I have 6 kilos of hot peppers. Not small chilli peppers but not capsicum. Not sure what you call them, they're long and almost triangular in shape. It's a mix of red and green. I have already diced and frozen some for some zing in winter cooking but I'm looking for ideas for the rest.. chilli sauce? hot sauce? pickled peppers? Would love any ideas!
Or maybe High Sex?
Actually it's Hi-Zex (TM) but that distinction was lost on the 15 good folks at the neighbourhood association evacuation drill drill evening causing me much consternation trying not to laugh as my senior citizen neighbours discussed High Sex. And nope, not a typo- we had a drill of the evacuation drill we are going to have next Sunday.
I've mentioned that this year we are the head household of our neighbourhood association sub-group. Well, in a buy-one-get-a-whole-lot-free kind of deal there are a bunch of jobs that get bundled with that. For example K is the local representative on the farmers' association. The fact that he doesn't farm anything is beside the point... And I (as wife of head of house at head household of our neighbourhood association sub-group) am the Red Cross Women's Group representative and it was in that capacity that I went to the evacuation drill drill.
Turned up at 7:20 (start time 7:30 but I've lived here long enough to know it would be well under way by then) and we were divided into three groups- rice, curry, and steamed cake. I was assigned to the rice group. We were doled out our super high tech Hi-Zex plastic bags (complete with rice measures printed right on the bag) and-after the obligatory 5 minutes of faffing around sucking teeth and waiting for someone to say start before we could do anything- we startedmeasuring out 15 servings of rice. The Hi-Zex bags are supplied by the Red Cross and in case of emergency we could make boil in the bag rice and boil it in dirty/ contaminated water. Fabulous invention, hey? So good you think the Red Cross might actually supply them to each area in case of emergency, huh? Nope. And you of course still need clean water to do the actual cooking... and 40 minutes worth of gas/ fire to cook with... oh and each bag makes a maximum of 1 cup of rice so you need a lot of bags to feed a crowd and... yeah, you get the point. When pressed (well, when I asked a couple of questions about all this anyway) the kind and informative Red Cross Rep confided that in all the evacuation centres she and the people in her office have visited they've never seen anyone using the bags. But of course that doesn't mean we shouldn't learn how to use them so on we went... I mean you never know when our little area might be stuck with only 2 litres of clean water, a bag of rice, a big saucepan, a gas burner and 300 odd Hi-Zex bags, now do you?
As well as the Red Cross Women's Group reps we had the head of the neighbourhood association and his deputy, the head of the farmers association, the head of the traffic safety association and the city emergency liasion officer. All men. All men of a certain age. All not really cooks... I looked up from pouring rice into my bag (in case you didn't think to grab your rice measure when you evacuate you can use a yakult bottle- but only name brand yakult- store brand is the wrong size. We're stuffed as not only would I not think to evacuate with my rice scoop but we also don't drink yakult) and saw three men measuring out 40grams of hot cake mix into each of their 15 bags. (Of course you'll grab your kitchen scales when you evacuate, right?) Picture this- one man is holding the bag open, one is pouring mix in and one is crouched down at eye level to the scales saying 'ok... ok.. ok- STOP!!' After all that care taken they managed to intricately tie off 10 bags (there is a way of tying the rubber band on the bag, of course. One way, you understand.) before I broke all junior/senior/ man/woman/ cooking group/whatever barriers and mentioned casually that they may need to add water to their mix.
"Water. I think you need water."
"Ehhh?? No, it says "mix" on the bag."
Thankfully one of their wives was there and convinced them that boiling in the bag for 30 minutes would not turn dry hotcake mix into anything but, well, hot, dry, hotcake mix.
Back to the rice and we added water and tied off our bags (the right way of course) in time to watch the curry group cut their peeled (of course we'll all pack peelers when we evacuate, too) veggies into 1cm dice and added fish sausage (because apparently in case of emergency we are more likely to have fish sausage than meat on hand. Hmmm, in my house there is no chance we'll have fish sausage on hand. Might have to go vegetarian even..) Anyway, veggies, fish sausage and curry roux in the bag and tie it off. Then we boiled up all the bags while talking about what we'd do if we were evacuated. Mrs N is bringing coffee. Mr M heard that all they had for the first 3 days in Niigata was bread and bananas and will be bringing his 40kg sack of rice. Given the choice between fish sausage and bread and bananas I will be making my way to Niigata I feel... Another Mrs N thinks all this fiddling with special bags and cutting veggies is well and good but surely retort curry would be easier? The poor Red Cross woman (at a disadvantage as she was still in her 20s and from the other side of the village so she was not 'one of us') kept trying to regain control of the conversation and tell us about the wonders of origami slippers (made from newspapers- oops, we don't get a newspaper either...) adding boiling water to processed potato snacks to make a kind of instant mash potato (darn, don't have any of that in the house, either...) and using your washing line poles as a stretcher. Hmmm, what if you only have one washing pole?? And ours are all made of bamboo that was growing in the wrong places in the garden so would probably only support Amy's weight anyway...
