Two bentos

Meg had her walking excursion.

She needed a bento.

I made teriyaki fish and meatballs the night before.

Meg woke up and decided she didn't like fish or meatballs in her bento as when she walked the sauce went everywhere.

I was disappointed but had to admit that I probably wouldn't be thrilled at teriyaki everything either.

So an emergency menu change was necessary:

ham and cheese skewers, broccoli, mikan, grapefruit, mini tomatoes, enoki mushroom omelette, parmesan cheese potato wedges, pumpkin, picked plum and shiso leaves, three fruit jelly cups and two brown rice rice balls with seaweed and konbu filling.

A little heavy on the fruit but otherwise ok.

And I used the fish for K:

Who doesn't like fruit in his lunch at all and only eats broccoli if it is diluted with equal parts mayonnaise.

Seriously, this family needs an "Aussie lunch week" where they get a ham and cheese sandwich and an apple every day to fully appreciate how complete my cultural conversion has become in the realm of lunch making!


First Dance Recital!!!!

I was such a proud mummy today.

Our little darlings had their first dance performance.

Ohhh they're so grown up........

They did so well......

I remember when they were just this big ad all they did was cry and eat and poop and sleep.....

And now look at them.....!

Ok. Nostalgia done with.

First a disclaimer. this is not our dance group:

They are a local hip-hop troupe and very talented. Amy's classmate's mum dances here. Wow... They also dance to songs with lyrics like 'I don't give a f+@#.' Yeah, that's not our group.

This isn't our group either:

They re soooo organised, there are sooo many of them, they know soooo many dances and have soooo many costumes (and mid concert costume changes) that I'm in awe. In awe and a little bit pleased for my sake that that's not our dance group.

So, what is our dance group?

Firstly it's taught as a fitness-dance group ratherthan jazz or hiphop or whatever so there is more aerobic type stuff and less difficult footwork. Maybe because of this we have a lot of boys in the class. About half the class in fact.

Secondly it is a community centre class that started out as a free class sponsored by the city. It's still ridiculously cheap- 500 yen per family per class and you don't pay at all if you don't go so I'm not sure how the teacher makes any money at all out of it...

Thirdly it's the epitomy of laidback. No costumes, no performances,no presentation days, no advertising (other than the community centre notice board) and lots of running around playing tag with balls wedged between your legs or playing withhoops and a big circle of parachute material or doing pilates type core work balancing on squishy balls etc etc.

But this year we were asked to be a part of the community centre Autumn extravaganza. And so we took to the stage along with the hip hoppers, the jazz dances, a taiko troupe, men's accapella group, innumerable Japanese traditional dancing groups and a koto group.

I was a bit worried ho the girls would go but they had a blast and came home all excited and aready planning their next performance. Yeah!!

And now for some pictures. :)

The dress code was black t-shirt and whateveryou like on the bottom. As you can see Meg and Amy were the only ones who decided dancers need frilly skirts. Oh well!

Meg and the other Grade 2 girl (yes, they're the same age...) had the job of introducing the group. This put Meg through the wringer in practice as she was so shy she kept mumbling andlooking at her feet so I was well chuffed when she looked up and said all her lines in a big clear voice- go Meg!

Love the power in this shot. And something weird- the kid behind her? I have probably 10 pictures of him and he has his eyes closed in all of them! weird huh?

Go Amy! Her ponytail was dancing all around the shop!

The one and only shot out of 200 (Hey, it was my first time seeing my kids perform!) with both girls in the same shot and both unobscured. I guess that's the nature of dance photography, huh?

Very wonky but this is my favourite pic of the performance. Aren't they cute?


And having made it through this blatant I-think-my-kid-is-wonderful-a-thon be grateful that the video K took is too big to upload. :)


One I won't be writing on my resume

I'm quite proud of my leaf picking abilities.

So I was pretty cocky as I headed off to help pick the first of the apples.

