I love Hong Kong airport

The girls are playing blocks at the play area, Amy's superballs are everywhere, I am sitting with them downloading sesame street podcasts in case of emergency and wondering where to take the girls for dinner....

We are half way through our trip (journey? odyssey?) home.

We made it through the 1:00am departure, 5 hour drive to the airport, the 4 hour wait for our flight (K doesn't like to be rushed....) the 4 hour flight to HK and now we've just got the 4 hour wait for our next flight, the 12 hour flight to Melbourne and the 2 hour drive to my parents place to go.

The girls are being angels although we have a small problem with Meg thinking every white person is Australian 'Mummy! Look at all the AUSTRALIANS!' And Amy speaking Japanese to all the Chinese airline staff.... A little embarrassing but hey if that's the most we have to worry about, hey?

I'm leaving on a jet plane

to sun, sand, surf, singlets and sandals.

family, fun, fashion and fish and chips

Look out Cathay Pacific, here comes an exhausted mum and two super excited preschoolers.

I bet you're all jealous you won't be sitting next to us, right?

Oh and I am such a good wife- the pickle water has risen (well done on guessing that one) and I have even written all the New Year Cards. Seriously, polish my halo time or what?


I must have been really tired...

I must have been really tired when I wrote out the questions for the true/ false quiz at the work Christmas party.

I included this gem without a second thought:

Japanese snowmen have 2 balls of snow. American snowmen have three.

I got through the first half of the statement and there were titters and chuckles from the 6 odd people with enough English to find that odd (mostly other foreigners) but when I realised what I had said I was struck down with the giggles and barely made it through the second half of the statement.

I would like to think it attests to my pure mind.

But I think it's got more to do with just being tired....


has your water risen yet?

Met neighbour over the road as I was flying around today.

No hello.

Not even a 'how about this weather?' (rainy slushy crappy not snow but not rain and freaking cold and torrential all day to boot just in case you were wondering)



"Has your water risen yet?"

What were we talking about?

A hint? Well my answer was:

"Getting there but I couldn't help myself- I pushed."


progress report

Feeling a bit like superwoman today.

Bit scary as I know I have limited capacity for the superwoman gig.

Tend to get to the apex of the jump a tall building in a single bound and then run out of oomph and crash and burn.

Fingers crossed the crash comes after the plane takes off... The me crash that is- definitely not the plane crash!

Anyway, today I:

  • Taught a cooking class
  • went to the pickling supply store (yup, we have one of those) and bought secret special pickling goods
  • ate lunch (an achievement- tend to forget to eat when I'm busy...)
  • picked 10 kilos of nozawana, learnt nifty cutting technique to save time on the washing- yeah!
  • picked up girls and took them to 100 yen shop for last minute stuff.
  • got both girls out of 100 yen shop without a single tear (superwoman!)
  • went grocery shopping- no tears again! (superwoman's got nothing on me!)
  • came home and made double batch of curry, double batch of cream stew, double batch of daikon and chicken nimono (don't ask, it's a K thing)
  • fed girls spaghetti (none of the above was ready) and got them bathed including washing two heads of very long hair.
  • made 1 batch rumballs, 1 batch gingernuts, double batch gingerbread
  • made double batch of apple butter
  • found exact change for 2600 yen for Meg and 500 yen for Amy for kinder tomorrow. First time this year I have achieved this amazing feat. Teachers will fall over with shock I'm sure.
  • wrote 'the origin of my name' and 'a note from my family' for Meg's graduation album.
  • invented fabulous origin for Meg's name to replace 'Mummy was stuck in early stage labour for 3 days with lot of free time, no books and an electronic dictionary' (see above)
  • packaged up all the cookies and apple butter to send off.
  • packaged up a whole bag of cloth nappies for someone who I'm sure has given up on me and the baby has probably not just been born but also toilet trained by now...
  • Realised I am missing some addresses... Hint, hint nappy person and granola buddy- your addresses in an email would be FABULOUS!!
  • pickled the greens, found heavy and clean stuff to weigh it down (industrial size jar of pickled plums) and found a place to store it (genkan. Unconventional, yes, but it's cold, sunlight free and North facing. Crap conditions for a genkan but a fabulous place for pickles!)
  • Did a great deal of the above while talking on the phone or video skyping. Much more fun that way!
And now I'm off to bed. Even superwoman needs sleep....



