we did it!!

I promised the girls we'd make a gingerbread house.

No problem, right?

Well, the search for molasses was 3 days, 3 towns and 8 shops.

Then the search for an adequate molasses substitute (kuromitsu- pure kuromitsu, no honey added) was another day and 3 shops.

Then we made the dough- and it rested overnight.

Then we baked the pieces- and they hardened overnight.

Then we made the royal glace icing.  1 hour, three of us taking turns mixing with my whisk (no beaters here) 

Then we stuck the pieces together.  1/2 a day and noone could use salt or pepper as the shakers were being used as supports.

Then finally the girls iced and decorated our gingerbread house with the rest of the icing dyed 5 colours.

And you know, during the whole thing I was ready to pack it in so many times.  It was such a hassle, I was tired of the stress of it all etc etc.

But this afternoon when the girls iced the house with their toothpick paintbrushes and sprinkles and little decorations and then decided they needed a garden and made flowers in the garden etc etc and I saw how totally involved they were in the project it all seemed worthwhile after all.  More than worthwhile, to copy a slogan, it was priceless.

And here it is, our gingerbread cottage.

Best Wishes for the New Year to all of you from all of us.

(Yes, I have the kind of exciting life we're I'm blogging at 11:00pm NYE.)


damn it

A had her 753 on Christmas Day, yeah?

And that involved three trips to the studio for 

1) booking
2) kimono check A
3) Kimono check A and M

And then we went for the 2 hour session.

And then we went back to choose pictures.

And then we paid an obscene amount of money for said pictures.

And through all that my mantra was:

"At least this will make nengajo easy."


We get the pictures January 16th.


So I have just rummaged through our snap pictures and dummied up a second rate nengajo without my heart being in it because I WANTED HER 753 PICTURE!!!!!!!


She was soooo cute!!!

Oh well.  There's worse problems in the world than that, I know.

But look at this:

What a waste!!

Hmmm.... maybe next year's nengajo? ;P


real troopers

The girls have been real troopers.  We have dragged them around all the tourist spots:

Matsumoto Castle

A 12 course kaiseki banquet with eight of my senior ladies English class:
(Do you get the feeling Amy thought we were too noisy?)

And we quite literally dragged them into the forest to see the monkeys yesterday.

No naps, a house full of noisy people, here there and everywhere and then back again, half the toy room commandeered for adult use, a serious shush rule on our early mornings, etc etc.  You girls rock!


We went to the onsen and didn't go in!

because these guys beat us to it:

Jigokudani ShigaKogen Nagano

Thanks for the pic. mum. :)


a walk

We who didn't go to Hakuba and get caught in snow gales and stuck up on a gondola for an hour etc etc went for a walk in the woods at the end of our street in the snow.

Yesterday's snow was all icy in the season's coldest morning to date and M had a wild time slipping and sliding on her bottom.  So much so that she was disappointed when she didn't fallover.  A has a cold and insisted on being carried and my mum stopped every two steps to take another picture (that's one of hers.)  But it was a great way to get some exercise and show off some of our neighbourhood.



My sister just came in pulling a funny face.  Her toothbrush had frozen.
Yup, lots of winter fun.

We had nabe tonight and everyone loved it.  Good old Nah-bay. ;P

The younguns are off snowboarding at Hakuba tomorrow.

Me?  No, thank you!!  I will be catching up on the house stuff - 10 people is a lot of clutter! and looking after two over-stimulated, overtired, getting colds kids.  yeah.



touristing it

We walked to Shinkoji Temple.  30 minutes through the apple orchards.  Had a look around and on the way home were waylaid by an 88 yo woman washing her clothes in the roadside water.  She used her 8 words of English on us, showed us her congratulations for being 88 certificate, told us she lends her garage to her neighbour and asked us in for tea.  We couldn't stop as it was getting dark but she kept saying how happy she was to meet us all. 



Poor Amy.

The pace of life is just to fast.  She goes 200% all day and then crashes at 4:30ish.

Poor Amy.

She's too big for the free strollers at the park so only her bottom is in the stroller- her knees are up and over the lap bar.

Poor Amy.

She missed the whole illumination tour.

Lucky Amy.

She got hours worth of cuddles as we all took turns carrying our bit too big and bit too heavy to be carried baby around town.


merry (almost) christmas!

yup.  It's snowing.

Me, M and my sister.


more christmas cooking

They're here.

It's madness.

It's amazing.

There's 10 people and one shower.

Everyone insists they are shower-in-the-morning types.

I'm enjoying my peaceful nighttime soaks and not complaining!

The Christmas baking is gone. :O

The recipes is from a site called cooking for engineers.  It's a great site to just red s the recipes are written quite differently to your average recipe.


speechless saturday

It's a shop.
With a car park.
On the front steps...

They do have a sandpit.



the chooks

...are gone. :(

to a very nice place.  Well, as nice as those kind of places can be, yeah?  

We have had a bumpy run with our chooks.  The first 4 I rescued from a chook noticeboard.  The listing said 'Free to a good home.  If not taken by Friday, they'll be put down.'  What could I do?  So I paid wayyyyyy too much to have them shipped half way across Japan (did you know you can do that?  Seino transport is the way to go) and became mum to 4 gorgeous silky bantams with two split beaks, one bandy leg, one case of 'drop wing' and one bald head between them.  They were beautiful to look at but only laid eggs once or twice a week.  And that was when the weather conditions, wind, feeding schedule etc etc were just so.  Still, we all loved them until we found nothing but feathers and a hole under the fence left one morning.  Probable culprit? Fox.

After fortifying chooky Alcatraz the second generation of chooks were locals.  There's an eggfarm around here with these great signs with pictures of two happy looking brown chooks pecking and scratching in a garden with the Alps in the background.  It's even called 'Dream Egg Farm'.  So I called up and for the princely price of 2000 yen a head they would sell us four more chooks.  So, map in hand we trekked up into the Alps and arrived at.... chook hell.  Three huge buildings, massive exhaust fans, floor to ceiling wire cages chock full of chooks, bins of dead birds, overwhelming sound and stench.  Everything you see on an RSPCA flyer and worse.  And the bizarre thing was the old couple running the place were so desensitised to it all they kept asking 4yo M and 2yo A whether they wanted to go into another shed and another shed etc etc.  DH wanted to buy all 10,000 odd chooks just to save them.  

The four we took home were really institutionalised.  They were missing feathers everywhere from living in such close quarters.  They had never stood up, walked around or searched for food before.  The next morning there were three.  A week later there was 1.  But what a battler.  She was the queen of our flock.

Flock?  Yup, we got three more chooks.  This time 5000 yen for three.  From a free range egg farm.  Would have been a much more pleasant experience if there hadn't been a disembodied wing right outside the front door.  @_@  The chooks were big, brown and beautiful.  Glossy coats and an egg a day.  We were promised they were 18 months old.  The peak laying period for chooks lasts until about 3 years old.  Well, we got our last egg in November.  Early November.  Only 6 months later.  I think we were duped by the egg guy.

So what to do?  We have four beautiful chooks and we are still buying eggs.  Actually we are buying eggs and chook food.  In summer this isn't such a big deal as we can supplement their food with lots of greens from the garden and weeds a plenty, but in the winter months it's all bought feed which adds up.  And, while I'd love to become a sanctuary for retired chooks, it's just not viable.  

