Just the dot points

I'm a bit overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and self-analysis about our day today so until I sort it all out in my head here's the dot points:

Ok.  I have no idea how to do dot points so here are the stars:

*DH decided he wanted to come, too. f(^_^)

*We left on time. :O

*We spent 20 minutes loading:
4 boxes of apples
20 daikon radishes
2 hakusai (napa cabbage?)
1 sack of negi leeks
1 bag of miscellaneous produce
and my neighbour into the car. :O

*We arrived in under an hour, on the non-highway roads, with DH driving. v(^_^)

*The Fukases walked 400m to Jusco while my neighbour caught up with her sister. :)

*30min later, neighbour, neighbour's sister and neighbour's sister's random friend turned up and we all had lunch at a restaurant there. f(^_^)

*1 hour later we were all heading 20 min. further down the road to a Brazilian supermarket. :S

* I bought our Christmas roast beef and two bags full of other stuff. :) :)

*We drove back to neighbour's sister's house, offloaded neighbour's sister and neighbour's sister's random friend and ended up inside looking at pictures of neighbour's sister's grandchildren.  f(^_^)

*Drove home via car shop to pick up headrests that were strangely forgotten by both salesman and DH.  fff(^_^)

*Arrived home 8 hours after we left. @_@


Ha, ha.  Were you worried I was going to write in Japanese today?  Nope.  But it's hard to describe On.  My dictionary describes on as a favour, obligation, or debt of gratitude.  It's the essence of tsukiai, association.  It's the silk that forms the complicated spiderweb of interconnectedness that is life in my neighbourhood.  Big favours- Mr K signed over his house to his brother in return for the brother looking after their mother, medium favours- Mr N shovels the snow in front of the widowed Mrs K's house each winter, and small favours- sharing excess produce.  You accumulate on and spend your life trying to lessen it by doing good things for those around you.  I prefer not to think of it as straight out payback but rather something more pay it forward like.  I mean, with everyone looking out for ways to help their neighbours the end result is surely a nicer place to live, yeah?

But tomorrow I'm offloading a truckload of on.  I'm driving my neighbour (who doesn't drive) an hour down the highway to deliver something to her sister (who also doesn't drive).  I love exploring new places and know embarrassingly little about Nagano so I'm looking forward to it.  But, that said, driving 1 hour down the highway (and back!) is right up there on my I'd-rather-be-stuck-listening-to-M-and-A-try-to-out-shriek-each-other list.

Think of the on, think of the on...

Wish me luck!!


uhhh thanks

I have a problem with gift-giving here.

I gave up trying to give back one-for-one to all my neighbours as they just never stop and as one of them said- taking their excess produce is doing them a favour as they grow so much and hate to see it go to waste.  So I happily open my door to zuccinni, eggplant, tomatoes, apples, daikon, broccoli, cauliflower, hakusai, celery, asparagus, kiwi fruit, prunes, peaches, watermelon etc etc.

But every now and again I get something that I would really rather not have,  and it's very hard to say no so I usually end up with it and racking my brain what on earth I will do with it.  This year it was hayato-uri which I turned into pickles and sent home with a very happy MIL when she came to visit, nameko mushrooms (the orange slimy ones) which Ken turned into slimy soup and devoured happily (and alone!), and a HUGE bunch of moroheya (furry on the outside, slimy on the inside leaves) which I ate as much as I could and the fed to my chooks- not wasted- recycled, and I'm sure their eggs were healthier for it. :)

But today was a doozy.  Yakon AND dried warabi.  Now, I'm not much of a fan of warabi (bracken tips) fresh, so I tend to send them on to Fukushima when my neighbourhood association group goes warabi picking each Spring.  But I just know the woman who gave them to me will ask me how I cooked them and what I thought so I'm stuck.  I think we're going to be having warabi takikomi-gohan (cooked with soy sauce, mirin and abura-age in the rice cooker with glutinous rice) over the weekend.

But yakon I had never heard of and what do you know?  It's a miracle veggie!

Common Name: Yacon, leafcup Scientific Name: Smallanthus sonchifolius. 350mg.

- Used in order to reduce blood glucose levels (hypoglycemic activity). Effective for diabetics.

- Due to its low-calorie content and high-fiber content, it is effective for losing weight and for overcoming the stress of a sedentary lifestyle and the increased consumption of carbohydrates and fats.

- May be important in the prophylaxis against gastrointestinal disorders. Its oligofructans could play a role as prebiotics, which are substances that selectively feed and stimulate the beneficial bacteria commonly present in our intestinal flora, while stopping the development of prejudicial microorganisms.

- Regarded as a preventative factor against colon cancer since it can maintain the correct functioning of the colonic epithelial cells.

- Abilities to lower high cholesterol and triglycerides levels, treat renal disorders as well as to rejuvenate skin have also been attributed to 'yacon'.

- This plant is also said to promote calcium assimilation and stimulate the synthesis of B-complex vitamins.

The potential of yacon tubers to treat hyperglycemia, kidney problems and for skin rejuvenation and the antihyperglycemic and cytoprotective activity of its leaves seems to be related mostly to its oligofructan and phenolic content, respectively. Maca alkaloids, steroids, glucosinolates, isothicyanates and macamides are probably responsible for its aptitude to act as a fertility enhancer, aphrodisiac, adaptogen, immunostimulant, anabolic and to influence hormonal balance.

Yacon and maca are already on the European market as prospective functional foods and dietary supplements, mainly for use in certain risk groups of the population, e.g. seniors, diabetics, postmenopausal women etc.

Thanks to marijuana.com for that info.  

Yes, really.

So tomorrow I am going to have yakon for breakfast, lunch and tea, instantly lose 5kg, become rejuvenated, absorb more calcium and B vitamins, enjoy guilt free carbohydrate consumption and stop stressing about my sedentary lifestyle- and then go out and plant every available space with the stuff.

Just hope it tastes alright...


back in the groove

Just hanging around. :)

Well I have spent the week in kotatsu hibernation- coupled with comfort eating chocolate, hot chocolate and stewed apples (we're out of bagels) ;P and, erhhh, banana diet it ain't!!

So today A and I walked down to M's kinder to pick her up.

I remembered: gloves, milk cartons they're collecting for some mystery craft, to put air in the tyres of the babycar, my camera.

I forgot: M was wearing her heavy snow boots today (it's not snowing but her gumboots are too small- bad mummy), A was wearing a very old and very much loved pair of trackpants with ancient waist elastic, and that people around here just don't go for walks.  They walk plenty- to the field and back, to the neighbour's, to the local shops, to exercise their dog, but they don't just go for a walk.  Three of my neighbours stopped their cars at different points in our expedition offering us a lift.  I feel very loved but we were all rugged up and I was pushing a huge (for here) three wheeled stroller- We should have definitely had a going-for-a-walk look about us!!

Anyway it was a great walk and we had fun collecting pine cones and acorns and pretty leaves and it was over an hour of exercise for A and I and 40 min for M and it tired them out nicely for a very easy bedtime. :)

Not great pictures.  I haven't mastered dusk on my camera yet, but you can see how pretty it was.  Compare the pic on the right with this one.  Freaky, those seasons.

And some random things now that I shifted out from under the kotatsu and went and found my camera cable. ;P

Helping me get veggies from the big garden.  M has a huge komatsuna and Amy has one carrot.  For dinner for three?  No.  She ate it raw.  And errr, unwashed.  Blerghhh.

M making the most of the snow.  We only live a 5 min drive (or 30 min walk!) from her kinder but with the difference in elevation we get more snow- and it stays for longer- than her kinder.  So, she has to make her snowmen after kinder.  Even if that means twilight snowmen!  See Amy in the doorway?  She wants to play with Meg but doesn't want to go outside.  Poor kid. :(

Oh and I'm living it up on girly movies in my husbandless state.  They made a Dirty Dancing 2!! Who knew!!!  Ok it's predictable, implausible, Patrick Swayze looks embarrassed to even be associated with it, the lead male looks like he hasn't finished puberty yet, and the ending is a total let down BUT it's a romance with a latin soundtrack- it's Dirty Dancing 2  woohoo!!  And it's on Youtube. :)


While the cat's away...