Next it was time to eat our feast. Ohhhh, hang on.... our neighbourhood association hall has about 500 pairs of disposable chopsticks and exactly two teaspoons. If we were evacuated there would be 80 households here. About...ooohhh 250 odd people? With two teaspoons total with which to eat their fish sausage curry. Guess we'll ask them to pack a spoon when they evacuate, too...
And what did it taste like? The hot cake mix steamed cake was quite nice. The bags are very long and narrow so it was difficult to eat but worth the effort. The menfolk were not impressed- too sweet. The rice tasted fine to me but again- the menfolk were not impressed. Tasted 'like that rice, you know, when you forget to press the button and you have to cook it quickly?' 'Aahh, the quick cook setting?' 'yeah... mmmm.. no, this rice is not very good' (all said as they polished it off anyway) and the curry? Well, not being a fan of fish sausage or curry roux it didn't do anything for me so I brought it home for K. After adding more curry powder (the roux was mild and he prefers hot) he gobbled it up with a great grin on his face. His favourite food is curry rice and I don't tend to make it very often. He's probably hoping we'll be evacuated!
Next week we'll be doing it all again but making it for 80 people. (one representative- no more, no less- from each household please.) I can't wait- High Sex for 80!
Hi-Zex curry and rice
I was offered a job today.
At Azusa Yume Kobo. Yup, Azusa Dream Factory.
Azusa Dream Factory is the local rent-a-kitchen. The place where I make all the sauce and juice.
I was there at 7:30 this morning as a day labourer- 5 hours of washing, drying, chopping, boiling, straining, reboiling, sterilising, bottling, capping, washing and cleaning up for 4 bottles of tomato juice. I think that is a new record for me and underquoting on jobs- and I've worked for free! Imagine how upset I'd be if I actually liked tomato juice?
Nah, it was a favour for a couple of friends.
So anyway, as we were bottling I was offered a job. The details are:
Pay 20,000 yen to join the co-op.
Buy myself an absolutely gorgeous uniform (epilettes have to be earned.)
Give them my mobile number so they can call me any and every time they need manual labour.
Work unspecified hours an unspecified number of times a month at the drop of a hat.
Do all this for 800 yen an hour.
Hmmm, so tempting.
And why me? My wit? Intelligence? Experience? Cooking expertise?
"You're tall, it's great having you here to lift the buckets of fruit up into the strainer. And you're strong. You can move crates of tomatoes all by yourself."
Aaaaah, thanks I guess.
I think Meg smiled non-stop for about 5 hours yesterday.
Having decided to give up on the birthday party with friends idea for the time being (it's not the culture so it takes a lot of explaining, everyone comes with their mums and siblings which makes it rather crowded, K insists on an all or no-one invite policy to be fair which is a little daunting for me and M was ambivalent anyway.) we took the girls to Sanrio Puro Land in Tokyo for their birthdays. This was a compromise in itself as M wanted to go to Disneyland and K and I thought the park down the road with the three swings and a slide sounded perfect.
How was it? Hmmm, 5 hours of insanely cheerful music, crowds, materialism, cheap plastic toys, fake smiles, fake hair, oversized characters and some of the most pity inducing work uniforms I've seen in a long time. There were also some amazing child acrobats, authentic Thai cuisine (???), lots of free hands on things, more pink than you'd think was humanly possible and acres of pushy parents.