This warm November we've been having and I've been enjoying so much is not good for the apples. We need colder nights to get the mitsu to happen. This is a clear like area around the core that is the be all and end all of the Fuji apple industry and is the reason why they often have a halved apple on display at the apple aisle.

You can't see the mitsu when you're picking of course. Cutting each apple in half before deciding whether or not to pick it would work but then again not.

So you check the apple's butt. If the dimple downthere is yellow it is ripe and highly likely there'll be mitsu.

But under-ripe yellow-green and ripe yellow are not exactly a world apart from each other so it's slow going carefully upending apples to check their bottoms. You have to be gentle, too or you will pick the apple accidentally and then what good is it, huh?

So, because we're waiting for mitsu we aren't into picking full bore yet. And the prices are still low for all but the kodama- little ball- apples. So the brief today was to pick ripe, yellow bottomed small apples. To check the size I was given a stencil. If the apple fitted through the second smallest hole it was ok. Any bigger and we need to leave it and wait.

I picked for 2 1/2 hours and managed 1 1/2 small blue baskets of apples. Well those were the ones I intentionally picked. I also brought home six apples that were not ripe enough/ too big but that had fallen off as I approached. I swear!

So yeah, I don't think I will add apple selection to my resume. Much better at the end of the season pick-everything system!


Meg's observation day

Today was Meg's observation Day.

K and Amy and I all went along.

The night before we got a letter from Meg xplaining that we would be participating rather than just observing the first lesson.

In the gym.

Please bring your inside shoes rather than slippers.

Great. I love Meg's teacher and his energy and his unusually active method of teaching. (They stand and freestyle sway to their times table chant or walk around as they read aloud.)

I love this energy when it's directed at kids.

Last year's marathon observation day we dedicated mums who turned up to watch our kids run laps of the school in the biting wind were rewarded with an impromptu rousing game of tag. Us vs the kids.

At least this year we got warning I guess!

So there are no pictures of first period as we were busy doing train races in the gym.

Second period was moral education.

All the little sisters and brothers were invited to sit down together with the students.

Amy was thrilled!

Meg's BFF is the youngest kid in her family so joined in and claimed Amy as her sister as well.

The class was about words that are soft and fluffy and make you feel warm and words that are prickly and cold and make you feel sad.

The kids had a great time thinking up words and calling them out. The board says No way! Who do you think you are? Idiot, Stupid, I hate you, I'm never going to >>>> for as long as I live.

It was quite cute as they were really shouting out the nice words- THANK YOU! LET'S PLAY! GOOD MORNING! GOOD WORK!

But when it came to the naughty words they all got quiet and muttered them or explained that they don't use that word but they just know it. They're really good kids, hey?

I was really chuffed that Meg raised her hand and stood and gave her answer, too. She's a bit shy and doesn't tend to want to stand out much and the classroom was packed with parents and grandparents and little brothers and sisters and people wandering in because they'd heard that Meg's teacher is a bit of a character and video cameras and cameras and it was quite the circus!

Go Meg!!

Next year we'll be split up trying to see Meg and Amy's class so this was the last relaxed observation day for us for another six years!



It's November 11th.

Remembrance Day.

It is quite a challenge discussing WWII with a Japanese-Australian eight year old.

Her Aussie great- grandpa didn't serve as he was in an essential industry researching and developing petrol. Petrol that would have been used to run the machines that helped the Allies fight the Japanese.

Her Japanese great-grandpa died in a ship that was bombed on its way to fight at Iwojima. He never met his youngest child- her grandma as she wasn't born when he died. No remains were ever identified and the family was given a box of sand in lieu of ashes.

I explained all this and why people go to war and war is horrible and no, daddy won't be going to war and yes there are still wars in the world and that's terrible and Japan and Australia are now friends again and Remembrance Day is important to say thank you for all the people who made sacrifices for the world we live in today and to remember how much everyone suffered so we don't rush into war again.

I was quite proud of this explanation and when Meg was silent and nodding with her head on the side as I finished I was thinking it had all gone pretty well.