Why do I do it to myself?

Why can't I say no?

Why am I going to be making 20 kilos of pickled greens tomorrow when I have already worked out I don't have time to sleep between now and yeah-we-are-going-to-Australia-day?

Well, remember my dastardly plan to avoid pickles this year?

It didn't work.

Yes, my neighbours noticed my lack of pickles and chipped in to rectify the problem and save K from a sad and lonely pickle free existence.


They noticed a little earlier than I was hoping.

Well, a lot earlier actually.

I was thinking someone might notice we didn't make any pickles and offer us some of their excess.

But nope. They noticed we didn't plant any pickling greens and offered us some of their excess....

And so tomorrow afternoon (between end of cooking class and kinder pick up) I will go shopping for that overpriced soy sauce and come home and wash 10 kg of greens in numbingly cold water.


Why do I do it to myself?

Why can't I say no?


to do list

The girls and I are going to Australia for Christmas. Yeah!

We leave on Sunday. Aghhhhhh!! Yeaahhh!! Aggghhh!

Before then I only have to:

  • buy bucketloads of weird Japanese chocolate for everyone
  • find all the stuff I have bought for my family over the past year, get it in one place, sort through, realise I have bought 20 items for my (very easy to shop for) mum and sister and none for my (not so into cutesy Japanese crap) dad and brother and go shopping again
  • buy travel insurance when my passport name and credit card name are not one and the same
  • shop for and teach cooking classes for 2 lots of gingerbread and three lots of rum balls- including a class of 12 preschoolers....
  • print, write and send New Years cards
  • send boxes of produce to Japanese rellies as a combined Christmas/ oseibo/ sorry but we're not coming to visit this New Year apology gift
  • teach two other random English classes
  • attend two Christmas Parties (co MC one- wooh, go me!)
  • double paediatrician appointment to stock up on creams for everything about Australia that makes us itch and sneeze
  • finish baking, wrap and send items for cookie exchange
  • arrange foster mother for chooks and explain feeding system
  • cook double batch of curry rice and beef stew and portion and freeze so K doesn't subside entirely on udon while we're away.
  • Steel self for returning home to find lovingly prepared, portioned, labelled and frozen meals still untouched and village-wide shortage of udon....
  • Pack suitcases
  • re above: go to old house and try to find suitcases.
  • get enough sleep so 2am departure for airport doesn't wipe me out so much I'm unable to handle 12 hour flight with six hour layover in Hong Kong with the girls and no K.....


sneak peak

Huge day today and must get some sleep or my two year old class tomorrow is really going to drag. Or we could learn some new action verbs- nap, rest, lie down, sleep?

But had to share this shot of Amy discovering the magic of hot hands and chocolate coated snacks:


I guess the moral of the story is don't come home from a night out and decide to blog.

Not sure which version will reach you but neither one is at all informative and both shall be denied in the morning. ;)


Oh God, it's Christmas

Every year at this time of year I get all in a muddle.

All my classes want to do something Christmassy.

I want to do something Christmassy.

But I don't want to do something fried chicken, strawberry shortcake and presents for the childrenny.

I want to talk about the meaning of Christmas.

But I'm not a Christian. I don't want to (nor could I) preach.

Searching for Christmas materials on line you tend to find two kinds- religious and secular.

Religious has baby Jesus, Bethlehem, angels etc.

Secular has Santa, presents, candy, snowflakes and snowmen.

(I'm from Australia. No snowmen at my Christmas secular or otherwise...)

While I would feel odd teaching a purely religious Christmas when it's not what I observe I also think it's odd to completely take God out of Christmas. One of my students lived in the US for a while. She told me she was instructed to say 'Happy Holidays!' rather than 'Merry Christmas!' That seems really bland to me. And in Japan it's not a holiday anyway. And if you take baby Jesus out of the nativity you are left with a bunch of farm animals. Happy Farm Animal Day! Nope doesn't work for me.

I want a third option. I'm thinking of calling it moral.

My moral Christmas has an emphasis on giving and being grateful, thinking about those who make sacrifices for our happiness and what we can sacrifice (I'm thinking time, energy and money rather than lambs or first born sons) to help others.