It must have been a sensory overdose (did I mention the whole place smelt like sugar, too?) but I got all philosophical on the way home. Started analysing my reactions to Kittyland (as Amy calls it)... I think more than anything what made me uncomfortable was the behaviour of the people there. Not the staff, the other visitors. It was like a pool of shark parents or something with everyone wanting to give their child the best time ever at whatever cost to those around them. People pushing excited/ willing/ unsure/ wary and even down right upset, pre-schoolers towards life sized characters in order to get the all important photo. You know, like this one:
Then there was the whole emphasis on money. With a passport you didn't need to pay for each ride but, by paying more money you could get your kid the first class experience- better seat, glitzy crown and cape to mark them as special etc etc. We went on the boat ride and could have bought the picture for 1000 yen... or the official Kitty house picture for 1000 yen.... or- yeah, you get the picture.
It's all so opposite of our day to day life. Trying to live simply, be self sufficient, reduce, re-use, recycle and find our fun in the details rather than going out and buying it.
But, that's a decision K and I made. The girls didn't choose to live here or to live like this. They go to a regular city-run kinder where they mix with kids who have DS and whatever the latest toy is and go to Disneyland and don't spend their weekends making their own fun while they spend hours hanging around a tomato field.
I think I have a lot of parental guilt over that one. While I think growing up like this is a great education for the girls, they seem to genuinely enjoy a lot of what they do, and I am happy with the values we're (hopefully) giving them, sometimes it feels a little selfish. You know, when your 5 year old can explain the process of harvesting wheat but doesn't know what a movie theatre is, or when your 3yo digs in the garden rather than a sandpit...
So every now and again K (a crowd hating homebody) and I suck it up and do something the girls really want to do. And while we cringe at some of it and (secretly?) enjoy some of it (the child acrobats really were quite amazing) seeing the girls just glowing and sparkling and smiling from ear to ear makes it all worthwhile.
That and assuaging all that guilt so we can drag them along to the field again this weekend for weeding and soil preparation for the Autumn crops.
Could it get any pinker?
Not tomatoes this time- prunes. And I told K I didn't need a second fridge...
The girls are ratty and tired.
Dinner hasn't even been decided yet.
We're supposed to be leaving to drive down to Saitama and visit friends in an hour and nothing is packed.
I hear a "konnichiwa?" at the door.
Drag my sorry self to the door with a "hai?"
The crate wielding (oh no...) biggest fruit producer in the neighbourhood (ohh, please no.......) cheerfully invites/ commands (not always so distinguishable around here) "Come pick prunes (plums). They're falling off the trees and I can't pick them. Too busy. Gotta get my tomatoes in before the contract deadline is up."
"But the girls......"
"Bring 'em along. They can pick, too."
(Completely giving up the will to fight the inevitable) "Hhh...aaa..iiiiii."
And so I came home an hour later and very late with two no longer hungry but even more tired kids and a huge crate of plums. So heavy I borrowed a wheelbarrow to lug it back here.
Now I've just got to find the energy to make jam before we all make ourselves sick eating too many of them as is!
Hmmm..... A nectarine?
Well, Ok. ワッサ Wassa. But I'm sure in Aussie, that would be Wazza.
I was down at the farmer's market looking for early apple varieties (san (sun) tsugaru and shinano red are out) when I saw a group of women all in a fluster over what looked to be undersized peaches. Ehhh? Had to get a closer look and they were all walking away with armfuls of something the sign identified only as Wassa. Hmmm, wassa, wa-ssa. wa- 和? Japanese something?? Not to be left out I bought a bag and the lady at the register who loves my adventurous spirit (she sells me all the birds eye chillies on a 'buy one bag I'll give you the rest' basis. I really think I might be the only one here who eats them- she actually called me last time she got some in...) anyway, she told me the mysterious Wassa was a cross between a peach and a nectarine but couldn't enlighten me on the name. Now, I love both nectarines and peaches and have planted both but lost my entire crop to a whole range of nasty bugs and diseases this year so I was very happy to have my bag of Wassa.
Got home and- while road testing the Wassa- googled it. Ah haaaaaa.... the Wassa is a Nagano original. A natural (as in unassisted) hybrid that a Mr Nakamura stumbled upon while walking through his orchard one day. And the name? Well, Mr Nakamura is Mr Wataru Nakamura. His boyhood nickname was, yup, Wassa. So he went for a walk, found a brand new fruit by chance, named it after himself, got a patent for it and now sells it for big bucks online. It all sounds a little too good to be true to me but I'm not complaining because the Wassa is good!
How does it taste? Hmmm, kind of like a cross between a nectarine and a peach?
It has quite firm flesh even when ripe. It is juicy but not as annoyingly dribbly type juicy as a peach. I think the nectarine has lent texture, colour and fragrance to the mix but left most of the flavour to the peach.