"In Japan November 11 is pocky day because 11/11 looks like 4 pocky in a row. Can we eat pocky today?"


Well, at least she wasn't too traumatised by all the war talk, huh?


I can't sleep

"I can't sleep." said Amy.

My bed is hard.

It's cold.

My sleeping sister is too noisy.

The moon is too bright.

My blanket keeps slipping.

My pajamas are scratchy.

I can't sleep.

"Just wait while I finish this email." said mummy.

But Amy didn't wait.

She fell asleep.

On the cold, hard, un-blanketted, slippery, bright, noisy kitchen bench in her scratchy pajamas.

Amy can sleep.

She can sleep anywhere!


thieves in the neighbourhood

Bad picture but the monkeys have moved in again. A big gang of 20 of them this time. Males, females and babies. They have taken up residence in a plum position at the foothills of the forest just across the road from the apple fields, this open area where the babies play and right in front of a veggie garden. They are wreaking havoc climbing the apple trees playing chasey and raiding the place for apples. I guess the mum monkeys have been worried about the high sugar content of a fuji apple only diet as they have now moved onto daikon theft. It's pretty amazing to see- they literally yank the daikon out of the ground, wipe the mud off and eat it like a cob of corn.

It has created quite a bit of extra work as, as well as scaring monkeys away, the farmers are now cleaning p all the windfall and rotten apples that they usually just leave under the trees to try and deter the monkeys.

They really are pretty cute but I can see how the cuteness is lost on you when they're stealing your crops.... kind of...


Rough louts pee outside, please

A sign at the hotel we ate lunch at in Kamikochi made me smile.

I'm sure I looked a little odd furtively taking a picture of the men's loo but how could I not?


My hidden talent

Growing apples? Nope.
Picking apples? Nope. (Not yet anyway.)
Keep looking......
Really hard......

See the mottled look of the apples? (If you live anywhere but Japan you're thinking so what?)
The mottled yellow patches are the shadows from leaves.
The leaves that I picked off. The non-leaf shaped mottled yellow bits are from where two apples rested against each other and created shadows that way. Those apples I carefully turned a quarter turn to expose their yellow bits to the reddening sun.

This leaf picking is called hatsumi which confused me at first as I thought it was hatsu- first mi- fruit but it's ha- leaf and tsumi- pick- oops. Oh well.

Leaf picking is a very slow job as you have to pick carefully and turn even more carefully so you don't damage any apples. It is a pretty low skilled job though as the instructions are simple- see leaf in front of apple? Pick. I can do that! And doing it while chatting away to my neighbour made the time fly to boot.

Thinking of adding hatsumi to my resume.

But worried that 'expert leaf picker' might get misconstrued in some circles....


theory vs reality- a family day out

So, Meg's old babysitter comes to visit and wants to go see Kamikochi.

Sounds like a nice family fun day out, right? And the pace of an old lady with a dodgy knee and a tired 6 year old should be pretty much the same- bonus!


In a picture this was our day:

That's the babysitter at the front staring into her camera trying to work out the gazillion or so settings so she can take (another) picture.

In the light pink in the middle distance? Meg. She has a huge piece of dried out driftwood and two sticks. She was mounting a petition to take her 'drum' home. On a bus. Yeah....

In the distance on the right in black?

K. Who is ever so patiently (because he values harmony and peace over schedules and discipline) waiting for Amy.

Where's Amy?

You can't see her?

Why she's the teensy weensy light blue speck in the back centre of the picture. She was hurrying to catch up, right?


The rocks kind of squeak and make noises as they rub against each other as you walk. That was just too much for Amy to be able to simply walk over and she was banging two rocks together as she held her own one girl corroboree there. I swear the Aboriginal dancers at Currumbine Bird Sanctuary had no idea the long range effects of M and A watching their dance show back in August!

So, there you go.

A family day out Fukase style.

That's the reason that I don't really enjoy family outings to places-other-than-playgrounds. It's just too stressful!


what a load of rubbish

These grapes? Rubbish.