The mice will become incredibly slack. :P

DH is away on business.  This was a more-often-than-not part of our Saitama lifestyle.  It's pretty rare here though.  Especially multi-night trips.  But he left this morning and he'll be back late Friday night.  We all miss him, and before it's over A will have at least one long wailing plaintive 'Dadddyyyyyyyyy!' bout from the front door (think Stelllaaaaaaaaa! and you're close.) :'( 

But at the same time we are having our own 'hee hee hee, don't tell daddy!' fun.  Today it was eating brekky in our pjs, sharing leftovers for dinner- a pick and choose tupperware banquet, not tidying the shoes in the genkan, and eating our rice with soup poured on top- with spoons!!  Shocking, hey?

And before you all think I am being deceitful and encouraging my daughters to lie to Daddy be reassured that they tell him EVERYTHING the moment he calls.  

'Hi Meg, it's Daddy.  How was yo-'
'Daddy, Daddy!  SKUSE ME!  Mummy said brekky in pyjamas today!! And Daddy? Mummy said...'

And it's getting my two Daddy's girls through the business trip.

You see, this is how our family works:


meme concise

With thanks to :


*edit- damn it.  I forgot the meanings already!  Here goes:

1. Where is your cell phone? gardeviance a chest for holding dishes or precious things

2. Where is your significant other? Phrontistery a place for thinking

3. Your hair color? Erinaceous the colour of, or pertaining to, hedgehogs! 

4. Your mother? Zetetic a truth searcher who is always wary of false information.

5. Your father? Dysaniac someone who has trouble getting out of bed

6. Your favorite thing? Selcouth something wonderful and interesting in it's strangeness

7. Your dream last night? Kenspeckle well known, easily recognised

8. Your dream/goal? gaudiloquence joyous talk of joyous things

9. The room you're in? agravic simple, rural, unadorned

10. Your hobby? eleutheromania strong desire for freedom

11. Your fear? kakorrhaphiophobia abnormal fear of failure

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? bis in two places

13. Where were you last night? ibidem the same place

14. What you're not? ailurophilic a cat lover

15. One of your wish-list items? soporiferousity inducing or tending to induce sleep

16. Where you grew up? sparsim here and there

17. The last thing you did? hyperphagia eat too much

18. What are you wearing? balbriggan knitted cotton

19. Your TV? abecedarian rudimentary, simple

20. Your pet? gregal a flock

21. Your computer? libriform booklike

22. Your mood? Omphaloskepsic navel-gazing, self absorption

23. Missing someone? certes definitely

24. Your car? resistentialist an inanimate object with hostile desires towards people.  (I love this word!!)

25. Something you're not wearing? gazar a loosely woven silk with a crisp finish

26. Favorite store? bibitory pertaining to drink (I meant Starbucks- honestly!!)

27. Your summer? campestral pertaining to the country, to level land

28. Love someone? iwis certainly, assuredly

29. Your favorite color? xanthic yellow

30. When is the last time you laughed? thymogenic of affective origin (of the mind)

31. Last time you cried? lachrymogenic causing tears or weeping

And thanks to Illahee for giving me the chance to expand my vocabulary!


You are a winner!!!

One of my neighbour's won a prize for her apples: JA Central Nagano Branch Best Single SunFuji Apple.  I was pretty chuffed for her and even more chuffed that I found out she won.  Not because it was a secret, actually it was published in the village newsletter.  No, the reason I was chuffed I realised she won was because my 14 immediate neighbours share four surnames.  And half the village do, too.  So me realising that this Furuhata was my Furuhata and not some random Furuhata was quite an achievement!  So, I caught up with Furuhata-san on a walk and congratulated her.  She said thank you and kept talking about the weather.  Huh?  I understand modesty but this seemed a bit subdued even for that.  Being persistent (stubborn?) and smelling intrigue I asked what she won:  
A trophy.  
No money?  
No money.  
Does she get to label her apples 'award winning' and sell them at a premium price? 
Oh well, at least you get to eat one amazing apple, right? 

JA keeps the prize wining apples and distributes them as a a gift from JA in the great back scratching, gift swapping, tender fixing, vote rigging game that is business here.  I expressed my amazement and she laughed and said it could have been worse- the category they had wanted to enter was Best Box of SunFuji Apples!!

So, in the spirit of acclimatisation I am starting my own competition.  All Japan Best Baked Cheesecake Competition.  Submissions to H Fukase c/o Azusagawa Post Office.  Trust me, that'll get to me. :) You don't do baked cheesecake?  Ok.  I'll open the category up a bit- All Japan Best Sweet Something Competition.  What do you think?  Winner, or what?


Simple life

Simple fun today.

We changed the tires on the truck this morning and DH and A headed up the mountain 40 odd minutes to get some wood from the dam (not damn- dam ;>) dump while M and I stayed here and de-cluttered the kitchen cupboards- we really don't need to have multiple sets of suction cup bowls in there anymore...  M wanted to do her 'homework' one of those school readiness workbooks my dad bought her.  With my explaining the activities she must have done 30 odd pages.  Usually I hate that sort of constant-supervision-needed activity when I'm trying to do something else, but her enthusiasm was contagious and we had a great morning.

After lunch we headed to the park and I was awe-struck again at how you really feel the seasons here.  It's definitely late Autumn now.  Not early Autumn or Autumn but late Autumn when the leaves are crunching under foot, the sky is squally with ragged, racing clouds, the wind is bitter and blasting from the north, and the landscape is fading to brown.  And among all that the poor underloved persimmon are putting on a great display and a brave face and hoping that despite being past their prime someone will still come and appreciate their bounty.

It's getting colder and darker earlier and earlier and we left the park at 4:00pm, unheard of in Summer.  Came home, lit the woodstove, put a potfull of cut apples on top to stew and had a really simple meal of spinach from the garden, eggs from the chooks and brown rice from Uncle H.

The eggs are really rich from all the greens the chooks get, the spinach is super sweet after the frosts we're getting now, and the rice is fragrant and delicious.  

Super Simple.

Simply Super.

A reminder of what I love about our simple life here.

And one more for the Persimmon Appreciation Society. :)


An amazing day

The sky was so blue today.  The few clouds were of the fluffy cotton wool type, the closer mountains (the foothills) were dusted in that icing sugar type snow, the far mountains (the Alps) were brighter than bright white, and the hills around here are still hanging on to the last of their orange foliage.  It's faded now but still beautiful.  I was standing in the middle of an apple orchard surrounded by bright green leaves and ruby red apples.  All these amazing colours, I felt like I was sitting in the middle of Meg's crayon box. :)  