I think it could really take off. I'm already planning my sign for the village entrance:
"Azusagawa: Welcome to Wazza country, mate"
And for the few tourists to this area who aren't snow starved Aussies:
Unless you are already deaf from election truck crying or have been living under a rock the LDP hasn't heard about yet, you would know we are in the campaign period for the Federal elections here.
Nagano has less than stellar voter turn out. And within Nagano the central region (Matsumoto and Azumino) have the lowest voter turn out. This is a matter of some consternation to the nice folks at city hall. Who knows, maybe there's an intercity voter turnout competition. How do I know city hall is concerned about this? Hmmm, would it be the rivetting nightly news coverage of a different place you can pre-election vote? "And look! There's no lines! You can vote here anytime between now and August 29! How convenient!" (My favourite spot so far being on the concourse at Matsumoto station- you know, for people who have a few minutes to kill before they catch their train.) But nope, I don't even need to turn on my tv to know all about the wonders of my vote counting- Matsumoto city has set up their own loudspeaker truck. Yeah! So now as well as all the "THIS IS TANAKA TARO OF THE LDP, VOTE FOR TANAKA TARO OF THE LDP, TANAKA TARO OF THE LDP FOR YOUR VOTE!!" and the four or so other parties with similarly grating high volume greetings, including the refreshing Happiness Realisation Party who are promising everything to everyone and all in a happy, happy voice, we have Matsumoto City roaming the streets with "AUGUST 30, AUGUST 30 TO VOTE. COME OUT AND VOTE ON AUGUST 30. USE YOUR VOTE. AUGUST 30, MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD AND VOTE."
If I had a vote I'd vote for some peace and quiet.
Lunch today was a communal effort.
I sliced and toasted the polenta.
K boiled the obligatory noodles. Somen today. Poor guy, he's bemused anyone could possibly pass up a chance to eat some kind of noodle delight- let alone prefer polenta.
Amy picked the tomatoes and the cucumber- and two eggplants and a goya which weren't on her 'shopping list'. Oh well. Then she sliced the cucumbers and chose a plate for them.
Meg made dessert.
Blueberry's painstakingly skewered on toothpicks and then frozen. Lucky for our teeth they only had about 30 minutes in there before we ate them.
The chefs were incredibly proud of themselves:
So, we sat down, said itadakimasu, and started lunch:
"Do you like the tomatoes mummy?"
"Yes, Amy. They're yummy."
"There's red ones and yellow ones. Try both, OK?"
"Mummy? Did you try the cucumber?"
"Yes, Amy. It's very nicely sliced."
"The knife is a bit sharp but if you're careful, I think you could do it."
Hmm, slight tickly piece of polenta there...
"Eat the blueberries!"
"They're really good Meg."
"It's pretty tricky but I think they're yummier this way, yeah?"
"Do you want me to tell you the recipe?"
I'm afraid that was the exact moment a rather crunchy, scratchy, tickly piece of polenta stuck in my throat causing a near hysterical , tears running down my face kind of coughing fit.
Sheesh, how did I get blessed with two such generous and talented culinary prodigies?
We're playing the weather lottery at the moment.
While summer is still officially calendar-wise going on, in reality and on the old 24 season calendar, it is already 処暑 shosho, the limit of heat. It's also the window this year between a rainy summer and the typhoon season. Long, hot, dry days have been few and far between this summer and I'm playing the weather lottery trying to suck the marrow out of these last days and get all my drying done. Being at the foothills of the Alps we lose the sun by about 4pm even this time of year. Just down the road at the girls' kinder it is still sunny that time of day but up here it's in the mountain shadow and the air gets cool and damp feeling.
But today we got the rye dry- yeah! The machine that separates the grains from the stalks broke down part way through the harvesting job and a lot of chaff ended up in the grain bags. Separating it out is a huge job but we're getting there- hence the random piles of chaff on the deck.
The blue net hanging up is full of halved cherry tomatoes I'm drying. I usually dry Roma tomatoes but they're not ripening yet this year (I see green tomato chutney on the horizon...) so I went with cherry tomatoes. Sundried tomatoes are amazing when they work but you need at least three days of dry hot weather or they just fester and mould. I think it's a gamble worth taking, though.
So come on sunshine, you can do it. Only two more days!
Last year's swimming observation day Amy spent the entire 30 minutes screaming and howling and wailing and yelling as it was just so very unfair that only Meg got to go in the pool.
