Amy's got a new mummy

Amy's got a new mummy.

And she's gorgeous.

And she wears makeup and has a soft voice and she smiles in a very ladylike fashion and she thinks Amy is gorgeous, too.

And Amy just thinks she's fabulous.

Amy's got a new daddy too but she's not so enamoured with him.

She likes her real daddy more.

Here's a picture of Amy and her new mummy and their hairdresser:

Their hairdresser?

Yup. They share a hairdresser.

That's a clue.

More pictures to come- real ones, not dodgy cameraphone ones- but yesterday Amy was modeling dresses and a kimono for 7-5-3 advertising.

She had a ball!

I couldn't believe how much work goes into modelling and getting models ready for modelling but Amy took it all in her stride.

So much so that I was wondering of we had created a monster here...

But my fears were allayed when she got home, stripped down to her knickers and calmly went out to pick blueberries and tomatoes.

Ahhhhhhh, that's our Amy!

She's still talking about her 'pretty mummy', though....

Somehow I don't think she means me this time...


"side" dish?

Small dinner kerfuffle tonight.

Seasoned chicken and stuck it in the oven toaster, shucked corn and topped and tailed beans. Put beans and corn on.

Pulled cooked corn and beans out.

Served rice.

Plated up corn and beans.

Hmmmmmmmm, no beep beep from the overn toaster yet?

Maybe I missed it...

Or maybe I didn't even turn the oven toaster on?


There goes fabulously timed dinner.

Oh well.

Decided to go fancy pants and serve the veggies as an appetiser and convince the girls the chicken was designed as a second course.

No problems.

Well, almost no problems.

After eating the corn and beans and rice- but especially the corn- the girls weren't hungry for chicken.

And I couldn't really blame them as neither was I.

Oh well.

Dinner fail but it's a pretty healthy one, hey?


summer dinner

Beans, tomatoes, corn on the cob, cold noodles and grilled pork.


These yummy summer days our dinners look a lot like this a lot of the time. Sometimes there's rice instead of noodles. Sometimes there's broccoli instead of beans (or as well, depending how the veggie surplus is going!) but this is Summer eating.

This is produce fresh from the garden minutes before it was cooked.

This is why I live in the country.


the masterchef effect

Amy loves cooking.

She loves watching cooking shows.

She loves doing 'play cooking'- you know, making bickies and cakes and cupcakes and stuff.

But she also loves making everyday food and has been our salad maker for a year now.

The other day we saw this dish in a magazine:

And I read her the list of ingredients and she hmmmed and ahhhhed through it all and then decided she could make a more delicious version herself:

And then she arranged it all on plates and with spoons stuck in the top of the glasses 'just like on the tv one' and posed with her creation:

Meg wasn't really sure what was so exciting about salad in a cup....

Unlike Amy who then went on to write up the 'recipe' as one of her summer homework diary entries.

She made a copy to send to Obaachan too as she doesn't watch English TV and so "probably doesn't have good recipes."

Ahhhh even the littlest kids have bee hit by the Masterchef effect, hey?


A problem growth.....

No, not on me.

Check this out:

The stake beside them is 1.8m.

That is a BIG sunflower.

And it's a problem because the bigger it gets the harder it is to remove (literally and emotionally) as it just seems such a waste.

But the bigger it gets the more shadow it is casting on all the surrounding vegetables and that's a waste, too....

I keep thinking 'Today I will rip it up/ hack it down.'

Then I go out there and it's just so magestic and impressive....

And I find myself promising to deal with it tomorrow....

What to do, what to do....

It really is a problem growth.


Happy Birthday to me?


A year older and a year wiser, hey?

The day started at 5:00 when I went down to check the ducks. There were two holes in the fence.

Oh oh.

They weren't holes ripped in the fence but rather two places where the blue clips (that they call packers here) had been bumped off the poles and the green netting had sagged.

This is bad news as when I said goodnight to the ducks the evening before the fence had been intact.

And nocturnal visitors to the duck house tend not to be of the amorous kind.

I couldn't see anything amiss though. No feathers or stray duck heads or anything gruesome like that.

Just those two holes in the fence...