My first choice was to let them go free in the mountains.  Dh nixed that idea with the very sensible rationale that a domesticated animal would either starve to death or be eaten by a lucky predator as it lacks survival skills. :(

Ok honey, well you 'take care' of them.  No can do.  DH and I are both catch and release types.  Spiders that holiday in our bathtub are gently resettled outside.  We both eat meat but baulk at actually killing something.  Hypocritical? Yes.  Sorry, but that's me.

Third choice- I'll phone silver service and have someone else do our dirty work.  Brilliant, right?  All those apple farmers who hang real dead crows on strings to frighten birds away from their orchards have got to retire someday, hey?  Brilliant idea, but DH has a man hangup about asking for help so nixed that one, too.

Enter the woman of the hour- my trusty friend and neighbour A.  She knows a guy who runs a broiler farm.  Of course she does.  She knows someone who does everything!  So, a phonecall later and she has harangued chicken man into swapping my 4 old birds for four of his young ones.  

And today we went and delivered ours (sniff sniff) and they are in a heated, lit, well stocked with feed, holding pen awaiting shipment when a truckload of chooks is ready.  I'm kind of glad they get a few nights at the chooky Hilton before their time is up.  Live it up girls, you've earned it!

And now all I have to do is muck out the chook cage, put bundles of fluffy warm straw everywhere and doll the place up so the new Hilton born and bred younguns won't turn up their tails at their new accommodation!

The chook saga continues!


D day -1

Tomorrow morning I'm handing my four beautiful, faithful, blameless middleaged chooks over to a slaughterhouse and getting 4 new, improved, point of lay younger birds in return.

I'm so sad.

I'm really not cut out for livestock farming.

And I found a grey hair this morning.

I feel like it will be my turn next.


so close but yet so far

My sister's in Tokyo.

At the Park Hyatt.

Drinking Chuhai with her boyfriend.

Planning a shopping spree/ sightseeing trip tomorrow.


I'm in Nagano.

In my cluttered with too much furniture, in need of a vacuum, and overrun by itty bitty bits of paper (AAAAAMMMMMMYYYYYYY!!!) living room.

Drinking chuhai by myself.

Planning a senior's English class/ apple juice making/ house cleaning day tomorrow.  


what beats a stupid poop doodle stupid?

We're having some, ermmm, issues with M's rather short fuse at the moment.

It's mad around here this week.  Daddy's neck is still not right (better- thanks for the good wishes!) but not 100%.  Not up to his usual carrying and piggybacking and shoulder-riding and swinging around self.  

Mummy is running around like a chook with its head cut off mumbling bizarre lists of seemingly random actions: 'send apples, call onsen, clean guest room, buy toilet paper, remember niece's first birthday, make spare key, send apples...'

A is at near blast off levels of excitement with the triple whammy of Granny and Grandpa arriving 'Mummy, can I have three cuddles with Granny?' Christmas 'Mummy is Santa going to come to Amy's house today? tomorrow? when??????' and 7-5-3 'Mummy, can I have paint (make-up) here? (pointing to nose) what about here? (pursing lips)'

And M is in the end of year crazy time at kinder.  She has a violin concert, Christmas party, mochi making, osoji cleaning and the final height weight check of the year all this week. @_@

So everybody's a little tired, a little frantic.  M is a creature of habit.  She eats the same breakfast (cereal) with the same spoon (elephants) every morning and on the rare occasion I make something exciting for breakfast (bagels, pancakes, natto and rice) she will say 'I want cereal.'  

So I know that this week is a bit difficult for her.  But that's no excuse for spitting out your string of seriously baaaaaad words at the slightest perceived provocation.  The very worst words you know all in one long epithet.  baka unko chinko baka stupid poop doodle stupid.  Unfortunately for M, A is a quick learner.  On about the third time she was verbally abused she replied quickfire and in kind.  Poor Meg.  The conscientiously learnt and remembered very worst words you know flung in your face by your little sister.  After a brief shocked wail she summoned up all her strength like Ultraman in the final fight of the episode : 'Mmmmmmooooooohhhhhh- OYAJI!!!'

Poor K who has been bearing a torrent of 'ahh, it's because you're getting old' comments on his neck injury this week, was flabbergasted.  

What beats stupid poop doodle stupid?

Old man!


Unique exercise tip

I work in an open plan office/ classroom.

Today there was a serious sounding meeting going on in the office section while I was teaching 5 year olds in the classroom section.

They were all very interested in the conversation.

I didn't want them to overhear anything.

So I taught for 45 minutes at incredible high energy and enthusiasm levels, and talking in a strained voice designed to be loud but not yelling.  The kind of talking you use when you lose your voice and have to push the words out.


It worked.

But I was exhausted.  

And hungry.  Really, really hungry.

I think I'm on a winner here.  Look out for my exercise dvd in stores soon.

Just gotta wait until I regain my energy and voice so I can record it.


The grinch who stole Christmas

I have my whole family coming for Christmas, yeah?  

A big fun filled and festive traditional Christmas to show K and the girls how it should be done.

Well that was the plan.

Now, instead of sitting around in our PJs opening presents Christmas morning we will be driving 40 minutes up the highway to have Amy's 7-5-3 pictures taken.  I am sooooo disappointed.  But it's either 10 o'clock Christmas morning or 7pm a week later.  And my kids go to bed at 7:30 so I really think we would be pushing it to get 2 hours of happy smiling keepsake style goodness out of them at that time of night. :(

So, Christmas morning it is.  9:30 for my kimono dressing, 10:00 for Amy, 10:30 for Meg (while Amy has her solo shots done) then from 11:00 to 12:00 we have various combinations of the girls, the four of us and then with my parents.  At 12:00 we race home and try to resuscitate Christmas. :(  

Why not just go somewhere else?  Because there are only three places, this is the closest, and the other two are downtown and I'm betting even more busy.

Why not wait?  Because I want my parents to see it.  They miss so much living so far away and I think it would be really special to be a part of the 7-5-3 ceremony.  And because if we put it off we are likely to never get around to it.  Poor A has already missed omiyamaeri, kuizome and hatsu sekku and she's only three!  We've got to celebrate something for the poor kid or she'll stumble upon the album upon album of her sister's pictures and be in therapy for life!

Why not have Christmas a different day?  Noooooo!!!!  Christmas is the 25th.  It's always the 25th.  Even the year my sister and I had chickenpox.  Eve the year my brother had a stomach bug.  Even the year my dad was half a world away saying goodbye to his dad.  Of course we did the presents when he got home but Christmas is the 25th.

But I do feel like someone stole my Christmas. :(


almost a miracle

This morning my alarm went off at 6:30am.  I must have turned it off because all was eerily still when I woke up at 7:45.  AGGHHHHH!!!  I had a Christmas party on the otherside of Matsumoto, 40-50 mins away depending on the traffic, and I had to be there to prep. at 9:00.  And as if that wasn't a tight enough timeframe K spent the night in Tokyo after a Tokyo Bay dinner cruise if you please (alright for some, hey?) so I had the girls with me, too.  Flew out of bed chased the girls downstairs and told them I would put the stove on once they were dressed.  HORRIBLE mother I know but otherwise they spend 10min warming up before they even think about shedding their pjs.  Made brekky, did three heads of hair, washed three faces, brushed three sets of teeth and vamoose we were out of there with my bag, the girls toy bags, my teaching bag and tape recorder for my afternoon class, a bag with all the ingredients and utensils necessary to make gingerbread, and a container of apple slices for emergency use. :)

Made it to the hall in time, parked the tank, unloaded all of us and our gear and had an amazing morning.  The girls were really great, the party was a great success and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and, without mummy interceding and deflecting, truly amazing quantities of food found it's way onto the girl's plates meaning we didn't need a lunch stop before heading off for our second party- yeah!