In my kids classes we usually decorate cookies. I give each kid two cookies. One for them and one for someone they love. They decorate them both, eat their cookie and we bag up and attach a gift tag to the other cookie. It's important to me that they are not just getting a cookie but giving one as well.

This year in my Christmas Bingo, among the snowflakes and reindeer, I left in 5 religious cards- Bethlehem, Mary and Jesus, Three wise men, a star and an angel. There's no reason why I chose those 5, I printed off a premade Bingo set from the internet. But it gave me an in to talk a little bit about the meaning of Christmas.

And what conversations they have been. Did you know:

The three wise men were the only ones who could see the Emperor's new clothes?
The angel was Jesus' mother?
Bethlehem is in Pakistan. Where America is fighting?
We put the star at the top of the Christmas tree because it has sharp points and would be dangerous lower down?

That would be funny if it was from my kid's classes but no. It's from my senior women.

And I'm glad that by the end of this Christmas we should have a better understanding than that at least.



I was out the back feeding the chooks and picking broccoli.

The girls were inside playing their umpteenth round of 'nice mummies'.

I heard a voice "Hello?"

Walking around the side of the house was an older Japanese man.

I am used to random door knocking old men: the electricity meter checker, the gas man, the other gas man in the village who wants to be our gas man, the kerosene delivery man, the yakult woman, the milk man, the newspaper man etc etc. We don't actually have any of these things delivered but every 6 months or so one of them will pop in to see if they can't convince us to sign up. When I say pop in I mean it literally. If the front door is unlocked they'll come into the genkan, if no-one's in the house they'll walk around the back to see if we're out there.

So anyway, I didn't recognise today's old man so just answered "Hello?"

"Can you sell me some cigarettes?"
"Ahhh, are you from that house?" (pointing to the old house, it has a roof and walls but it's a stretch to think you would live there)
"No. This one."
"Well can you sell me some cigarettes?"
"No. I'm sorry. The shop closed about 15 years ago. You'll have to go down to the bottom of the hill and the shop there."
"Oh. No cigarettes at all then?"
"No. Sorry."

Very odd. This house did indeed used to be a cigarette shop. But that was 15 years ago. And there was an actual shop out the front. You know with a sign and cigarettes in the window and all that. To have not visited in 15 years, not notice the lack of shop, not noticed that I'm not the old woman who ran the shop etc etc rather odd.

Saw the man off and went back inside.

"Meg? Did someone come to the door?"
"Did you know who it was?"
"What did he say?"
"What did you say?"
"I said mummy's out the back."
"Don't you practice stranger danger at kinder? What does sensei tell you to do?"
"He wasn't a stranger! He was just an old man."

Fabulous. Glad to know all that stranger danger practice is working, huh?


frosty morning

It was freezing this morning.


I really feel as an Australian I should be exempt from window scraping duties. Brrrrr. But after one very stupid morning when I thought I'd drive without scraping my window (made it 10 metres before I had a panic attack and stopped...) I suck it up and do it.

Trying to look on the bright side of freezing temperatures I tried to take some pictures of the frost. Hmmm still haven't got this camera sorted but:

Looks like my wishes are coming true this year so I would like to modify yesterday's 'here's to it getting colder' to 'here's to it getting colder at the ski resorts'.


blue sky days

Beautiful blue sunny day today. 11 degrees, no wind, even a view of the Alps. The Alps are really quite bashful. Once there's snow up there if there's any wind the snow blows around and you can't see the outlines clearly. I really think the picture perfect postcard view of the Alps happens about once or twice a year if we're lucky.

11 degrees though. First day of December, first day of Winter and it's 11 degrees. I was actually too hot in my thermal vest* and woolly jumper. This warm weather is supposed to continue for the next couple of months. This is not good. Not good for the ski industry which means not good for Nagano. And the last thing we need is another blow to the economy so, I can't believe I'm saying this but, here's to it getting colder.

*Don't judge me. I resisted "baba shirts" -thermal vests- for 8 years but I'm a convert. They are warm. Really warm. Those old women know what they're talking about. No, they're not sexy but one of those babies alleviates the need for about three layers of regular clothes which allows for a silhouette the right side of the Michelin man.

I only wear the white or baby pink ones though. There's no excuse for wearing the beige ones.