After walking around the paddy twice and walking through it to find the packers in the mud and replacing them i decided there was nothing else I could do and went home.

And back to bed.

Hey, it was only 6am and it's my birthday!

It lasted all of 10 minutes.

Meg borrowed a new book from the library.

It's called 'Looking after your dog.'

No, that's right, we don't have a dog...

But Meg would love us to have one.

And so at a little after 6:00 she came in to tell me that dogs shouldn't eat chocolate, coffee, onions or leeks.

Great, I'll keep that in mind.

When prompted to wish mummy a happy birthday she informed me

"Oh, sorry. I didn't do anything for your birthday as I was really busy yesterday."


Oh well. To be fair I'm fighting a losing battle trying to get the birthday thing going around here as K's family don't really celebrate birthdays so trying to get him to help the girls foster some celebratory zeal when my birthday is the first on the calendar is hard work.

Oh well, just have to do it myself then, huh?

And so it was that I organised langosteen spinach and garlic saute, prossciutto salad and lemon tart for dessert.


Who needs birthday cake when you have lemon tart!

Very bad picture but this is the only birthday shot this year.

Yummy tart but we need to work on the other elements that make up a birthday, hey?



Meg and Amy had to change dance classes when my work schedule changed. Same teacher, different village, different day and whoaaaaa baby whole different dance experience.

Our old dance group had about 50% boys, there was a lot of running around and chasing each other and stretching and flexibility stuff. The youngest kid just turned three and the oldest was Meg at eight. Once a year we had a performance as part of the community centre festival. Sandwiched between a men's choir and a koto group kind of thing. And our costume consisted of 'wear something black' and sensei gave us pom poms for a touch of unity.

The new dance group is full on. We do choreographies. Plural. The youngest kid is five and the oldest fourteen. We have been there since April and already had two performances. With at least two more on the books before the summer is out. And we have costumes. Thankfully I didn't have to sew anything but keeping track of all the elements is tough enough!

Today was the first big performance.

We were invited to perform at a kinder festival in a town 40 minutes from here.

Don't be mistaken- we are not so famous that we are worth a 40 minute trip, sensei has another class in that town.

It was all very exciting as the girls (all girls this dance group) converged on the kinder and got dressed and rehearsed and were kept hidden behind the curtains in the kinder gym waiting for their intro and ta-da moment and the performance.

While we were waiting one of the mums wanted to line the little kids up for a group picture.

In the tradition of Morning Musume our dance group is broken down into sub-groups (colour coded for ease of identification), kinder and grade 1 are green, grade three is red, grade 6 is pink and junior high is black.

Amy is in the kinder and grade 1 group. She's the entire grade 1 part of the group and the other girls are all friends from the same kinder so, while she has gelled with the group to an extent, she tends to hang out with Meg and the other grade three girl at dance practice.

I joined the gaggle of camera phone wielding mums to capture the group picture:

Amy didn't quite get why we were taking a picture and they hadn't even danced yet...

I think that comes across pretty clearly in the pictures:

It's also pretty wild that she is only a year older than those other girls...

We breed Fukase's big around here....


looking the part

I was out in the garden and Amy was lying in the hammock talking to me.

Then she wasn't in the hammock anymore.

I didn't think anything of it.

Then she came around the side of he house with some self sown tomato seedlings from beside the sandpit. (I've got no idea, either.)

'Can I help plant these?'

'Sure. But you need to take off your new school shoes and put your boots on. It's muddy out here.'

Amy left her tomato seedling at my feet and ran off around the front of the house again.

I kept weeding and pottering and just doing my thing and did think that she was taking a while but this is Amy so she could have quite easily gone in for shoes, found a stray crayon and forgotten her planting plans altogether.

But no.

'I'm ready!!'

I turned around and had to laugh.

And take a picture for posterity.

Boots? Check.

Gloves? Check.

Trowel? Check.

And what's that?

That's my gardening hat. It's a tad too big for her.

After I adjusted the hat so she could actually see we had a great time planting the tomato.

A significantly shorter time than she took getting ready to plant the tomato but still, it's important to look the part, right?


first harvest

Yeah! I love corn. And corn from the garden tastes so amazing.

So amazing that I planted forty corn plants this year.