The second party was my senior's conversation class.  They're all wonderful people and we have a lot of fun.  I took in the recipe and all the ingredients for gingerbread and left them to it.  I only jumped in twice- when someone mixed up teaspoon and tablespoon and was going to add a tablespoon of salt @_@ and again when noone could work out what 'beat the sugar and eggs' meant.  They had a ball and M and A sat on the floor eating their junkfood Christmas loot from the first party and looking up in wonder at a group of 65+ers arguing over whose turn it is to stir. :)  

Dh arrived back from his Tokyo Bay Dinner Cruise OB event (nice for some, huh?) and caught the train to meet us at the community centre.  It was all going swimmingly and I was really looking forward to passing over the girls, changing into comfortable shoes, congratulating myself on pulling off this amazing day and heading out with my Girls' Night Out buddies for a nabe party.  

But then I must have used up my allotment of miracles for the day.  

K's face was a funny colour. 

But he's just got back from a big piss-up.  Pah, no sympathy for hangovers- here're the girls, I'm outta here!

And he's holding his head really stiffly.

But he's just got off the train and before that a 3 1/2 hour bus trip.  Probably slept the whole way and got a crick in his neck.  Pah, no sympathy for people who nap- here're the girls, I'm outta here!

But, being the (albeit reluctantly) concerned loving wife that I am I had to ask:

"Are you OK?"

*sigh*  That was my undoing.  Poor guy did something to his neck.  He was in so much pain he thought he would be sick.  Couldn't turn his head at all and just walking was enough to send shooting pain and make black bits float before his eyes.  Now K is the last of the great 大和魂 the Japanese warrior spirit is alive n well and living in Nagano.  He grins and bears influenza, torn off toenails, burns, cuts and hives as though they were nothing.  All put their to test his strength etc etc.  So when he says 'it hurts, it really hurts.' I know if it was me I'd probably be in hospital demanding morphine or something. ;)  

So, I missed my big party.  I was really, really disappointed and sat here with everyone asleep upstairs drinking chuhai by myself and watching 21 Jump Street.  Woe is me.  But I made the right decision.  Family comes first and all that.

And there's always next month's GNO afterall. ;)



Well I found the connector cord and the charger cord for my camera (there was some less than perfect pre-party cleaning going on last week and things are just now turning up...) so here's some random pictorial goodness.

Meg-sensei and Amy sensei, reading simultaneously to...
(Meg's wearing the pjs I appliqued.  Her singlet isn't channelling the 80s, she gets itchy in her sleep.)

A rather overly anpanman pampered bear and beaver.  The towels are uchiiwai thank you gifts for the rompersuit set shusaniwai birthgift we gave our neighbour.  That makes it my turn to give a gift next, yeah? ;)

Shaking a sheet full of bells while singing jingle bells at the English playgroup Christmas party.  If you look really closely Amy wrote her own name tag- upside down A, Y, upside down M.

The nativity story with handknitted dolls.  It's a missionary run playgroup.

Out the back.  We have a climbing frame and 4 swings but these two prefer improvising it seems!

We had to drop K off at the station this morning so A and I snuck a coffee before going home.  She was slightly pleased with herself, hey?

We had unseasonably warm weather yesterday and Amy made the most of it. 

'Unseasonably warm' means 12 degrees! 


Christmas shopping

Every year I get into a funk at this time of year.  My family is big on gift giving.  Not big on size/ value/ number of gifts but big on the meaning imported on each gift.  The family motto seems to be 'it's the thought that counts'.  Thus cash is an absolute no-no.  Gift vouchers are frowned upon and the well thought out, witty, just what I always wanted but never knew it, hand made objet is king.  That was easy enough when we all lived together, a little more difficult once we three kids moved to the city for school and work, and now it's nigh impossible for me living all the way over here and them living all the way over there.  Add to that the challenge of living in a place where I can buy 120 litre pickling jars but where the gift section is full of gift boxes of oil and hams and I get stressed out just hearing the first bars of Jingle Bells.

In the 10 odd years I've been here I've done cutesy, (sanrio everything) bizarre, (freaky flavoured pocky and unusual kitchen gadgets) Uniqlo fleeces, (clothing is a bit difficult as the seasons are opposite) traditional, (rice bowls, chopsticks, happi jackets, wall hangings), and last year I gave up and shopped for books, dvds and cds online and had them shipped to Australia.  Would have been fine if they didn't take forever to arrive, arrive one at a time, and one cd arrived two months late and then arrived twice! So I'm not keen to go down that road again soon!  Every year I also send everyone a Japanese calendar that suits their interests.  

This year my whole family are coming here for Christmas.  This is really exciting for all of us as it will be the first white Christmas for some, the first time to see our house for others, and a reunion with the much adored M and A for all.

But it means I need to find presents that will fit in overstuffed suitcases.  And I'm stuck.  Not liking shopping in department stores is a big part of the problem.  Not liking big cities is also an issue.  Thinking of Matsumoto as a department store filled big city is integral to the problem!  I really want a good Sunday Craft Market or a group of independently owned shops in a nice street where I can walk in and out as I shop and have short reprieves from that tinny Christmas music while reconnecting with the big wide world and gathering my strength for the next gift decision. 


Damsel in distress

I like to think of myself as something of a can-do kind of gal.  I mow the lawn, I wash my car, I plough the big garden, muck out the chook cage, get rid of my own bugs (ok, only catch and release but still...) shovel snow, etc etc.  But in the last three weeks K has been away overnight four times.  Three of them have been the night before rubbish day- and three out of three times I have missed the rubbish collection. 

And that's not the only thing I have realised I rely on K for.  I have had a rotten day today.  I spilt kerosene on my slipper sneaking out in my PJs to refill the kero heater, I was late to playgroup because I forgot to allow time to scrape and defrost the front window, I was out in the dark collecting wood as I forgot to do it earlier in the day, and now I am sitting here with all the windows open as I set off the smoke alarm trying to clean the glass on the wood stove while the fire was going.  All these mistakes because I'm not used to doing all these things.

Yup, My name is Heather and I'm a princess.  *^_^*  The positive side of all this is I have renewed appreciation for all K does for us.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder and absence makes the princess more grateful!


Cancer Co. Ltd.

I went to the village osteoporosis/ bone health check-up today.  I am happy to be able to report that compared to my age group I am 106.2% calcium filled and 108.4% bone dense.  :)  The really funny bit was the video we watched while waiting for our results to be explained to us.  It was called がん株式会社 -Cancer Co. Ltd.  80's fluoro powersuit fashion meets Kiss make up- black lips, green eye shadow (girls and guys) and that Amy Winehouse eyeliner up your temples thing.   And each 'employee' had a big badge on with a picture of a part of the body.  So we had lung cancer man, breast cancer woman, stomach cancer man etc etc.  They spend the 20 minute video sitting around the boardroom talking about the risks to their company.  'Oh NO! People are eating LESS SALT.  The stomach cancer division will be in TROUBLE.'  It was so bad it crossed over into being mesmerising.  It was almost disappointing to be called up for my turn and missing seeing the end.  Almost. :)

With my outstanding bones my interview was over pretty quickly- did get a nudge for not eating little fish, bones and all.  I think I can live with that, though.  The guy in front of me was a real card though.  He'd been in front of me the whole time and we'd said hello, and cold isn't it? and looks like snow, huh?  etc etc.  He was in his 70's and a little deaf.  The woman doing his consult was asking about his diet.

