It's started...

I can't feel my feet anymore...

I can definitely feel my shoulders and biceps though...

Spring is here and we're back in the garden.  My crazy friend A and I had this crazy idea to try and grow enough to keep us in veggies year round.  Oh and do it chemical free and by hand to boot.  Because you know, it's not like we both work and have kids and husbands and houses to look after as well or anything...

But we're well on our way.  We have:

(Wintered from last year)
negi leaks
brown onions (ready June)
Spanish onions (ditto)
garlic (ditto?)
leaf lettuce
a few stray carrots
a forgotten daikon

(Spring planting)
negi leaks (these take a year to mature so it's an ongoing process)
four varieties of potato (Andes, May Queen, Danshaku and Yukon Gold)
leaf lettuce
san chao 
four varieties of beans (don't know English names sorry)
snow peas

(In seed trays or punnets waiting to be planted)
four varieties of tomato (roma- thanks mum!, medium sized, yellow cherry, red cherry)
two varieties of pumpkin (what we unPC Aussies call a Jap pumpkin and a larger one)
three varieties of eggplant (long and skinny, round Western style and regular Japanese style)
green pepper
red pepper
yellow pepper
chilli pepper
halapeno pepper
radishes (M and A's garden)

(still to be purchased)
sweet corn
popping corn
beans for drying

Phew! Makes me tired just writing it all down!

Today the negi and potatoes got put in and we worked out a rain shield for the tomatoes- too much rain in the wet season and they split and rot- don't have that problem in drought conditions Australia!

I really like eating fresh, home grown, picked 5 minutes before you need them vegetables but right at this very moment I'm ready to find my point card and head to the supermarket!


oh what a night....

1.  My elation that the festival was over was premature.  I forgot about the post festival piss up- err I mean clean up of course.  So no K again tonight...

2. M and A are superhyped after a day of festival fun including a snowcone with DIY syrup- NOOOOOO!  So getting them to bed, in their beds and STAYING THERE was hell...

Then just when I was leaving the room- breath held, tiptoeing lightly, already mentally enjoying my chocolate and hot chocolate reward-







AGHHHHHHHHH!!!! I swear sometimes I hate that box on the wall.

I have just re-settled the girls- A thought it was the festival again and M thought it was an evacuation...

K had better be as quiet as an amazingly silent drunk bull in a china shop when he comes home as I'm not going through that again.

I thought today was meant to be a holiday...?

Oh and isn't 8:30 at night a weird time to be checking for asparagus damage?


the festival

Well, we're K-less for the tenth night in a row.... or it might be the eleventh... I can't remember.  Waayyy too many anyway.  Festival widow, that's me.

But today's the day.  The girls and I went down to see the procession off this evening:

Amy had a great time wandering around checking everything out, saying hi to everyone and being escorted out of the sacred circle not once, not twice, but three times. 

And Meg?  
Across the street, two houses down, hiding behind a telephone poll- and that was before anything even started!

The last three years she's started there and ended up racing all the way home yelling 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!' as soon as the taiko started.

But this year?
Look at my big brave girl touching the smallest mikoshi float.  She was so proud of herself and I was even prouder of her.

The rest of the send off festival was quite longwinded and- to my untrained eye- a little dull.  Six guys with towels danced around and around each other and then gave up the stage for a guy with a split bamboo switch and... a huge, spiral phallus.  

Umm yeah... what with having to run after Meg running home before the dancing even started every year I had somehow missed the fact that this is a fertility festival.  A rather un-subtle fertility festival.

So Amy spent the rest of the night yelling out 'CHIN CHIN!' ('DOODLE!') every time the gyrating, gesturing, phallus waiving teenager came around our side of the circle while Meg hid behind my back, under my jacket, with her hat pulled over her eyes.  Poor kid.

And K?
He really drew the short straw this year.  That's him in the green pants, blue jacket and the Blundstones (Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!)  I'm not sure what the official name for his job is but I think it should be called 'The Ox'.  

From experience we should expect him home sometime after 2:00am...  



no need to set the alarm clock...

Unfortunately I'll be awake at 4:45 tomorrow morning.

Without a doubt.

Double unfortunately so will Meg and Amy.

And the rest of the neighbourhood...

Tomorrow is neighbourhood festival day- yeah!

But I could do without the travelling minstrels banging taiko drums and blasting bamboo flutes waking me up at 4:45...

And I could really do without them waking Meg and Amy up because it's going to be a long day until 7:30pm when the festival procession leaves...

Makes you wonder why they wake everyone up fifteen hours early in the first place...


me and my sister's dog

(If you got here googling that combination I apologise in advance for disappointing.)

It's windy here today.

Really windy.

And it's reminding me of my sister's dog Jessie.

When my brother and I went off to Uni my sister (5 years younger) missed us and my parents bought her a dog.  Yup, not only was I replaced by a dog- I was replaced by half a dog, a little dog at that, a Maltese-Shitzu cross.  I'm over it, really...  It's been over 10 years now and I've almost finished therapy at S.C.R (Survivors of Canine Replacement)  My brother got confused and joined S.C.A instead but he had fun anyway so it all turned out OK in the end.