So where are the 107 pictures of this fabulous scene?  There aren't any.  Not one.  See, I wasn't just standing in the apple orchard, I was working there.  My friend and neighbour (friendly neighbour? Neighbourly friend?)  A and her husband have 3 apple plots.  I'm not sure how many trees that is, maybe 300 odd?  Probably more.  Anyway, a lot of apples.  And even after all that culling of flowers, preemie apples, baby apples, toddler apples, wayward teenage apples and then blemished or misshapen adult apples, each tree has close to 200 apples that need harvesting.  But, as I'm sure you can imagine, Japan being Japan, it's not just a matter of taking the apples off the tree and flinging them in a box.  Oh, no no no.  Today there were four of us working.  A and I were walking around picking all the apples we could reach (pulling carefully upwards so as to preserve the apple stalk, and easing ourselves in and out and around the oh so delicate apple branches- it's the itty bitty small branches that will produce next seasons apples.  Lose them and you lose apples before you even had them!)  A's other friend N was up and down a ladder all morning getting the ones we couldn't reach standing, and A's husband T was sorting.  Sorting is the king of apple harvest jobs.  T's name is the one on the apple crates so he's the one doing the checking.  He sorts the apples into seven types: 1st class to go in those extravagantly priced gift boxes, 2nd class to go in the slightly less expensive gift boxes, 3rd class to be sold as kateiyou- for home use, 4th class to be sold as henkei- misshapen, 5th class apples that look to be underripe and will be kept by the family to eat later in the season- these make great pies as they're tart, 6th class apples with bird pecks, brown spots or that were dropped during harvesting to be sold to the juice factory and 7th class, rubbish.  It's a pretty intense job and he worked silently and constantly all morning.  That said, he's not really a talkative guy to start with so he probably wasn't suffering that much.  ;P  We girls sure made up for it though.  We talked nonstop the whole time and had a blast.  It was my first time picking apples seriously.  I've done it with the girls, just picking apples for our own consumption but this was the first time I've done it for someone else.  The weather hasn't been terribly kind to apple farmers this year (either too cold in the day, not enough frost, too warm at night, not enough temperature variation or some such.  Don't ask me, I'm all confused!) and the apples aren't as big and juicy as would be perfect.  So JA extended the apple delivery deadline from the 25th until the 30th.  Everyone is waiting as long as possible to maximise their earnings, but the fact remains that they have to be picked.  So, out of curiosity and indebtedness for the constant apple deliveries that last 6 months a year, I volunteered to pick today.  Anyway, we talked and picked and talked and picked and talked some more and we filled all the blue picking baskets and then all the spare yellow sorting crates and when we'd done that T realised we'd filled every available container he was shocked.  'Ehhhhh? You've done all that?  All I heard was jabber, jabber, jabber, I didn't think you were doing any work at all.'  Ha ha ha don't underestimate our multitasking skills when it comes to talking, hey? ;P

It was a great morning but it was only three hours.  And remember that fabulous blue sky?  It was pretty perfect picking conditions.  I don't know how I'd go doing it 10 hours a day, day after day, whatever the weather, week in week out, while fretting about frosts and warm patches and market prices, and knowing that this was my year's earnings on the line.  Uh uh.  No wonder the local women call it the apple diet- lose 7 kilos in two intense months and the funny thing?  You probably won't want to eat even one apple!



I'm feeling very oyabaka, very besotted mummy, today.

M is really good at gross motor skill stuff.  She climbed a commando rope ladder thing at 18 months.  I remember because I was 6 months pregnant with A and very cautiously climbed up after her. @_@  She ran and jumped and cycled quite early.  But fine motorskills- drawing, using chopsticks, beadwork, writing- have all taken her some time to master.  I'm pretty laidback and haven't pushed her but since she started kinder she sees what the kids around her are doing and these last few months have been a bit rough on her.  She wants to draw well but she just couldn't do it to her own expectations.  And then BANG!  In the last couple of weeks she has caught the drawing bug.  Every morning before kinder, every evening after kinder, sneakily after bathtime if she can get away with it, there she is with her paper and crayons drawing, drawing, drawing.  Today she wanted to label her picture (her teacher labels their pictures at kinder) and asked me how to spell the words.  And she wrote them all by herself!!  

Here's the masterpiece:

The funny hat shaped things are hearts, from the left it says Mary (her middle name and the name she gave the flower on the left), sun, mouse, Davy (the name of the flower on the right- no idea why), Meg, (with the long hair and bows on her dress) Mum, (in pink with short hair) Dad, (no dress because boys aren't allowed) Amy, (long hair but not as long as Meg) and finally banana.  There're also pictures of a strawberry, some blueberries, a pineapple, some cherries and an orange in there.  We need to work on the importance of the order of the letters and the English is a horizontal language thing, but I'm so happy for her.  

She insisted on the photo as I usually hang her artwork downstairs and she wanted this one in her room so the photo was for me to look at. :)

And just so A doesn't feel left out here's A with her playdough swimming pool.  Mean old mummy wanted her to go outside before she filled it with water.

The funny look on her face?  I asked her to smile.  I think I'll go back to unposed shots!!


a busy day

malo e lelei

That's Tongan for Hello.  All the snow has melted and I was a bit worried but I googled and all is well in Tonga.  Lucky, I wouldn't want an angry horde of Tongan Rugby Players after me. :)

I was feeling a bit guilty about wishing for global warming though.  I mean Nagano is just heading in to the ski season and it's all about SNOW! SNOW! SNOW! here for the next 6 months or so.  So, here's a shout out to Hakuba Ski Resort.  Beautiful place.  Apparently.  :)

Back to the busy day.

This morning we played car swaps so DH could take the only car with snow tyres on at the moment and I would just wait until the snow melted later in the day before going out.  He called 2 minutes later laughing- there was no snow at all down on the flatland.  Poor Meg, she was all snowbooted up and ready to play in the snow at kinder. :(

Amy was out and about though:

I have just realised how many pictures I have of my kids running around in circles.  I swear they do do other things, as well.  Really. :)

I went back inside to get dressed and Amy started howling.  Really wailing.  I raced outside to see what was wrong and she screamed 'Don't step on the snow!!'  The measly centimetre of powder was melting quickly and everywhere she'd walked had already melted.  Poor kid was beside herself that she hadn't made a snowman yet.  So going for mummy of the year, in my pyjamas and polarfleece jacket I helped her scrape together enough snow and we made this:

An itty bitty snowman.

Then it was off for a peer pressure driven trip to McDonalds to eat a McFlurry.  How was it?  Well it was more like a dessert than a drink and I made a bit of an idiot of myself trying to suck it through the top of the funny square spoon. *^_^*  It was very good though. :)  It was the first time I've taken A to Maccas and she was ecstatic "Hamburgers AND chips!!"  Totally blew my whole too cool for school, I come here everyday look I was going for.  Oh well. 

Then it was off to my breast exam at the health centre.  A fun 2 hours of lining up, waiting, being gelled up, ultrascanned, wiped down, lining up, waiting, being powdered up, felt up, wiped down and shipped out.  Actually I was really impressed.  It was very thorough and respectfully done to boot. :)

Add banking, shopping, the post office and the kinder pickup, making chocolate biscuits with the girls and making dinner and it was a pretty full day.  

Now I'm off to do the dishes superquickly so I can sit down with DH and watch CSI and maybe even stay awake till the end this time! 


Wordless Wednesday

Wordless, speechless, gobsmacked, curled up in a ball rocking back and forth and moaning...

Oh, and that's the new car in the middle. :)



Oooh tagged.  Ok here goes:

Outside my window..
. It's grey.  Very threatening-to-snow grey.  And windy.  And I had my headlights on t 4:45. :(

I am thinking... woe is me.  And that perhaps there is a better cure than chocolate, hot chocolate, and cinnamon raisin bagels to the 'I'm getting bulgy bits, woe is me' dilemma.  Perhaps, but probably not. ;P

I am thankful for... Uggboots.  And chocolate, hot chocolate and cinnamon raisin bagels. :)  Oh and if I'm pushed I guess my family, my health, my friends and all that, too.  But definitely the uggboots. :P

From the kitchen... this morning's dishes did not magically clean themselves.  Despite my most fervent wishing.  For dinner we are having oden as the chuck everything in a pot and call it done style cooking it requires suits my mood.

I am wearing... My uggboots. Derhh.  And Jusco jeans and a polar fleece jacket.  Yes, inside.  I told you, woe is me.

I am creating... a nest around me.  It's called the kotatsu lifestyle, you make sure everything you want over the next three months is within arms reach and then just settle in for winter.

I am going... to have a fun night.  Dh is working late, A slept for 2 1/2 hours at daycare and M had no nap at preschool.  I am thinking bedtime is going to be interesting... @_@ 

I am reading... A backlog of Good Weekend Saturday newspaper magazines that my dear mum saves and sends to me.  I am trying to read "Out" but it's a little descriptive for me and it's taking me a looonnnggg time.  

I am hoping... that global warming kicks in tonight.  Just here would be fine.  We don't want to wipe Tonga off the map.

I am hearing... M and A singing along with a Playschool video.  Bad mummy but it's in English, ok?  On my ipod is Gabrielle Cilmi, Amy Winehouse, April Lavigne and Heather Nova.  Gotta change it though as it's not helping the woe is me mood. 