What about vegetables? Do you eat VEGETABLES?
Yes, Yes.  Miso soup and pickles.
That's good for the vegetables but it's too much salt.
Too Much SALT!
Yes, yes.
You need to WASH the pickles before you EAT them.
EH? No, never!

I had to leave then but after vegetables they still had to talk about dairy products, little fish and soy products.  I can't imagine how long all that took!



the aftermath

11 adults
4 children
1 baby
1 bump

2 dogs

5 hours of festive fun and frivolity

spinach dip with crudites (love that word) ;)
onion soup with croutons
pumpkin soup
roast chicken and jus (gravy? no way, that's jus!)
green salad
rice (thanks to my fabulous neighbour when I forgot to turn the ricecooker on- derr!)

and then.....

marron filled swiss roll bouche noel
persimmon and custard topped brioche tart
baked whole apples in pastry with custard where the core used to be
marzippan filled fruit and nuts
rum balls
eggnog cookies (thanks coffeegrl!)
gingerbread drop cookies

and I get the feeling I'm still forgetting something!

Needless to say noone went hungry!!

It was the local AFWJ Christmas event before B has her baby (due in 6 days) and G and J head off across the globe for family Christmases.

I was so pleased so many people could make it as this is a big prefecture, and we are few and far between, and some of these wonderful people travelled over an hour to be with us today.  Thank you all for making my Christmas!  For me Christmas is all about getting together with people we love and laughing and catching up and eating too much and talking some more and eating some more and watching the kids play and just having a really great festive time.  That's what I got today and that's my Christmas wish granted already.  :)  My DH, bless his heart, is not one for crowds or noise or talking or rich food (and he married me? poor guy!) and yet he supports me 100%, literally and figuratively, when I do my two big social occasions- my summer bbq with neighbours, friends, colleagues and students, and my AFWJ Christmas party.   What a guy!

And it's really a miracle today went so well- I made the rumballs at 11:30 last night- while watching Iwojima- after getting back from my kinder PTA all you can drink party.  I woke up this morning and there was coconut EVERYWHERE!!  Oops. *^_^*

Then this morning K was out at 6:00 for roadside cleanup and then back for breakfast before going out again at 8 to do 3 1/2 hours juice making with a neighbour who needed some muscle.  That's my husband- rent-a-muscle. ;P  The girls had had a late night with daddy in charge of bedtime while mummy was out on the town and then woken up at their usual predawn hour so they were ratty and my UN grade negotiating skills were in much need.  K got back at 11:30 in time to say hello to J and family before heading off to escort firsttimers to our incredibly difficult to find street.

I had spent the parts of the morning I wasn't involved in negotiating peace treaties and implementing sanctions baking bread, roasting a chook, cooking stuffing and cleaning the house.  Not much at all really, yeah?  Well, this is an old house.  With old wiring.  We now have a 30amp switch on the main breaker (it used to be a paltry 20!) but the wiring to each room cannot handle large amounts of power so each room's breaker is set excruciatingly low.  I can vacuum or use the microwave.  I can cook rice or bread.  I can use the futon heater only if I do nothing else at all.  So this morning I had a very tight schedule to get all my cooking done without flipping the breaker.  Some appliances are very forgiving and will remember where they were before the power went off (I'm talking about you, wonderful rice cooker) others are real princesses and refuse to cooperate (that'd be you breadmaker.)

But we got it all done and in my totally biased opinion it was a success.  And all those dishes?  Done in no time.  I can eek out regular blah meal dishes into an arduous half hour's labour but mountains of party dishes and my PPB (post party buzz) is still kicking in and whoosh! All washed, dried and put away in no time!

And here's a picture of the four girls playing outside in the frigid but sunny weather

Oh and I think I will have to forego sleep tonight to get enough exercise bike time in to work off today's overindulgences!


the list

defrost chicken
done but it refroze last night when it was -2 in the kitchen- doh!

repaper shoji
nope.  But this was always a little ambitious

make cookies
yup.  Times 3.  I have no problem finding cookie making motivation.

make salad
well after three shopping trips I finally remembered to buy all the ingredients so the rest will be a cinch!

clean house
Yup. Times 3.  The girls are ratty and I will leave the 4th cleaning until 5 minutes before people arrive.

clean rotting leaf matter from car park so people don't think it's a very sad garden and avoid parking there.
Yup.  Yesterday's exercise.

Wow.  I think I'm doing pretty well, hey?  And still 2 hours to go.  May even have time to change out of my pyjamas before people arrive!

Hmmm, what have I inevitably forgotten?  



One of my neighbours just got busted using his own toilet waste as manure.  Blerggghh.  I don't even want to think about it.  Apparently it used to be quite common around here but some years ago the rules got stricter (you know those darn interfering city people again) and scooping out the loo was left to the professionals.  Well, this man and his wife still live life the old ways.  Their house is all clay walls, thatch roof and dark, dark, dark.  They fight like cat and dog, drink so much it's a wonder they're still alive, and snarl and grumble rather than smile and say hello.  As you can probably imagine with all the cussing and fighting they are not on such good terms with their immediate neighbours on either side.  The neighbour above them's house overlooks (oversmells?) their garden.  For years the wife has been suspicious about the cause of the periodic stench that eminates from it.  Last week apparently she just flipped- she'd had enough.  So she went down to city hall (around here noone thinks of the police for anything, the public servants at city hall are seen to have all-encompassing magic powers) and dobbed her neighbour in.  City hall contacted the muck-suck-truck (dumper pumper?) man who confirmed that antisocial neighbour did not use his services.  Then a besuited city hall official came out with test tubes and took soil samples and whaddayouknow? antisocial neighbour has been recycling to the enth degree.  He's not the kind of guy to share his produce so none of us have to worry but the unwanted interference in his life (as he sees it) has made him even more antisocial than usual and is keeping the local wags tongues busy, that's for sure.  Never a dull moment around here, I tell you!


liquid gold

Today I made apple juice.

A glass full?

A couple of glasses full?

A jugfull?


94 one litre bottles full!!

It is so good.  Amazing colour, smells like the moment you take the lid off a pot of stewed apples, and tastes amazing: really strong and sweet.  Truly liquid gold.  I don't think we'll have any problem getting through my half of the batch. :)

It was a very hard slog though.  Apples are heavy,  lifting buckets of apple juice up to waist height to empty them into the cauldron is heavy work, ladling hot juice into the bottler at shoulder level is hot, heavy work, and a crate of 20 bottles of juice?  Well mine only made it as far as the genkan.  I'm thinking I will say it's an art instillation until K gets home from his business trip.  Lucky we have a big genkan, hey?  It's bigger than my city living SIL's kitchen!

And the best part of the day for me was the lunch we had afterwards.  Not because I'm a greedy pig (well, that too, but... :>) but it was just everything I love about where I live on a table.  Mrs S had brought rice mixed with minute pieces of four different coloured vegetables and the first of her nozawana pickles, the women making miso in the room next door came in and told us to please eat the three types of pickles they had brought, We shared some oyaki and ginger tea Mrs M made.  It was so strong I couldn't believe they could drink it until I saw how you do it- pour in a great whack of tea, fill with hot water, drink a sip, add hot water until it's full again, drink a sip, add hot water etc etc.  Fatigued to a kind of drunken state where your arms and legs don't seem to belong to you anymore from a morning of hard work we sat and chatted and crunched pickles and slurped tea and it was just such a great meal.  Simple food, simple surroundings, simple people, simply good.