So anyway, I didn't see much of Jessie obviously, what with her being my replacement and all *sniff* but one thing I remember about her was that she was terrified of wind.  Not just storms or anything really scary like that but any wind strong enough to rattle the branches and whistle through the treetops would have her scampering upstairs away from her throne in front of the fire and all the way to the deepest, darkest, most remote corner under the computer desk.

Now, I'm not as bad as Jessie but I do hate strong wind.  Especially living in an old house.  An old draughty house.  When we moved in it wasn't just draughty it was windswept.  Six tubes of sealant later and we've made it to draughty- yeah!  I like to think positive- if my home made pickles ever go so wrong I gas us all, the draughts will actually save us.  

But even being super duper Pollyanna positive doesn't help on really windy days.  Half of it is not knowing whether the light strings are swaying because there's been an earthquake or if it's just the wind because I'm terrified of earthquakes.

Ahhhh Jessie, if only there was a computer desk big enough for me to crawl under and hide...


mum meme

illahee tagged me for a meme: five things I like about being a mum.


It's rained all day today and I've been housebound with Amy incessantly singing her version of the Japanese version of 'It's a small world.'  Personally I don't care for the song in English.  I think translating it into Japanese does nothing for it and as for Amy's version?  Well I'm going to record it and sell it to armies who want to crack stubborn terrorists.  It's that bad.  How bad?

'se-ka-i wa se-ka-i
se-ka-i wa se-ka-i
se-ka-i wa se-ka-i...' (repeat fifty billion times)

It doesn't even make sense- the world is the world????

So yeah, today 'five things I love about being a mummy' requires deep concentration with my remaining non-it's-a-small-world-impaired brain cells.

Here goes:

1.  They are a fabulous excuse for having a messy house.  Seriously, if it wasn't for the girls I would have to admit that I shirk tidying and K would be forced to concede that perhaps it is him who leaves towels and discarded clothes and important papers marked 'top secret' around...

2.  Social lubricant.  The best way to meet new people- just wait till Amy accosts them to relate something earth shatteringly vital and incomprehensible to all but immediate family like 'I had to give my pink bear one to baby Sora because I'm a mikan now but that's ok because Meg gave me her flower ones.'  See, by the time I step in and translate that she is in mikan class at kinder, passed on her too small pink bear patterned pajamas to her little cousin and received some outgrown flower pjs from her older sister,  I'm already arranging lunchdates with my new friend.  Why didn't I have kids when I was single?  

3.  Easy out.  That social occasion dragging on too long?  Think you'll scream if you have to do the 'Where-are-you-from?-Do-you-like-Japan?-Can-you-eat-natto?' thing one more time?  With a kid whalah! you have a thousand get out of jail free cards on hand.  'Ohhhhhh really??? We were just about to stand around holding hands and singing campfire songs/ start a marathon karaoke medley of maudlin enka songs?  What a pity it's Meg's bedtime/ she needs changing/ is getting tired/ needs her routine....

4.  Entertainment value.  I used to read those 'kids say the darnedest things' columns in magazines and thing it must be all made up.  I mean really, what kid would think 'old man' was a cutting insult, or ask an overweight relative if he was pregnant, want a willie for Christmas or tell ojiichan they like his 'nice shiny head'?  Well, the answer (unfortunately at the time) to all those is mine...  They certainly do liven up a conversation though- when they're not butchering Disney tunes that is!

5.  All the obvious stuff- as many cuddles as you want (and then some!), 'I love you!' on tap, wet sloppy kisses (who needs a puppy when you have a toddler?) someone who thinks you look super pretty in a sparkly kid's tutu over your oldest grungiest housewear, eats whatever you put in front of them without questioning whether tuna, seaweed and a flour tortilla really constitute an edible combination, laughs when you pull silly faces, is on your side in any disagreement regardless of how wrong you are and dances to 80s pop in the kitchen with you.  

Thanks girls!


what's the strangest thing you did today?

Heck, make it this week.

I think I can still top it.

Today after dinner I spent 20 minutes with a cup of water, a box of tissues, a snot sucker bulb, and finally a pair of blunt nosed tweezers.

What amazing feat was I undertaking with these tools of adventure and daring?

Why removing a piece of natto from Amy's left nostril of course!

It was a decidedly Mr Bean style operation with the peekabooing natto, the array of useless tools and the fact that every time I was nearly there Amy stuck her darn finger up her nose and pushed it further up again.

I don't hope for interesting days, fun days or even nice days.

I just hope for uneventful ones...


what we've been eating

One of the yahoo groups I'm on people started posting pictures of their meals and it's really interesting.  

We don't eat out much and it's easy to get into a groove of dishes that are easy to make and we all like which is fine but a bit boring.  

It's also a weird place seasonally.  The last of the winter daikon and negi really need to be eaten but we're all sick of the sight of them while the only fresh things we're getting are asparagus and spinach.  Well, we're not even getting spinach here as the monkeys razed the entire bed of it.  In a few weeks we'll be into Spring veg and all will be right again but for now it's a bit blah on the gastronomical front.

But, inspired by seeing other people's creations, I've been putting a bit more effort into our meals.  Not going to be winning any Michelin stars or anything like that but K and the girls think I'm the next Gordon Ramsey (minus the swearing of course!) because I added another side dish here and there.   Rather easy to please around here!  