And some more doting mum pictures:
Not drowning- starfishing.
And the last one out of the pool is? (Having made time for one more dive of course.)
1. 5:30 pm, The veggies are delivered:
A brown sack of green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers and chilli peppers, two sacks of eggplants, a bag of red and brown onions, a bag of potatoes, a bag of carrots, a pile of leeks and a twist of garlic. Oh and a genkan full of random shoes and Amy's kinder hat to round out the still life.
2. The next morning:
The tomatoes are out of the fridge/ freezer, the potatoes and carrots are peeled and chopped, the apples and all the peppers are deseeded and chopped, the celery and leeks are washed and chopped, the basil has been picked and bagged, all the spices and flavourings have been boxed up, the kinder hat is gone and the shoe still life is looking less random- with the exception of the kindy-sandal singles party going on there. Nothing has happened to the eggplants as they oxidise and turn a horrible colour so we'll peel them right before we use them.
3. The sauce
Ok, I kind of skipped over 8 hours of peeling and chopping and boiling and stirring and blending and mixing and chopping and more boiling and way more mixing and sterilising and bottling and lidding and boxing and endless wiping down and washing and cleaning but yup, 364 bottles of tomato sauce.
That's one a day with a break for Christmas.
Nahhh, we'd already given away 72 jars before we even left the centre. Yeah! Let the returning of favours begin.
Oh and I went and checked and yup- genkan's still a mess. Oh well, can't do everything, right?
It's 1:09 am and I've just finished the prep work on the non-tomato veggies for tomorrow's tomato sauce making extravaganza. They arrived at 5:30pm and I've been working on them ever since.
Guess any recipe that starts: Ingredients- 100kg tomatoes, 10 kg potatoes, 12 kg eggplant... was never going to be a walk in the park, hey?
Off to bed. Early start and big day ahead.
Walked out in the garden to find Amy today as I'd called her repeatedly for dinner and she hadn't materialised. She had a hearing test at kinder last week and passed with flying colours which is disturbing as it means her complete and utter ignoring of all adult voices is attitude rather than disability related.
Anyway found her head down bum up in the corner of the lawn.
"What are you doing?"
"What are you doing? I called you for dinner three times."
"I'm planting something."
"What are you planting?"
"I want to grow them big so we have more lollies to eat."
"Why aren't you planting your lollies then?"
"I don't want to get them dirty."
I'll let you know if our jellybean tree takes off.
I've never quite worked out what is ironic and what's just incongruous but I do think there's something odd about being too busy and too tired from harvesting fresh, organic vegetables (potatoes and (more) tomatoes) to make more than pasta with a jar of tomato sauce tipped over the top for dinner.
Oh well, at least it was home made, organic tomato sauce...
Oh, and the bad year for veggies? we got about 1/6th of the potatoes we usually get. The soft varieties (danshaku and andes) did particularly badly this year. Feeling a little Irish..... hmmm, they should have planted tomatoes...
The saucing tomatoes are going wild. After a sow start to the season they are all ripening at once and we're being inundated. The village's rent-a-kitchen was closed for the Obon Holiday and I work Monday Tuesday so we are trying to preserve the tomatoes as best as possible until Wednesday. Having seen the state of the tomatoes that go to the juice factory- and that's before they spend a couple of days sitting in the forecourt of the loading centre- I think we're being over cautious but in a good way. So this is the second fridge I told Ken we didn't need. Oops. There's also tomatoes in the deep freeze, in my neighbour's deep freeze and in her apple cellar. We are good to go on sauce!
ahhhhh, our Summer holiday is over.
You know a holiday is over when you come home and do three loads of washing in a row.
You know it was a good holiday when your kids say 'can we go there again tomorrow?'
You know your husband missed you all when he says yes to everything anyone asks.
Oh, and in case you were wondering- the tomatoes did indeed wait for me, I picked 2 kilos of overgrown beans, they made 312 jars of tomato sauce without me, and my neighbours all forgave me when I dished out souvenirs.
All is well.
Hey. Where are you? (No hello or the like...)
Lake Nojiri. I told you I was coming here.
But your Wagon R and your van are both here? (Nancy Drew??)
Yeah. Ken drove us up and I guess he's gone to work in the k-truck.
Oh. You didn't ask me to feed your chooks.
No. K's still there. He's doing them.