According to the market anyway.

Too many grapes missing from each bunch. Missing because we had too much rain at the wrong end of the season and some grapes went moldy.

They were removed and this is what was left.

Still plenty of grapes and all perfect.

But not a perfect bunch and so the farmer couldn't sell them.

Which I think is a lot of rubbish.

Not the grapes the way of thinking.

But all was not lost and our family was very grateful to help friend J with her rubbish problem.

Coming form a country where you buy fruit by the kilo and a few non-perfect grapes, a bruised apple, a squishy mandarin is disappointing but not a deal breaker I find the Japanese obsession with agricultural perfection very hard to understand.

Especially when it means so much perfectly edible produce is wasted as it doesn't meet the ridiculously high standards.

The whole thing's a load of rubbish really.


eating with your eyes

I watch a lot of cooking shows and cooking related reality tv. A lot of the chefs rave on about eating with your eyes and the importance of presentation and colour etc etc.

I always listened with a yeah, yeah, whatever attitude until we started eating these beauties:

Purple sweet potatoes. The picture was taken with my phone at night so it's a bit washed out. The potatoes are actually a really shocking, Halloween type deep purple.

The flavour is not quite as sweet as regular yellow sweet potatoes but a little more flavour-other-than-sweet-some if that makes sense.

I usually just steam or bake sweet potatoes and we eat them as is as a snack or a vegetable with dinner.

But today I used these to make miso soup. Onion and sweet potato miso soup is probably the whole family's favourite kind of miso soup.

But today it was less than a raging success.

The problem is the potatoes leeched colour into the water.

The onions went purple.

The miso soup went a gray- black colour.

It really was very Halloween.

I kept thinking I should have sent some to Jo for her amazing Halloween feasts!

Like I said I am not one who really believes in the whole eat with your eyes thing but even I had a difficult time looking at my grey-black soup and thinking 'yum!'

The girls were very put off and pulled all the veggies out and ate them from their plates leaving the murky soup untouched.

And K?

Well I had to point out the odd colour to him.

He had already drunk half his soup.

I guess he really doesn't eat with his eyes!


It's the thought that counts

Meg is shy.

She doesn't like talking to people she doesn't know.

While I find this difficult to comprehend being that meeting new people is something I always look forward to I have to respect it and work with it.

Because I love her of course but also because K is pretty similar and is pretty strong in his opinion that not getting into a long and involved chat with every person who has the good fortune to stand next to you in line somewhere is perfectly ok. I think he even goes as far as to use the revolting word 'normal.'

So, anyway, Meg doesn't really go out of her way to talk to people.

That includes saying hello and good morning.

And that's where we hit a problem as greetings are considered really important here. Not that they aren't in Australia either but I din't think Aussies are quite such a stickler for a loud, clear child-led hellofest on the way to school each morning.

One of the safety measures around here is to encourage all the farmers and older residents to be out and about when the kids walk to school (they are anyway so that part is not much of an ask!) and for them to notice who walks past and just see that all is as should be. I like this idea and I've seen the benefits when a boy didn't come home and his mother was searching for him they managed to pinpoint how far up the hill he got before he went AWOL by which neighbours had seen him walk past. (He was fine- he'd ducked under the monkey fence to look for beatles in the forest. OK, he was physically fine but he got in a whole heap of trouble for breaking about a hundred rules regarding going under the monkey fence alone, without going home first, at dusk and when a bear warning was in force...)

Anyway, there is this whole patrol of senior citizens out and about checking on the kids. And they are of the generation that takes greetings very, very seriously. So seriously that they put in a discussion item to the PTA AGM that the kids need to be taught to do their greetings better as they either mumble, look away or don't say anything until spoken too.

The head of the neighbourhood is a particular stickler about this.

He is also our neighbour directly across the road.

And he is a bit of a gruff old thing. Booming voice and big laugh.

Needless to say Meg doesn't exactly shout out a cheery 'good morning!' when she sees him. Which I can really sympathise with.