Dinner- spaghetti in sauce pommodore, vinegared daikon and mixed seaweed, egg and bacon omelette wedge (we were out of ham but boy is bacon omelette good!) cous cous, kogomi (fiddlehead fern shoots?) baked sweet potato served with miso soup.

Dinner- beef and ninniku no me (garlic flower stalks?) stirfry, rice with barley, miso soup, baked sweet potato, salad, broccoli, kogomi, and natto.  (GJ- this is obviously K's dinner- served with a side of mayo) ;P

Dinner- beans and corn, kogomi, vinegared cucumber and mixed seaweed, squid and leak stirfry, salad (with mayo.  Grrrr 'But daddy had mayonnaise......')

Dinner- onigiri, karaage fried chicken, strawberries, kogomi and miso soup.  The girls wanted to make their own onigiri.  They chose egg and spinach flakes and dried fish and pickled plums.  Then they squashed them together so hard they almost turned to mochi.  But hey, they were happy...

K's lunch on a bad day- ran out of fish (I cook and freeze it in big batches) so pumpkin, tofu (he adds ginger and soy sauce at work) daikon and mixed seaweed salad, baked sweet potato and left over spaghetti.  With natto and instant miso on the side.

My lunch on a good day- I found three loaves of multigrain bread on the chuckout table at JUSCO and I had to buy all three of course!  SO multigrain toast with a sunnyside up egg (lashings of pepper) and a yummy salad with pecans, cranberries, some amazing Brazilian cheese and balsamic vinegar with my winter tipple- hot water and apple juice.



the entertainment value of rye

Last Autumn I planted wheat and rye in half of the big plot I'm co-farming with my friend A.

She's a rocking Nikkei Brazillian who is obaachan age but looks fab in her jeans and bright red toenails.  I'm obasan age but still dress in my cut off jeans and weird English t-shirts.  Before we do anything we already have entertainment value around here.

When we take on an abandoned plot, a retired tiller machine, declare that we are going chemical free and then plant wheat and rye we are the talk of the neighbourhood.  

When the wheat started shooting last November I had people I don't even know jerking their k-trucks to a halt and asking me what I was growing up there on 'old Nagasaki's plot'.  It's lucky I only work one plot as half my neighbourhood is called Nagasaki and they all look pretty old to me!

Anyway the excitement died down a bit over the winter but it's back in full 'hey, hey, did you hear...' form now-

It's kind of hard to see but about half the rye has fallen over.

Despite the fact that everyone 'ehhhhh??'ed us when we said what we were planting- and half my neighbours had no idea what rye was in the first place- everyone is an expert on why it's fallen over and are kindly sharing their expert advice at every opportunity:

the soil is too soft
too much fertiliser
you planted too shallow
you planted too close together
too much rain
too warm


They may be right- with a list that long someone is surely right- but none of those causes is easily undone so we just have to live with it.  Being chased down around the neighbourhood or stalked at the plot just to be given rye growing wisdom from people who don't even know what rye is is driving me crazy!

I know it's just because there's nothing going on in the apple orchards for a couple of weeks until the blossom come out and they get crazy busy but still I'm thinking my friend A and I should start charging for the entertainment value of our plot.

Oh and I'm thinking I'll start wandering through the orchards sucking my teeth and offering 'too bad you didn't...' style advice on apple growing.  

That would go down well, I'm sure!


The kumicho diaries. Part 2

The Omiya Atsuda Jinja Festival is next weekend.

What?  You haven't heard of it?

Don't worry, I doubt many people who don't live within walking distance of the shrine have heard of it's festival.

But I know about it.  Ohhhhhhh yeahhhhhhh, I know all about it.

Part of K's duties as President of Okubo Neighbourhood Association Sub-section 2 is Omiya Atsuda Jinja Festival Organising Committee Official Okubo Sub-section Representative.  

Sounds terribly important, hey?

Well, as with many pompously titled jobs the reality is a little more mundane.  Every night this week, all day next Tuesday (that's right- shock horror he will be taking time off work!) and every evening next week K will be at the local community centre doing vitally important festival business for 3+ hours a night.  Last night this was making flowers out of tissue paper... 

I can't wait to hear what he's doing tonight!


It's not just a cardboard box...

... it's a doll's house!

The girl's material guardian angel S (seriously, the provider of all their cool clothes and toys and games and books..) gave them a great box full of doll house furniture and fittings and even some little people and two cats to live in the house.

The only problem was we don't have a doll house.

So, resourceful me drew up an amazing two story house with an attic room and staircases, windows, room dividers with doorways etc etc  Think Gone With The Wind....

.... and showed it to K.  Hey, I said I was resourceful not a DIY queen.

Poor K.  He's still halfway through my last fantastic plan- the pizza oven.  I can't help it if I'm the idea person in this family. ;)

Anyway, I decided to give K a break (don't want to distract him from that pizza oven!) and have a go at making a dollhouse myself.  Having a healthy fear of powertools I downsized my plan and started with a cardboard box...

...with my two designers on hand:

"Mummy, we need a toilet! and a bath! and they can't get to the second floor without stairs!  And you need a rail here or the babies might crawl off and fall!"

(Hmmm, wonder where they get that idea person thing from?)

We downsized our plans even more when I couldn't find a stanley knife but the girls forgave me and were thrilled when I mentioned the magic word:


So this afternoon we painted our dollhouse:

The exterior- inspired by Sidney Pollock.