I was just out there (it's nowhere near on her way to anywhere) and they looked hungry so I fed them. (they're chooks, the only thing they do is look hungry when someone approaches their cage.)
Thank you, but really K has it in hand.
So, you won't be able to make sauce tomorrow then?
Ahh... No. Like I said I'm up here at the lake.
Could you come back?
No. I have M and A with me and I don't have a car and K is working.
Oh. You realise noone goes on holiday in August. It's the peak of the busy season.
Hmmm (looking around me at dozens of whole families- shock dad's included- doing just that)
Sorry, I'll be back Friday.
Well, enjoy yourself and make sure the kid's have fun.
Seriously, the people in my neighbourhood never go on holiday. Honeymoon, JA sponsored research tour and relative's funeral and that's it. They don't even go away for Obon or New Year as they all live where they grew up so they're already there.
In many ways I have made efforts to fit in with my neighbourhood but this is one area we're going to have to agree to disagree.
Holidays are good.
A few days complete R&R is worth a few tomatoes rotting on the vine.
Especially when you have another 240 odd plants worth to harvest when you get back anyway.
I'm sitting on the porch blogging using Wifi while the girls play below me in the garden. I can hear the lake lapping in the background. We've been to swimming lessons, craft time, heard the older kids rehearse for their production of High School Musical, bought German bread, blueberry pie and amazing sticky buns and we're off to movie night tonight. If we were so inclined we could play tennis, golf or basketball. All around me are kids and adults of all shades of the spectrum speaking English! My Japanese speaking kids have been running around and playing in English all day. I love this place. I'm not overseas. I'm not even far from home. I may never leave. I'm in heaven.
K's cousin and his family were travelling in our area and decided to drop in. They have an 8 year old and a 4 year old. They are visiting from Miyagi (about 9 hours North.) They emailed "we'll be there from 11-2. Is that OK?"
From 11-2?? Surely they mean "sometime between 11 and 2?" said I.
Nope, said K. He said from 11-2.
OK. We'll see.
They arrived at 11:02.
They were in the car and on their way by 1:59.
Having picked blueberries and tomatoes, eaten lunch and Bday cake, played in the front yard and fed the chooks.
They have two small children.....
The girls each wrote him a card.
Meg's had a picture of two telephones(?), the family, a hive of bees(?) and rain. She wrote 'Daddy, I love you. Meg.' I suggested 'Happy Birthday but apparently that would be too much for Daddy to read.
Amy's card had anpanman, peas, tomatoes, rain, clouds, flowers and a picture of Mummy(?) The writing was "Damy" We started writing Daddy with me spelling the letters out for her but as soon as we got to A she wrote Amy instead...
Daddy's birthday Fruche- a birthday cake you can make without touching the stove, perfect for little girls!
Today was the local kid's festival. The same one we went to last year and will go to for another 12 years or so. I checked what I wrote last year and woo woo woo woo (twilight zone music) it was eerily similar.
We headed down at 6pm to eat BBQ, corn that the local kids grew in their kodomo-kai field, tomatoes and cucumbers donated by all the parents (no thanks necessary- everyone wants to get rid of them this time of year!) and endless slices of watermelon accompanied by the usual chat: "mmmm, this watermelon is so sweet, must be one of Yumi's." "Ehhh? I think that's Yoshie's MIL's one." Not having achieved this level of taste based fruit producer identification I smile a lot and limit my input to 'mmm' and 'hmmm' and nodding appreciatively.
It was raining heavily all afternoon so the festival moved from the baseball field at the top of our road to the community centre half way down the road. The men rigged up a mammoth blue tarpaulin from the second floor windows and tied it off on two k-trucks in the carpark below to give themselves quite a large space to BBQ while the kids went wild in the upstairs of the community centre and the mums chatted below.
The festival is a three part affair- the BBQ, fireworks (sparkler type) and then the elementary and JHS age kids sleep in the temple and wake up early to do morning prayers and sweep the big hall there.
Preschoolers are invited to the first two parts and all 5 preschoolers in our area were beside themselves with excitement waiting for the fireworks. It's BYO fireworks so the fun really starts when you choose your fireworks in the shop and continues as you clutch your fireworks tightly while waiting, and waiting for the official call to come outside and start the action.
Unfortunately with the rain the fireworks was cancelled. 5 sopping wet little monkeys were devastated. Finding the big kids game of running around in circles and then cutting the lights and seeing how much longer you could run without bumping into anyone a bit scary they had spent the evening playing on the emergency bell tower in the carpark so couldn't understand how rain might put anyone off.