Pickles: daikon in konbu and soy sauce, beans in vinegar, kikuimo (Jerusalem artichoke) in miso, nozawana in an amazing combination of soy, sugar, ginger, dried bonito flakes and yuzu, and hayato-uri in sake lees.  

With thanks to Kim for telling me how to get pictures from my phone onto my blog!

Oh, and I'm counting juice making as my exercise for today. :)


motivation and randomness


I need external motivation to get into gear.  (I think that's right, I was an education major and we did a unit on personality types and there was a 4 square grid, ring any bells??)  Anyway, I go through real funks of inaction then along comes a deadline and BAM! I turn into a Tassie Devil of action- and usually run myself into the ground during a week's worth of work in an evening.  I have decided this probably isn't the healthiest way to live (derr major newsflash, right?) and so I've added the exercise ticker at the top of this blog.  Like an advent calendar of fitness.  :) I'm aiming for 100 days of at least 30 minutes aerobic exercise.  Having that ticker out there to shame me will hopefully do the job!

And now for the randomness:

* I managed a flukey picture of the girls the other day:

Amy is helping to move nozawana- one bunch at a time, and with commentary 'Mummy, this one's big/ little/ very green/ heavy!!'  She is wearing her two current favourite items of clothing: her denim sunhat and a very cute embroidered jacket- it actually comes with a matching hat and scarf but she only ever wears one item at a time.

Meg is wearing summer shorts over leggings- typically with a hole in the knee, her baikin-man headband from her first day of kinder that for some only-known-to-her reason she decided to wear all day last Saturday and she's skipping.  This is her latest favourite pastime and mean old mummy is insisting that it is an outside only activity so I'm hoping she moves on to the next thing before it is no longer outside weather!  I just love the moment I caught.

*Randomness 2.  I know you're all on the edge of your seats waiting to hear how the pickles are going and fear not- the water is rising.  Glacially, but it is moving. :)

*Randomness 3.  You know the strings of daikon that accompany store bought sashimi?  There's a name for it- tsuma.  Yup, wife.  As in the wife of the sashimi.  Kinda cool, hey?  So think about that before you turf it next time!

*Randomness 4.  A girl made pro-baseball.  The article goes on to say that it's some alternative startup league and she was picked in the 7th round and maybe it's just for publicity and, and, and... etc but I'm encouraged anyway.  I think just by making the news this story has got to be good for girls here.  As a mum of two girls I'm happy.  Not that I am prepping them for a pro-baseball career- if they have my coordination it will be impossible!  but I like to think that they can be whatever they want to be when the time comes. :) 



Today I:

did a weeks shop,

folded and put away 2 days worth of laundry

hung out a third load

cleaned the downstairs

made 10kg of nozawana pickles soy sauce style

made 10kg of nozawana pickles salt style

made 2kg of daikon pickles kimchi style

made 6 jars of persimmon jam with a bag of overripe 'for jamming' persimmon my neighbour gave me.

finally sent off my bookmooch books

made a double batch of curry rice for dinner and to freeze.

and now I'm exhausted.  Off to soak in the bath and feel justifiably tired!

And here's the proof:

20kg of nozawana drying after being washed and before being pickled. (cameos of the new car and the neighbour's election poster Meg likes. ;) )

10kg of soysauce pickled nozawana- with Meg for a size gauge- she's 112 odd cm

And finally with it's 7 odd kilos of omoishi (bloody heavy rocks!) on top.  I'm a bit funny about the rocks so I wrap them in bags.  

And please please send "water rising" vibes my way.  I won't ask you to pray for my pickles because there's a lot of sad stuff going on in the world and on a global scale my pickles don't really rate.  But, if the stones and the salt don't work to force the water out of the leaves to the extent that the leaves are all submerged in the next 48 hours (24 is even better) then the pickles will not work and I'll end up with smelly, salty, mouldy leaves by the bucketkload and the dilemma of trying to work out where to dump them, so some water rising vibes would be great. ;)


the rest


I was going to drive my neighbour to her sister's.
I offered to take the girls to give K some me time.
K was disappointed at not being invited.
K was away on business most of last week and missed us all.
I explained the girly/ constantly chatty/possible Brazilian supermarket nature of the trip.
Despite not liking unnecessary talking/ girly outings OR shopping K wanted to come.
The day turned out to be everything K hates in a day and more: changes of plans/ unplanned bits/ eating out-At A Chainstore-IN A SHOPPING CENTRE!! and just a really long and noisy day.
He said nothing.  No complaints, no sighing, no eyerolling, nothing.  
But he sat in the car and waited at each stop rather than joining in.

I felt sorry for him.
I felt guilty for bringing him along.
Then I began to feel resentful because I DIDN'T bring him along.  I WARNED him and he STILL chose to come along.
And then I got really annoyed that he was being so passive about it.  I wanted him to say he wasn't having a good time just to hear him admit it.  Why?  What good would that do?  And is it really better to have him moaning and complaining like I would have been had it been reversed?  So that's what I've been pondering for the last two days. 

And I give up.


Just the dot points

I'm a bit overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and self-analysis about our day today so until I sort it all out in my head here's the dot points:

Ok.  I have no idea how to do dot points so here are the stars:

*DH decided he wanted to come, too. f(^_^)

*We left on time. :O

*We spent 20 minutes loading:
4 boxes of apples
20 daikon radishes
2 hakusai (napa cabbage?)
1 sack of negi leeks
1 bag of miscellaneous produce
and my neighbour into the car. :O

*We arrived in under an hour, on the non-highway roads, with DH driving. v(^_^)

*The Fukases walked 400m to Jusco while my neighbour caught up with her sister. :)

*30min later, neighbour, neighbour's sister and neighbour's sister's random friend turned up and we all had lunch at a restaurant there. f(^_^)

*1 hour later we were all heading 20 min. further down the road to a Brazilian supermarket. :S

* I bought our Christmas roast beef and two bags full of other stuff. :) :)

*We drove back to neighbour's sister's house, offloaded neighbour's sister and neighbour's sister's random friend and ended up inside looking at pictures of neighbour's sister's grandchildren.  f(^_^)

*Drove home via car shop to pick up headrests that were strangely forgotten by both salesman and DH.  fff(^_^)

*Arrived home 8 hours after we left. @_@


Ha, ha.  Were you worried I was going to write in Japanese today?  Nope.  But it's hard to describe On.  My dictionary describes on as a favour, obligation, or debt of gratitude.  It's the essence of tsukiai, association.  It's the silk that forms the complicated spiderweb of interconnectedness that is life in my neighbourhood.  Big favours- Mr K signed over his house to his brother in return for the brother looking after their mother, medium favours- Mr N shovels the snow in front of the widowed Mrs K's house each winter, and small favours- sharing excess produce.  You accumulate on and spend your life trying to lessen it by doing good things for those around you.  I prefer not to think of it as straight out payback but rather something more pay it forward like.  I mean, with everyone looking out for ways to help their neighbours the end result is surely a nicer place to live, yeah?

But tomorrow I'm offloading a truckload of on.  I'm driving my neighbour (who doesn't drive) an hour down the highway to deliver something to her sister (who also doesn't drive).  I love exploring new places and know embarrassingly little about Nagano so I'm looking forward to it.  But, that said, driving 1 hour down the highway (and back!) is right up there on my I'd-rather-be-stuck-listening-to-M-and-A-try-to-out-shriek-each-other list.

Think of the on, think of the on...

Wish me luck!!


uhhh thanks

I have a problem with gift-giving here.