I love this picture- Amy was being sooo careful painting the top of the door while Meg was running and losing her paint on the lawn.  Pretty much sums them up!

The interior- M decided we needed a rainbow room.

And what M does, A does too!

We used a lot of paint so unfortunately we couldn't play with our dollhouse tonight as it was still drying at bedtime. :(

I'm bracing myself for an excited early morning call...


Spring at ours

Not cherry blossom.  Something way more exciting- nectarine blossom!  We also have peach blossom and ume blossom and I'm waiting on real will-actually-turn-into-cherries cherry blossom and plum blossom.  

There is an expression 花より団子 hana yori dango- sweets over flowers.  You go to a cherry blossom viewing and rather than basking in the fleeting beauty of the blossoms and composing haiku you're looking down at the picnic spread.  Well, I say you can have your flowers and eat them, too.  And if you wait until the flowers become fruit all the better!

Spring project- we're going into the crematorium business.

Just kidding!!  It looks pretty bad though, yeah?  It's a half completed pizza oven.  On top of the platform you can see a couple of bricks?  That will be the oven.  It's (hopefully!) going to be a really cool dome shape and long enough to have the fire at the back and the pizza (or bread or meat) at the front.  It's not going quite as quickly as I hoped.   Three weekends and we have a base... oh well, the hungrier we are the more we'll enjoy the pizza, right?

We certainly have enough wood to make a few pizzas!

Spring project number 2 seed sowing.  Yeah!!  No more endless rounds of daikon, hakusai and spinach- it's growing season.  This weekend the girls and I planted three types of leaf lettuce, four types of beans, snow peas, coriander, Italian parsley, shiso, beetroot and we put roma tomatoes and heritage tomatoes in grow pots that we'll start inside.  Gardening with the girls is so much fun, you just never know what you'll find where.  Last year we had a pumpkin and two cucumbers growing in the lawn and we still have parsley all through the flower beds...

What we're not doing...  Funny how priorities change, hey?  All Autumn and Winter it was all about the woodpile and now it's spiralling out of control while we get on with the Spring things.  Oh well.  We'll get back to it before next Winter, I'm sure.


Ahhh that wouldn't happen here

I was reading this article about identifying babies in hospital and I had to laugh.

Babies are given three identification tags in Queensland hospitals - two on their limbs and one taped to their back.

We only needed one here and it was totally safe.

Dr Young said Queensland Health was looking at different ways of labelling patients to avoid these types of mistakes.

"We're looking at barcoding systems and other systems using the technology that's available," she said.

Yes, this being Japan, birthplace of amazing technology that's what I'm talking about, right?

Nope.  But there was absolutely no way anyone was going to mix up our baby while we were in hospital.

Or for about the first month of her life actually.

After she was wiped down and before she left the delivery room they brought our little precious bundle over to us and...

Whipped out a big old indelible marker and wrote FUKASE from her knee to her ankle.

Think I'll offer my services as a consultant to the Queensland government.  Just need to think of a fancy this-is-very-technical-and-expensive-equipment name for a marker pen...


The kumicho diaries. Part 1

As I mentioned we are kumicho this year- head of our 16 house sub-section of the neighbourhood association.

When I say "we" I mean 95% Ken.  Not because I am shirking my duties.  Quite the opposite, I'd love to help out more but you see it seems distributing circulars and collecting dues is a job that calls for massive amounts of testosterone.  I will be called on only for the fine arts of pickled produce provision and the as yet mysterious role of Red Cross Ladies Group Chair.

So far we have had three circulars to pass around (all delivered here before 8am, no pyjama incidents yet as K is still home at that time.  If he goes on a business trip I will have to sleep in my clothes!!)

And then we had our first dues collection.  Every two months we all pay 5000 yen to the committee.  What for?  Ahhh, that's the million yen question.  No idea what the official reason is but my amateur sleuthing skills lean towards sushi and sake for any meeting that goes longer than 30 minutes.  So anyway, K set out with the girls to collect 16 households worth of dues.  He takes this all very seriously so had a zippered manbag full of change, his official kumicho ledger and a pile of leaflets on something riveting like changes to the collection of unwanted agricultural plastic- you know, so you feel like you get something for your money.

About an hour later (our neighbourhood isn't that big or widespread but these conversation starved apple farmers grab at the chance to talk to someone and don't like to let go.) The three of them returned all smiles.  K had managed the impossible and made 16 collections in one outing- a home run first hit at bat, a six off the first ball, a goal from the centre line, whatever the sporting analogy it was a pretty impressive feat.

And the girls?  They were beaming as they had just experienced their first out of season, no costume required, loot laden trick-or-treat.  They each had two sembei, a mandarin, a banana, a baby apple, a baby cheese, a bottle of yakult, a herbal cough lolly, (egg that house next time girls) a handful of chocolates and one of the disturbingly long-life individually wrapped, highly processed cakes that I never buy.  Seems the little monkeys twigged rather quickly that a cute chorus of 'Good evening, It's the Fukases.  Neighbourhood Association dues please' will get you far in contraband snacks if not in life itself!

I was horrified K didn't refuse the bounty on their behalf but he felt they deserved it for being his assistants.  Was probably trying to look cute and angle for a beer!