And then re-planted more than half of them after they either didn't sprout at all, sprouted and were deformed by seed weavels or were threshed by K and his over zealous weed-eater- never let a guy who can't tell a corn plant from grass loose in the garden...

So it has been a long journey to the first harvest of corn this year but we're here.


Long may it last and stay away predators!


Eat your greens

Amy ferreted out the icypole makers that every Aussie relative I have has sent us.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate them.

I remember making and freezing and eating them myself as a kid.

What I somehow didn't remember was the mess and the hassle involved in it all. There seem to be icypole sticks in every Amy nest in the house. And yet when I try to put a set away there is always one stick missing...

And then there's the whole thing about 6 year olds and time and the science of freezing. I swear we'll all get food poisoning at this rate with Amy opening and closing the freezer every 30 seconds 'just to check if they're ready yet.'

After trying blueberry, raspberry, orange juice and milk flavours I opened the fridge (having forbidden Amy to open the freezer anymore today) and found this:

Clover flavour chilled water non-icypoles....

mmmmmmmm, yum!


pair look

I don't really get pair look.

My mum used to dress my brother and I in brown cords and skivvies (usually yellow or green- Wiggles we were waiting!) but I'm pretty sure it was because they were durable and easily washable rather than her desire to have us look like two peas in a pod. Well, as much as a tall long haired girl pea and a short, near bald boy pea can look anyway.

And anyway in the late seventies wasn't everyone wearing cords and skivvies?

But since I arrived here I have entered a parallel universe where dressing alike is sooo cuuuutttteee. My PIL had not just one but at least two matching outfits on their honeymoon. I've seen the pictures. Apparently it was all the rage.....

There are whole catalogues devoted to mother daughter (and less commonly) mother son matching outfits....

Since becoming a mum I have kind of waivered a little on the pair look thing. When the girls were little I admit to thinking that matching outfits were kinda cute.

But I really thought it would be something we would graduate from about the same time they exerted some sartorial control.

But noooooooo.

On the contrary, it has got worse.

Getting dressed now involves not just choosing your clothes but juggling the intricacies of the washing schedule and what your sister wants to wear as well and trying to match.

Simple right? Just don't buy matching clothes.

Tried that.

We're living with some serious enablers here. Obaachan, two aunties and recently even the girls themselves when take shopping will go for coordinating looks.

Oh well. At least I know which ones are mine in the crowd, hey?

Oh and mum and dad: before you fall over those aren't miniskirts, they're very, very frilly shorts.



just weeding

Some days when someone asks me what I was doing today and I say 'weeding' I get the feeling that they think that is a pretty poor activity list for an entire day.

Truth is though that there are many more days that should be devoted to weeding than actually are.

The garden beside the house is kept pretty manageable by virtue of proximity to us. The rice paddy is weed free thanks to the darling duckies.

The big garden where we grow the onions and potatoes is all of a 4 minute walk form here.

And yet it suffers just for that.

And so today I was weeding.

Just weeding.

Before shot*:

and After:

To the left is what I didn't get done yet. To the right is a long line of weeds. The few straggly bits of green in the brown swathe in the centre is all that is left of the onions. We planted the sets when they were too small and spindly and then left them to fend for themselves and well, I guess you get what you deserve, hey? On the upside the ones left look very healthy and strong.

Which is just as well as it was very hard to weed around them and about 50% got an impromptu transplanting during the weeding process so strong genes will be necessary!

*For the pernickety among us these are before weeding and after weeding pictures but technically not the same spot because I forgot to take a before picture. They are pics of the same row from diagonally opposite corners.

So, yes. When I say 'weeding' i think people underestimate the task. Maybe I should say scrub clearing or bush bashing....


Village games day

Matchpoint in the igo ball match and Okubo (in the blue singlets) are in a tightly contested match (drew the first set, lost the second and with one ball left it could go either way in the third and final set). To go for a clean point or try and smack the opponents ball out of alignment and reduce their score, that is the question.... as with all neighbourhood events there are more self-appointed coaches than players and we have to be careful or we will go overtime just trying to work out what to do. And of course it's all very well to decide to do a jump shot trick curve ball three ball play and all but when it comes to croquet mallet on igo ball the best laid plans and all that, hey?