The bizarre thing about the cancelling of the fireworks wasn't that the community centre is in the middle of a row of houses and therefore it would be too dangerous, or that it was bucketing rain and would therefore be difficult to keep them alight but that the men doing the BBQ had assumed the fireworks were off and- wait for it- started drinking. I know. The immorality. The horror. 6 guys sitting around over a beer or two. Seems we can't have children out there seeing that. I find this all very odd as A) This is the country where people take kids to izakayas with them. Where a family outing to a beer garden (all you can eat of course) doesn't raise eyebrows and yet we can't, as the kid's festival, have them out there with drinking men. Weird. Oh and B)? Well they men were drinking in the carpark. The front carpark. Yup, where we all have to pass to get home.
Oh well, no point arguing with a decree so we headed home and did fireworks in the front yard.
Not a great picture of Meg or her sparkler but doesn't my lawn look great in the dark?
Ahh, over for another year. And that means I only have 364 days to prepare Meg for the idea of sleeping in the temple without mummy. Better get started!
This is the chook cage extension we finished a few weeks ago. They love it and after the summer holidays I want to get a couple more chooks. The tatami is perfect deterrent for digging predators as it's heavy and wide. Talk of the neighbourhood though as we ripped up all the tatami in the house and then started laying it outside- those crazy foreigners!
The poor negi. They are really the runt of the garden and have twice been completely overrun by weeds. Poor things look so pitiful we all promised not to neglect them again.
Finally got some warmer weather and the capsicums are changing colour. That won't happen unless the temperature tops 30 but they keep getting bigger and bigger even while they are green. We lost half a plant this week as it was so well endowed it broke from the weight of it's fruit. Fingers crossed for the rest as I'd much rather eat them red or yellow than green!
The grapes are colouring up well and I have high hopes as Amy hasn't noticed them yet. Shhh!
The newest garden beds have black beans, green beans, yellow beans and pumpkins at the far right. The beans are coming on well but I doubt we'll get pumpkins this year as the weather seems to be really slowing down their growth.
The cucumbers are still going gung-ho, crowding the poor marigolds who are struggling to do their bug-fighting business, and the goya in the background are colonising the garden everytime we turn away for a moment.
My co-farmers idea for the goya- two more supports to encourage it to climb over there rather than strangle-climb the red okra in the foreground. Whether this will work or not remains to be seen but one effect that's immediately evident? I have to turn sideways to get passed. Hmmmm...
Soy beans on the left- we're already picking them to eat fresh and will leave half to dry into soybeans for making miso. Sweet potatoes in the centre, very green Roma tomatoes behind that, stick broccoli (broccolini?) bearing embryonic florrets to the right of that, corn back left is being eaten daily and is yummy even raw (thanks Amy for pointing that one out!) and all the herbs and leaf lettuce at the very back. Oh, and weeds everywhere!
M and A eat a hot lunch at kinder every day. This is a fabulous system in my view: they get a nutritious, locally sourced, vegetable heavy meal- this time of year some of the vegetables used are even grown by the kids in the kinder's veggie garden- and I don't have to make bento.
It's not that I couldn't make their lunch- I make K's lunch each day after all- it's just that the pressure to make kiddie-cute lunches is huge. I get torn between the 'you don't need the tomatoes cut into flower baskets- just eat it!' and the 'but mummy, everyone else has cute lunches......'
And then for my birthday this year my SIL sent me a whole bunch of bento making tools. Sausage shapers, seaweed cutters, star, heart and flower rice ball moulds, the works. I had the misfortune of opening this gift in front of the girls so when they heard today was おかず入り弁当 okazuiri-bento- a full course lunch box- they were jumping with excitement. Amy spent two hours last night jumping out of bed, running to the top of the stairs and calling out a range of lunch related questions, requests and orders "Mummy?! Make lots of star things ok?" "Mummy?! You have to make little rice balls ok? Not big ones, ok?" I told her if she wouldn't go to sleep I wouldn't have time to make any lunch and got a "You have to make bento lunches in the morning, mummy!" for my troubles. Aghhhhh!!!
So, with all the pressure and expectations I got up an hour early this morning and gave it my all. Not perfect but hey, the girls were thrilled and that's the main thing, right?
That and being eternally grateful that I only have to make kiddie-cute bentos a handful of times a year!