty good, especially if you have a wiggle baby that hates straps. However I find it a bit difficult to put a baby in when I have no assistance. The cart is on wheels and you also have to hold the plastic lap band forward while putting the baby in. It can be done but I think the carts should have some type of brake for this situation. Overall it is a really nice design though.

Most stores have a lot of infant style arts available. I have not come across a time where we couldn’t get one. Even on the dreaded Sunday with heavy crowds!

The toddler carts are available at most locations that have the infant carts. Sometimes if you can not locate a toddler cart inside near the infant seat area then they will be available outside of the store entrances.

These carts are good for children from about 1 1/2 to 4 years of age. There are a variety of character theme and colors. We found most common are Anpanman, Hello Kitty, Thomas the Train, Winnie the Pooh, Miffy, and Mickey Mouse. The carts are equipped with steering wheels, mirrors, and some pretend car controls to entertain your toddler. They all have a strap and buckle. The entrance of the carts are low so toddlers can actually clim in the carts themselves and parents do not have to bend over to life them up. They may just require some help with the buckle.

The carts also have two hooks for shopping bags. You can hang a grocery shopping basket on them as well but then is not really stable and you should use caution. These are more designed for shopping bags, not baskets for use in the grocery area. If you would like to grocery shop with this cart it is possible but not suggested unless you have a second person to help you hold the basket separately.

There is also an area at the top of the cart that you can use for holding small items. We use this area for holding soppy cups or small toys that our toddler might insist on bringing in the mall.

There are many carts available usually. However, we have noticed that there are less toddler carts than infant carts for use. The toddler carts do sometimes run out, especially during peak shopping times during weekends.

Don’t forget the Aeon Malls and large grocery areas generally have a play space for children. The basic play spaces for infants and crawlers are generally free but some of the larger play areas do charge by 5 to 15 minute increments. They can be as little as a few hundred yen to requiring monthly memberships. Either way, when you are using the baby cart you can still participate in the play areas or the arcade spaces.. you can simply park them on the outside of the play area and leave your bag hanging on the cart. This signifies that you are not finished with the cart and no one will use it.

Hope this post helps those venturing out and about the first few times in Japan. Maybe you can accomplish your tasks via bike or car and leave your strollers at home!