I gave up trying to give back one-for-one to all my neighbours as they just never stop and as one of them said- taking their excess produce is doing them a favour as they grow so much and hate to see it go to waste.  So I happily open my door to zuccinni, eggplant, tomatoes, apples, daikon, broccoli, cauliflower, hakusai, celery, asparagus, kiwi fruit, prunes, peaches, watermelon etc etc.

But every now and again I get something that I would really rather not have,  and it's very hard to say no so I usually end up with it and racking my brain what on earth I will do with it.  This year it was hayato-uri which I turned into pickles and sent home with a very happy MIL when she came to visit, nameko mushrooms (the orange slimy ones) which Ken turned into slimy soup and devoured happily (and alone!), and a HUGE bunch of moroheya (furry on the outside, slimy on the inside leaves) which I ate as much as I could and the fed to my chooks- not wasted- recycled, and I'm sure their eggs were healthier for it. :)

But today was a doozy.  Yakon AND dried warabi.  Now, I'm not much of a fan of warabi (bracken tips) fresh, so I tend to send them on to Fukushima when my neighbourhood association group goes warabi picking each Spring.  But I just know the woman who gave them to me will ask me how I cooked them and what I thought so I'm stuck.  I think we're going to be having warabi takikomi-gohan (cooked with soy sauce, mirin and abura-age in the rice cooker with glutinous rice) over the weekend.

But yakon I had never heard of and what do you know?  It's a miracle veggie!

Common Name: Yacon, leafcup Scientific Name: Smallanthus sonchifolius. 350mg.

- Used in order to reduce blood glucose levels (hypoglycemic activity). Effective for diabetics.

- Due to its low-calorie content and high-fiber content, it is effective for losing weight and for overcoming the stress of a sedentary lifestyle and the increased consumption of carbohydrates and fats.

- May be important in the prophylaxis against gastrointestinal disorders. Its oligofructans could play a role as prebiotics, which are substances that selectively feed and stimulate the beneficial bacteria commonly present in our intestinal flora, while stopping the development of prejudicial microorganisms.

- Regarded as a preventative factor against colon cancer since it can maintain the correct functioning of the colonic epithelial cells.

- Abilities to lower high cholesterol and triglycerides levels, treat renal disorders as well as to rejuvenate skin have also been attributed to 'yacon'.

- This plant is also said to promote calcium assimilation and stimulate the synthesis of B-complex vitamins.

The potential of yacon tubers to treat hyperglycemia, kidney problems and for skin rejuvenation and the antihyperglycemic and cytoprotective activity of its leaves seems to be related mostly to its oligofructan and phenolic content, respectively. Maca alkaloids, steroids, glucosinolates, isothicyanates and macamides are probably responsible for its aptitude to act as a fertility enhancer, aphrodisiac, adaptogen, immunostimulant, anabolic and to influence hormonal balance.

Yacon and maca are already on the European market as prospective functional foods and dietary supplements, mainly for use in certain risk groups of the population, e.g. seniors, diabetics, postmenopausal women etc.

Thanks to marijuana.com for that info.  

Yes, really.

So tomorrow I am going to have yakon for breakfast, lunch and tea, instantly lose 5kg, become rejuvenated, absorb more calcium and B vitamins, enjoy guilt free carbohydrate consumption and stop stressing about my sedentary lifestyle- and then go out and plant every available space with the stuff.

Just hope it tastes alright...


back in the groove

Just hanging around. :)

Well I have spent the week in kotatsu hibernation- coupled with comfort eating chocolate, hot chocolate and stewed apples (we're out of bagels) ;P and, erhhh, banana diet it ain't!!

So today A and I walked down to M's kinder to pick her up.

I remembered: gloves, milk cartons they're collecting for some mystery craft, to put air in the tyres of the babycar, my camera.

I forgot: M was wearing her heavy snow boots today (it's not snowing but her gumboots are too small- bad mummy), A was wearing a very old and very much loved pair of trackpants with ancient waist elastic, and that people around here just don't go for walks.  They walk plenty- to the field and back, to the neighbour's, to the local shops, to exercise their dog, but they don't just go for a walk.  Three of my neighbours stopped their cars at different points in our expedition offering us a lift.  I feel very loved but we were all rugged up and I was pushing a huge (for here) three wheeled stroller- We should have definitely had a going-for-a-walk look about us!!

Anyway it was a great walk and we had fun collecting pine cones and acorns and pretty leaves and it was over an hour of exercise for A and I and 40 min for M and it tired them out nicely for a very easy bedtime. :)

Not great pictures.  I haven't mastered dusk on my camera yet, but you can see how pretty it was.  Compare the pic on the right with this one.  Freaky, those seasons.

And some random things now that I shifted out from under the kotatsu and went and found my camera cable. ;P

Helping me get veggies from the big garden.  M has a huge komatsuna and Amy has one carrot.  For dinner for three?  No.  She ate it raw.  And errr, unwashed.  Blerghhh.

M making the most of the snow.  We only live a 5 min drive (or 30 min walk!) from her kinder but with the difference in elevation we get more snow- and it stays for longer- than her kinder.  So, she has to make her snowmen after kinder.  Even if that means twilight snowmen!  See Amy in the doorway?  She wants to play with Meg but doesn't want to go outside.  Poor kid. :(

Oh and I'm living it up on girly movies in my husbandless state.  They made a Dirty Dancing 2!! Who knew!!!  Ok it's predictable, implausible, Patrick Swayze looks embarrassed to even be associated with it, the lead male looks like he hasn't finished puberty yet, and the ending is a total let down BUT it's a romance with a latin soundtrack- it's Dirty Dancing 2  woohoo!!  And it's on Youtube. :)


While the cat's away...

The mice will become incredibly slack. :P

DH is away on business.  This was a more-often-than-not part of our Saitama lifestyle.  It's pretty rare here though.  Especially multi-night trips.  But he left this morning and he'll be back late Friday night.  We all miss him, and before it's over A will have at least one long wailing plaintive 'Dadddyyyyyyyyy!' bout from the front door (think Stelllaaaaaaaaa! and you're close.) :'( 

But at the same time we are having our own 'hee hee hee, don't tell daddy!' fun.  Today it was eating brekky in our pjs, sharing leftovers for dinner- a pick and choose tupperware banquet, not tidying the shoes in the genkan, and eating our rice with soup poured on top- with spoons!!  Shocking, hey?

And before you all think I am being deceitful and encouraging my daughters to lie to Daddy be reassured that they tell him EVERYTHING the moment he calls.  

'Hi Meg, it's Daddy.  How was yo-'
'Daddy, Daddy!  SKUSE ME!  Mummy said brekky in pyjamas today!! And Daddy? Mummy said...'

And it's getting my two Daddy's girls through the business trip.