Needless to say we have two very-happy-to-be-Kumicho kids.


Sensitive little petal...

Spring has sprung and with it the weeds.  

I can't remember how many hours I've spent out there this week but more than 10 anyway.  

I went up to the big garden after kinder today to get some spinach for dinner and got side tracked weeding.  Well Meg watched me for half a second then started screaming.

What's wrong??
Mummy STOP!!!!
What's wrong??
Stop pulling out the poor flowers, mummy!
They're weeds honey.
You're hurting them and they won't grow anymore.  How would you feel if someone pulled you out of the ground???!!!
But Me-

And we spent 10 minutes replanting the ruddy things...

Guess I'll just have to do my weeding on my own time, hey?


A Johnson and Johnson moment

Don't they make that look so cute??

The reality is waaaaaaayyy less exciting.  Amy and I are playing out the 'I'M NOT HAVING MY HAIR BRUSHED TODAY!!!!!' battle on a daily basis.  In our pre-kinder days I just waited till he forgot about it then stealthily attacked her hair.  Now we have time pressure and it's just not working out. So sad that not only has our time together been drastically cut but that we also have to be grumpy with each other when we are together.

To remind me it's not always about the screaming and the chasing:



I'm really not a fan of hanami.  Or any other seasonal flower/ foliage viewing either for that matter.  I don't like the hype and I hate the whole obsession with the supposed perfect blossom and perfect timing.  You know, you say 'wow, the cherry blossom are pretty' and someone says 'Oh no, they're only half open, they're past it, the leaves are out early, the colour's not good this year, etc etc.'  And if you do stumble upon the correct timing for seasonal flower viewing you'll know it.  Because of the undoubted superior beauty of the blooms?  No, because there'll be 19 busses full of JTB touring senior citizens talking over each other and wielding state of the art camera equipment capturing 'the moment'.  Aghhhhh!!

But I do love the actual flowers.  And so every year I try and do hanami my way.  Yesterday I took the girls to work with me in the afternoon.  Going to work I drive past Matsumoto Castle and there was a cherry blossom festival going on.  It looked a little like bus overload
and it was rainy to boot but the girls were excited so on the way home we stopped off to check it out.  

It was perfect- the rain had really set in and the busses were gone.

Trying to catch falling petals:

Being a cherry blossom tree: (it was windfall, mum, I would never let them pick the blossom!)

Carpeted in pink:  I really like this.  Thank you rain and past it blossoms!

M on the run.  Different background, same Meg...

Just singing in the rain...

We fought our way through the crowds to eat sakura dango...

The festival included a flute performance from the flower viewing room of Matusmoto Castle.

It was beautiful and the girls had a great time.  Yeah for rainy hanami!


by popular demand

Flowergirl closeup.

Me in my kimono.  You may think it's not a good shot but that helmet head of va-va-voom hair was really what it was all about.

Flowergirls trying to relive their past glory

That's what flowergirls do in their off time. :)


1 2 3 4

Obaachan wants a photo of all her grandkids.  She buys them all matching dresses for the occasion.

Step 1.  Have the 3yo drag the 1yo over to the couch.

Step 2 Take picture.  'Amy lean in, Meg sit up straight, Sora, look at the camera wielding Aunt not mummy...'

Step 3 Encourage three preschoolers to all smile at the camera at the same time- scare 1yo off in process...

Step 4- Hang on, we lost one....  And Meg, Ojiichan takes back what he said about 'please smile with your mouth closed as you're missing a tooth.'  He's crazy and so's that face.  Sock it too him honey!



(On waking M at 6:00am for the 3 hour drive to her Aunt's all day wedding extravaganza)

(Stroking her cheek) "Meggy wake up honey, it's time to go to Auntie M's wedding..."

(Without opening her eyes) "Mrmrmmmmm, I'm still tired.  I'll go tomorrow."


Amy update


We got through the first week.

It actually wasn't that bad.  

(Because...ahhh...I cheated.)

Monday I worked a full day so I asked to put A in for a full day with her sister and they said sure.  Eh?? It was that easy!  So at 4:30 I picked up two utterly exhausted but so-happy-I'm-going-to-burst little girls.  Clear.

Tuesdays I will be taking the girls with me to an afternoon English class this year.  It's the class A has been going to for a year.  Now the class are all at kinder the time has changed and I need to take M and A with me.  Picked them both up at lunchtime and A was quite happy to come home early as M was with her.  Clear.

Wednesday I was naughty.  Memories of easy Monday were the devil on my shoulder and the kinder somehow got the impression that I would be unable to pick A up at lunchtime....  Innocent (but terribly busy looking) me picked up two very happy little girls at 4:00.  Clear.

Thursday was Teacher Home Visit Day.  A's was at 2:20-2:30.  Yeah, very in-depth meeting obviously.  With the carrot of the adored and beloved Yuka-sensei coming to visit A practically skipped home.  Clear.

Friday- Today.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.  (Aussie enough for you?)  The temptation of that easy Monday was too much and the kinder somehow got the impression I would be busy at lunchtime again.  Well I was.  Very.  I was eating lunch...  So easy pickup of two exhausted girls at 4:00pm...

As of next week the official pickup time for everyone is 4:00 so no more guilty fabrications but the carpark is going to be mad with all these first-time-round mums racing to rescue their poor dear little darlings.  Ah well, we'll survive.  