Around the house... As in outside? ;P The wind has blown my carefully raked leaves all over the place and there's a carpet of faded yellow, rust and brown out there.  

One of my favorite things... other than my uggboots? ;P Starry nights, good conversation, fudge brownies, Rummy chocolate, warm pyjamas, cuddling with the girls and long hot baths.  Oops, that's a few more than one.

A few plans for the rest of the week... do the breakfast dishes?  I have a mammogram Thursday in the only country in the world where they won't have to drastically alter the machine to do me ;), I need to hunt down a futon rental company for when our 6 house guests turn up for  Christmas, oh and I have to work out how to return the September due date library book I found without being caught.  Maybe send A in on her own?  :S

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Do I still get to say I don't use frozen food in DHs bento when I grill all the fish at once and freeze it?  And does that make me a horrible wife or just a smart cookie?

Here are the people I`m tagging... Kim, Vicki and GirlJapan


How would your loved one do on the JLPT?

Every couple of years I think about studying for the JLPT Level 1.

I left Uni with the equivalent of Level 2 (according to them anyway!) and while I have added reams of new vocabulary in the pregnancy, birth, childhood development and illnesses, and agriculture areas, I feel like I have gone backwards in regards to grammar and I know I've lost a lot of kanji because I used to hand write all my tests and essays and now the only handwritten Japanese I do is Meg's kinder notebook- and I struggle with that most days and resort to using hiragana.  

So while I don't do, and probably will never do, a job where the qualification would be necessary, I would like to do the JLPT for the discipline.  I need a goal to work towards or I am likely to fall off the rails very quickly.  You know, sharpen all my pencils, set up my desk... and then go and see if there's not any grouting that needs cleaning with a toothbrush, somewhere. :(

I was talking about this with a Japanese friend and she asked me how hard it was and was it as hard as EIKEN Level 1.  Well, never having taken EIKEN I can't say, but I found these practice questions for the JLPT and had fun watching my friend get 80% and then later DH get 75%.  Almost worth doing it just to be able to have bragging rights over DH!! ;P

Good to know though that if I ever do go for it I should get some respect for my efforts, hey?

And if you want to test your knowledge of pernickety grammar and seldom used vocabulary  (or that of someone else) here's the link.

This completely un-Autumn related post is to take my mind off the fact that snow is being forecast for this week- NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


a whole lotta new

Yesterday we took possession of our new new (old) car.  

The car that replaced the old new (old) car.

We used to be a one car family.  Then we moved to the public transport deprived sticks and traded in DH's beloved Subaru Legacy- and I mean beloved- that car had more care products than I do!! for a Suzuki Wagon R and a Daihatsu Hi-Ace.  That's a toy sized passenger car and a one step up from a billy-cart k-truck for the uninitiated.  And for three and a half years we've been more than happy with that arrangement.  Quite content actually.  The taxes are ridiculously cheap on Japan's yellow plate system, the petrol prices hardly effected us when we could go a week on 3,000 yen of petrol and for me, a beginner driver, the supersmallness was a boon when it came to the dreaded reverse parking they love here!!

But, well, little kids don't stay little forever, we can't ever give anyone a lift anywhere, and the (albeit infrequent) 7 hours each way trips to Fukushima with four of us, luggage, and 40kg of rice in a car with a maximum speed of 110km/h were getting less enjoyable each time- and they were nothing special to begin with!

So, we started car hunting.  DH's last job was in explosives and one of his specialities was the explosives used in airbags.  Part of his job was crash-testing cars, so he knows alllllll about impact zones and crash absorbency and a whole lot of other guff I know nothing about.  All very well normally but when it comes to choosing a car for his precious family to ride in it's a pain in the butt.  That make's good, but not that year.   That make, but only without that modification.  So it was a long and disappointment frought journey with Dh nay, nay naying his way through caryard after caryard, but finally DH and his new best friend the car salesman/ mechanic found the perfect car.  We went and saw it, the girls loved it: 'it's BLLUUUEEE!!'  and we collected insurance papers and hanko stamps, and reems of paper and handed it all over.  Then, over the next couple of weeks the phonecalls got less and less promising.  This is worn, that's dodgy, this will need replacing, etc etc.  Eventually we had to pass on our pretty blue car.

So that was the old new (old) car.  Then last week the mechanic called with a more promising but slightly older, new new (old) car.  And after a week of playing pass the paperwork on not one but two cars, we took possession of our new new (old) car.  It's great.  A Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear it has 7 seats and so much room I'm sure you could drive the Wagon R right through the back door and park it there!  Meg has her very own cup holder and Amy is going to get a crick in her neck looking out the sunroof the whole trip anywhere.

Today we took it for it's maiden voyage, fittingly, to visit new friends.  We packed up the girls, (dressed in their new (old) hand-me-downs that arrived Saturday, too) and headed up to Suzaka Zoo (a new place for us) and had a brilliant time talking and laughing and eating and talking and listening and talking some more and it was a really, really great day. 

And much as I love Autumn, there's something about newness- even (old) newness, that's pretty exciting, huh?  



Because there's only one train an hour to here from Nagoya and Tokyo (and the last one leaves at 19:40!!) most of DH's business trips are in the company car.  Great for him cruising round in a flash car, bummer for the girls and I who miss out on the ubiquitous train station edible souvenirs.  

You know, the stand upon stand and kiosk upon kiosk of 'Local Specialty!  Nagano/ Tokyo/ Kobe/ Timbuktoo Only!!' cakes and cookies and crackers and little baked and fried sweet nothings supposedly unique to that area but really popping up all over the place in a different box.  Matsumoto Station is all about wasabi, apples, soba and grapes.  Wasabi pickles, wasabi flavoured mayonnaise, wasabi crackers, even wasabi ice-cream!  Apples and grapes are in the usual suspects- jam, juice, wine, cakes, cookies and dried.  You'd think soba would be pretty straightforward right?  I mean buckwheat noodles are buckwheat noodles, yeah?  Wroonnnnng.  How about soba chiffon cake?  Soba fettuccine? Soba cookies?  Don't like eating soba?   How about some roasted soba tea so you can drink it? 

Unfortunately I'm not really a fan of any of Matsumoto's local specialities.  Or those of most places, actually.  There's only so much you can do with red bean paste and unrisen dough.  No matter how pretty it looks a manju dumpling is a manju dumpling!

But give me some of Kyoto's nama yatsuhashi (only the original cinnamon flavour, please!) or anything with that custard they call cream and I'm yours!

So today I was cleaning the kitchen (again, remember- most consistent!) and I knocked something down the back of the microwave.  How?  Well DH is convinced that the reason we don't have cockroaches is nothing to do with the cold or anything like that but solely thanks to his indepth cockroach habitat research resulting in all furniture in our house being separated 10cm from the walls.  Lucky the rooms are big or it would be pretty cramped in here, huh? 

So, I'm on my knees fishing behind the microwave cabinet and I found a box of souvenir cakes.  Well a box with two souvenir cakes left in it, anyway.  Now a sane, hygienic, health-valuing person would have gone ooohh gross and turfed them but... they were steamed cakes.... with custard filling... and I calculated it's only been a week since one of DHs rare train journeys... and they were still sealed... and did I mention the custard had vanilla bean in it?  

So what did I do?


I thought.  And I ate them both without saying anything.

I mean, I wouldn't want anyone getting sick now, would I? 




I know I need more sleep than my husband exists on.

I know that starting to watch TV at 11:30pm is not going to work.

So why have I fallen asleep before the end of not one, not two, not three or four, but FIVE episodes of CSI?

It's ridiculous!

And of al the programmes to miss the end of...