Sympathise with but think it would be easier all around if she could say good morning...

So today we had our annual visit with Meg's old babysitter from Saitama.

Her babysitter we said goodbye to when she was 11 months old.

And who still comes and visits once a year to catch up with the kid who doesn't remember her at all.

It's all a bit comical really but she is the sweetest woman and really looks forward to coming each year so here we are 7 years later still meeting up.

Today she wanted to go to Kamikochi. It's a beautiful area but I am a little turned off by the 3,200 yen taxi ride or 1,200 yen each bus ticket you need to get there as it's a no car zone. Oh and all the masses of busses that descend spewing out tourists from the cities to tramp around the lake in 30 minutes, buy their mementoes and get out again.

But it was a nice day and being that the Autumn colours have all but finished for the season and it was grey and overcast it was the least crowded I've ever seen it. Being that we had a senior cit with a dodgy knee and two tired kids we just did the round the lake tour.

Oh and had lunch at a hotel.

And bought souvenirs.

And stopped for umpteen pictures.

You know, the usual tour fun.

When we were finally back walking again, we started passing quite a number of people who were on a bus tour walking the track in the opposite direction to us.

It was a narrow track and we would exchange greetings with each group as we passed.

We being the babysitter and I.

K is a lost cause but I decided it was time for some greetings training for the girls.

I challenged them to say 'konnichiwa' to 10 people in a row.


Then it was 20.


Then Meg wanted to see how many she could do before we got to the busstop at the other end.

And so there we had Meg and Amy skipping down the path carolling out 'konnichiwa!' every time they passed someone.

They were really chuffed at all the smiles and nods and return greetings they got. I was really chuffed at how well they were doing.

Right at the end Amy trilled out 'konnichiwa' to an older man and his wife.

After we passed them she ran up beaming and hugged me.

"He said I did that really good!"

I smiled and agreed that she was doing a great job.

The babysitter and I looked at each other and shrugged.

What could we say?

The man had actually said "Her Japanese is really good."

Oh well. It's the thought that counts, hey?


having fun- really!

I love this shot. The mummy is a grade 1 boy. He was thrilled. Giddy with it. He had to keep being reminded to stay still.

His wrappers are Meg and a grade 4 girl. They just didn't quite get the whole thing. It's toilet paper. Yuck. Why does he want us to do this? Why does Heather??

And I should have turned around and taken a shot the other way as all the mums (this is a community centre English 'circle' so the mums are here too) were really excited and laughing and giggling and taking umpteen shots on their phones.

But for all that the 'make a mummy' was a little less than wildly received the consequent 'pack up and discard of your mummy' race was a bundle of laughter and giggles and all the kids had a blast.

Cleaning up.

One of the challenging and yet motivating and enjoyable things about teaching kids- you really can't predict what will work and what won't hey?


Sooo behind!

Crazy busy here. As well as Autumn madness in the garden I took on a volunteer job making a photographc calendar for AFWJ. It's a committee job but I'm the chair and it is a whooooollle lot more work than I imagined but we are going great guns, down to the wire time-wise but moving ahead so no panicking but no time to do anything else of an evening either. I am also tutoring a HS girl which is a first for me and I am spending hours researching the grammar I need to teach her as I have no flipping clue how to explain when you say 'It seemed he had been a singer in China' and when 'It seems he had been a singer in China' is more appropriate. And what about 'He seemed to have been a singer in China'? Heck, I would probably say 'I think he was a singer in China' and skip the whole thing. You know in one of the many conversations I have about people who once were Chinese singers.

Anyway, all that is to say I realy shouldn't be blogging as there are still many mails to write but I miss it and promised myself I would start again come November (because the calendar was going to be all done and packed away by now- snort snort) and I have so much to catch up on including the gripping finale that is the rice saga and Sport's Day and all sorts of good stuff.

For now though I'll leave you with a random picture that made my commute the other week:

It's a bit hard to see but look very closely.....