Other kinder stuff:

*A is spending more time in M's class than her own.  She is madly in love with her big sister and this being with her all day every day is just too exciting to be true.  Even with the all-hands-on-deck extra teachers in the 3yo classes they're pretty harried so losing a kid is a boon.  With M and M's teacher happy to have A around she is spending the majority of her day hanging out with the big kids.  M is loving her new role as bossy-big-sister-who-knows-how-it-goes and has A drilled like boot camp in putting all her gear in it's right place and playing the games the right way.  Unfortunately this includes a zero tolerance policy on speaking English.  Poor A got roundly bawled out for saying 'Meggy push me please' when they were playing on the swing.  Oh well, she's used to being told off by Meg.

*At Teacher Home Visit Day I mentioned that while she's about 80% bilingual A still has some words she only knows the English for and that when people don't understand she can get irritated and upset.  Teacher was very understanding and said she hadn't noticed anything so far (how could she, A's hardly been in her class yet!) but that 'if it comes up in an issue with the other kids, is it OK to tell them that A is biracial, has an Australian mummy, and speaks English at home?'  


I appreciate her asking but I'm pretty sure most kids see Amy and realise she's not 100% Japanese- in fact some people don't realise she is even part Japanese!  As for the Australian mummy?  Well I go and pick the girls up everyday and go to all the events and again, I'm pretty sure there's no one under the misconception that I'm Japanese...  And speaking English at home?  I speak English with them at Kinder too, and in the bank, the supermarket, I yell English at them in the carpark...

Still, nice to see we have a caring, thinking, sensitive teacher this year.

Making herself at home in the Kinder kitchen...


I.... must.... stop....

baking hot cross buns!

Well baking and then eating them.

This is my fourth batch.  But I have a good excuse.  Really.  I keep meaning to make them and give them away and... well... you know.... they are a little misshapen, or the crosses don't look right, or there's a sultana out of place and well I can't give out defective goods, now can I?  So, *sigh*, I just have to suck it up and eat another batch.

I think I realised the real reason people observe Lent- so they don't have to feel guilty about eating all those hot cross buns when Lent is over!



one a penny, two a penny

hot cross buns!

The recipe: (from 'Cookery the Australian Way')

2tsp dried yeast
2 Tb sugar
2/3 cup (165ml) warm water
2 cups (300g) flour (I use the regular cheap one)
2 Tb skim milk powder (of course I don't have this in the house!  Last year I used baby formula, this year nothing)
1 tsp salt (I only have a salt grinder so go approximate on this with no adverse effects)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I never measure spices but I probably put in at least double)
1/2 tsp mixed spice (I think this is an Aussie invention.  I substitute allspice and nutmeg)
1/2 cup mixed sultanas and currants.  (I put double fruit in.)
1Tb mixed peel (Last year I made my own.  This year I used zest instead.  Both work)
2Tb melted butter (margarine is fine)
1 egg

Piping Batter
3Tb flour
3tsp caster sugar (I used brown sugar as that's all we have, no problem)
1 1/2 Tb water

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp gelatine (Aussie gelatine is powdered.  One sheet of Japanese gelatine worked fine.)
1 tsp mixed spice (or all spice, or cinnamon...)

1 Mix yeast with sugar and water.  Cover and set aside until frothy (about 10 minutes)
2. Mix flour, powdered milk, salt and spices.  Add fruit and peel.
3. Make a well in the centre of the four and pour in yeast, butter and egg.  Mix into a soft dough.
4. Turn onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic.
5. Return dough to bowl, cover and prove in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.
6. Divide into 12 pieces and shape each into a bun shape.  Place on tray.
7. Cover and prove in warm place for 20 min.
8. Set oven at 200 deg celsius.
9. Mix piping batter ingredients.
10. Pipe a cross on each bun.
11. Bake at 200 deg for 10 minutes, reduce temp. to 180 and bake for another 5 min until golden brown.
12. combine glaze ingredients in a saucepan, ring to boil, cool.
13. place buns on cake cooler, glaze and cool.

*I usually make about 18 smaller buns.
*Sultanas are raisins to non-Aussies.  
*An Aussie cup is 250ml.
*Put the piping batter in a plastic bag and cut the corner.  Pipe a cross on each bun.  Not a Japanese batsu cross but a Christian cross.
*The glaze is good but not necessary.


Lucky escape

Sunday North Korea let off a couple of missiles.

11:45 the PA kicked in:

"This is Matsumoto City Office.

At 11:43 North Korea launched a missile.

Debris fell in the Sea of Japan off Akita and the Pacific Ocean off Iwate."

Ok.  Until now I'm getting that this is some kind of Public Service Announcement.  I mean who knows, maybe there are some Nagano-ites with relatives working on fishing boats up there off Northern Japan.  


"At this stage there are no reports of any casualties or damage in Nagano."

No.  You don't need to go check your map.  Nagano is nowhere near either Akita or Iwate.  And we're landlocked so yeah, not likely to get collateral damage from either the Japan Sea or the Pacific Ocean.

Still, in the spirit of reassuring the good citizens of Nagano I'm ready to jump on board this Public Service Announcement jag:

"The Wilkin's Ice-shelf in Antarctica is near it's final collapse.