Most consistent

I played netball in grade 5 and 6.  (Not from a Commonwealth country and have no idea what that is?  Think basketball but most of the team is stuck in their respective 3rds of the court, only two members of each team can shoot, there's zero contact and you can't move with the ball.  You do get to wear short pleated skirts and travel with the football (that's AFL-I'll explain that one another time!) team and if you're a country kid that's a pretty big deal.)  Anyway, I played netball in grade 5 and 6.  I won the 'Most Improved' award the first year.  Some bitchy older girl who didn't think I deserved it told me it meant I was the worst player at the start of the season.  Quite possibly true, but still not very nice of her, hey?  (That's entirely irrelevant but I just wanted some sympathy) ;)  So anyway, I played netball in Grade 5 and 6 and there was this award for 'Most Consistent' and I was completely perplexed.  I couldn't see how staying at the same level was anything to be proud of, let alone honour.

Fast forward to Secondary College and at the end of the year we have an Awards Night.  As well as Subject Awards, Sporting Awards and Music Awards there were Honours and Effort Awards.  Honours Awards went to the students in (I think) the top 5% of the year level and Effort to those who tried hard.  Everyone who got Honours Awards got Effort Awards, too.  In Year 7 and 8 I did, too.  In Year 9 I got Honours- and no Effort.  So the Programme was printed like this: Honours and Effort: Tom, Sarah, Jim, rah rah rah (list of 20 names) Honours: Heather, Effort: Stan, Jack, Tim, rah rah rah, list of 30 odd names.  I was mortified.  My poor name all on it's own.  Being a rather, uhhh, confident student and full of what I felt was righteous indignation I stormed into the staffroom (did I mention the confidence thing?) and accosted my Year Level Coordinator: 'Why did I only get Honours???!!!'  My YLC was (and still is) a very laid back pottery teacher.  She also used to party with my parents so she had no qualms treating me like a brat when I deserved it.  'Well, can you honestly say you tried this year?'  I was dumbstruck.  I thought all my teachers were under the (carefully created and arduously presented, but nonetheless erroneous) impression that my grades were as a result of much study and hard work rather than being lucky enough to just 'get' school.  Damn it.  

By Year 10 when the Maths and Science was getting challenging and looking like I would need to actually study, our curriculum became 100% elective.  I chose the things I liked (English, English Literature, History, Geography and Japanese- with Automative Technology as my token non-Humanities subject!) and thus never had to stick at something I didn't find interesting.  

I went to Uni and did a double degree in Arts/Education majoring in Japanese and ESL Education with a minor in History.  Again turning my back on anything out of my safety zone.

I finished Uni and got a plum contract job teaching Japanese at a top private school.  More than worlds apart from the school I went to, Universes apart!  But entrance exams and a natural weeding out process that occurs when you charge the equivalent of half the average yearly salary as school fees meant I only taught kids who were easy to teach.  And it was only a 6 month contract anyway so if I had a bad day I just counted down the days left till my final knock off day. :)

Then I came here on JET.  One of the famous old school JET experiences.  Village aspiring to a population of 5000 people has ex BOE head as Mayor.  Hires own private ALT.  ALT treated like royalty with her schedule arranged to include every festival, art show, opening, sports day and seminar on offer.  VIP treatment at each of the three tiny (as in 11 kids in the smallest  school!) elementary schools, one junior high and especially at the daycare centre and kinder where my job consisted of 'play with the chidren and if you get tired come and drink tea in the staffroom.' By the second year I was planning my own schedule and submitting it.  Don't like Tuesday's schedule at that school? I'll change my visit to Wednesday.  

All this personal history is by way of saying I have had a pretty easy ride in life.  Lucky enough to be good at most of school and even luckier to be able to avoid the things I wasn't good at.  (If I sound like I'm bragging I'm not.  For one I suck at anything musical, dancing and sport.  I dropped the shotput on my own toe one year. @_@)

Fast forward a few more years and I am married with two kids.  Some days I love it.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing (well metaphorically anyway- i am still trying to work out whether Japan is devoid of birdsong or whether it's that Australia has an abnormally noisy avian population ) happy, laughing children play around me and I love life.

Other days the girls are whining and moaning and pulling each others hair and screaming and crying and I'm just so over it.  I want to go and see my course counsellor and change out of mum 101 and into something more exciting- movie reviewer 102 or maybe restaurant critic 101.  Imagine, eating out for pleasure- without the kid's meal menu or more precisely is there a toy with the meal? being the deciding factor in where to go.

But once I'm out of the immediate storm I am really grateful that there is no opt out on my life now.  Not only do I love my children 100% of the time (and even like them around 85% of the time!) but I really feel that I am learning and growing and developing into a better wife, mother, friend, employee and human being thanks to them.  

And now I get the meaning of the 'Most Consistent' award.  Hell yeah.  It takes a lot to get out of bed each day and get up and cook and clean and wash and dry and fold and pack away, tidy and soothe and mediate and discipline and reward -and that's just the morning! and know that you will be doing it all over again the next day, and the next, and the next.  

That deserves an award. 

And I think my netball skirt is still floating around somewhere, too... ;)


Autumn is a Diva

Spring is a blushing debutante, Summer is an over confident vaunter in the prime of her career, and Winter is an old woman waiting out the last days of her life in peaceful, quiet solitude, but Autumn is a diva giving her final, sold out, performance.

She bursts onto stage in a rich blaze of colour demanding our attention.  She rustles her voluminous russet skirts over the mountains and hills and flings her arms wide, reaching out to the mightiest tree, the smallest bush. 

Her dramatic sighs are the chilling winds that curl their tendrils around our necks and mercilessly pinch our nose and cheeks.

Her inhales shake the leaves from the trees, and her exhales frost the earth.  Her very touch so awes the plants and flowers as to halt their growth.

Not content to 'go gently into that good night' she 'burns and raves at the close of day' with impassioned sunsets and immense starry nights.

In a huffy rage that her time has come she shows no compunctions in demanding all colour leave the stage when she can delay her departure no longer and takes her final bow.  Taking with her the very flowers, autumn leaves and grasses that she bestowed on us, when she makes her final grandiose exit, leaving only the bleakest of bleached out, withered, brown canvasses behind.   

Her head held high she smiles regally at calls for an encore but gathers in her skirts and swishes off stage as she relishes the notion that her absence will be felt all the more keenly for the stark contrast between what was and what is.

Autumn is a Diva.



I just meant it was a happy picture as it was soon to become this:

Seriously kickass hot, hot, HOT sauce.  

1kg chillis, 2kg kouji fermented rice, 1.8L soy sauce, 800 grams sugar, 1 cup sake.  Whizz it all in the mixer and leave over night for the kouji to soak up the liquid.  Then over an ultra low heat bring to the boil and stir constantly until it gets all glossy.  Jar and enjoy cautiously!  

But having piqued your interest I felt unworthy in my reasons for the title and I got to thinking more about it and the more I ponder, the happier this sauce makes me feel.  A whole lot of different happinesses.

Completion happiness

I grow all my vegetables from seed.  That means this hot sauce started waaaayyy back in April when I started my seeds off under plastic in the engawa sunroom.  Then they were transplanted into the garden, nurtured and coddled and encouraged as they flowered, fruited, ripened and matured.  Then they were harvested, stored and shared with my neighbour.  So by the time I made this sauce out of them they had completed a long, arduous journey.  A veritable vegetable odyssey. 

Friendship happiness

My neighbour A is one of the coolest people I know.  She's Nikkei Nissei, a second generation Japanese-Brazillian.  She's in her late 50s and has been here almost 20 years.  She lives with her husband, two teenage children and 92 year old mother-in-law.  She is an expert and my rolemodel at taking the best of both cultures, discarding what you don't like and making it up when nothing suits- and let others think what they want!  She even puts garlic in her miso soup!  We just click and she has eased my entrance into this old fashioned (and just plain old!) neighbourhood no end by inviting me places, introducing me to people and instructing me how to do things.  The half of the chillis in this recipe not grown by me were grown by her.  The recipe is from a friend of hers and transcribed phonetically as it was dictated to her, as she doesn't read kanji.  You'd never know to speak to her that she is near illiterate here.  Her spoken Japanese, while heavily accented is amazing.  It always astonishes me how many words she has memorised phonetically.  I need to 'see' the kanji in my head before I can recall many words as there are so many similar words out there!  In that and so many ways we are opposites but it seems irrelevant and I am thankful everyday that we came to know each other.  So this hot sauce makes me happy to think of it as a symbol of our friendship.