You see, this is how our family works:


meme concise

With thanks to :


*edit- damn it.  I forgot the meanings already!  Here goes:

1. Where is your cell phone? gardeviance a chest for holding dishes or precious things

2. Where is your significant other? Phrontistery a place for thinking

3. Your hair color? Erinaceous the colour of, or pertaining to, hedgehogs! 

4. Your mother? Zetetic a truth searcher who is always wary of false information.

5. Your father? Dysaniac someone who has trouble getting out of bed

6. Your favorite thing? Selcouth something wonderful and interesting in it's strangeness

7. Your dream last night? Kenspeckle well known, easily recognised

8. Your dream/goal? gaudiloquence joyous talk of joyous things

9. The room you're in? agravic simple, rural, unadorned

10. Your hobby? eleutheromania strong desire for freedom

11. Your fear? kakorrhaphiophobia abnormal fear of failure

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? bis in two places

13. Where were you last night? ibidem the same place

14. What you're not? ailurophilic a cat lover

15. One of your wish-list items? soporiferousity inducing or tending to induce sleep

16. Where you grew up? sparsim here and there

17. The last thing you did? hyperphagia eat too much

18. What are you wearing? balbriggan knitted cotton

19. Your TV? abecedarian rudimentary, simple

20. Your pet? gregal a flock

21. Your computer? libriform booklike

22. Your mood? Omphaloskepsic navel-gazing, self absorption

23. Missing someone? certes definitely

24. Your car? resistentialist an inanimate object with hostile desires towards people.  (I love this word!!)

25. Something you're not wearing? gazar a loosely woven silk with a crisp finish

26. Favorite store? bibitory pertaining to drink (I meant Starbucks- honestly!!)

27. Your summer? campestral pertaining to the country, to level land

28. Love someone? iwis certainly, assuredly

29. Your favorite color? xanthic yellow

30. When is the last time you laughed? thymogenic of affective origin (of the mind)

31. Last time you cried? lachrymogenic causing tears or weeping

And thanks to Illahee for giving me the chance to expand my vocabulary!


You are a winner!!!

One of my neighbour's won a prize for her apples: JA Central Nagano Branch Best Single SunFuji Apple.  I was pretty chuffed for her and even more chuffed that I found out she won.  Not because it was a secret, actually it was published in the village newsletter.  No, the reason I was chuffed I realised she won was because my 14 immediate neighbours share four surnames.  And half the village do, too.  So me realising that this Furuhata was my Furuhata and not some random Furuhata was quite an achievement!  So, I caught up with Furuhata-san on a walk and congratulated her.  She said thank you and kept talking about the weather.  Huh?  I understand modesty but this seemed a bit subdued even for that.  Being persistent (stubborn?) and smelling intrigue I asked what she won:  
A trophy.  
No money?  
No money.  
Does she get to label her apples 'award winning' and sell them at a premium price? 
Oh well, at least you get to eat one amazing apple, right? 

JA keeps the prize wining apples and distributes them as a a gift from JA in the great back scratching, gift swapping, tender fixing, vote rigging game that is business here.  I expressed my amazement and she laughed and said it could have been worse- the category they had wanted to enter was Best Box of SunFuji Apples!!

So, in the spirit of acclimatisation I am starting my own competition.  All Japan Best Baked Cheesecake Competition.  Submissions to H Fukase c/o Azusagawa Post Office.  Trust me, that'll get to me. :) You don't do baked cheesecake?  Ok.  I'll open the category up a bit- All Japan Best Sweet Something Competition.  What do you think?  Winner, or what?


Simple life

Simple fun today.

We changed the tires on the truck this morning and DH and A headed up the mountain 40 odd minutes to get some wood from the dam (not damn- dam ;>) dump while M and I stayed here and de-cluttered the kitchen cupboards- we really don't need to have multiple sets of suction cup bowls in there anymore...  M wanted to do her 'homework' one of those school readiness workbooks my dad bought her.  With my explaining the activities she must have done 30 odd pages.  Usually I hate that sort of constant-supervision-needed activity when I'm trying to do something else, but her enthusiasm was contagious and we had a great morning.

After lunch we headed to the park and I was awe-struck again at how you really feel the seasons here.  It's definitely late Autumn now.  Not early Autumn or Autumn but late Autumn when the leaves are crunching under foot, the sky is squally with ragged, racing clouds, the wind is bitter and blasting from the north, and the landscape is fading to brown.  And among all that the poor underloved persimmon are putting on a great display and a brave face and hoping that despite being past their prime someone will still come and appreciate their bounty.

It's getting colder and darker earlier and earlier and we left the park at 4:00pm, unheard of in Summer.  Came home, lit the woodstove, put a potfull of cut apples on top to stew and had a really simple meal of spinach from the garden, eggs from the chooks and brown rice from Uncle H.

The eggs are really rich from all the greens the chooks get, the spinach is super sweet after the frosts we're getting now, and the rice is fragrant and delicious.  

Super Simple.

Simply Super.

A reminder of what I love about our simple life here.

And one more for the Persimmon Appreciation Society. :)


An amazing day

The sky was so blue today.  The few clouds were of the fluffy cotton wool type, the closer mountains (the foothills) were dusted in that icing sugar type snow, the far mountains (the Alps) were brighter than bright white, and the hills around here are still hanging on to the last of their orange foliage.  It's faded now but still beautiful.  I was standing in the middle of an apple orchard surrounded by bright green leaves and ruby red apples.  All these amazing colours, I felt like I was sitting in the middle of Meg's crayon box. :)  

So where are the 107 pictures of this fabulous scene?  There aren't any.  Not one.  See, I wasn't just standing in the apple orchard, I was working there.  My friend and neighbour (friendly neighbour? Neighbourly friend?)  A and her husband have 3 apple plots.  I'm not sure how many trees that is, maybe 300 odd?  Probably more.  Anyway, a lot of apples.  And even after all that culling of flowers, preemie apples, baby apples, toddler apples, wayward teenage apples and then blemished or misshapen adult apples, each tree has close to 200 apples that need harvesting.  But, as I'm sure you can imagine, Japan being Japan, it's not just a matter of taking the apples off the tree and flinging them in a box.  Oh, no no no.  Today there were four of us working.  A and I were walking around picking all the apples we could reach (pulling carefully upwards so as to preserve the apple stalk, and easing ourselves in and out and around the oh so delicate apple branches- it's the itty bitty small branches that will produce next seasons apples.  Lose them and you lose apples before you even had them!)  A's other friend N was up and down a ladder all morning getting the ones we couldn't reach standing, and A's husband T was sorting.  Sorting is the king of apple harvest jobs.  T's name is the one on the apple crates so he's the one doing the checking.  He sorts the apples into seven types: 1st class to go in those extravagantly priced gift boxes, 2nd class to go in the slightly less expensive gift boxes, 3rd class to be sold as kateiyou- for home use, 4th class to be sold as henkei- misshapen, 5th class apples that look to be underripe and will be kept by the family to eat later in the season- these make great pies as they're tart, 6th class apples with bird pecks, brown spots or that were dropped during harvesting to be sold to the juice factory and 7th class, rubbish.  It's a pretty intense job and he worked silently and constantly all morning.  That said, he's not really a talkative guy to start with so he probably wasn't suffering that much.  ;P  We girls sure made up for it though.  We talked nonstop the whole time and had a blast.  It was my first time picking apples seriously.  I've done it with the girls, just picking apples for our own consumption but this was the first time I've done it for someone else.  The weather hasn't been terribly kind to apple farmers this year (either too cold in the day, not enough frost, too warm at night, not enough temperature variation or some such.  Don't ask me, I'm all confused!) and the apples aren't as big and juicy as would be perfect.  So JA extended the apple delivery deadline from the 25th until the 30th.  Everyone is waiting as long as possible to maximise their earnings, but the fact remains that they have to be picked.  So, out of curiosity and indebtedness for the constant apple deliveries that last 6 months a year, I volunteered to pick today.  Anyway, we talked and picked and talked and picked and talked some more and we filled all the blue picking baskets and then all the spare yellow sorting crates and when we'd done that T realised we'd filled every available container he was shocked.  'Ehhhhh? You've done all that?  All I heard was jabber, jabber, jabber, I didn't think you were doing any work at all.'  Ha ha ha don't underestimate our multitasking skills when it comes to talking, hey? ;P

It was a great morning but it was only three hours.  And remember that fabulous blue sky?  It was pretty perfect picking conditions.  I don't know how I'd go doing it 10 hours a day, day after day, whatever the weather, week in week out, while fretting about frosts and warm patches and market prices, and knowing that this was my year's earnings on the line.  Uh uh.  No wonder the local women call it the apple diet- lose 7 kilos in two intense months and the funny thing?  You probably won't want to eat even one apple!