New rifts today added to the rifts formed in December and collapse is just days away.

However, at this stage there are no reports of any casualties or damage in Nagano."

Phew.  And if the glacial met ever does make the PA here I'll be sure to try and let you know as you'll all be in trouble before I am- landlocked and half way up a mountain and all that.


hot cross buns and christmas pudding and chocolate

Today we had an Easter Party here.  

We had 10 adults and 9 kids from 5 countries.

It was really interesting to hear the different ways we celebrate Easter.

In my family, Easter Sunday is all about Easter Eggs and the Easter Egg hunt.

While we were eating warm hot cross buns dripping with butter for brekky or visiting our grandmother across the road (funny how she always needed a dose of her grandchildren Easter morning...) the Easter Bunny would arrive, hide foil-wrapped chocolate Easter Eggs (one big hollow one and a lot of little solid ones each for my brother, sister and I) in our garden and disappear to wherever the Easter Bunny lives.  (Where does the Easter Bunny live?  Maybe he rents a room from Santa?)  We kids would get a tip off from mum or dad "Hey kids!  I think the Easter bunny has been!" (How set up is this whole operation??) and go and find them.  "Oh wow!! Look!  Easter Eggs!!"  

And that was it really.

And that's pretty much what I thought everyone did for Easter.*

Until Today.

Today I found out some people don't even know what a hot cross bun is.  Sacrilege!  Worse than that, I think access to hot-cross buns should be a basic human right.  And I mean the fair dinkum, peel and spice filled variety, not these new fangled pandering to peel hater varieties.  Pah.

I also heard about some Easter traditions I've never experienced.  New dresses, toys, games and little plastic Easter eggs.  Eating a ham or the last Christmas pudding on Easter Sunday.

Yup, I think I'm just going to have to try Easter in France and America at least once.

But not the Phillipines.  My friend from the Phillipines was shocked at all this fun and merriment and celebrating on Easter Sunday.  She is used to it being a sombre religious event- without even hot cross buns.  

*I mean of course in non-religious families.  I am aware that Easter is a Christian holiday- that's why there's a cross on the hot cross buns, right?

A really bad keitai picture of a hot cross bun, a chocolate Easter egg and some Christmas pudding.


positively optimistic

I mentioned we are Neighbourhood Association President this year.

Well, K had the official handover meeting.  Just K, of course.

Not that I was too upset- it took an hour and a half and that was after the three hour AGM last Sunday...

So anyway, among the plethora of minutiae (one of K's jobs is to go to the Neighbourhood Association storage shed and count the Neighbourhood Association wedding crockery and chopsticks.  The fact that no-one gets married at home, by the Neighbourhood Association anymore, or is even single and of marriageable age around here is beside the point...) the outgoing Pres. said the hardest part of the job is organising all the ins and outs of a funeral.

ex.Pres: But don't worry, you should only have two funerals this year.
K: ??
ex.Pres: Yeah... Old Mrs M is going downhill fast...  and of course my father isn't well...
K: Oh....
ex.Pres: Hmmm, yeah.  Barring accidents that should be it for this year....

Wow.  Predicting death.  How positively optimistic.  I'm off to the shrine tomorrow to pray for good health.  For all of us.  My family and my entire neighbourhood.  Because I care about them, of course.  Not for selfish organising-funerals-is-a-hassle reasons, I swear!


the talk of the town

A's first day of kinder.

Well, half day.

Dropping her off was a breeze.

"Now, remember mummy's coming to get you as soon as you finish lunch, so-"
"I'm going to eat with chopsticks!  No spoon- chopsticks!"
"That's right.  And when you fin-"
"I go to big girl kinder now!  I'm going to use chopsticks!"
"That's ri-"
"Only babies use spoons!"

At that point I just gave up and let her go on and on about the wonder of balancing rice on two sticks.

Picking her up....

I was a bit worried how M would handle the fact that I was picking A up and not her.  So I had the genius idea of taking the three wheeled stroller.  It's a 40 minute walk home 30 of that uphill so I was pretty sure that would convince M to hang around another couple hours until I came back in the car.

Had a great walk down there (you can tell you haven't exercised in a while when you look for your sneakers and can't for the life of you remember what colour they are!) and went to see how A had coped.  

Well, she was sitting on the mat with her bag on listening to a story.  There were kids sniffing and hiccupping and throwing themselves at their mothers as though we'd been missing for a week rather than three measly hours.  A?  She glanced at me then defiantly went back to the story.

Everyone else left in dribs and drabs and A still refused to leave.  She went and played with the kitchen set, she went and got her kinder crayons and put them in her bag, she started taking off her jacket and bag....

With the help of two teachers we convinced her into her shoes and...

onto the slide.  And that's where we were stuck in a standoff.  A wasn't leaving without M.  M wasn't leaving for another four hours....  The head teacher came to see what was up and couldn't convince A M would be ok by herself.

So, after nearly half an hour I had to physically manhandle her into the stroller and take her- howling like a banshee- out of the place.

Well, whatever else you say about A, she has staying power.  She managed to scream, holler, cry and howl throughout the entire trip home.