Simple life happiness

I love living close to nature.  Eating seasonal foods in season, feeling-with all five senses- the seasons change around me, and especially preserving.  I love making jam, marmalade, sauce, compote, preserves, pickles, dried fruit, juice, you name it.  And this chilli sauce is the last of summer in a jar.  And the last of my busy packing-a-little-summer-into-a- jar-for-winter-happiness season.  So it's happiness that I am fortunate enough to have the abundance necessary to preserve and happiness that as the last of the summer crop with the growing season grinding to a near halt I can stop fretting about how to use all the extra produce and sit back and start wondering how to use the hundreds of jars of preserves colonising my stairwell. 

So there you go.  A happy picture.  A happy tale.  Happy Heather's Happy, Happy, Hot, Hot, HOT Sauce!

And if you want some I've got 20 jars of the stuff to spare. @_@  Time to spread some happiness!


sad,garden,old house,hard,life

That's what someone blog searched when they ended up here. :(

OK, I'm a teeny bit addicted to sitemeter at the moment.

The only audiences my previous creative writing has had were English teachers who spent all their time inserting, moving and removing my random commas and my Dad when he found my Year 7 diary.  And that was really, really not appreciated.  (And for what it's worth I grew out of the deeply, madly in love with a boy a week and am innocent enough to write it down in a diary I will hide under my bed and promptly forget about thing waayyyyyy before I ever had a boyfriend so while accutely embarrassing I'm afraid it probably wasn't as exciting as Dad hoped.) ;)

So anyway, the idea that all these people are using (on average) 2:19 seconds of their precious time to peruse my ramblings is really exciting.  And seeing where everyone is coming from is really six degrees of separation type interesting.  But 'sad, garden, old house, hard, life'?  That's not the image I was going for at all!!

So here's a happy picture for you:

That's a total of 1kg of five varieties of home grown chilli peppers.  I grew two of them and my neighourhood buddy grew the other three and we swapped and this is my half.  It's great to have that kind of neighbour and it's great to have so much produce but that's not why it's a happy picture.

So why is that a happy picture?

I can't show you until tomorrow.


You win some you lose some

We decided to have our first family movie night last night.

I made pumpkin soup from our Halloween pumpkin, and roasted pumpkin seeds for the first time in my life.

From this:

(No, I never got around to carving it.  And the girls stole her eyes.) :(

To this:

It tasted fabulous, all ginger and celery and onion and bacon and pepper and nutmeg and.... unfortunately no pumpkin flavour. :(  Showed my mum the colour of the remaining 3/4 today when I skyped her and she reckons it's unripe.  What a pity.  Oh well, my chooks will be celebrating Halloween for weeks!

The girls each picked their own movie.  A's was Usahana.  Usahana teaches shapes and numbers to 10. For 45 whole minutes. @_@  But she loved it and that's the main thing.

M chose Micky and Minnie Best of Friends.  She loved it only Pluto was in it and he's a little bit scary.  And Goofy's in it and he's a bit scary, too.  And the moment Donald Duck opened his mouth we had to turn it off because he's terrifying. :'(  

Oh well.  They were exhausted by that time anyway.  Barely hanging in there:

So off to bed with the girls and onto our movies.  The first one won 5 or so awards.  oohh errr.  It was called Kissing Jessica Stein and was a self discovery flick about a deep thinking Jewish girl experimenting with lesbianism.  Not quite our cup of tea.

And we've just finished the second one which sounded great- a modern cowboy tale.  It's called Down in the Valley, have you seen it?  The blonde girl from 13 is in it.  I'd say if you liked 13 you'd like this one.  Unfortunately, we didn't and we didn't.  Oh well.  It was so much fun just doing the whole movie thing the movie was kind of inconsequential!

Off to bed hoping I'm not troubled by bizarre movie induced dreams!



Well, double tagged.  By Kim and Vicki.  Reminds me of truth, dare, double dare, torture, kiss or promise.

If someone dared you, you could weasel out of it but double dare- ooooooh you just gotta do it. 

So the sixth picture in the sixth folder?

Well, I've only had this computer for 6 months or so so there's no cute pictures of babies on here.  
And I don't know how to get my phone pictures onto my computer like Kim.  That's so cool!

Oh and as the person with the fastest computer with the largest memory I have DHs pictures and MILs pictures on here too.  MIL had been using the same 1gig memory card for 2 years!

So the actual sixth folder is not a picture I took but I am in it.  whoo.  As the least photogenic member of the family there are very few pictures of me on public display but it was a double dare right?  So 6th in 6th:

Please notice the amount of stuff in that 6 mat room.  DH's back is up against the (very nice but far too big for the room) dresser.  If you want to walk into the room he has to move for you.  That's FIL's elbow on the left.  His chair is wedged between the (very nice but too big for the room) table and the wall.  You don't get past FIL as he won't move.  Behind me is the stove.  Whoever sits where I am gets far too hot but the stove is on 24/7 so you just have to live with it.  MIL (taking the photo) is up against the back wall of the room which is actually a storage area so she spends her time jumping up and turning around to get things.  Quite convenient really, well except for that hen she leans into the cupboard her posterior leans over the table...  And the TV?  I don't remember it ever being off.  The Giants must have been losing by enough of a margin that FIL didn't want to watch.

The spaced out look on Meg's and my faces?  Meg because she had bad dust allergies and MIL's second floor (where we sleep) is full of (very nice but too big for the room- seeing a pattern here??) objets aka dust collectors so she never slept well at MIL's place.  Me?  I just have my usual exhausted and tense beyond belief look on.  Something to do with looking after small children in a house where priceless antiques and MILs koto are just sitting around. @_@

I'm not sure if the date is right (MIL is not very techno savvy) but if it is (and our clothes would suggest it's the right season) Meg was 3 1/2 and Amy was 18 months.

The sixth picture in the sixth folder of photos I took?

My front yard in winter.  Snow covers a multitude of sins.  But not quite the dumptruck that never got packed up properly.  Oops. *^_^*

And a funny from yesterday:

My neighbour has put up a Democratic Party campaign poster.  A big cheesy headshot of the local candidate with his name written underneath.  (Does anyone know why the name's on those posters are always written half in hiragana and half in kanji?  Enquiring minds want to know!)  So anyway, Meg was asking me about it and I explained it was a political poster for the coming (sometime, surely!) election.  She seemed satisfied with the answer and then suddenly and excitedly: 

'We should do one, too!!' 
'Really? For the Democratic Party?' 
'No! We should do a poster of Daddy!!'

It cracked me up.  My DH is the shyest most don't draw attention to yourself bloke around.  He won't even put up his Red Cross name plate on our door as he thinks it's a bit ostentatious.  And M wants an A3 size poster of his face on our front gate?  Good luck Girl!!


An Autumn misconception

First I have to apologise for turning this blog into my own personal pity party- oh I'm lonely, my FIL sucks, I'm tired rah rah rah.  I started this blog to record our life here in what I think is a pretty amazing place.  But you're all so kind and supportive it's just so tempting to whinge and complain so everyone will say 'there, there, you'll be ok.'  But no more!  (well maybe once in February when I am totally over winter and snow and cold and my sister emails me pictures of her sunbaking in some cute bikini?) ;P But for now, back to Shinshu Life.