The result? We lost by a point. One measly point! And see the white balls (our team) at either end of the mat that didn't even make it onto the mat? If even one of those had made it onto the mat we would have at least drawn. Oh well. There's always next year!

I was in the shuffleboard team and phewwwww what a day! We fought two closely contested matches and drew both! The only draws of the day and our team was involved in both!

Okubo is 大久保 the team with the 11 in a circle and the 30 without. Underneath it says 'rock, paper scissors, Okubo won' and 'rock paper scissors, Himuro won.'

Seriously! We played six sets and then won or lost on a round of rock, paper, scissors! We ended with a win and a loss and then didn't have enough points to go through to the final.

Oh well, there's always next year!

As with any hearty, healthy day of sports we rounded things off with an after party at the community centre. Nothing like a healthy menu of beer, pickles, all things fried, sashimi and sushi to round out your day, hey?

As is the norm for these events all the men sat at one table and the women and children at another (with some toing and froing but not a lot) and when they had stuffed themselves with more junk food than anyone should eat in a week the kids were give free reign to hooliganism and raced around the hall and upstairs and outside like whirling dervishes while the beer level went steadily down and the volume steadily up. Amy took the plastic covers from the sushi platters and fashioned a super hero cape and then made them for the other kids as well until all but Meg (too cool) were racing around as sushi super heroes. Amy is amazingly bossy. Amazing not as in 'where does she get it from?' pretty sure noone in my family is wondering that... but amazing as in 'why on earth do the other kids put up with it?' She had them all washing their hands and gargling on command and if she decreed it was time to play outside they all ran to get their shoes on. Not sure if we have a future CEO, politician or street gang leader but I think it will be something big anyway!

The kids rounded out the afternoon singing rolicking theme songs on the neighbourhood karaoke machine. Nothing like a group of wired and tired kids belting out anthems into microphones to soothe the weary ear, hey?

And that was the Sport's Day that was.


For mum

They're getting bigger and bigger! Meg is the tallest in her year level and Amy the biggest in her class. They are both strong and healthy and Amy is a really fast runner. I'm sure Meg could be too if she could be bothered but you know how it is, it's too hot or too windy or there's friends to talk too...

In this picture they're pointing to their new shoes. Shoes with 'bane'  little plastic spikes. Amy is *thrilled* and convinced she is now even faster!

And that's an update on the girls. Now back to our regular programming. :)

It's not the Olympics but...

<p>It's not even the Commonwealth games but around here it's just as important. It's the annual Azusagawa Summer games day (not to be confused with the Autumn sports day or winter games day). After the fiasco over 'professional' (read experienced) players on certain teams dominating the competition (not hard when most teams are made up of farmers and retirees but still...)

So this year they borrowed equipment from the Nagano senior Citizens clubs association - yes, we have one of those- and chose a new sport.


I think this was the sport they played on board ships from England to Australia to kil time.  I really didn't consider it  sport at all till I tried it. It's haarder than it looks!  Practice was last Monday and THE MATCH is this Sunday. The Okubo team has not one but two coaches and they're taking it all very seriously.  The shuffleboard team is essentially the same team as last year's famous-for-an-epic-choke one bound volleyball team so we have our pride on the line here.

It's not the Olympics but we'll be doing our best anyway!</p>

There's a rice paddy in there somewhere...

The ducks get fed at 5:00 am each morning. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday that's my job. 5:00 is a time of morning that I am not particularly familiar with. Even when the girls were little K did the morning shift as he was so happy to have time with them before work.

I can't say I'm a convert to the 'let's watch the sunrise' brigade but I will admit it is very beautiful in a still and serene way in the early morning mountain mists.


There's a duck in my bucket dear Liza

And he (she?) has a sore knee.

Poor ducky...

But never fear.

The duck saviours are here!

We scooped up the lame duck and brought him (her?) home in a bucket and then put it up at Casa Fukase overnight in a crate with dry grass and rice husk bedding, water and feed and then today it is off to the duck maestro's house. The duck maestro has a special pond just for lame and weak and otherwise special needs ducks.

He is such a great guy.