I'm feeling very oyabaka, very besotted mummy, today.

M is really good at gross motor skill stuff.  She climbed a commando rope ladder thing at 18 months.  I remember because I was 6 months pregnant with A and very cautiously climbed up after her. @_@  She ran and jumped and cycled quite early.  But fine motorskills- drawing, using chopsticks, beadwork, writing- have all taken her some time to master.  I'm pretty laidback and haven't pushed her but since she started kinder she sees what the kids around her are doing and these last few months have been a bit rough on her.  She wants to draw well but she just couldn't do it to her own expectations.  And then BANG!  In the last couple of weeks she has caught the drawing bug.  Every morning before kinder, every evening after kinder, sneakily after bathtime if she can get away with it, there she is with her paper and crayons drawing, drawing, drawing.  Today she wanted to label her picture (her teacher labels their pictures at kinder) and asked me how to spell the words.  And she wrote them all by herself!!  

Here's the masterpiece:

The funny hat shaped things are hearts, from the left it says Mary (her middle name and the name she gave the flower on the left), sun, mouse, Davy (the name of the flower on the right- no idea why), Meg, (with the long hair and bows on her dress) Mum, (in pink with short hair) Dad, (no dress because boys aren't allowed) Amy, (long hair but not as long as Meg) and finally banana.  There're also pictures of a strawberry, some blueberries, a pineapple, some cherries and an orange in there.  We need to work on the importance of the order of the letters and the English is a horizontal language thing, but I'm so happy for her.  

She insisted on the photo as I usually hang her artwork downstairs and she wanted this one in her room so the photo was for me to look at. :)

And just so A doesn't feel left out here's A with her playdough swimming pool.  Mean old mummy wanted her to go outside before she filled it with water.

The funny look on her face?  I asked her to smile.  I think I'll go back to unposed shots!!


a busy day

malo e lelei

That's Tongan for Hello.  All the snow has melted and I was a bit worried but I googled and all is well in Tonga.  Lucky, I wouldn't want an angry horde of Tongan Rugby Players after me. :)

I was feeling a bit guilty about wishing for global warming though.  I mean Nagano is just heading in to the ski season and it's all about SNOW! SNOW! SNOW! here for the next 6 months or so.  So, here's a shout out to Hakuba Ski Resort.  Beautiful place.  Apparently.  :)

Back to the busy day.

This morning we played car swaps so DH could take the only car with snow tyres on at the moment and I would just wait until the snow melted later in the day before going out.  He called 2 minutes later laughing- there was no snow at all down on the flatland.  Poor Meg, she was all snowbooted up and ready to play in the snow at kinder. :(

Amy was out and about though:

I have just realised how many pictures I have of my kids running around in circles.  I swear they do do other things, as well.  Really. :)

I went back inside to get dressed and Amy started howling.  Really wailing.  I raced outside to see what was wrong and she screamed 'Don't step on the snow!!'  The measly centimetre of powder was melting quickly and everywhere she'd walked had already melted.  Poor kid was beside herself that she hadn't made a snowman yet.  So going for mummy of the year, in my pyjamas and polarfleece jacket I helped her scrape together enough snow and we made this:

An itty bitty snowman.

Then it was off for a peer pressure driven trip to McDonalds to eat a McFlurry.  How was it?  Well it was more like a dessert than a drink and I made a bit of an idiot of myself trying to suck it through the top of the funny square spoon. *^_^*  It was very good though. :)  It was the first time I've taken A to Maccas and she was ecstatic "Hamburgers AND chips!!"  Totally blew my whole too cool for school, I come here everyday look I was going for.  Oh well. 

Then it was off to my breast exam at the health centre.  A fun 2 hours of lining up, waiting, being gelled up, ultrascanned, wiped down, lining up, waiting, being powdered up, felt up, wiped down and shipped out.  Actually I was really impressed.  It was very thorough and respectfully done to boot. :)

Add banking, shopping, the post office and the kinder pickup, making chocolate biscuits with the girls and making dinner and it was a pretty full day.  

Now I'm off to do the dishes superquickly so I can sit down with DH and watch CSI and maybe even stay awake till the end this time! 


Wordless Wednesday

Wordless, speechless, gobsmacked, curled up in a ball rocking back and forth and moaning...

Oh, and that's the new car in the middle. :)



Oooh tagged.  Ok here goes:

Outside my window..
. It's grey.  Very threatening-to-snow grey.  And windy.  And I had my headlights on t 4:45. :(

I am thinking... woe is me.  And that perhaps there is a better cure than chocolate, hot chocolate, and cinnamon raisin bagels to the 'I'm getting bulgy bits, woe is me' dilemma.  Perhaps, but probably not. ;P

I am thankful for... Uggboots.  And chocolate, hot chocolate and cinnamon raisin bagels. :)  Oh and if I'm pushed I guess my family, my health, my friends and all that, too.  But definitely the uggboots. :P

From the kitchen... this morning's dishes did not magically clean themselves.  Despite my most fervent wishing.  For dinner we are having oden as the chuck everything in a pot and call it done style cooking it requires suits my mood.

I am wearing... My uggboots. Derhh.  And Jusco jeans and a polar fleece jacket.  Yes, inside.  I told you, woe is me.

I am creating... a nest around me.  It's called the kotatsu lifestyle, you make sure everything you want over the next three months is within arms reach and then just settle in for winter.

I am going... to have a fun night.  Dh is working late, A slept for 2 1/2 hours at daycare and M had no nap at preschool.  I am thinking bedtime is going to be interesting... @_@ 

I am reading... A backlog of Good Weekend Saturday newspaper magazines that my dear mum saves and sends to me.  I am trying to read "Out" but it's a little descriptive for me and it's taking me a looonnnggg time.  

I am hoping... that global warming kicks in tonight.  Just here would be fine.  We don't want to wipe Tonga off the map.

I am hearing... M and A singing along with a Playschool video.  Bad mummy but it's in English, ok?  On my ipod is Gabrielle Cilmi, Amy Winehouse, April Lavigne and Heather Nova.  Gotta change it though as it's not helping the woe is me mood. 

Around the house... As in outside? ;P The wind has blown my carefully raked leaves all over the place and there's a carpet of faded yellow, rust and brown out there.  

One of my favorite things... other than my uggboots? ;P Starry nights, good conversation, fudge brownies, Rummy chocolate, warm pyjamas, cuddling with the girls and long hot baths.  Oops, that's a few more than one.

A few plans for the rest of the week... do the breakfast dishes?  I have a mammogram Thursday in the only country in the world where they won't have to drastically alter the machine to do me ;), I need to hunt down a futon rental company for when our 6 house guests turn up for  Christmas, oh and I have to work out how to return the September due date library book I found without being caught.  Maybe send A in on her own?  :S

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Do I still get to say I don't use frozen food in DHs bento when I grill all the fish at once and freeze it?  And does that make me a horrible wife or just a smart cookie?

Here are the people I`m tagging... Kim, Vicki and GirlJapan