We first saw this house in November.  It was being sold under sad circumstances and was in a rather unloved state.  A don't take your shoes off before you go inside kind of state.  So when I saw the garden looking like this:

I assumed all that bare brownness was just a lick of TLC away from a beautiful English garden.  We finally moved into the house the following Golden Week after a lot of weekends spent working here.  By Spring the bulbs that are hiding EVERYWHERE had all pushed through and had turned the garden into something out of a Monet calendar.  Spring eased into Summer and the blooms continued and I planted a whole lot of  pansies and daisies and some fruit trees.  My first Autumn I was in awe.  The ornamental maples in the front garden turned brilliant red, the other trees turned yellow and orange and red as well.   Coming from decidedly green all year round Australia I was in love with the season- even before my neighbours started dropping off crates of apples. ;P  Amy was born the end of September that year.  So all the Autumn work was done by DH in an hour or so of invigorating early morning activity before work.  I remained oblivious to Autumn's labours and found myself with a bare garden come November.

The next year I had a three year old and a one year old.  Life was exciting to say the least.  I was so thrilled to leave the children with DH and move at my own pace that I flew through the Autumn leaf raking and dead grass pulling without realising how big a job it was.  

The next year DH got a promotion and worked longer hours.  I was over my excitement at clearing the yard and in a bit of a funk about the long cold winter to come.  Noone cleaned the garden in Autumn and I justified it by thinking of all that leaf mulch I was giving my garden.  

Well the next spring I learnt my lesson when I had to remove bagfulls of rotten and rotting leaves from the garden as my poor bulbs couldn't push through the lank, dank layer.  It is a far more pleasant job raking leaves when they're dry and papery than when they're slimy and mouldy!

And that brings me to this year.  The girls are bigger and need less constant attention but I've taken on that big vegetable garden as well as my  not inconsiderable front and back gardens. What seemed totally manageable in Summer is becoming a bit of a marathon of thankless garden labour.  I'm afraid I'm no longer whistling while I work. :(  The start of Autumn looks like this:

All dead and dry perennials.  All those lilies and lupines and irises and cosmos (I know they're annuals but they come back every year tenfold so clearing them out is a perennial problem!) ;P die back and have to be pulled out, raked up and burnt.

This is a job that makes straight raking leaves feel like a breeze.  Which is lucky as there's plenty of that to do as well.  

One of three shedding trees on the lawn areas.

And now that we have these lawn areas I worked so hard to create and nurture I am out raking leaves every other day.  The longer you leave them the more chance it will rain and the lawn under the leaves will go yellow and .... well I'm beginning to understand why we have the only lawn in the neighbourhood!

So now when I see a bare and brown yard this time of year I don't think, as I used to 'Man, you'd think they could find something to plant that would look nice this time of year.  It's just so bleak.'  Nope, now I'm all 'Wow!  Not a single leaf on the ground!  And all the dead flowers have been cut back, as well.  Wow.  That's a well tended and loved garden if ever I saw one.'  And it reinvigorates me to grab my rake and get out there again.

Aren't I lucky to have such great helpers?



That's how eloquent I feel at the moment.

I had a seriously bad nights sleep courtesy of Amy who plays rugby league in her sleep.

She has a bed of her own.

In the girls' own bedroom.

She goes to bed in her own bed every night no problem.

She used to wake crying and I would go in and soothe her and she'd be fine.

Now she's figured out he can just sneak into our bed.

All the books say take them back ASAP.

But I don't wake up when she comes in.

I am quite a heavy sleeper and a really slow waker so by the time I'm aware Amy is in my bed

she has wormed her way in under the futon.  She has wiggled her hand under some part of DH.

Smart kid.  DH would have us all sleeping together on a single futon until the girls leave home if he could!

And then it starts.

Whack! An Amy hand in my face.

Thud! An Amy headbutt in the chest.

Slam! A foot connects with my abdomen.  

I have had enough!!!  all maternal instinct escapes me as I give her a massive shove toward DH. 

Erggh!  Amy's reply is a sleepy indignant grunt.  For every hard fought inch I shove her over there, she flops back 12 in my direction.  Grrrrrr.

And does she say sorry in the morning?

Does she feel sorry for her poor longsuffering mother?

Does she even remember?

No, No, and No! :(

So come 6:00am she's cheerfully jumping up and down on me (I wish I was being figurative...) with her GOOD MORNING MUMMY!!!  WAKE UP NOW!!!!!  IT'S BREKKY TIME!!

So yeah, today was a pretty low energy day.

Lucky then that I only had weeding, cleaning, leaf raking, garlic planting, shopping and laundry to do, huh? 

The highlight of my day?

Amy not being clear with her otoosan/ ozoosan pronunciation.

A: Mummy, draw Odoodan.
Me: Odoodan? Do you mean Daddy?
A: No! (foot stamp) Odoodan!
Me: Odoodan??  Do you mean elephant?
A: MAMA!! ODOODAN!! In English Effluent!

What a vocabulary!



Christmas has come early to my house.

Christmas in the sense of the gift of giving, the surprise of unexpected kindness and ....

beautiful Christmas illuminations. :)

My dodgy picture taking is really, really not doing it justice and the lights are on this funky rhythm pattern thing so you can't see them all but trust me, it's beautiful.

My dear, dear friend in Saitama?  Her husband is an electrician and he brought all this up and then oh-so-patiently talked my husband through setting it up (which totally made his day as he is always wanting to fiddle with the electrics around here and mean old me won't let him) and left us this amazing lighting display that's hardwired into the outdoor light so every time you turn the porch light on on go the decorations.

I am a bit of a stickler for Christmas starting no earlier than December 1.  I grouch and moan throughout November as all the stores start their Christmas song mixes and I was horrified to see Daiso selling Christmas decorations right next to Halloween ones!! Growing up our Christmas didn't start until the 18th as my sister's birthday is the 17th and mum wanted to give her her birthday Christmas free.

But looking at my very own 'heartfully' (that really should be an English word!) given and simply stunning Christmas illuminations I am finding myself becoming a turncoat disturbingly quickly.  And a big part of it is thinking every time I look at them what a really sweet and kind thing it was to do.  

So Merry early Christmas and don't forget to put me on your Christmas Eve date night, KFC and strawberry shortcake, illuminations by car tour. 

Free hot cocoa! ;P


You Are a Yellow Crayon

Your world is colored with happy, warm, fun colors.

(Not at the moment, my PIL are staying and my husband is away on business. @_@!!  Angry gashes of red interspersed with guilty smudges of grey best describe me at the mo.)

You have a thoughtful and wise way about you.

(Why thank you. You seem quite the dandy yourself.)

 Some people might even consider you a genius.

(Yes, my husband when I get the girls to sleep after he's hyped them up and declared the situation hopeless, but that's really just commonsense and experience.  My daughters when I know the words to a Japanese song in English but again not really genius level if you're out of preschool...)

Charming and eloquent, you are able to get people to do things your way.

(I WISH!!!!! or does 'people' not include wilful children and stubborn FILs??)

While you seem spontaneous and free wheeling, you are calculating to the extreme.

(Ok, you got me there.  I am currently too busy 'prepping classes' to watch too loud baseball in the overheated and crammed full of luggage front room with the PIL. A barefaced lie but necessary for my mental health and FILs physical wellbeing!)

Your color wheel opposite is purple. You both are charismatic leaders, but purple people act like you have no depth.

(No depth?  Honey I got height, width AND depth to spare!!)

And to assuage my guilt at slagging of my PIL where they'll never see it here's a picture from today:

MIL making those infuriating thousand part paper whatsymacallits from kids magazines, the girls painting with their toothbrushes right in front of her (?????) and FIL assembling furniture I didn't ask for and don't want, need or like.  Oops slipping back into slagging again. ;P  It was nice of him to assemble it for us though, wasn't it? 

Edit: WTF???? I just walked into my kitchen to have FIL wave his hands around in a big old X at me: 'Don't come in here, I'm smoking.'  Like hell!  I put up with you removing plants from my garden to take home WITHOUT ASKING, I grit my teeth through you using that REALLY LOUD AND SLOW VOICE at me when I am neither hearing impaired nor mentally challenged, I paint my smile on when we have to plan our day around your naptime and the baseball fixture, and I bite my tongue when you tell my children they are too noisy/ too quiet, indecipherable in Japanese because speaking English is stunting their brain development rah rah rah but the one hard and fast rule around here is DON'T SMOKE IN MY FREAKING HOUSE!!!!!  Its MY house.  I have a daughter with allergies but more than that I hate the smell of it and it's MY HOUSE- MY RULES.  