This being a village lacking in any entertainment whatsoever, a howling child is the object of abject curiosity.  I counted six old women not even pretending they had a reason to be coming out of their houses and looking up and down the street, one who was ostensibly coming out to rake leaves but stopped dead when she saw us, an old guy on a pushbike who stopped to talk to Amy.  'Oh, what's wrong?' right?  Nope.  'What's your name?'  (spotting the bright yellow bag) 'Oh you go to kinder?'  'Do you have lots of friends there?'  10 points for trying old guy.  Amy's responses?  Well there was only one 'WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!'

A was struggling to get out of the stroller the entire time- by throwing herself forward and to the side.  The side where the cars are going past.  Yeah.  That's not working.

I do coddling, cuddling, reasoning, explaining, soothing and even call K for some daddy magic.  Hmmm, seems it doesn't work over the phone.  Nothing is working...

So, here I am running down the main road in town (the only through road) with the stroller tipped right back on the two rear wheels trying to get home in one piece and just wishing I could turn invisible.  I felt so sorry for Amy as she was so upset and it was an impossible situation but I was feeling more and more sorry for myself, too.  I hate the less fabric softener commercial aspects of being a mum sometimes.

So anyway, we get home finally and A crashes in seconds.  Overtired and overworked with all that bansheeing I guess.

K gets home this evening:

'My boss got back from a factory visit and came straight to my desk.  He said he thought he saw you running down the footpath with a stroller.  He was worried.  You were running away from the hospital or my work and a long way from home.  He was going to stop and see if he could help but thought it would be best to get back here and tell me straight away.' 

Great.  I wonder if there's anyone in the village who hasn't heard I torture my children yet...

Oh, and yippee!  I've still got another week of half days to get through...

Obviously, this was taken in the morning on the way to kinder:
Ahhhh, pre-half day trauma she was such a happy kid...



I'm supposed to be celebrating tonight.  You know, finished all that fiddly sewing and pedantic naming and woohoo!!! Kids both in kinder I'm off to pah-tay!!

Well I would be if we didn't come home with:

two new hats (please attach hook, identifying symbol thingy and name clearly)
two boxes of 12 crayons (please name EACH INDIVIDUAL CRAYON and add identifying mark as well as naming tray and top and bottom lids)
two clear files (please reinforce edges with colourful tape to reinforce and serve as identifying mark and name clearly)

Oh and I have to sift through the debris that is my living room (that cleanup didn't last) and find M's skipping rope (suspected degree of difficulty- low) spinning top (SDD- medium), and the string that goes with it (SDD- impossible!!!)

Oh, the deadline for all this?  Why tomorrow morning of course.

PS.  I know this is all quite normal for Japanese hoikuen but it's my blog so I'll whine if I want to. :)  And to all the people below buying stuff- where on earth did you find stuff that matched all the exacting measurements from the kinder??  Or is it just here that they like to ask for 28.5 X 27.3 cm things?


ready, setty-

Check this out:

Two futons (top and bottom, one with elastic strap, one with ribbon tie)
Two change bags (with two complete changes and four plastic bags inside each)
Two pyjama bags (with button through pyjamas)
Two regulation rucksacks
Two toothbrush bags (with toothbrush and cup)
Two pyjama baskets
Two miscellaneous crap baskets (that might be my translation...)
Two boxes of tissues
Four cleaning cloths.

Phew.  And we've still gotta add two regulation caps (purchased tomorrow), two name tags (the one thing I wish they sold in bulk and we only get one each...) and the daily hand towel, handkerchief, bento bag, placemat and itty bitty pocket tissue pack.  

And the mismatch of fabrics?  They both have full matching sets but they like to mix it up.  Grrrr.

That's right.  Amy starts kinder tomorrow.   Everyone keeps asking me 'so, what are you going to do with all your free time??'  What am I going to do?  SLEEP!!!! I was thinking today that there should be a pre-kinder kinder so you can have the time to make all the kinder stuff!

And now some gratuitous 'I made it!' shots:

The messenger bag style pyjama bag.  Not that it's obvious from this amazing picture but hey, it's late...

I saw this on a little boy's bag and love the idea.  Amy can read her name but I expect she'll be the only one as she always writes her name in English.  So anyway these photo name tags are pretty cool.  I showed Amy and asked her what she thought.  Her response? 

'Who's that?'

Now I know the photo was taken last summer but 'who's that????' Not quite the reaction I was looking for...

Ok this is a silly shot but we have to label their tissue boxes and I could never find a marker that 'popped'* against the coloured backgrounds and then I remembered Year 8- my ransom note themed year where I decorated everything with newspaper cutouts and wahlah!
*Yup, still under the influence of Tyra.

hairties to match their dresses for tomorrow.  I had really long hair when I was a kid and my mum always did it in pigtails or braids with matching ribbons co-ordinated to my dress- that lasted all of 20 minutes.  My answer to this unfortunate genetic condition?  Sewing the ribbons onto the hairties- pure genius, hey?  Next is solving the 'why do we always lose one of each pair?' issue.

And when I finished all that, just because you know, I really don't like relaxing or anything I reformed a baggy t-shirt K was given and I really don't see him ever, ever, ever wearing into a funky A line long sleeved tee.  She loves the A line PJs I made her last year and has been bugging me to make her some 'daytime pyjamas'.  I think this should do it.

I wanted to try and cutesy the shirt up a bit so I added some details.  I love the necktie.

And that's it.  Ready, setty all systems set to kinder mode and GO!