I am so disappointed.  I have a lot of trust issues with FIL but this trip had been going well.  I was going to go and have my bath and go up to bed and leave him down here blasting the neighborhood with some detective show.  But now? damn it, the stakeout continues. >:(


as requested

Amy's new undershirts.

I was sorting through all the clothes that are too small and/ or wrong season the other day:

making a gazillion piles: too small for M but too big for A, too small for M but doable for A, wrong season but still wearable by same girl as this season, two small for both girls but put away for niece, too small for both girls but SIL won't like colour/ fabric/ design/ freaking feng shui issue or whatever.  (Did I mention my SIL won't let anyone buy her child clothes as noone buys the 'right' things? and then she phoned me all in a panic as the seasons have changed and she doesn't have enough winter clothes.  big... deap.... breath...)  So anyway I had a sad pile of much loved and oft worn but therefore rather the worse for wear clothes.  My first idea was to make a quilt out of them but as I would first have to learn patchwork and as I still have an unfinished cross stitch I started when I was 13, I gave up on that idea.  Then I had the bright idea that I'd just applique the cute bits on to new clothes.  Walah! Brilliant right?  I flew through the two round ones and started on the flowers one.  oooooh errrrr, all those fiddly turns and curves. @_@  But I got it done alright.  Then I realised I had 4 'new' singlets for A and nothing for M.  That didn't seem very fair so I grabbed her plain pink house wear/pajama tracksuit and a metre of precure 5 fabric and cut out one of each design (13 in total!!) interfaced them and sewed them on her top and bottom.  woah.... Things I learnt:
*stay away from narrow sleeves,
*pockets are a pain in the butt,
*stay away from narrow sleeves,
*skimping on interface or trying to be frugal and use all the scraps will give you more money by a yen or two and less life by a year or two!
*there's a reason most shirts just have a big design smack bang in the middle of the shirt.

It was a pain in the butt and took me until 1:00 to finish it all but the girls were thrilled this morning and the precure pjs and the giraffe singlet went to kinder today and are therefore not in the pictures.  That's pretty high praise, I reckon.

So, as requested, there's the story of the applique.



Everybody's heard of 'the calm before the storm.'

Then there's 'in the eye of the storm'.

But what do you call the dullness-by-comparison period after the storm?

My friend has gone.  The house is sooooo quiet.

When you've talked non-stop for 48 hours you'd think there'd be nothing more to say but no.

All I can think of is the 1001 things I didn't get to say (because I was saying something else at the time!)

I know I'll bounce back.

Probably tomorrow morning when my girls get all excited about the applique I spent this evening sewing onto their new undershirts.

But for now I am wallowing in my poor me puddle.

I want to move to Nagoya where the AFWJ ladies seem to have a blast- party a week it seems.

I want to conquer my fear of driving on the expressway so I can actually get out there and meet some people!

I want everyone to move to Matsumoto!

I want to eat too much chocolate, 
watch sappy romance movies 
and wallow in my poor me puddle.

Wallow, wallow, wallow.........


Good friends

Short post as I have stayed up waaaaaay past my bedtime talking and listening and talking and laughing and then talking a little more for good measure.  My dearest friend and her family are camped out in my living room.  We first met in Saitama after a shout out on MIJ.  I was terribly nervous to be meeting someone who I only knew online and it turned out so was she.  Four of us met that day and we just clicked.  One still lives there, I moved to Nagano, one moved to New York via Osaka and my friend moved to a different city.  But despite the fact we now live 3 1/2 hours on the expressway from each other we still just click.  Each time we meet it's like it was yesterday we were saying goodbye rather than 6 months ago.  

When we first met it was with our 3ish month old daughters.  Now we each have a 5 year old and a 3 year old.  Since I moved to Nagano our meetings have become overnight stays due to the distances involved.  The first time we tried it we had a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 month old each. @_@  M was slow to talk but huge for her age and very fast, determined, stubborn and loud.  N was a very early talker and had very advanced social skills but was a waif next to M physically.  The weekend was a disaster!!!  Between screaming, crying, wailing, sobbing and post cry hiccupy sniffing I don't think all 4 kids were quiet at the same time all weekend.  @_@  When she went home I was utterly devastated and certain that that was the last I would see of my friend.  But no, she is such an amazing person she forgave us and invited us down to hers.  And it was better, not great, but better.  

Fast forward a few years and here we are.  N has matured physically and M is much more settled now that she can express herself verbally.  After the first shy 20 minutes this morning all four kids have had a ball.  They still like different games and play in different ways but the five year olds are able to negotiate and compromise now and the three year olds are bubbling with joy bounding around like puppy dogs and copying their big sisters.

I can't believe how lucky I was finding my friend, having the courage to head to the huge and bewildering and downright frightening monstrosity that is Omiya station that Sunday morning.

From that fist meeting has grown a friendship five years strong and as I watch our kids so happy playing together I dream of many more trips up and down the highway between our houses in the years to come.  And I'm filled with gratitude to whoever, whatever, that of all the roads we could have walked in life we chose the ones that crossed as they did.

Even fairies need downtime.  M, A, and N.  H elsewhere.


A moment

It's getting darker earlier and earlier now.  Tonight at about 5:30pm I suddenly decided we needed a salad with dinner and I raced up to the big garden to pick some.

The crescent moon was so bright and luminous in the sky.  The sky that was past dusk but not yet dark.  A velvetty deep indigo fading to washed out palest grey at the edges.  And one big, bright, shiny, close-enough-to-touch looking star posed artistically just above it.  The mountains had lost their details to become imposing late evening silhouettes, somehow feeling closer in the dark.  

I didn't have my camera with me and I was going to go back and get it.  I rarely leave the house without my camera.  Even before I had a digital camera I felt the need to capture scenes, people and moments I encountered.

My mum is an amazing photographer.  She has a way of seeing the potential in a scene.  Something that others would only see when she had her film developed and showed them.  Not that I appreciated this when I was a kid.  It felt like I spent half my childhood posing (in a natural and unposed kind of way) waiting for the sun to come out again, or that cloud to move a bit, or the sea to calm down etc etc.  She still does it now, albeit without us kids.  She doesn't even go to the local shop to buy milk and bread without taking her camera along.

But I didn't go back to get my camera.  Because I don't know how to use the night settings very well.  But more than that, because it wasn't something you could capture on film.

The immensity of the Autumn sky, the fuzzy grey not quite darkness, those intriguing pockets of warmer air you sometimes chance upon, the incredible stillness of my neighbourhood after dark.  All the farmers and their constant activity tucked back inside their houses awaiting tomorrow and the work it will bring.  Not a sound coming from anywhere and only warm yellow kitchen lights and cooking smells letting me know I wasn't alone.

It was the feeling of walking alone, and in the dark, and at my own brisk pace- so rare for me with two preschoolers.  It was the eager anticipation of a dear friend coming to stay.  It was the warm, tired, pre-ache in my muscles after a long and fulfilling day out in the garden,  all four of us together, working with soil and plants and fallen leaves, in the sun and the breeze, talking and laughing and marvelling at nature in all it's forms.

It was the dry crisp air making my cheeks tingle, my nose run, my lips dry out.  My fingers numbing with cold, my legs moving faster to keep me warm.  

Some things just can't be caught on film.  Some things you just have to experience, and relish, and remember with all your senses.  And in a world where there doesn't seem to be anything left uncaptured, where Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, Blogger, and Skype enable me to share all events big and small, all the trivial minutiae of my life with anyone who'll watch and listen, it felt wonderful to stand amongst all that and look up and appreciate something that was there for one moment only.  The moon would continue it's slow journey up into the night sky, the sky would darken, other stars would come out and the moment would be gone.   

But for one moment I stood in the middle of my street with my face turned up and I shared an understanding with the moon, the mountains, the night sky.  With nature.  Nothing else existed for me in that moment and it felt amazing to be alive.